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East-West Relations

Volume 124: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what improvements in East-West relations he estimates will follow from the visit of Mr. Gorbachev to Britain.

Mr. Gorbachev's visit to Britain permitted a review of the main issues in East-West relations, arms control, regional conflicts and human rights. It demonstrated both the considerable improvement in our own relations with the Soviet Union and the possibilities for wider co-operation if both sides are ready to discuss our problems openly and constructively.

May I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on the positive and constructive role of the British Government, which was illustrated by Mr. Gorbachev's decision to visit Britain on his way to Washington last week? May I ask him to emphasise to Mr. Gorbachev the importance that the West attaches to the internal liberalisation of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the substantial contribution that that would make to our relations?

The human dimension is vital to East-West relations and certainly will not be neglected in our discussions.

We all agree that, last week, East-West relations took a step forward with the signing of the INF treaty. However, today we shall take a step back, with the United States, after 18 years, again producing chemical weapons. It is to the credit of the Government that, over a number of recent years, they have made efforts to obtain a global treaty to end the production of such weapons. Are any new initiatives being proposed by the Government with regard to chemical weapons and, in particular, verification?

I am grateful for the fact that the hon. Gentleman recognises that the British Government have played a leading role in Geneva by tabling a series of papers dealing with verification and the way in which an international organisation might approach the task of removing chemical weapons over a 10-year period. I can assure him that we intend to keep up the momentum in those discussions and use every effort to ensure that the difficult verification issues are properly tackled.

Does my hon. and learned Friend recollect that Mr. Gorbachev first visited the United Kingdom in December 1984 as the guest, not of the Government, but of this House and of the Inter-Parliamentary Union? Does my hon. and learned Friend see a continuing parliamentary contribution to the increasingly—thank goodness—good relations between our two countries and to a constant, continuing dialogue between this House and the Supreme Soviet?

I recall some fetching photographs of my hon. Friend with Mr. Gorbachev at that time. I am sure that Mr. Gorbachev and other senior Soviets would welcome the opportunity to come and be photographed again with my hon. Friend.