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Austria

Volume 130: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1988

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3.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the present state of relations between the United Kingdom and Austria.

Relations between the United Kingdom and Austria are good, reflecting the common interests of our Governments and peoples.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House when he expects to conclude the inquiry into the alleged involvement of President Kurt Waldheim in the deaths of British commandos taken prisoners of war? Is the inquiry taking evidence from Captain Bill Blythe, who survived torture by Waldheim's own interrogation unit? Meanwhile, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that there will be no contact between representatives of Her Majesty's Government in Austria and this mendacious and wicked man?

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman must not make a reflection of that kind about the Head of a friendly state. Will he please withdraw his last remark?

I withdraw my last remark, but if the commission of inquiry comes to the expected conclusion, I shall reserve the right to make it again.

I think that the last exchange between you, Mr. Speaker, and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) indicates that it certainly would not be appropriate for me today to comment on or prejudge in any way the outcome of the review that is under way. It is being undertaken by the Ministry of Defence. The commission is carrying forward its work as expeditiously as possible and the matter will be reported to the House as soon as the review is complete.

The matter will be reported when the review is finished. The hon. and learned Gentleman wants the review to be thorough, and it will have to be thorough. The people conducting the review will take account of any evidence that may become available to them, including the observation made in the earlier part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question. It is for them to decide the matter. The Ministry of Defence will report the outcome to the House as soon as the review is complete.

So far as the latter part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question is concerned, representatives of Her Majesty's Government will behave appropriately, as they should.

What is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards the recent statement in Vienna by the French Prime Minister, Mr. Chirac, that Austria would be a welcome member of the European Community?

I listen with interest to the observations of Prime Ministers of member states of the European Community, just as the hon. Gentleman no doubt does.

Although relations between this country and Austria may be good, they will be much better when the results of the inquiry are known. Therefore, may I press upon my right hon. and learned Friend that the inquiry be expeditious? It is unfortunate that the amnesia of the President of Austria is the cause of the inquiry in the first place.

I shall not add my own observations to those at the end of my hon. Friend's question, but I entirely share his view, as I said in my original answer, that it is in everyone's interest for the review to be completed as expeditiously as possible. The review is being undertaken with that in mind.