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Poland

Volume 77: debated on Wednesday 24 April 1985

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his visit to Poland.

I visited Poland from 11 to 13 April. I had a full official programme, and met a wide cross-section of Polish society.

My official talks covered various aspects of East-West and bilateral relations.

I was powerfully reminded during this visit of the interests and traditions which the British and Polish peoples have in common. I made plain in all my contacts the importance that we still attach to those freedoms for which we fought together with the Poles during the second world war.

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his visit to eastern Europe. Can he tell us whether he met representatives of Solidarity, and, if so, what the outcome of discussions with them was?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his opening remark. I had contacts with some members of Solidarity, in order to hear their views about the situation in Poland. I regretted the fact that that led to a boycott of the reception at which I met the Solidarity members. It was helpful to me to learn their views.

How would the Foreign Secretary like it if the Foreign Minister of a Warsaw pact country on an official visit to the United Kingdom comported himself as the right hon. and learned Gentleman did in Poland? Will the Foreign Secretary always bear in mind the wisdom of the adage, "Do as you would be done by."?

I bear that very much in mind. The pattern is that in most countries one is able to see a wide range of people, members of the Opposition and of other parties and to visit almost any part of the country. I have not seen any inhibitions put on the programme of many visitors to this country, including Mr. Gorbachev. He was free to range in many parts of London. He did not take the opportunity to visit the cemetery that he had in mind, but he took the opportunity to go to Downing street. No comparable inhibitions were put on his programme.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is relevant to the question asked by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) that Poland is a signatory to the 1975 Helsinki agreement—as is every other country in Europe — under which countries undertake to have respect for human rights? Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that that agreement also says that the observance of human rights is an important factor in the preservation of peace? When my right hon. and learned Friend visits eastern European countries and the Soviet Union, will he continue to make that point, especially in the Soviet Union, which purports to be a great peace-loving nation?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. In all my visits I drew specific and firm attention to the importance of the Helsinki agreement, exactly as he described, and I shall continue to do so.

Did the Foreign Secretary feel that sufficient progress, or intention to make progress, existed in regard to human rights to enable there to be any strengthening of the bilateral economic relations between Britain and Poland?

I made it plain to my Polish hosts that their stance on and progress with human rights was bound to be a factor which would affect the rest of our relations. I also discussed economic relations. There are economic factors at work as well. We hope that they will shortly sign an agreement to reschedule their 1982 to 1984 debt. We shall continue to play a constructive role in those negotiations, but the matters cannot be separated from each other.

We warmly welcome the effective concern for human rights shown by the Foreign Secretary by his visit to the cemetery and his meeting with members of Solidarity. May we now express the hope that the same verve, imagination and force will be shown by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in respect of other parts of the world, such as Central America, Southern Africa and Indonesia, which the Prime Minister visited at the same time?

We apply the same energy to our visits in all parts of the world, Indonesia included. Questions about which the House is anxious were raised by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as well as by me.