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Helsinki Final Act

Volume 927: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent consultations he has had with the other EEC Foreign Ministers about the observance by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other Eastern bloc countries of the provisions of Basket III of the Helsinki Agreement.

Compliance with the provisions of Basket III of the Helsinki Final Act by signatory States is one of the questions on which EEC Ministers have already consulted, and these discussions will continue amongst the Nine in preparation for the Belgrade review meeting. It is an important part, but only a part, of the whole framework of the Helsinki Agreement.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I welcomed his statement yesterday that the Government will not hesitate to speak frankly when they consider that the performance of obligations under the Helsinki Agreement by other signatory countries is unsatisfactory? Is that also the view of the other Common Market countries? In view of the unanimous advice by the Russian dissidents that the best way of helping dissidents in the Soviet Union is to speak frankly, will he encourage his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to emulate President Carter in that respect?

The Government's stance on human rights issues is well known. There are other aspects of the Helsinki Agreement and the Final Act to be taken into account. The way in which we should respond to a given violation of human rights requires careful judgment. I make no secret of the fact that we shall put our views frankly—sometimes publicly, sometimes in speeches, and sometimes by exerting varying forms of pressure. This is a very complex and difficult area, but what is important is the progress that is made. We hope at Belgrade to assist the progress that has been made in the past 18 months. I have made no secret of the fact that pressure will have to continue long after the Belgrade review conference if we are to be satisfied with the completion of the Final Act.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that any struggle to free peoples from torture or from having peen wrongly gaoled is welcome in any country, and certainly that applies to the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe? Would it not be helpful if Opposition Members would also struggle to free people in Chile and Fascist States as well as in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. In dealing with human rights, when there are violations we shall carry more conviction if we are seen to apply our standards around the globe. I said that to the House yesterday. It would be helpful if on more occasions we could have the same degree of support from the Opposition Benches when dealing with violations in Chile and in some areas of South Africa as when there are violations of human rights in Communist countries. We must all of us be concerned about violations, from wherever they come. We shall carry more weight with Communist countries if they see that we condemn violations of human rights elsewhere in the world.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his remarks will cause resentment among the Opposition? He has only to read the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Horn-castle (Mr. Tapsell), in replying for the Opposition Front Bench to yesterday's foreign affairs debate to know how much support we give to these considerations.

I am the first to admit that the speech made by the hon. Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell) in yesterday's debate was an extremely thoughtful and helpful contribution to the African debate. I recommend it to my hon. Friends. I think I made a fair comment on the situation. I must tell the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) that I did not intend to refer to him personally.

The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) will know that many criticisms have been levelled at some of my Labour colleagues who have been concerned about the situation in Chile. I strongly welcome what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), with his well-known views about violations in Chile and in Communist and Eastern European countries.