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East Germany

Volume 160: debated on Monday 13 November 1989

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3.51 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"The implications of this weekend's events in East Germany for Britain's foreign and European policy."

I know that these are dull words, particularly when it has been a weekend of such extraordinary hope and excitement. To watch on one's television screens great engines tearing holes in the Berlin wall was for me an extraordinary experience. For me it was a wondrous sight to watch people flooding through the gaps where previously they would have feared a bullet in the back. We cannot let such an event pass and not respond to it.

I did my national service in Berlin long ago, before the wall was built. I have visited the city many times since and I identify—as we all should in this free Parliament—with what has been the most dramatic and marvellous demonstration of the power of free thought that we have seen since the war.

Yesterday, like most hon. Members—and like you Mr. Speaker—I marched in a Remembrance day parade. I remembered my father telling me about the bloody days in the trenches in Flanders. I recalled the doctor from the wee village on Skye in which I was brought up, whose job it was to attend Heinrich Himmler after his suicide. I remembered also my friends in Berlin and the troubles that they had had. I remembered that they were throwing off a new tyranny and that we were seeing the birth of an optimism that I—and I am sure many other hon. Members—have never known.

We all make banal speeches about historic moments but this is a real, tangible and marvellous historical moment and we should not let it pass. We should debate the matter and celebrate with our German friends the possibility of a new and far better future. That is my case.

The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"The implications of this weekend's events in East Germany for Britain's foreign and European policy."

I do not in any way under-estimate the importance of what the hon. Gentleman has said or of the momentous events unfolding in Europe. However, as he knows, I have to decide whether his application comes within the terms of the Standing Order and, if so, whether a debate should be given priority over the business already set down for this evening or tomorrow. In this case, the matter he has raised does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order and I regret that I cannot submit his application to the House.