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Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Volume 128: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1988

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Somalia

1.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if, in the light of recent events, he will make a statement on the relationship between the United Kingdom and Somalia, with particular reference to those parts of that country having historic links with Britain.

The relations between the United Kingdom and Somalia are very friendly. When I visited Mogadishu last April, I met President Barre, the former Foreign Minister and other senior Ministers and discussed British aid in Somalia, including northern Somalia, and other matters of interest to both our countries. I hope that a senior Somali Minister will be able to visit the United Kingdom later this year.

The Minister may be aware that there is a significant Somali community in my constituency — and in others—and that the Somali community has made a significant contribution, particularly to our maritime tradition, to our economy and to the community in general. Is the Minister aware that there is a great deal of concern among members of the Somali community in this country about several aspects of the position in Somalia at the moment? Will she accept that there is also a feeling in the Somali community in this country that Britain should continue to bear some responsibility and take an interest especially in those parts of Somalia that were previously Britain's responsibility? Will she assure us that that interest will continue and tell us how it will be pursued?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we continue to take an interest. For example, we brought pressure to bear with regard to the trials of certain prisoners, including prisoners from the north, who had been held for several years without trial. The hon. Gentleman may be aware that our ambassador was instructed to protest when the death sentences were passed. I am pleased to say that on 11 February those death sentences were commuted to terms of imprisonment or house arrest.

This year we gave about £5·1 million of aid to Somalia. That aid is directed to a number of projects in the north, including projects for overhauling power stations.

It is good news that the already excellent relationships with Somalia have improved yet further following my right hon. Friend's visit to that country. Is Somalia still having to feed, clothe and house refugees entering the country from Ethiopia, or has the problem eased?

I am glad to say that the refugee problem in Somalia has eased. Some refugees still cross the border from the Ogaden region. Where possible we help with that. We have helped children from the Ogaden region who have been orphaned. I thank my hon. Friend for the kind remarks that he made at the beginning of his comments.

Television News Service

3.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received seeking the funding by his Department of a television news service, to be operated by the BBC external services.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Tim Eggar)

We have very carefully considered a request from the BBC for public funds to start up a world television news service. We note that a British commercial world television news service has been started without public funds, and have concluded that the provision of public funds to the BBC for this purpose would not be justified.

Bearing in mind the role and unique international reputation of the BBC external service radio broadcasts and the fact that it constitutes an important national asset, is my hon. Friend aware that his refusal to back a three-year experiment for a world television news programme at a cost to the taxpayer of £1 million a year will be greeted with great disappointment?

I want to make it clear to my hon. Friend that we are not stopping the BBC from taking an initiative in this area. However, we do not believe that the provision of public funds for start-up or production is justified.

Did Foreign Office Ministers see the Granada "World in Action" programme entitled "The Taming of the Beeb", and especially did they hear Alan Protheroe's comments on the threat to the historical traditions of the BBC? Can we be sure that Foreign Office Ministers will do everything to protect those historical traditions and ensure that Mr. Protheroe's gloomy predictions are not fulfilled?

I did not see the programme to which the hon. Gentleman referred. This is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Does my hon. Friend recollect the considerable support from both sides of the House for additional Government funding of the BBC external services for satellite television news? That was exemplified by an early-day motion before the election which attracted nearly 250 signatures, many from Conservative Members, and by the debate in July. Is my hon. Friend aware that many people will see his announcement as a shortsighted and somewhat doctrinaire decision and, above all, a waste of an outstanding international asset that we are privileged to have?

I recognise the strong feelings that my hon. Friend has on the matter. I agree that the BBC external services and its radio section have a fine record, which we applaud, and which we have recognised by increasing the funding available for the external radio service by a considerable amount over the past seven years. However, that is not justification in itself for making additional public funds available for a world television service.

Is the Minister aware that much of the intransigence among the people of the Falkland Islands stems from the fact that the media of the Falkland Islands is, in effect, in the hands of one person, and there is no television? Do the Government not realise that if they want some flexibility from Falkland Islanders they could do no better than ensure that a full television service is provided for them so that they can see what is going on in the outer world? I put that proposition to the Minister in all seriousness. By that experience they might learn to trust some of their neighbours in a way that, hitherto, they have found impossible.

The hon. Gentleman has raised that point before. The BBC external service "Calling the Falklands" and the world service are available in the Falkland Islands and are listened to widely.

Middle East

4.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress towards a middle east peace settlement.

We welcome recent efforts to give new impetus to the search for a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict. We and our European partners support strongly an international conference as the suitable framework for negotiations between the parties directly concerned.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend and congratulate him on his active participation in the process during the past few weeks. Has he had a chance to look at the Hansard extract that I sent to him dated 23 July 1946 entitled "Terrorist Outrage, Jerusalem" and the statement made by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee? Does he agree that as Messrs. Shamir and Sharon were involved in those terrorist activities it is utter hypocrisy for them to condemn the PLO as a terrorist organisation? On that basis, does he agree that if Mr. Shultz is to play any useful role it is essential that the United States and our Government include the PLO in any discussions if they are to be meaningful?

I appreciate my hon. Friend's sincere interest in this matter. The tragic events of the King David hotel are matters for historians, and our concern has to be with the present. Plainly, the PLO is accepted widely within the occupied territories as the representative of the Palestinian people. We have never accepted it as the sole representative of those people, and there has been an inhibition on the part of the Americans and the British Government at Cabinet level to receive the PLO because of the need for it to make a clean break with terrorist activities of the past. I hope that the PLO will do that, so that it can play a proper role in the unfolding peace process, which, as I said earlier, we very much welcome.

Does the Minister accept that the unfolding peace process, as he put it, has been unfolding for a terribly long time without any real progress? We warmly welcome his support for an international conference, but would he go as far as to say that there will be no progress until Mr. Shultz makes proposals which go considerably beyond those that he has made so far?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his consistent support for a bipartisan approach to the matter. I welcome that. Mr. Shultz is properly taking all possible pains to consult as widely as he can among the Governments in the region. He is trying to break down the old objections to peace, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, in order to see whether some new development is possible. Our role is to assist him in that. Of course, we assist him by talking frankly to him about difficulties and the need for the United States to tackle some of those difficulties. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that that is exactly what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did in her talks with Mr. Shultz yesterday.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that in 1973 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights described Israeli conduct on the West Bank as

"an affront to humanity and tantamount to war crimes"?
The only thing that has changed there is the presence of the television cameras. In the circumstances, should not the Palestinians, after all these years of injustice, at least have the right to choose their own representatives?

Our condemnation of many of the practices in the occupied territories by the Israeli defence force is well known. Sadly, those problems appear to be growing rather than diminishing. I believe that they will fundamentally undermine the reputation of the Government of Israel unless something is done about them. I hope very much that out of this will come the progress that my hon. Friend seeks.

We wish to see the Palestinians properly represented at any conference. Of course that is primarily a matter for the Arab side. The idea that has been floated—that there should be an international conference — of a joint Palestinian and Jordanian delegation would appear to be the right way forward.

The Minister must know that the Shultz mission will fail because Shultz is unable to talk to the Palestine Liberation Organisation. If there is to be a peace settlement in the middle east, the Minister, Shultz and the Americans must drop this reluctance to talk to a main player. Shultz can talk to the Israelis, but he must talk to the other side, the PLO. The best thing that the Minister and the British Government can do is to urge the Americans to drop their refusal to accept that the Palestine Liberation Organisation is the representative of the Palestinians.

I know the hon. Gentleman's serious concern for this issue. I urge him, as I have done in the past, to make the PLO aware of the central inhibition of the Americans in talking to the PLO and of the British Government at Cabinet level in receiving the PLO because of the need for it to make a break with the past.

The Minister is not on television now—he has had his knuckles rapped by the Prime Minister.

Of course the Americans would like to talk to the Palestinians, just as a number of us have been able to do and just as I was able to do when I visited the occupied territories during a visit from which the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) says I am retreating. There is no question of retreating from that or anything else.

It is important that the Palestinians should be able to put their case direct. That will best come about when the PLO has legitimised itself in a form that enables it to repudiate the past, which, as the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) knows, was disfigured by terrorist actions that caused grave difficulty and resentment in Europe. That is the way forward that we all want to see.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that a necessary condition of peace in the middle east is that Israel's Arab neighbours must accept Israel's right to exist and its right to secure borders? Does he agree that it is an international scandal that, 40 years after the foundation of the state of Israel, only one Arab country has done that? Does he regard it as significant that those Arabs who are willing to bankroll the PLO have also been seen to be supporters of the IRA?

That last observation is a bit strong and I do not think it is in accordance with the facts. Nor do I think that the football supporter approach to this problem—taking a position on one side rather than striking a balance — is at all helpful in resolving this difficult matter. A sensible policy for the peace process, which I believe we have, is based, first, on the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and, secondly, and every bit as important, on the right of all states in the region—including, of course, Israel—to exist behind secure boundaries. I am sure that no progress is possible until all states in the region appreciate that.

Is the Minister aware that, from my own talks with the PLO and the Governments of Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, it is perfectly clear to me that there is no problem about their taking part in an international conference under the auspices of the five permanent members of the United Nations, which could lead to a settlement that would provide security for Israel as well as self-determination for the Palestinians? Is he also aware that the principal, and so far immovable, obstacle to the holding of such a conference is Mr. Shamir, the Prime Minister of Israel? Is he further aware that, instead of trailing new and circuitous solutions to the problem, Mr. Shultz and the United States Administration should tell Mr. Shamir, in no uncertain terms, to sit down at a conference and negotiate with the Arab countries?

The right hon. Gentleman's progress around the middle east has been most welcome to me, as it has allowed a great deal of bipartisan agreement between the two Front Benches. I certainly agree with him about the attitude of the Arab world towards an international conference. It is our view just as much as his—and I believe that it has all the more authority because it appears to be a view that commands majority support in Parliament—that an international conference is the best way forward. There is no doubt that one section of the Israeli Government has consistently rejected that, and I hope very much that, as part of the tireless work that Mr. Shultz is doing, he will be able to tackle that issue.

Unchr (Special Rapporteurs)

5.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received on the question of the reappointment of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights' special rapporteur on E1 Salvador; and if he will make a statement.

We have received a number of representations. We find the special representative's repots balanced and objective. He states that the situation in E1 Salvador has improved, although there is still room for further progress. We will take his view into account when deciding how to vote. We shall also discuss the draft resolution with our European Community partners.

I thank the Minister for his reply, although it is somewhat depressing, as there is sufficient evidence of a deterioriating human rights situation in E1 Salvador. The death squad is on the march, and killing and torturing are taking place at this moment. What do the Government need to be able to commit themselves to supporting the relacement of the special rapporteur to E1 Salvador? Will the Minister tell the House why the Government are holding back on this important issue?

When the Human Rights Commission appoints a special representative, it is only right that all members of the Commission should take his report into account because it is the most objective report available on human rights in that particular country. If the hon. Gentleman is asking us to vote for the special representative's reappointment, surely he will agree that, in making our decision, we should take account of that special representative's report. That is what we shall do.

Has my hon. Friend noted, from the report of the special rapporteur, Senor Ridruejo, that considerable progress has been made on the civil rights records of the armed forces and the police of E1 Salvador? Does he not think that we should now see an improvement from the guerrillas, who continue to sow mines causing innocent deaths among the civil population?

The special representative's last report shows that the earlier improvements in the situation have continued and that President Duarte has made efforts to curb death squads. In addition, the special representative found no evidence to prove that the Government connived at human rights abuses. It is right that we should take that into account when deciding how we shall vote. We have not yet made up our mind.

Will the Minister confirm that the Government are as much against repression in E1 Salvador as they are against it in the occupied territories? Does he agree that, since the special rapporteur produced his report, the situation in E1 Salvador has worsened? The human rights activist Herbert Anaya has been murdered and there have been attacks on the camp at Calle Real. Does he agree, therefore, that it would be quite intolerable and would be a green light to the death squads and a 'click in the teeth for all human rights workers if the British Government did not vote in favour of the reappointment of that special rapporteur?

Naturally, we are concerned about human rights violations wherever they occur. It is also right that where there are improvemens we should recognise them.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the attack on the Calle Real refugee camp. We are aware of it and our chargé d'affaires visited the camp soon afterwards to ensure that the British volunteers were well. We shall take into account the hon. Gentleman's views and those of others concerned about human rights in E1 Salvador. Equally, we have a duty as a member of the Human Rights Commission to make an objective judgment on the wording of the motion, which has only just been put before us, in discussions with other members of the commission.

Afghanistan

6.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he made to the Soviet Government in the course of his recent visit on their policy towards Afghanistan.

My right hon. and learned Friend recalled our long-held objective of a neutral, non-aligned and independent Afghanistan and welcomed the announcement by Mr. Gorbachev of a date for a withdrawal of Soviet troops.

Will my hon. Friend please take note of overwhelming world opinion, which is that the Soviet Union should withdraw its army of occupation immediately and that it would be in its best interests to do so? [Interruption.]

I agree with my hon. Friend. I find the reaction of Opposition Members extraordinary. They seem to be so pleased with the Russian withdrawal that they forget that the Russians marched in in the first place.

Is it not the case that the Afghan Government have done everything possible to secure peace and reconciliation within the country? Indeed, is it not important that the Government understand that to install a bunch of ayatollahs in Kabul will do nothing for the West and will create further disaster, as we have seen in Iran?

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about recent developments in Afghanistan. It may be that a future regime will not be as free with its hospitality to him as the last regime was. I suggest to him that he is as quick to be photographed on Russian tanks leaving Afghanistan as he was when they were in Kabul.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that Her Majesty's Government lose no opportunity to remind the Russians that when they leave Afghanistan they do so with bloody hands, having slaughtered and maimed hundreds of thousands of people, and left 5 million refugees in Pakistan? Should they not leave with shame rather than with their heads held high?

I fully understand the thoughts behind what my hon. Friend says, and naturally it is important that the Russians stick to their commitment to withdraw.

Does the Minister agree that although Pakistan has justified anxieties, there would be a heavy responsibility on Pakistan if the talks beginning today were to fail? Does he agree that both the Soviet Union, to a much greater extent, and the Americans, to a lesser extent, have poured vast sums into the armouries of both sides of the conflict? Will he now use his good offices to ensure that a similar amount of money is used by the super powers for the immense task of the reconstruction of the shattered infrastructure of Afghanistan?

Obviously, we hope that the talks which started today in Geneva will reach a suitable conclusion, and I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about Pakistan. I agree with him about aid within Afghanistan in the light of a settlement. Recently, I returned from a visit to the Afghan border. There is a major problem ahead of the world international community, and it is important that the reaction today, assuming there is a settlement, is a coordinated one involving all the major countries.

Ussr (Ministerial Visit)

7.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent discussions with the Soviet authorities during his visit to Moscow.

My right hon. and learned Friend had full and wide-ranging talks with Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Shevardnadze and others covering bilateral matters including trade, arms control, human rights and regional issues. He also met human rights activists and was able to put our views direct to the Soviet public in their press and on television. The visit was a further contribution to our active dialogue with the Soviet leadership and to the improving atmosphere of East-West relations.

On the assumption that my right hon. and learned Friend's successful visit also included talks on middle east peace prospects, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is no good the United States objecting to the Soviet and Syrian presence in a possible future international peace conference, and it is no good us repeating that we think that the Jordanian cum Palestinian option is the best way forward, if, quite manifestly and clearly, the Jordanians object to the Palestinians being included with them rather than having their own independent and legitimate position in the negotiations?

Perhaps I should explain to my hon. Friend the inhibiting factor in some of the earlier answers. While Mr. Shultz is still active—as he is and there is no question of his mission having come to an end—it is difficult for us to comment on the substance of it when it is at the heart of Mr. Shultz's efforts that the substance should emerge as a result of his careful negotiations. However, in private we advise Mr. Shultz with all candour about the ways we think things should move forward. Let me correct my hon. Friend on one point. I was in Jordan yesterday, and I can assure him there is no question of the Jordanians objecting to a mixed delegation. It is their policy to press for one.

When the Foreign Secretary was in Moscow, did the Russians raise with him the question of human rights in the United Kingdom?

There was a full discussion on human rights and I am delighted that one of the consequences of my right hon. and learned Friend's visit was that Mrs. Sosna has been permitted to leave the Soviet Union. It was also true that, largely as a diversionary tactic, questions of human rights in the United Kingdom were raised by the Soviet side. From the smile on the hon. Gentleman's face, it appears that he associates himself with those observations, and I think that it is a jolly bad thing that he does.

Did my hon. and learned Friend, in the course of his discussions, give as part of his appreciation of the middle east situation the view that Israel is entitled to secure frontiers, but not to occupy all the territory up to those frontiers?

I think I understand the point that my hon. Friend is making. Israel is entitled to have internationally recognised borders, but those are not the borders that are taken as a result of war, and the occupied territories are not part of Israel. It is the view of the British Government and, I believe, of the world community as a whole, that they should not remain so. Nor will that secure peace, so long as the Israeli Government fail to recognise that the principles of territories at peace will be the crucial element in any future discussions.

8.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had in Moscow on arms control during the recent visit.

My right hon. and learned Friend had extensive discussions with the Soviet leadership on issues covering nuclear, conventional and chemical arms control.

Did Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Shevardnadze express their concern about Britain's role in the foot-dragging on conventional and chemical arms talks and on the compensatory build-up of arms in the wake of the intermediate nucler forces agreement? Did they urge the Foreign Secretary to show common sense and abandon dangerous dogmas? Will not the proclaimed friendship be superficial unless the Government show the political will for arms reductions instead of arms expansion, which is what the Prime Minister is arguing for at NATO today?

I am glad to welcome the hon. Gentleman's return, but he might have marked it more appropriately than by acting as a voice and echo of what the Soviet Government officials said to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State while he was in Moscow. The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that the Soviets have their position on these matters. They would like to see a denuclearised Europe, which would further entrench the massive and overwhelming power of their conventional weapons. It should not be the business of any British parliamentarian, from whatever side of the House he comes, to associate himself with those ideas.

The other thing that Opposition Members should recognise is that the Soviet Union respects strength. It was the strength of purpose of the NATO Alliance that led to the INF deal and that will lead to further deals, whereas the weakness of Opposition Members would simply allow the Soviets to roll over by default.

Was there any recognition in Moscow that tension can be reduced in Europe only if there is a substantial and permanent reduction of Soviet conventional forces in Eastern Europe?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Why have the Soviets spent 15 years at the mutual and balanced force reductions talks and failed to agree a mandate on these issues? They do not even tell us exactly what their conventional strength is, but it is clear that they have 51,000 tanks pushed forward, many of them 600 miles from the border of the Soviet Union, and last year they produced some 3,400 tanks, 30 per cent. more than in 1983. That is the reality of the build-up of Soviet conventional forces. Until they are prepared to tackle that seriously and to bring about a reduction there can be no security and no reduction of tension in Europe.

Is the Minister not aware, when he tells my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) that the NATO Alliance must demonstrate strength of purpose, as is being shown in the NATO summit, that there are different views among the NATO Alliance, that the Prime Minister, to her great discredit, wants to step up the nuclear threshold, whereas Chancellor Kohl of West Germany seeks to negotiate away the battlefield nuclear weapons which would turn Germany into a radioactive desert? Will he, therefore, tell the Foreign Secretary that it would be much better for this country to support the Germans in wishing to bring about a nuclear-free Europe than to go with the Prime Minister, the last nuclear dinosaur?

The right hon. Gentleman, I am sorry to say, is wrong. Perhaps on his next journey overseas he should go and see Chancellor Kohl. He has distorted Chancellor Kohl's position. The Chancellor is not in favour of the third zero. It is true that some elements, representing quite a lot of people, in German politics are in favour, but Chancellor Kohl is not, because he realises as much as the rest of us that if there were to be a denuclearised Europe, what the Soviets mean is a denuclearised Western Europe, which simply builds in the superiority that they possess.

Before the right hon. Gentleman says "No, no", as if he were at the latest Manchester pantomime, coming in, as he does, with a fresh mind to the Labour party's conduct of foreign affairs, surely he should realise that if we had followed the principles that the previous Labour spokesmen laid down with equal dogmatism and certainty that they were right over INF, and failed to deploy Pershing 2 and cruise, we would not have these agreements at all. The right hon. Gentleman would do well to realise that it was the firmness of purpose of the NATO Alliance, led by the Prime Minister, that got us into the good position that we are in today.

Ec (Single Market)

9.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what part his Department is playing in furthering progress towards a single market in the European Community.

We shall continue to work for rapid progress in dismantling barriers to trade within Europe and for early adoption of the measures necessary to complete the single European market. The Government are mounting a programme to ensure that British business is fully aware of the opportunities and challenges involved.

While I welcome the constructive approach of Her Majesty's Government, as outlined by my right hon. Friend, does she agree that the ill-judged proposals from the Commission for the harmonisation of VAT, including the abolition of zero-rating, are in no way essential to the completion of the internal market, and that the facts are rather the reverse and the proposals of Lord Cockfield are likely to be an obstacle rather than a help?

There are a lot of doubts, including those expressed in the recent study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, about the need for a regimented approach of the kind that the Commission has proposed. It was only yesterday that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in the House:

"tax harmonisation in the European Economic Community is not necessary for the completion of the single market in 1992."—[Official Report, 1 March 1988; Vol. 128, c. 816.]
Nor are we the only member state that would have difficulties with Lord Cockfield's proposals. Each country would have its own particular difficulties. We shall study what is being put forward. There is absolutely no question but that any vote concerning taxation is by unanimity, just as the vote in 1977 was supported by the then Labour Government— a vote which led to the decision in the EC on spectacles just a week ago.

Will not the development of the single internal market lead to a lack of control over drug traffickers, terrorists and the spread of rabies? As the Minister knows, Lord Cockfield is determined to harmonise VAT. As he is a Conservative appointee by the Prime Minister, will the Minister say, in order to make the Government's position clear, that they will not renew Lord Cockfield's appointment when it becomes due?

The last point of the hon. Gentleman's question is not for me to answer. As for drugs, terrorism and rabies, the general declaration, as the hon. Gentleman probably knows, as he is a Member of the European Parliament, in articles 13 to 19 of the Single European Act, makes it clear that member states such as Britain and others are not prevented from taking their own measures to combat drugs, terrorism and other problems. At the same time as moving towards a single market, controls at the Community's external frontiers are to be strengthened.

Will my right hon. Friend continue to bear in mind that there are large numbers of hon. Members on both sides of the House who believe that the scope and rates of value added tax in Britain should be settled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and approved by the House?

Indeed, they will be settled by the Chancellor and will come before the House, but my hon. Friend should note that no such changes to our present system could be made without unanimity. Unanimity is required, and we have no intention of changing our position on zero rates.

How did the Minister respond to the criticisms of the Government's proposals on the internal market by the director general of the CBI?

I believe that the job of the director general of the CBI is different from that of the Government and politicians in general. It is right that if the CBI has a view it should put it forward, but it is not necessarily one that is in the interests of the British people and the European Community.

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the debate on the internal market does not become sidetracked by repetitive remarks about VAT, terrorism and all the byways of Europe, but concentrates on the essential task of creating a single industrial market place, which would be overwhelmingly in the interests of Britain?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Certainly there is a danger that the behaviour of the press, Opposition Members and some others, will mean that the real issues of a single market, which would so benefit this country and the whole of Europe, will be bypassed. We are pressing for progress in key areas such as the liberalisation of capital movements, financial services including insurance, the opening up of public purchasing across the Community, and the improvement of standards. We hope for progress in all those areas in 1988. It is no mistake that in our six-month presidency 48 out of 100 measures taken on in the internal market were achieved.

Is it not clear to the right hon. Lady that there is deep concern that in 1992 the sovereignty of the British people will take a further step backwards, that we shall increasingly come under the control of multinational companies and that Britain will suffer as a result? Is it not also clear that the time has come, despite what right hon. and hon. Members on my Front Bench might say, when we should say that the option is still there for the British people, if they so decide, to come out of the Common Market, if they consider that it is in our interests to do so?

I have often thought that the hon. Gentleman was living in the past. I am now sure. He cannot even keep up to date with his own Front Bench.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of tax harmonisation, does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are to get to 1992, which is in the clear British interest, there has to be a great deal more give and take than has been evident in the exchanges so far?

My hon. Friend is right. I cannot understand why something that is in the interests of this country and, indeed, of the whole of Europe—the high priority which the British Government have given to completing the single market by the end of 1992—is not understood by Opposition Members. The recent speech by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) about the managed economy was protectionism by yet another name. It may have been published in Madison avenue, but its contents were firmly Bennite.

As Lord Cockfield is so out of touch on VAT with the views of the Government who nominated him, how could he possibly be nominated by the Government for another period in Brussels? Will the right hon. Lady confirm to the House the rumours that she is brushing up her languages and that her flitting has been ordered from Wallasey to the Berlaymont?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no truth in the rumours that he and others have been peddling in the press for some time. Whatever view any commissioner takes, it is his view and that of the Commission, and not that of the country from which he comes.

Drug Trafficking

10.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he is satisfied with the action taken against drug trafficking in the British dependencies of the Caribbean; and what action the Government are taking to facilitate international co-ordinated action against the drug trade in the Caribbean as a whole.

We have taken the lead in promoting co-operation to combat drug trafficking and strengthen drug law enforcement both in our dependencies and in independent Caribbean states. Next week we will be jointly hosting a Caribbean regional drug law enforcement conference in Barbados to discuss ways of improving co-operation further.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the big money involved in drugs can easily corrupt small countries. Is this not an area where we should co-operate urgently with our American friends?

Yes, indeed. One Caribbean Prime Minister has said to me that he regards drug traffickers as the biggest single threat to the long-term stability of his country. We are working very closely with the Americans; indeed, they are a co-host of the conference next week.

Will the Minister tell the House whether there is any truth in the story in The Times of 27 February that Sir Lynden Pindling, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, has been receiving millions of dollars from drug-smuggling cartels for laundering? Indeed, it is said that the British Turks and Caicos Islands are also being used as a major drug-trafficking area. Will he tell us whether these stories in The Times are true? Does he agree that if the United States Government did something to cut down on the market for drugs within their own country supplies would not come from the Caribbean or Latin America?

Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman is behind the game. The whole attitude that he is putting forward, of it being the fault of the consumer countries or of the producer countries, has long since passed. There was an important conference in Vienna as long ago as last June when all countries — producing countries, countries involved in trafficking and consuming countries—agreed to co-ordinate the fight against drugs. Because drugs are a common threat, we have to have a common action plan against them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in the light of experience in the Turks and Caicos Islands, it is dangerous to give independence to small dependencies because they can easily come under the influence of the major drug barons without being able to protect themselves?

My hon. Friend is right to point to the fact that the then Chief Minister of the Turks and Caicos was convicted of a drugs offence in the United States. We have since that time strengthened the resources available in that territory against the threat of drug traffickers. I know that my hon. Friend is aware of the announcement that I made just before Christmas about our policy on independence in the remaining dependent territories.

South Africa

11.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the South African ambassador to discuss human rights in South Africa.

I last met him on 25 February. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have made plain to the South African Government on numerous occasions our concern at human rights abuses in South Africa.

Would the Minister care to reflect on the fact that if recent events in South Africa, such as the arrest of religious leaders, had been taking place in the Soviet Union, the Conservative Benches would have been filled with hon. Members jumping up in indignation and demanding action? Today we have heard nothing. Will the Minister tell the House whether recent events in South Africa have altered the Government's position in any way? Have the Government moved at all—even a "teeny weeny" bit or even a smidgeon? Is there any change at all?

Whatever the hon. Gentleman may think he sees, I can assure him that all my hon. Friends are at one in condemning the action in South Africa [Interruption.] There is no way that we should take hasty and ill-judged actions on the very serious move by the South African Government last week and their further failure at the weekend to intervene in a very nasty march towards the Parliament building. We are having discussions, and at that I shall leave it for today.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that some of the organisations that had their activities controlled and curtailed—[Interruption.]

Order. It very frequently happens that we hear things in this Chamber with which we may not all agree.

Order. This is disgraceful behaviour. Every hon. Member has a right to speak.

To those who say that the hon. Gentleman is always called, I must reply that I seek to balance opinion in the Chamber. Mr. Carlisle.

At the fifth attempt, may I remind my right hon. Friend that some of the organisations that have had their activities curtailed by the South African Government were nothing more than respectable fronts for those perpetrating violence? Does she agree that Archibishop Tutu, having deliberately got himself arrested, is now advocating illegitimate acts as a form of protest?

All Governments are entitled to protect law and order, but in the Government's view the recent suppression of peaceful political activity is totally wrong. My hon. Friend tried to say that some of the organisations affected by last week's ban advocated violence. I have no proof that any of them adopt violent means. I believe that they have sought to follow the legitimate path of civil protest and peaceful political activity, and that some of those organisations are primarily humanitarian. Furthermore, we are completely opposed to the suppression of protest by Church leaders. I do not believe that Archbishop Tutu was going along to create trouble as my hon. Friend sought to suggest. I have to say to my hon. Friend that, knowing people who were at that church service, I think that the story is very much more serious than he perhaps appreciates.

Leaving aside the contemptible remarks of the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) —[Interruption.]

Leaving aside the contemptible remarks of the hon. Member for Luton, North, who prostitutes the House of Commons by his remarks, is the Minister aware that the Opposition accept her sincere intentions regarding South Africa? They are in no doubt whatever, but is she aware that, unhappily, there is a feeling that although the British Government, the Foreign Secretary and herself, condemn the actions of the South African authorities, they are not willing to take any effective measures? Is it not time that the British Government realised that the only way to make the South African Government recognise the strength of feeling in this country is by the use of sanctions? Will the Government therefore recognise that sanctions are essential if we are not to condemn South Africa by words alone?

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the spending of £45 million for projects through the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference, the pledge to provide 30 per cent. to the new Commonwealth special fund for Mozambique, the continuing scholarship programme for black South Africans, and other help, are not positive measures to help Southern Africa, he is living in a very peculiar world.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if she continues to speak out firmly against the abuses of human rights, be the victims unknown blacks in Soweto or leading clerics in Cape Town, she will have the support of the vast majority of the people of this country? Secondly, does she agree that the best way of communicating with the South African Government is through diplomatic channels, which should remain open, and by using every other form of contact, including commercial contact, available to us?

I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. I made it quite clear in the debate on Monday, if anyone could hear what I was saying in the end, that we shall not close the diplomatic channels, which provide us with the most important information from all sectors of the South African people. We shall certainly continue those contacts far and wide.

In view of the deteriorating situation in South Africa, the gravity of which the Minister appreciates, will the Government consider making mandatory the sanctions to which we have agreed in the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the EEC, and if not, why not?

The hon. Gentleman knows full well that if the measures already taken were made mandatory the front-line states would suffer in a way that they themselves consider they could not bear. Otherwise, why have some of them not taken the sanctions to which they committed themselves in name? They believe that for the economic future of their own people they should not take that action, and I believe that they know more about the situation than does the hon. Gentleman.

In the frequent representations that the Government have so rightly made on this matter, has my right hon. Friend made it clear to the South African Government that if they persist in their lamentable record on human rights they will increase the rate at which private companies disinvest, which cannot be in the interests of the black community?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The effect of disinvestment by foreign companies has meant that many shares were picked up cheaply by Afrikaners, who will not continue the social programmes and the education and health programmes which have been helping the black community to advance. We want to see more ways in which the black community is helped by business to advance. I believe that companies with interests in South Africa can help the black community to further not only their experience but their opportunities.

Chile

12.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom votes at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights with respect to Chile.

Human rights in Chile were first considered by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1975. We have consistently spoken out about human rights abuses. This has been reflected fully in our votes on resolutions or in our explanations of vote.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He will be aware that last year the United States attempted to withdraw the mandate of the special rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Given that such a withdrawal would almost certainly lead to an intensification of the breaches of human rights, detentions and tortures by the army in Chile, will he give an assurance that the Government's policy will continue and that any future attempt to end the mandate of the special rapporteur will be opposed? Will he say what the result of the withdrawal of the special rapporteur would be on exiles from Chile who are now in Britain? Does he think that such a withdrawal would lead to an increase, or decrease, in the instances of detention and torture?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is entirely right in his assessment of the position. We support the work of the special rapporteur in Chile, and we are in favour of a renewal of his mandate. We do, however, have some reservations about consideration of Chile in the UNCHR under the separate agenda item, but that is another and rather technical issue.

Will my hon. Friend mark the 40th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights by writing to all the countries, such as Chile and E1 Salvador, who are offending against that charter? Will he bring to their attention the undertakings that they gave when they signed it 40 years ago?

Chile and other countries are well aware of our views. During the speech that I made in Geneva to the commission — that was during my second visit to the Human Rights Commission—I made our views on these matters very clear.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I urgently seek your advice, on a matter affecting the honour and integrity of the House?

Order. It may not be for the convenience of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) to return—

—but for the convenience of the whole House, I shall take it immediately after the statement.

Order. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I am not prepared to take it now. I ask him to sit down, please.