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European Union

16. Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about Britain's relations with the other countries in the European Union. [13969]

Mr. David Davis: Britain enjoys very good relations with all other member states of the European Union.

Sir David Knox: Does my right hon. Friend believe that relations with other European Union countries would

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be improved if their foreign Ministers came to this country to explain, over the heads of the Government, their view of the future of the European Union?

Mr. Davis: It strikes me that that has already happened. A little while ago, the German Foreign Secretary commented about a British election occurring at some point. However, if one accepts that a European Union exists, there are issues that are important to all the peoples of Europe. The British Government note in our policies that many of the people of Europe support the sorts of things that we stand for--sometimes more than their Governments do. We saw that when the Foreign Secretary went to Stockholm and received an enormously good reception for repeating the ideas that he has expressed from the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: What are the consequences of an ever-revaluing pound for our commercial relationships with other European Union companies?

Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman asks a somewhat hypothetical question. It is easier to answer the question: what are the causes of an ever-revaluing pound? The answer is enormous economic success in this country.

Mr. Dykes: Is it not worth recalling that, when Klaus Kinkel commented on British politics at Christmas, he was told to mind his own business, but that we then immediately said that we would construct the convergence criteria statistics for all the other countries and tell them what to do with their own figures? Would it not be a good idea to follow the excellent advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Sir D. Knox)? If foreign statesmen and politicians came over here, they would be able to convey to the long-suffering British public--who, all too often, sad to say, are not given the truth about Europe by governmental sources--their enthusiasm for the new projects, including the plan for at least 10 countries to join economic and monetary union when the time comes.

Mr. Davis: I have not witnessed a reticence on the part of, for example, Jacques Santer in commenting on matters that have relevance in the UK. We have a view--a very distinctive view--on what will make a successful Europe, and that is the point of view that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has been communicating, and will continue to communicate, to the people of Europe.

Ms Quin: In view of the criticisms that Jacques Santer has recently addressed to the Government, would the Government continue to describe his appointment as a triumph of British diplomacy?

Mr. Davis: I think that the President of the Commission does a very good job, but his view of Europe is not the same as ours. That is not new: it is not surprising in a man who was the Prime Minister of Luxembourg. His federalist view is shared by several of the leaders of Europe. We must deal with and argue about that, and be determined to win the argument.

Mr. Marlow: Will my right hon. Friend accept the congratulations of the House on standing firm on UK

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borders and therefore getting our own way on this subject? Is there not a moral in this: if you stand firm, your will has its own way?

Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend is, of course, exactly right. Standing firm is a necessary part of negotiation, as is standing up for the rights of this country. It is very different from what either of the Opposition parties would do. They stand for nothing, and, as I have said before, those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.

Burma

17. Mr. Robert Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the steps taken by the Government to promote respect for human rights in Burma. [13970]

Mr. Hanley: We have taken action bilaterally--at the UN and with our EU partners--to put pressure on the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council to implement democratic reform and full respect for human rights in Burma.

Mr. Ainsworth: On 15 January 1997, the Minister told the House that he was urging the ambassador of Burma to open dialogue with pro-democracy forces. He also told us that he was following the European line regarding relations with Burma. Since then, clear evidence has emerged that the position has deteriorated. In the light of that and of our past relationship with that country, why are we simply following the European line and not taking a lead?

Mr. Hanley: I do not agree that we are merely following others. We are helping to develop the UN General Assembly resolution and we were at the forefront of developing the EU common position, which the hon. Gentleman feels is not effective. The EU common position that was recently adopted, which imposes a ban on entry visas for senior members of SLORC and senior military and security force officials and on high-level bilateral visits to Burma, the suspension of non-humanitarian official aid, which has been enforced for some nine years, the arms embargo in 1991 and the cutting of all remaining defence links in 1992 are pretty strong reactions. We continue to use the services of our excellent ambassador in Rangoon, Robert Gordon, to make our presence felt directly, not only to the ruling regime but in discussion with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Middle East Peace Process

18. Mr. Ernie Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress in the middle east peace process. [13971]

19. Mr. McAvoy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Israeli Government regarding the implementation of the Oslo agreement; and if he will make a statement. [13972]

Mr. Hanley: I welcome the reopening, after last month's Hebron agreement, of Israeli-Palestinian

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negotiations on a range of outstanding issues. We will continue to urge both sides to move swiftly to implement existing agreements, and to restart the final status negotiations.

Mr. Ross: I am sure that the whole House would like to welcome unreservedly the freeing of the 31 Palestinian female prisoners from Israeli gaols. The Minister will be aware that there are still about 2,000 male Palestinian prisoners in Israeli gaols. Does he agree that, the more that Prime Minister Netanyahu is exposed directly to the peace process, the more likely it is that the peace process will move forward?

Mr. Hanley: We welcome the release of prisoners last night. That was as stipulated in the interim agreement, proper implementation of which is crucial. Further redeployments must be substantial if Palestinian faith in the peace process is to be maintained, and we must move swiftly on the other outstanding issues. I shall keep my comments to a minimum because of time constraints.

Mr. McAvoy: Will the Minister confirm the Government's stance that the best guarantee of secure borders for Israel is co-existence with the Palestinian entity or state? Bearing that in mind, will he continue to press the Israeli Government and the Palestine Authority to continue the Oslo process as the only way to guarantee peace in the middle east?

Mr. Hanley: I thoroughly agree that continuation of the middle east peace process is the only way forward.

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The United Kingdom supports self-determination for the Palestinians in United Nations resolutions. The final status of a Palestinian entity is, as the hon. Gentleman knows, a matter for negotiation between the parties, but we believe strongly that it would be unwise to rule out statehood as an option.

Mr. Batiste: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the development of trade is an important ingredient in the peace process? When will the United Kingdom ratify the EU-Israel trade agreement?

Mr. Hanley: I very much agree with my hon. Friend. Improved trade for Israel is vital not only for the people of Israel, but for Palestinians. I hope that in the House next week we can make progress on the EU-Israel agreement.

Mr. Jacques Arnold: Is not considerable credit due to Prime Minister Netanyahu for the substantial progress that has been made recently with the middle east peace process? Should we not always bear in mind the fact that his Government have a responsibility to the people of Israel to be mindful of their incredible vulnerability, because of the size of the country?

Mr. Hanley: My hon. Friend is correct: the Prime Minister of Israel is committed to the peace process. We must do everything that we can to encourage further progress, following the Hebron agreement. There was a serious delay over the Hebron agreement, but it has now been passed, and we must make progress. All parties believe in peace.

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