Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs
Rights Of The Child
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he intends to ratify the United Nations convention on the rights of the child; and if he will make a statement.
The United Kingdom signed the United Nations convention on the rights of the child on 19 April 1990. We intend to ratify the convention as soon as possible.
Can the Minister explain why, eight months after the convention was signed, and 66 years after the declaration of the rights of the child was first accepted by the League of Nations, we still do not have a timetable for ratification in Britain? Why is it that countries such as Ghana and Vietnam can ratify the United Nations convention but we cannot? Does the Minister not consider that our children are entitled to have their rights under the convention—such as the right to a decent education, a decent standard of living and access to a decent health service—enshrined in law when the rights of other children in other nations are obviously being ratified?
The hon. Gentleman must be aware that although 90 countries have said that they would sign the convention, only six have so far ratified it. The explanation is to be found in the fact that the convention covers important, wide-ranging and complex areas of legislation, and no fewer than nine Government Departments are involved. The Government take our obligations under such conventions extremely seriously and we will not ratify until we are sure that our domestic legislation is entirely in harmony with our commitments under the convention.
I welcome the Minister's declaration in principle on the ratification of the convention on the rights of the child. Does he think it appropriate that on our visit to the West Bank and the Gaza strip next week, the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) and I should press the Israeli Government to look carefully at article 22, which deals with refugees, article 14, which deals with religious freedom, and article 38, which deals with children and armed conflict—especially as the purpose of our visit is to look closely at the devastating criticism of the actions of the Israeli army against the children on the West Bank and the Gaza strip by the Swedish Save the Children Fund, which instigated the new declaration of the rights of the child?
I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware, as we all are, that—unhappily—there are all too many countries where the clauses of the convention do not appear to be well observed. Happily, in this country, many, if not most, of the aspects of the convention are already enshrined in law, including the matters of education and health to which the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) referred. That is not so in many other countries.
Is the Under-Secretary aware that since I first wrote to the Prime Minister about this matter in November, I have been referred both to the Under Secretary—he kindly replied that he was taking the matter seriously—and to another Foreign Office Minister who referred me to the Home Office? The process has been going on for eight months.I am glad about the signing, but can we now be told who is the overall co-ordinator for the convention? Has the programme of consultation with every Government Department, which I was told was taking place, finished? Does the Minister think it likely that the House will debate the matter before the recess and that final ratification will take place?
As I said in an earlier reply, the legislation is wide ranging and complex. Many aspects of the convention are already dealt with in our domestic legislation. We want to make sure that our domestic legislation is entirely in harmony with our commitments under the convention, because we take these matters seriously and we are determined to get them right. There are nine Government Departments involved and—inevitably, I am afraid—the consultations involve many lawyers because there are legal aspects to the matter. I am afraid that at this stage I cannot give a timetable; I can only confirm that we shall complete the work as soon as we possibly can so that we can ratify the convention.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the progress of efforts to secure peace in Ethiopia.
The negotiations between the Ethiopian Government and the rebels are, sadly, deadlocked. We shall continue to work for their resumption.
The Minister's answer is sad. What are the British Government doing to help both the rebels and the Ethiopian Government to resolve the problems and to bring peace to Ethiopia? What are the prospects for putting together a long-term aid package between Britain and the other EEC countries that could be offered to the Ethiopian Government and the rebel troops as soon as a peace treaty is signed?
If a peace treaty were signed, I am sure that the international community as a whole, and especially the European Community, would be in the vanguard of wanting to help with the rebuilding of Ethiopia, which will be a mammoth task. I am sorry to note that the Eritrean People's Liberation Front has now shifted its position. Having pressed for the presence of United Nations observers at the talks—the Ethiopian Government accepted that—the EPLF has changed its position and withdrawn from the talks. We are no further forward.
Why cannot the Foreign Office recognise that propping up the evil Mengistu regime is the most misguided policy, especially at present? Surely the time has come to dissociate ourselves from the well-meaning international pretence by the EEC and others that Ethiopia still has any form of moral or territorial integrity left, because it just does not.
There is no question of propping up one Government or another. If my hon. Friend is seeking to pursue a course that will encourage the division of Ethiopia, I must urge him to recognise that he will be recommending a course that will prolong the war indefinitely. We should be saying to the Eritreans, "You have won by force of arms as much as it is realistic to win and you should now settle for the advanced autonomy that you can negotiate."
Economic, Monetary And Political Union
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the principal policy objectives which Her Majesty's Government would wish to see in the twin intergovernmental conference preparations for economic and monetary union and political union, as specific components in a list of policies for the discussions at the end of the Italian presidency of the Council of Ministers in December.
We shall be working in both intergovernmental conferences to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the Community, creating strong Community institutions, but respecting the diversity of national traditions and the principle of subsidiarity.
I wish my hon. Friend and his colleagues at the Foreign Office the best of luck in developing those proposals. Does he agree that the Government and the parliamentary Conservative party can enthusiastically and totally unite behind this country's energetic and enthusiastic development of the various proposals for the twin conferences? Does he further agree that there are a number of important priorities, not least to ensure the accountability of member Governments to their national Parliaments, enhancing the role of the national Parliament, and to ensure the accountability of the Council of Ministers as a whole to the European Parliament and to increase the power of the European Parliament at the margins?
For the second intergovernmental conference, we have put forward a series of proposals for ways in which the Community can make itself more effective and better at doing those things that only the Community can do. As my hon. Friend has suggested, part of that process is to increase the accountability of Ministers to their national Parliaments. We believe that if the role of the European Parliament is to be increased, the European Commission should be held more to account. We also need to look at reinforcing the rule of law in the European Community. There are a whole range of areas in which improvements could be made and we shall be making constructive proposals.
Does the Government agree with the Italians, the Germans, the French, the Spaniards and the majority of the other members of the Community, in having as their aim the creation of a democratic federal European Community?
The hon. Gentleman is misinformed if he believes that all those countries believe in a democratic federal Europe in quite the simplistic way that he has suggested—they do not. There is no consensus or anything approaching a consensus in the Community in terms of such a development. There is, however, a growing belief that the Community should do better that which it has to do. That may involve decentralising decision making to the member states to a certain extent to enable them to do those things that do not have to be done by the Community.
Given the recent speech by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on economic and monetary union when he said that we shall not move towards a central bank, does my hon. Friend agree that the question of subsidiarity, with respect to both economic and monetary union, and political union, must be defined in such a manner as to rule out the political impetus that has been given to both the central bank and to the subservience of this House to the European Parliament and other Community institutions, which seems to be the fetish of some of the European leaders in the European Community?
There is a great deal of scope for increasing the economic and monetary integration of the Community. Our commitment to the single market is evidence of that. A good deal more can be done on monetary matters. We have wholeheartedly supported stage 1 of the Delors report and put forward some well-developed and sophisticated proposals on stage 2. Those are being seriously considered throughout the Community. A great deal can be done before developments such as those to which my hon. Friend referred take place.
Is the Minister aware that the recent Dublin summit represented a comprehensive defeat for the Prime Minister, on establishing both of the intergovernmental conferences and also on the social charter, aid to the Soviet Union, lifting sanctions on South Africa and even the reappointment of that French Socialist Jacques Delors as President of the European Commission? How on earth can any of our partners have any confidence that proposals from the United Kingdom Government can be taken seriously or seen as anything other than a cosmetic camouflage for the same old obstructionism?
To take the last example from the hon. Gentleman's list, he failed to observe that, far from being isolated on the reappointment of Monsieur Delors, the Prime Minister nominated him. That is a pretty odd way of being isolated. Virtually everything that the hon. Gentleman said was wrong. He has simply got stuck in a time warp. He is playing again records that were worn out a long time ago and should have been discarded. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that we are isolated, for example, on aid to the Soviet Union, he should consider what was decided at the Houston summit. He will find that the argument of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which was widely accepted as entirely correct, has gained even greater endorsement since the summit.
Irish Republic (Extradition)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic about the present arrangements for extradition between the two countries.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs discussed our concerns with the Irish Foreign Minister on 21 April.
Have arrangements for extradition improved or deteriorated since 15 November 1985? Would not arrangements for extradition and Anglo-Irish relations generally be improved if articles 2 and 3 were removed from the constitution of the Irish Republic?
The downturn in the success of extradition took place at about the turn of the year. I should not make the link with the Anglo-Irish Agreement that my hon. Friend implied in his question. I agree with his latter proposition.
With the approach of 1992 businesses will face greater harmonisation, as will water companies, farmers and financial institutions. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only people who will not be affected by 1992 are terrorists? Does he agree that we should move towards a European treaty on extradition? Surely, instead of talking about monetary or political union, the intergovernmental conference should devote more time to the important question of extradition.
I agree with my hon. Friend. There is, of course, the European convention on the supression of terrorism. Recent events in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany show that there is ever-increasing practical and efficient co-operation between the partners of the Community against terrorism.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government have offered any assistance to the United Nations to conduct the referendum in the western Sahara.
Like the other members of the Security Council, we support the recent efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General and stand ready to consider requests for assistance.
Nevertheless, will the Minister use his considerable influence with the Moroccan Government and with Polisario in suggesting that they should co-operate to the fullest, so that the United Nations can get the referendum under way? Will the Minister confirm that assistance will take the form of the provision of officials and observers? If we are to send observers, will the right hon. Gentleman consider including me as one of them?
I cannot but accept the hon. Gentleman's offer, because it might be a rather arduous mission and we are therefore happy to have volunteers. More seriously, as a permanent member of the Security Council, we are entirely behind the secretary-general's efforts. There again seems some hope of making progress, and we stand ready to accept requests.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that King Hassan of Morocco has moved considerably towards holding a referendum in the western Sahara? One of the difficulties with which the United Nations has to come to terms is defining who lives there and exactly where, in order that a referendum can be held. If there is any question of observers being sent to represent this Parliament or the British Government, will my right hon. Friend ensure that apologists for the Algerian Government or Polisario are not among them?
I thought for a moment that another volunteer was coming forward. However, it is a serious matter. I do not want to appear, by what I say at the Dispatch Box, to endorse one side or the other in the dispute. It is far better to support the secretary-general and to proceed on the basis of the census taken by the Spanish —which is the information the secretary-general is now working on—in compiling a proper electoral roll and arranging a referendum.
Will the Minister join us in paying tribute to the secretary-general for restarting last week the first direct talks between Iran and Iraq, the success of the referendum in Namibia, and now his work in respect of the western Sahara? Will the right hon. Gentleman respond readily and positively when, as we hope, the technical mission returns from the western Sahara at the end of the month? How seriously do the Government view the failure on Monday to establish a direct dialogue between the two sides?
I happily join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the secretary-general, who has taken full advantage of the possibilities offered by making proper use of United Nations machinery that the improvement in the general world climate and between east and west has offered him. In the issues that the hon. Gentleman mentioned and in one or two others that one could mention, the secretary-general has played his proper, vital part. The secretary-general's initiative in respect of the referendum rather than any separate direct talks has our fullest support.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his discussions with Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress of South Africa.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent talks with Nelson Mandela.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I had friendly and positive discussions with Mr. Mandela on 3 July about how best to take forward the process of ending apartheid in South Africa by negotiation.
Does the Minister appreciate that there is a long way to go before negotiations on the full transfer of power can begin and that the peace process in South Africa is still very fragile? Does he accept that the people best able to judge when fundamental and irreversible change has taken place are the South African people themselves? If so, would not he be wise to listen to them and to maintain sanctions until they consider it reasonable for sanctions to be lifted?
I wholeheartedly endorse the hon. Gentleman's argument that we should listen to the people of South Africa—all the people of South Africa. Mr. Mandela represents a considerable number of them, which is why it is very important to talk to him. However, I do not endorse the hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks. Nor would Mr. Mandela, who seems optimistic about the pace of progress. He has said:
that is, the question of sanctions—"It is possible that by the next time the question arises in the European summit"—
Mr. Mandela is talking in terms of a very optimistic time scale, which makes it clear that he is not now making sanctions a central issue of principle. It is just an argument about timing."it will no longer be an issue because we may have reached agreement by then."
While warmly welcoming Mr. Mandela's overdue public acknowledgement of the Prime Minister's opposition to apartheid, does my right hon. Friend agree that other black South African leaders outside the ranks of the African National Congress should be encouraged to play their part in the creation of a just and equitable society in South Africa—not least because Mr. Mandela and the ANC have too long and too closely flirted with murder and Marxism?
It should be the Government's policy to talk to all those leaders in South Africa who are willing to negotiate a way to peace. There are other representatives of communities in South Africa as well as Mr. Mandela with whom we talk and with whom we should talk. However, my hon. Friend was right on one point. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is owed an apology from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) who said:
The right hon. Gentleman constantly tells us to listen to Mr. Mandela. Will he now retract that in view of what Mr. Mandela has said?"Sheistheworld'sbestfriendofapartheid."—[Official Report, 14 February 1990; Vol. 167, c. 278.]
Despite what the Minister has just said and his comments about my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), is not it a fact that, as well as saying what he did, Mr. Mandela also asked us not to relax sanctions? Did not he ask that everywhere he went? Is not the Minister being a little gauche in the way that he just put that?
Whether gauche or not, we have had a long-standing disagreement and I am glad that the European Community and others are now coming closer to our position. As progress is made, there should be a steady relaxation of sanctions. Mr. Mandela takes a different view. As the Labour party's position is entirely that of Mr. Mandela on every other matter, we are owed an explanation of why it is different on the assessment of the Prime Minister.
Did my right hon. Friend detect any understanding by Mr. Mandela that, as South Africa puts the doctrines of apartheid behind it, the crying need of its people is for a far greater flow of international investment in that country to produce more jobs and to sustain an economy that is capable of investing far more in education and health services? Did Mr. Mandela give any sign of the encouragement that he is giving to international business men to invest in South Africa?
Mr. Mandela met leading business men in London and elsewhere. He said:
Those are welcome steps away from the old socialism which I am afraid some Opposition Members have been misleading Mr. Mandela into following for many years."Private capital, both domestic and international, will have a vital contribution to make to the economic and social reconstruction of South Africa…This cannot happen without large inflows of foreign capital, including British capital."
Do I take it from the Minister's quotation from Mr. Mandela, the deputy president of the African National Congress, about the Prime Minister, that the Government now take their orders from the ANC?[Interruption.]
If the Government are selectively to quote one kindly and generous reference by Mr. Mandela to the Prime Minister, will they now accept what Mr. Mandela said in the hearing of the Minister and myself when we lunched together last week—that Mr. Mandela is adamant in his insistence that sanctions should remain?
The right hon. Gentleman has answered the first part of his question with his final sentence. We disagree with the ANC about sanctions. Is it impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to admit that he was wrong?
Do my right hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues on the Front Bench agree that it cannot make the faintest sense to promote aid and credits as the best way to encourage political progress and reform in eastern Europe and sanctions as the best way to encourage exactly the same developments in South Africa?
I share my hon. Friend's view. The right hon. Member for Gorton witnessed an argument on this matter between Helen Suzman and Mr. Mandela which, I believe, once again Mrs. Suzman won. It is crazy to be seeking to bring back international capital to South Africa in six months time and to be trying to drive it away now.
Ec Foreign Affairs Ministers
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to meet the European Community Foreign Affairs Ministers.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to meet the European Community Foreign Affairs Ministers.
My right hon. Friend will meet EC Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday next week.
Given the interest of European Foreign Ministers in easing the transition of eastern European countries from communist dictatorships to nascent democracies, does the Minister envisage that similar interest might be shown in easing the transition of Scotland from a province governed by the diktat of the House to a country that democratically elects its own representatives to the European Councils?
I thought for a moment that the hon. Gentleman sought to draw the analogy that Scotland might be transformed from a socialist economy into a free enterprise one, but I do not think that he had that in mind. East European countries are rediscovering that freedom and the ability to have a democracy and a free enterprise system is the way to go. They are keen to draw many of their lessons from the experience of the United Kingdom.
Will the Minister discuss with his European colleagues joint action to defend and protect the continent of Antarctica? What steps has he taken to ensure that Antarctica remains free from military exploitation and disturbance and from economic exploitation and pollution? What steps will he take to ensure the future of that continent as a truly international asset that belongs to the world?
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not know that the Antarctica treaty system rules out any military intervention of the sort about which he appears to be anxious.
When my hon. Friend meets other EC Foreign Ministers will he check how many of them have removed visa requirements for visitors from east European countries? I suspect that he will find that a number of them have removed, or plan to remove, those requirements. In view of that will he undertake to speed up the process undertaken by the British Government to review and remove the long visa delays imposed on many business visitors, as well as tourists and others, from eastern Europe?
This is a matter in which my right hon. Friend has taken a close interest and we are looking at it carefully. It is desirable, wherever possible, that the European Community should move forward together for such purposes and it is certainly something that has been and is being discussed among the Twelve.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a growing threat to regional stability and a potential threat to Europe from the determination of military dictatorships such as Iraq and Libya to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapon capabilities, allied to a long-range delivery capability? Bearing in mind the fact that some European Governments have, in the past decade, supplied military-grade uranium to Iraq, and given the recent saga of the long gun, for which parts were provided from this country and Germany, will my hon. Friend ensure that that matter is raised at the next meeting of EC Foreign Ministers so that we do not aid and abet the future acquisition of such capabilities?
These matters are discussed regularly among the Twelve. Of course, it is important that the non-proliferation obligations to which we all sign up are observed.
When the Minister next meets his EC colleagues will he raise with them the trade in Hong Kong ivory? Does he recall that the Government gave an assurance in the House that the reservation entered into on behalf of Hong Kong would end at midnight on 17 July? Is he aware that a major loophole has emerged? It is clear that that trade will continue under the guise of personal effects moving out of Hong Kong. I know that the Government would not wish to have misled the House, but they have been misled by the Hong Kong authorities. Will he take urgent steps to close that loophole? If not, the only sufferer will be the African elephant.
There is no question of the House being misled. I am aware of the concern that has been expressed and it is being considered.
If the discussions with other European Foreign Ministers touch on aid to eastern. Europe, will my hon. Friend impress on them that it is better to create the conditions for genuine investment in eastern Europe than to throw money at any of those countries? Would not it be even better to remove the restraints on trade imposed by the common agricultural policy and other European Commission policies?
My hon. Friend is entirely right. It is important that the programme of aid to eastern Europe should proceed on the basis of conditions. It should not go ahead unless the process of economic reform goes ahead, too. We believe, and others agree, that that principle should be applied to the Soviet Union. One important measure that we can take for reforming countries is to open our markets to their products, and agriculture is one such important sector.
When the Minister next meets European Community Foreign Ministers, many of whom were at the NATO summit last week, will he explain why last Thursday the Prime Minister said that she opposed a second round of conventional forces in Europe negotiations and on Friday she signed the communiqué agreeing to a second round of CFE negotiations? Did he agree with the Prime Minister before or after she was forced to change her mind?
As so often, the right hon. Gentleman is off beam. There has never been any difference and the same mandate continues.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy on sanctions against South Africa.
Our policy is unchanged. We continue to believe that pressure should be relaxed as progress is made in South Africa. We welcome the Dublin European Council's endorsement of this principle.
As Her Majesty's Government's attitude to sanctions, which was endorsed by my right hon. Friend the Minister this afternoon, is that they are yesterday's argument or, in the words of the Prime Minister, they have no part to play in policy towards South Africa, why do we still insist on supporting the obnoxious Gleneagles agreement which upholds sporting sanctions against that country? Does my right hon. Friend accept that the one message of encouragement for President de Klerk to pursue the path of reform that he would like would be an invitation to the Springboks to play cricket at Lord's and rugby at Twickenham?
The Gleneagles agreement was an obligation which was entered into collectively and we shall honour it. That does not argue against our belief that as progress is made we should persuade our colleagues to move in step with it.
Is the Minister aware that Labour Members have the highest respect and praise for all those in South Africa, black and white alike and in the African National Congress and outside it, who have fought and suffered all their lives, as Nelson Mandela did for more than 25 years in prison, for a democratic South Africa, but that we have the highest contempt, if that is the right expression, for people like the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) who throughout has done his best to side with the oppressors, taken free trips to South Africa and in every conceivable way opposed the progress now taking place in that country?
As usual with the hon. Member, his remarks were unfair, overblown and exaggerated. My hon. Friends who have argued for many years that those who were seeking to damage the South African economy would damage all the South African people will turn out to be right. Although the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has not yet found a formula for these matters, the hon. Gentleman should accept what Mr. Mandela said—that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is an enemy of apartheid and all kinds of racism. I hope that he will accept that all Conservative Members share those views.
May I reinforce the point made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies)? Has my right hon. Friend observed that those who call for the continuation of sanctions against South Africa tend to be the same people who call for economic aid to the Soviet Union? If it is right to help President Gorbachev to survive, must not it be right to help President de Klerk to survive?
The analogy is apt. Mr. de Klerk faces exactly the same dangers and pressures as Mr. Gorbachev. It is no more certain that the one will survive than the other. It is surely in the interests of progress in those countries that both do so.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will review his policy regarding voting for the recognition of the Cambodian delegation at the United Nations.
With our EC partners we are reviewing our policy towards Cambodia's representation at the United Nations. In doing so, we shall be taking into account the efforts of a range of countries, notably the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to achieve a comprehensive political settlement.
Will the Minister press at the United Nations for the 12-member National Supreme Council, which represents all factions in Cambodia, to go ahead, despite the veto by the Khmer Rouge? Will he call for the cessation of all arms supplies to that area, especially from China, which supplies arms to the Khmer Rouge? Will he also ensure that a high-ranking diplomat visits Cambodia so that he can report at first hand to the Government?
The hon. Gentleman has identified a number of elements that would form a necessary part of a comprehensive political settlement. We hope that that will be done by the efforts being led by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to achieve that settlement, and to resolve the problem of the seat at the United Nations, before it comes up before the credentials committee in about mid-October.
Does my hon. Friend agree that Britain's vote on this issue should be cast not according to what other nations wish, but according to what this country thinks is right? Does he agree that our vote should not be cast in support of any organisation that has the Khmer Rouge in its membership, but should be cast for the Phnom Penh representatives, who oppose it?
As my hon. Friend is aware, we are reviewing our attitude to that important issue. He will also be aware that it was not the subject of a vote at the United Nations last year.
Is the Minister aware that the Khmer Rouge troops are now 50 miles from Phnom Penh, that thousands of refugees are pouring into that city, and that all his diplomatic procrastination is playing into the hands of Pol Pot? Surely he can say now that the Government will no longer support the seating of an illegal delegation at the United Nations, that they will support urgent action to end the arms supply and get a ceasefire, and that they will work urgently to ensure that the mass murderers are not able once again to seize power in Cambodia?
The hon. Gentleman is very well aware, as he was present at the debate last Monday, of the efforts being made by the Government in the company of the other permanent members of the Security Council to bring about a comprehensive political settlement, which is the only satisfactory way forward that will give the Cambodians the opportunity to live in peace and stability and the right to choose their own Government.
St Helena (Satellite Television)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has received any representations about satellite television reception in St. Helena; and if he will make a statement.
We have not received any representations about satellite television reception in St. Helena. No television broadcasts are at present received on the island, and there are no facilities on the island for receiving satellite television signals.
Precisely. Will my hon. Friend have a word with the Home Secretary about devising a post-colonial system for the representation in this House of our remaining dependent territories, along the lines of the 1955 Malta settlement? Members of the dependencies—
Order. Does this have anything to do with satellite television?
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, it is because of the representations that my right hon. and learned Friend has received and the fact that to receive representations in the first place, we need to have Members from there in this House.
I think that that is a bit of a cheek.
My hon. Friend asks an ingenious question. Without satellite television reception the citizens of St. Helena would be deprived of viewing our proceedings on television—if broadcasting should continue. However, my hon. Friend will be aware that the citizens of St. Helena, like the citizens of all our dependent territories, can vote for members of their own legislative council. He will also be aware that those councils have responsibility for the full internal self-government of the territories. If we went further than that, it would be a complex issue which would require careful consideration.
Bbc External Services
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to increase the funding available for the BBC external services.
Funding for the BBC is set for periods of three years. In 1990–91, the final year of the present triennium, funding is 40 per cent. higher in real terms than in 1979–80 and 13 per cent. higher than in 1987–88. Funding for the next such period, beginning in April 1991, will be decided during the 1990 public expenditure survey and announced following the autumn statement.
Does the Minister accept the unique value of a world broadcasting service which regularly reaches 120 million people worldwide and which played such a positive role in the recent and continuing political developments in eastern Europe? Is he aware of the level of support in the House for the World Service? Is he further aware that if he does not secure the public financial support from the Treasury for which he has been asked to argue in the coming expenditure survey round, it will be unable to develop its services in the way that it has in the past or retain its pre-eminent position in world broadcasting services?
I am happy to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the quality and value of the BBC World Service broadcasts, particularly to those countries where closed societies make it difficult or perhaps impossible for people to obtain accurate information not only about the rest of the world but sometimes about their own country. I am well aware of the value attached to the World Service not only by those who listen to it but by hon. Members.
Will my hon. Friend look generously at the needs of the World Service in its next funding period, bearing in mind the fact that we devotees of the BBC World Service regard it as a fine example of a service whose newsmen report the news as it is, not the newscaster's view of it?
I very much note what my hon. Friend says. The World Service has done well under this Government. As I said, its funding has increased by 40 per cent. in real terms since the Government came to power in 1979–80 and its current output is the highest since the 1950s.
Despite what the Minister says, the increased funds needed by the BBC external services cannot make up for the early damage done by the Government when they slashed funds to the British Council and massively increased fees for overseas students. Is not the Government's ill-thought out decision not to fund the world television service a continuation of that earlier Government policy?
I am not sure how the hon. Gentleman links funding for the British Council with that for the World Service. They are entirely separate. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that other English language television news services operate without a Government subsidy. I understand that the BBC is seeking to attract private sector support for a world service, and we wish it well in its efforts.
My hon. Friend will be aware that the Government are rightly concerned about obtaining value for money, but does he agree that the BBC World Service gives superb value for money, that it reaches a large number of people—it should reach many more—and that increased funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would be welcome to the many people who value the service and would enjoy its greater audibility?
We are conscious of the point about the importance of audibility and that is why there has been a 10-year audibility programme under this Government, involving new investment of £90 million. I am glad to say that that expenditure programme is almost complete and its results are impressive.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Romania on the development of democracy there since June 1990.
We protested formally to the Romanian authorities in London and Bucharest on 15 June about President Iliescu's use of vigilantes to crush the opposition on 14 and 15 June. We invoked the Helsinki agreement on 21 June to request information on three arrested student leaders. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and his European Community colleagues strongly condemned the violence in a statement on 18 June.
The Minister has the support of the whole House: we join him in condemning, and expressing our outrage at, the crimes of the statesponsored and state-organised lynch mobs from the Valley of Zin. One of their victims was Mr. Leon Nica, who was a recent visitor to the House. Despite assurances given to the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and me on Monday this week in Bucharest, it appears that he is still in prison, and—according to rumours in Bucharest—has been so badly disfigured by the beating that he suffered that he is not fit to be seen.What will be the Minister's response to the new despair, pessimism and fear in Romania? Can he assure the House that we will not desert the people of Romania, and that we will redouble our efforts to build on the links that now exist between us and them, so that the barriers do not rise again and Romania does not become isolated and indifferent to western opinion?
I am grateful for the steadfast support that the hon. Gentleman has given to the line that has, I think, been taken by the majority of hon. Members—although opinion is not unanimous; the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) takes a different view. The position of Mr. Nica is one of the matters about which we are most worried. He is one of the three people about whom we inquired. There was a rumour that he had been released, but we do not believe it: his student organisation says that he has not. We will press his case strongly.As for the general policy, we should be building and maintaining contacts, but we should not yet be offering the prizes of economic and other support that we have made conditional, for the other countries of eastern and central Europe, on progress towards law, free markets and genuine democracy.
May I strongly associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn)? Together with French and Belgian Members of Parliament, we had a meeting with the Romanian Government on Monday.Is my right hon. Friend aware—I am sure that—he is —that the sorry events of June have left the Romanian Government floundering? There is considerable fear and even despair in Romania. Will my right hon. Friend use his best endeavours—with our partners in western Europe —to bring home to the Romanian Government the fact that help will be forthcoming for that floundering, sad country only when it puts its house in order—when democracy is practised, dialogue with the people is undertaken and the atrocities referred to by the hon. Gentleman cease?
I agree with my right hon. Friend. His views and knowledge of that country are well known, and I share them. It is, however, important to recognise the steps that have been taken. It is the fact that those initial gains seem in danger of being lost which makes us so worried, angry and frustrated. That is why we thought it right to instruct Her Majesty's ambassador to attend the inauguration of the elected President—he is, after all, the first elected President, and that is a major step, although my right hon. Friend is right to say that that alone is not enough.
Will the Minister take it from me that, having seen the democratic way in which the elections were conducted on 20 May, my Conservative colleague and I were disappointed to see what happened with the incursion into Bucharest of what I can only call Communist party vigilantes—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Miners."] I call them vigilantes.Does the Minister agree that one way in which we can influence events in Bucharest is by having talks with the appropriate Ministers, and encouraging British business men to show what can be on offer to the Romanian economy if Romanian democracy is allowed to progress in the way in which it appeared to be progressing on 20 May, when nothing sinister was clear to the observers in that country? Does he further agree that a real effort is needed by the British Government and British business to influence further progress?
We believe that the election had many flaws; we also believe that it is likely that the National Salvation Front would have won a wholly fair election. We must recognise the steps that have been taken. I did not say—as I was quoted as saying by Mr. Conor Cruise O'Brien —that there is no difference between Ceausescu and Iliescu. There have been tentative steps forward, and we should encourage them, but we should not—we cannot—yet say that the conditions for general economic aid and for our know-how fund have been met. We must keep in place the carrots for further vital progress.
Does my right hon. Friend think that democracy has any chance in Romania as long as it is up against Scargillite National Socialism?
It was the very disturbing methods used by Mr. Iliescu at the first challenge that worried us so much because they were just the same methods as Ceausescu used to use. My right hon. Friend's anxieties are well founded.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on current developments in British-Soviet relations.
Anglo-Soviet relations are better than ever. We are moving steadily from an era of confrontation to one of co-operation in an increasingly broad range of areas.
I note what the Minister says. Bearing in mind the historical changes that have taken place, especially in the past year, such as the ending of the Russian empire in eastern Europe, the democratic changes in the Soviet Union and the fact that the right-wing Conservative majority—[HoN MEMBERS: "Hard left."]—delegates at the party congress did not get their way, is not there a case for taking a far more favourable and flexible attitude towards the request for assistance in the immediate period? Why is there a hostile attitude towards such assistance? Surely it could be linked to the continuance of democratic changes in the Soviet Union.
I am confused by the hon. Gentleman's terminology. His hon. Friends—or in his case perhaps not his friends—in the Militant Tendency would be deeply offended by being placed on the right wing, which is where they would have to be placed according to the hon. Gentleman's categorisation. The hon. Gentleman knows that we take the view, and got some support from the Opposition for saying, that simply pouring money into an economic system which would waste it would neither help the progress of reform nor do any favours for our taxpayers. Tomorrow my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making a statement showing why the Houston summit has clearly taken the view that much more analysis must be carried out first. What is more, we must be clear about what is being requested. The hon. Gentleman may be clear, but nobody else is.
Much as we would all like to help President Gorbachev, and bearing in mind the fact that some of the money sent to Russia might fall through their pockets, will my right hon. Friend remember that every day Russia is still producing submarines, tanks, guns and planes in undiminished numbers? Surely until that comes to an end we should be careful about how much money we lend them.
I totally agree. Mr. Shevardnadze said the other day that the Soviet Union spends about a quarter of its wealth on armaments. There would be no question of giving aid to any other country that spent that proportion of its wealth on armaments. As the Prime Minister of Canada said, Russia is still wasting thousands of millions of roubles propping up Mr. Castro. Russia could make cuts in many areas.
African National Congress
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects to meet representatives of the African National Congress; and if he will make a statement.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave some moments ago.
In view of the historic fact that a previous British Government sowed the seeds of apartheid when the House voted for a racist constitution for South Africa in 1909, and that in more recent years the apartheid regime has been propped up by British investment and trade, would not it be better for British politicians now to maximise pressure on the South African Government to expedite the end of apartheid and the introduction of democracy, instead of attempting to lecture the ANC about the ending of sanctions? As the ANC has been in favour of a negotiated settlement since its foundation in 1912, is not it about time that we had a public apology from the Government for the statement by the Prime Minister less than three years ago in which she tried to denounce the ANC as just a typical terrorist organisation?
At this distance I cannot be held responsible for the Liberal Government of 1909. It is clear that the negotiations that have now begun and to which Mr. Mandela is as committed as Mr. de Klerk need our support. If we damage the economy of South Africa the background to those negotiations will be more bitter and more polarised.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made towards a successful outcome of the German unification process.
Progress so far is satisfactory. We look forward to the next ministerial meeting in Paris on 17 July, when the Poles will attend for a discussion of their border issue.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The unification of Germany is one of the most important and symbolic events in Europe since the war. Does not the integration of the GDR into the EC and NATO lead the way for the eventual integration of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland into the European structure?
That should be our objective—in the first instance, by means of association agreements with the Community. I should be among those who would welcome applications from those countries for full membership when they are ready for it, which will undoubtedly be in only a few years' time.
Will the Minister make it clear that the Government oppose this German super-power expanding its boundaries by various political means, including through the common market? Is not it obvious that within Germany there is a claim that the boundary should be extended towards Poland, and that the Polish people have to be reassured? Will the Minister give an assurance on that today?
The hon. Gentleman is a little confused. The chambers of the Parliaments of the Federal Republic and the GDR have already passed clear and explicit motions saying that they have no further claim to change the boundary of Poland. The Poles will be discussing that in the two plus four talks next week and the whole matter will eventually carry forward into a formal treaty in due course.