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House of Lords

Wednesday, 1st March 1995.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Bristol.

Lord Hoffmann

The Right Honourable Sir Leonard Hubert Hoffmann, Knight, a Lord Justice of Appeal, having been appointed a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and thereby created a Baron for life, by the style and title of Baron Hoffmann, of Chedworth in the County of Gloucestershire—Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Scarman and the Lord Browne-Wilkinson.

Turkey: PKK Cease-fire Offer

2.48 p.m.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether two offers for a complete cease-fire both officially made by the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) were rejected in 1994 by the Turkish Government and, if so, whether they know the reason why.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, we are aware that the PKK leadership made two references to starting a cease-fire in 1994. On both occasions their violence continued. The Turkish Government have said that they will not negotiate with terrorists; nor should they.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. However, will Her Majesty's Government, with their experience of accepting cease-fires in Northern Ireland, use every possible means to convince Turkey to adopt non-violent conflict resolution after a war which has lasted 10 years, displaced 2 million people, killed 15,000 people and nearly destroyed the Turkish economy by inflation?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's great concern for Turkey. But there is no getting away from it: the PKK is a terrorist organisation. We condemn all acts of terrorism. However, we also condemn atrocities and human rights abuses carried out by both sides of the conflict. The noble Lord has asked the Government to convince the Turkish Government to adopt non-violent conflict resolution. I believe that Prime Minister Çiller is indeed seeking to do so. That is exactly what she and her new Foreign Minister Karayalçin have said. They want to get constitutional reform through and they want to bring a peace. But there are no short cuts when there are terrorists involved.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, can the Minister comment on reports from human rights organisations that

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the incidence of torture being used against the Kurds by the Turkish authorities is again on the increase, especially in the south-east part of Turkey? Can the Minister also give us an assurance that the Turkish Government will be left in no doubt that their application for membership of the European Union will not be accepted until their human rights record improves?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the answer to the noble Baroness's third question is: of course that is so; indeed, it has been made quite clear. However, I should tell the noble Baroness that there are a number of ways in which we have to continue to express our deep concern about human rights. It always forms a major part of our dialogue with members of the Turkish Government, both bilaterally and with our partners in the European Union—most recently, less than a month ago. I also believe that it is most important that Turkey's western orientation should be maintained. That is why we seek to keep all channels of communication open with Turkey. We particularly believe that the Customs union between the European Union and Turkey would play an important part in the process. That is a major objective, not only for us but for all members of the European Union.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that constitutional reform is impossible to achieve in a country where any discussion of devolution, autonomy or other such arrangements is illegal under Article 125 of the Turkish constitution, which makes any act or words which threaten the indivisible integrity of the Turkish state, republic and people an offence punishable by death? Does the noble Baroness not agree that by imprisoning the Members of Parliament belonging to the Democracy Party, by destroying that party, by killing and imprisoning human rights activists, lawyers and political workers throughout the south east the state has driven the whole of the people of the south east into the arms of the PKK? Does she not agree that, as a solution is being reached by negotiation between the governments and the armed oppositions in El Salvador, Guatemala, Angola, Georgia and Azerbaijan, it is likely that some progress could be made if the Turkish Government would agree at least to sit down at the negotiating table?

Noble Lords: Speech! Order!

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, most noble Lords in this House will know that we take every opportunity to make known to the Turkish Government our concern not only at their human rights performance overall but also about the need for constitutional reform, of which I spoke earlier. We have expressed our concern to the Turkish Government about almost all the issues which the noble Lord mentioned. However, giving any comfort to PKK terrorists does not assist in getting the government to change.

Lord Glenamara: My Lords, do the Government accept that the only long-term solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey, Iraq and Iran is an independent Kurdish state?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, no. The noble Lord should not confuse the situation regarding

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the PKK terrorists with the natural aspirations of Turkish Kurds, whom the Turkish constitution safeguards.

Lord Rea: My Lords, in view of the human rights violations by the Turkish Government about which we have heard at Question Time over and over again, what is the Government's position regarding arms exports to that country? If Turkey's membership of NATO is a problem in that respect and prevents us from banning the sale of arms, should the continued membership of NATO by Turkey be reconsidered?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord's last question is genuinely no. Turkey has a need, as all NATO members have, for external defence. All arms sales are considered on a case-by-case basis. We take into account all the normal arms export criteria, including the country's human rights record and the likely end use of the equipment concerned. If arms are applied for which could be used for internal repression, licences are not granted.

Members' Conduct: Nolan Committee

2.55 p.m.

Lord Jacques asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of the responsibilities of Members of both Houses of Parliament for legislation affecting the conduct of those involved in local government, business and the professions, they propose to give statutory responsibility to the Nolan Committee for the conduct of Members of both Houses.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): No, my Lords.

Lord Jacques: My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for that reply. At least it gives me the opportunity to ask supplementary questions.

My first supplementary question is this. Am I right in assuming that the Government take the view that Parliament is supreme and that it can make regulations affecting those who have no choice but to accept those regulations, whereas in the case of Parliament there is a choice of saying yes or no, to accept or reject?

Secondly, will the Minister bear in mind that that is inconsistent with the point of view of people today? We live in a different age from the '80s; we are now coming into the late '90s. The view of most people is that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I have to confess to your Lordships that I was quite encouraged as I listened to the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, to which my unequivocal answer is, of course, yes, Parliament is supreme. When the Nolan Committee makes its first report it will be for Parliament to consider what to do about it. I hope that the noble Lord will agree that it would be very

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unfortunate if all the liberties that our ancestors took so long to gain for Parliament were thrown away in the way he suggests.

No. 2 Marsham Street: Demolition

2.51 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have fixed a date for the demolition of the building in Marsham Street which is the headquarters of the Department of the Environment or are they satisfied that the process of decay is proceeding at such a pace as to render such action unnecessary.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): My Lords, the building at 2 Marsham Street will be demolished following the departure of the current occupants, the Departments of the Environment and Transport. The moves are likely to be completed by Easter 1997. The decision to demolish 2 Marsham Street was announced by the then Secretary of State in February 1992. The decision was taken following an appraisal of the options for the building which concluded that it would be neither cost-effective nor in the interests of the local environment to try to refurbish the existing building.

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