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Cyprus

2. Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Cyprus to discuss the recent increase in tension there. [13955]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis): My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has no present plans to visit Cyprus. He did so in December 1996, when he held discussions with President Clerides and Mr. Denktash.

Mr. Waterson: May I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on what I believe was the first visit by a British Foreign Secretary to Cyprus for some 30 years? Will my right hon. Friend the Minister of State restate

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the Government's commitment to relieving tension, where possible, in Cyprus, and to achieving a lasting settlement on that island? Does he agree that early accession to the European Union would benefit considerably both communities on the island?

Mr. Davis: Certainly. I first commend my hon. Friend on his hard work and perseverance on behalf of the people of Cyprus over a long period. He is right. The Foreign Secretary's visit did reflect our commitment to the interest of Cyprus's people and to achieving a solution to the Cyprus problem. We support accession to the European Union on the basis that it will benefit all Cyprus's people--in fact, people in north Cyprus will make particular financial gain--and in the hope that the accession process will help rather than hinder the resolution of the Cyprus problem.

Mr. Faulds: Will the right hon. Gentleman accept my additional congratulations to the Foreign Secretary on his sagacity, after many years of inaction by those on the Front Benches of both sides, that he should actually visit both communities in Cyprus? Will he accept from me--I do not think it is historically deniable--that these intrusions that are causing the tensions are invariably organised by Greek-Cypriot demonstrators? Is it not highly regrettable that involved in those demonstrations into the buffer territory, which is forbidden territory for both parties, are leading Members of the European Parliament?

Mr. Davis: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. What I will say is that we have to be even-handed with both communities. That is the secret to progress on the matter. When my right hon. and learned Friend went to Cyprus, he made a statement on a 10-point programme to promote the solution of the Cyprus problem. That programme has been lodged in the Library, and I recommend that the hon. Gentleman examines it.

Sir David Madel: If Turkish troops withdrew from northern Cyprus, which would be the first step in a solution, who do the Government think should then be responsible for guaranteeing the rights of the minority Turkish-Cypriot population?

Mr. Davis: There is a need for a reduction in military weaponry and presence on both sides. Only by that route will there be a reduction in the tensions that afflict Cyprus. Under the circumstances of accession to the EU and of a solution of the Cyprus problem, we would expect international guarantees for all Cyprus's people.

Mr. Robin Cook: The Minister will be aware that I also visited Cyprus last month. May I support his statement that Cyprus's accession to the European Union would both increase the sense of security of Cyprus's residents and increase pressure on Ankara to reach a settlement? Will he therefore tell the House that the British Government will not make settlement of the division of the island a precondition of Cyprus's accession to the European Union? Does he realise that to set such a precondition could create the danger of a Turkish veto?

Mr. Davis: I have said in the House several times that we have never accepted either an explicit or an implicit

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Turkish veto, and that we would not allow a situation to arise in which such a veto could be exercised. However, accession would undoubtedly be easier if there were a solution. To meet the Union's requirement for free movement of people--to give the right hon. Gentleman one simple example--would be rather difficult in the current circumstances.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I, too, congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on paying a non-partisan visit to both sides of the island. Is my right hon. Friend aware that we remain the international guarantor of peace on the island, and that it is therefore very much our role to try to promote peace among both sides? Does he agree that the way in which to accomplish that is for both sides eventually to become members of the European Union, and that any arms build-up now by either side is extremely unhelpful?

Mr. Davis: I think that everything that my hon. Friend has said is entirely right. We have demonstrated our commitment to an active role in the promotion of peace, most recently--other than the Foreign Secretary's visit--by appointing Sir David Hannay to promote the cause of peace and a settlement on the island. We will do that in an even-handed manner, as vigorously and as effectively as we are capable.

International Criminal Court

3. Dr. Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress to date in establishing an international criminal court. [13956]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Sir Nicholas Bonsor): We are actively contributing to the preparatory work for a diplomatic conference to finalise and adopt a convention for the establishment of an international criminal court.

Dr. Wright: Could anyone who saw this Monday's harrowing "Panorama" programme on Rwanda doubt that the need for an international criminal court is extremely urgent? Could it be true that, for reasons of cost, the United States is seeking to delay if not block next year's conference, which may launch such a court? Could it even be true, as the human rights report suggests, that the British Government are using blocking tactics on the proposal? Is not the most appropriate manner for the international community to open a new millennium to set up such an international criminal court? With our history and our traditions, should not we be giving a lead?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor: I certainly do agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is time we had an international criminal court, and the Government have been playing a very active role in both the ad hoc and the preparatory committee work. There is a great deal to be done before we reach the stage of being able to propose a detailed treaty that will establish such a court, but it is absolutely untrue that our Government are trying to block that move. We are encouraging it and working towards it. I cannot speak for the United States Government, but I know of no such action on their part, either.

Sir Patrick Cormack: I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. However, does he agree that there would be

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much more credibility if only action were taken to bring Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic before some type of international tribunal? Does he also agree that Mr. Milosevic should also be investigated when such a court is established?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor: I do not think that we should muddle an international criminal court, which is the subject of this question, and the ad hoc tribunal for war crimes, which has been set up with regard to Bosnia. Certainly I agree with my hon. Friend that those who are responsible for war crimes must be brought to that tribunal and tried for the crimes that they are alleged to have committed.

Mr. Macdonald: Does the Minister agree that it is important to prevent war crimes as well as to prosecute war criminals? What are the Government therefore doing about the situation in west Mostar, where ethnic cleansing has been resumed against Muslim civilians by the local Croat mafia? Is that not in complete defiance of the Dayton agreement?

Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is referring to a specific area. The question is on establishing an international criminal court. It is totally unfair that he should attempt to raise a specific issue when we are dealing with a general one.

China

4. Mr. Pawsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans has he to make an official visit to China to discuss United Kingdom-Sino relations. [13957]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Jeremy Hanley): My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has at present no plans to visit China. However, he will meet the Chinese Foreign Minister at the Asia-Europe meeting in Singapore this week and will have a full bilateral meeting with him on Friday.

Mr. Pawsey: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his advice about the meeting on Friday. Does he agree that one way to improve our already reasonable relationship with China would be to increase the number of Chinese students able to study in the United Kingdom? Will he therefore do his utmost to place on the agenda for Friday's talks an increase in the number of scholarships available to Chinese people? I am certain that that would do a great deal to improve our relations with the Chinese.

Mr. Hanley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. In 1995-96, Her Majesty's Government supported 450 students from China under various scholarship schemes. A new scheme for joint funding with the private sector got under way last year and a further similar scheme is being taken forward. An additional 192 Chinese scholars came to the United Kingdom in 1995-96 under the Overseas Development Administration's technical co-operation training programme. We shall continue to support scholarship and training programmes for Chinese students and to explore possible new initiatives within the limits of our resources.

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I am afraid that the agenda on Friday will be very full. Because we already have a reasonably successful programme of students coming to the United Kingdom, I doubt that the issue will be on the agenda.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: Does the Minister understand that the Secretary of State will have support from both sides of the House later this week when he seeks to persuade the Chinese Government to respect the democratic reforms introduced by Governor Patten? Does he agree that the maintenance of the reforms should not be just a bilateral matter between the United Kingdom and China? What steps are the Government taking to mobilise the opinion of the international community to persuade the Chinese Government to respect the democratic reforms?

Mr. Hanley: The hon. and learned Gentleman is right to say that such important issues as the future of human rights and democracy in Hong Kong should not be matters only of bilateral relations. That is one reason why we were cheered by the international community's response to the decisions on the provisional legislature when my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State summoned the Chinese ambassador on 20 December. When the Chinese decided to water down the Bill of Rights ordnance, the international community, particularly the United States, was very supportive. I know that the whole world is taking a keen interest in the matter.

Mr. Renton: Will the Foreign Secretary be discussing the steps that Britain intends to take after the handover to China to discharge its responsibilities under the 1984 joint agreement, particularly once the joint liaison group has ceased to exist in 2000? Is there not a case for establishing a special parliamentary committee to keep in touch with the high level of autonomy that Hong Kong is promised under the agreement?

Mr. Hanley: My right hon. Friend is right that it is important for the House to continue to exercise its scrutiny over the future administration of Hong Kong. He is also right to point out that we have obligations under the joint declaration. The joint liaison group will continue until 1 January 2000. We have an obligation for the next 50 years under the joint declaration to monitor the "one country, two systems" principle. The House will want to monitor the progress of Hong Kong. How it does that is a matter for the House to decide. We had a useful debate recently, and there is no doubt that the mood of hon. Members on both sides was that there should be proper scrutiny by the House. The exact form is yet to be determined.

Mr. Fatchett: May I associate the Labour party with the words of the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) and the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell)? We all agree that it is crucial that respect for human rights continues in Hong Kong after 1 July this year. We want to send the message again from the House to the Government of China that respect for human rights has been important in Hong Kong's way of life and economic success.

Will the Minister make it clear that, apart from the points that he has already made about marshalling international opinion, he will ensure that the Government

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take the toughest possible line against the Chinese proposals to repeal the human rights legislation and go ahead with the provisional legislature? Will he make it clear what action the Government intend to take, and make it abundantly clear that everybody here expects China to honour its agreement after 1 July, and that there will be continuing respect for human rights in Hong Kong?

Mr. Hanley: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's co-operation in these matters and for the dialogue that we have established, which goes too for his right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), the shadow Foreign Secretary, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary himself.

It is important that the House has basic agreements on matters of such importance as, for instance, the establishment of the provisional legislature and the Bill of Rights ordinance. My right hon. and learned Friend set out the Government's considered view on the provisional legislature on 20 December. There is no basis for China's plans in the joint declaration or the Basic Law.

We are greatly concerned about the proposals of the preparatory committee's legal sub-group for the Bill of Rights ordinance, which has largely been endorsed by the preparatory committee in plenary. That has done great damage to Hong Kong, as I discovered only a week ago, and will have done great damage to confidence in Hong Kong around the world. I made a formal protest to the Chinese ambassador on 22 January. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend is urging Qian Qichen, the Chinese Vice Premier and Foreign Minister, to think again.

Mr. David Howell: Further to the questions asked about Hong Kong, does not article 3 of the 1984 joint declaration specifically say that the laws and rights of the people of Hong Kong will continue after the handover? Are not the proposals of the provisional legislature flatly in breach of that treaty? What steps are we going to take when a treaty that we have signed in solemn good faith is so flagrantly breached?

Mr. Hanley: My right hon. Friend is right to say that, when such agreements are breached we should query them, and query them with great resolve. The key issues still cause great concern. I believe that we in the House have accepted the principle of the joint declaration of one country two systems, not one country two economic systems. The very stuff of human rights, the recipe that has gone on to make up Hong Kong, which is not purely economic and contains the most remarkable sparks, has created the miracle that needs to be preserved for its continued success. We shall continue to press the Chinese on what we believe are breaches of the joint declaration.


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