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Commons Chamber

Volume 181: debated on Wednesday 28 November 1990

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 28 November 1990

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Adelphi Estate Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made on the problem of Cyprus.

We want to see a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus problem. The United Nations Secretary-General's Initiative has our strong and active support. The secretary-general's special representative is continuing to pursue separate discussions with all parties to the dispute.

As the Minister is a new boy at the Foreign Office, will he come with me to visit that beautiful island so that he can see its problems at first hand? Tragically, the island is divided and in the north there are foreign troops from the mainland of Turkey, and all sorts of armaments. We need to know where the people missing from the southern part of the island have gone. Therefore, will the Minister come with me to look round to see what we can do about those problems and sort them out once and for all?

Like most hon. Members, I would go to the ends of the earth with the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes). I agree that it is tragic that the island should be divided in that way and that there are several refugee and human rights problems. We think that the best way forward is by supporting the United Nations initiative, and that is what Her Majesty's Government are doing.

I know that the Government believe in the rights of minorities, but will my hon. Friend address the problem more positively, because it has dragged on for many years? Is he aware that, but for the robust efforts of President Denktash in northern Cyprus, there would have been mayhem and bloodshed a long time ago?

I reject the proposition that the Government are not addressing the problem robustly. We have committed to the United Nations peacekeeping force 700 British troops, and that underlines the desire of Her Majesty's Government to bring about a peaceful and proper accord that unites the island.

I congratulate Foreign Office Ministers on their apparent survival. The secretary-general's initiative seems effectively to be stalled, or even in retreat, following the recent decision of Mr. Denktash to delegate responsibility for contact with the United Nations to a deputy. Does the Minister appreciate the sense of frustration and impatience in Cyprus at the continued tragic division of that island? Has consideration been given to further initiatives to break the deadlock?

The hon. Gentleman has expressed the frustration that hon. Members on both sides of the House feel about the continued tragic division. We do not believe that the United Nations initiative has run out of steam. It continues to enjoy the full support of Her Majesty's Government.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall answer Questions 2 and 6 together. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question 7."] Questions 2 and 6.

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. A question has been withdrawn and the numbering has not been changed.

Bbc World Service


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the future of the BBC World Service.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the future of the BBC World Service.

This year's autumn statement provided for real growth of resources for the BBC World Service during the next three years. That will enable it to improve still further the excellent service that it provides.

I welcome that answer, but does my hon. Friend accept that the Gulf crisis is just the latest in a long series of international events, which prove beyond doubt the vital importance of the World Service in providing an impartial source of news to so many countries? Does my hon. Friend accept that, as in the case, for example, of one of my constituents whose husband is, unfortunately, a hostage in Kuwait or Iraq, the message service of the World Service is the only link with people in the Gulf in this time of crisis? As we approach Christmas could there possibly be a further increase in the amount of time made available for such messages?

I am happy to endorse my hon. Friend's congratulations to the World Service, which has been especially good during the Gulf crisis. The Arabic service has been increased to 10£5 hours a day and the English service is maintained at 24 hours a day. The Gulf link programme, to which my hon. Friend referred, is invaluable for families in Britain to send messages to their relatives. I am happy to say that in the past two weeks the World Service has extended that programme to 45 minutes a day, and we hope that that will provide an adequate facility for families to communicate with their relatives before Christmas.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the BBC World Service has more listeners than Voice of America and is excellent value for money? In view of its excellent work last year in broadcasting information to eastern European countries and other formerly totalitarian countries, will he look sympathetically on any applications by the BBC for extra broadcasting to countries that are still non-democratic?

Yes, my hon. Friend is correct. The World Service plays a vital role in giving information to closed societies. It is the most successful of all the overseas broadcasting services. It has 120 million regular listeners, the highest in the world, even though its output is fifth in hours. None the less, in recent years its output has increased and it is now the highest that it has been since the 1950s.

Does the Minister recognise the urgent need for more information and entertainment for British forces deployed in the Gulf? Does he further recognise that the World Service and other broadcasting functions could be used most appropriately, to assist those people doing an important job in that area? Will the Minister make a statement on that?

The content of programmes is a matter for the World Service, but I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion and comments are passed on to it.

As the radio service has proved to be so successful, will the Government look favourably on the suggestion that there should be a BBC world television service as well?

BBC TV Europe is part of BBC Enterprises, not part of the World Service. Commercial arrangements are for the BBC and we wish it well in its endeavours in that respect.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the most important priority must be English language broadcasting around the world and that before we concentrate on some rather obscure third-world languages, we should at least be able to get the right transmitter sites and the right frequencies around the world? For example, is my hon. Friend aware that it is not possible to listen to the World Service in north America between 10 am and 8 pm?

As my hon. Friend will be aware, during the past 10 years there has been an increase in the audibility programme. It was begun in 1981 to improve audibility and it is almost complete. It has involved expenditure of £100 million or more in 1981 prices so, in that respect, the World Service has done well.

Will the Minister disregard the idiotic question just asked of him by the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason)? It is an absurd notion that languages such as Arabic and Chinese are unimportant and should be disregarded and that the peoples of all the countries of the world should be expected to learn idiomatic English. It is important that we provide proper services throughout the world, especially at times of crisis. Will the Government reconsider the Minister's stodgy answers about television services? When I was in the Gulf, and in other places too, I was told time and again that people there cannot enjoy impartial television coverage but have to rely on Cable News Network rather than the BBC's high-quality broadcasts. It is time that the Government changed their policy and offered proper financing for a world television service.

No, I cannot accept either of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestions. I am sure that he is aware that English is the lingua franca in many parts of the world, and that it is immensely important to maintain English language broadcasting. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) was not advocating a cut in World Service foreign language programmes. As to the right hon. Gentleman's second point, ITN has started a commercial world television service without making use of public funds. If ITN can do so, that must be the way forward.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of reform in Romania.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of reform in Romania.

Romania has made some progress on democratic reform since the grave setback in June. We are also encouraged by the start of economic reform. However, we urge the Romanian Government to press ahead with further moves to transform Romania into a genuine free-market democracy.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is important to make it clear to the Romanian Government that the more thoroughgoing their implementation of political, democratic and economic reforms, the greater will be the amount of aid Romania can expect to receive from Britain and other western countries?

I could not have put the position clearer myself. At my recent meeting with the Romanian ambassador, I took the opportunity to make precisely the same point.

I apologise for my lack of voice, which I am sure will be welcome—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—in some parts of the House. Will my hon. and learned Friend tell the Romanian Government that we deplore the continuation of undemocratic procedures in that country and that no aid can be provided until reform is genuinely under way? In that connection, certainly no aid should be made available until the media are accessible to opposition parties and other democratic groups.

This is the first time in my life that I have had some difficulty in hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). His substantive points are wholly correct. As to the important issue of the media, the Romanian press is fairly free, but there is yet more progress to be made in respect of television and radio. My hon. Friend is right to say that more progress must be made also with economic liberalisation and political reform before the British Government would give aid to Romania.

Does not the Minister see a great danger in the policy suggested by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), in that if Romania were to be cut off, it might return to the dark days of isolation that it suffered under Ceausescu? The Government have claimed in a ludicrous way all the responsibility for the welcome changes that have occurred in introducing democracy to eastern bloc countries. They should acknowledge also that, in addition to the great difficulties that those countries face in creating new economies, democracy and independence, they are confronted by problems arising from the Gulf crisis, including oil shortages, and a collapsing Soviet economy. Unless the newly democratised countries receive our support, they will face a very harsh winter.

The hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) was rather unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that giving humanitarian aid, either bilaterally or through the European Commission, is not subject to the criteria that we discussed earlier. There is a balance to be struck. The general view is that one should not extend aid of the type that we have been discussing unless there is clear evidence of progress towards political reform and economic liberalisation. It is most certainly true that Romania has made progress in both areas, but our own judgment—it is shared by the G24 meeting that took place at the end of October—is that sufficient progress has not yet been made.

Middle East


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to meet the Israeli Foreign Minister to discuss the middle east peace process.

I met the Israeli Foreign Minister on 16 October. We discussed middle east issues, including the peace process. I have no firm plans to meet Mr. Levy again, but we agreed to stay in closer contact in future.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that peace will come to the middle east only when Saddam Hussein is forced to disgorge his gains and give up his nuclear potential and stock of chemical weapons? Will he remind those who seek to appease that tinpot dictator that such a course of action would not provide peace in the middle east, but would merely encourage other dictators elsewhere in the world to engage in acts of aggression?

I hope to make a statement after Question Time on that issue, but I agree with the thrust—[Interruption.]—the thrust of what my hon. Friend said. I am not sure that people in this country are yet fully aware of the test of the international community's will that will be involved in meeting the objectives that my hon. Friend rightly set out.

Is the Secretary of State aware that constant incursions into Israel from neighbouring states will not be the way to encourage the Israeli people to support peace moves? Will he make it clear in his talks with Arab nations, as well as with the Israelis, that this country supports the maintenance of peace, and we certainly support the integrity of Israel's borders?

Israel is entitled to security behind confirmed, secure borders. I agree with the hon. Lady that the sort of killings that have again been reported in the past few days—for example, on the border between Israel and Egypt—can serve no purpose whatever, except to retard the peace process. Equally, it is important that the Israeli Government should understand that the security of Israel cannot reasonably rest for ever on the occupation of the west bank, the Gaza strip or indeed, in our view, east Jerusalem. So neither the occupation nor the violence against the occupation from across the borders of Israel in any way helps the matter.

Bearing in mind the fact that the Government correctly recognise the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, would not it be sensible for the Government also to support the concept of a Palestinian state, bearing it in mind that that would be the logical conclusion of such self-determination?

It might be—but I believe that it is more sensible and more logical to support the right to Palestinian self-determination without advocating a specific outcome. We have never specifically advocated a Palestinian state, as opposed to other conceivable outcomes that have been canvassed, such as a confederal link with Jordan. I do not think that it is for us to specify that. We have said that the right of self-determination exists and that it will have to be respected as part of a comprehensive and negotiated settlement, which must also include provision for the security of Israel.

May I welcome the right hon. Gentleman back to the Dispatch Box. The number of votes cast for him yesterday was a reflection not on him, but on the intelligence and discernment—or lack of them—of his right hon. and hon. Friends—[Interruption.]

The unruliness among Tory Members would make one think that they were still trying to get rid of the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).

Will the right hon. Gentleman join me in deploring the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians over the past few days? Does he agree that the deaths of young people on both sides of the divide are unnecessary and pointless but will go on taking place until the peace process gets under way? Does he further agree that those who stand in the way of the peace process must take their share of responsibility for the continuing loss of life? Will he urge the Israelis to see sense and take part in the peace process?

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but I have always found his compliments rather more damaging than his criticisms. Again, I agree with the basic thrust of his final point. In my answer to the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), I deplored the killings that have taken place recently. It is clear that the sporadic acts of violence by whomsoever committed are retarding the process because they make it more difficult for reasonable people to come together and negotiate. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about that. Once the aggression against Kuwait is reversed, the international community has to make a fresh effort to seek a solution to the Arab-Israel dispute. That will involve fresh thinking by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the Arab states and the Israeli Government.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to visit Bulgaria.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has no plans to visit Bulgaria at present.

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. If he or his right hon. Friend has an opportunity to visit Bulgaria in the near future, will he advise whichever political party has failed to avoid taking power that week that the continual shilly-shallying and niggling while the economy collapses is doing no good to the country's reputation and risks losing the good will that was gained on its rapid transition to democracy earlier this year?

We are anxious to see Bulgaria move fast towards a process of economic liberalisation and political reform. I suspect that that involves a high degree of bipartisanship within the country. That is the observation that I would put to Bulgarian Ministers and officials should I meet them. Clearly, a bipartisan approach to such policies will enhance the country's reputation within the international community and domestically.

At a time when unity is on the minds of Conservative Members, will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations on the great contribution that he has made to unity in the past 24 hours? Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the way to unify both sides of the House in the European currency debate is the hard ecu, which offers——

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that were Bulgaria to join the European Community, the hard ecu would be of great relevance to it?

I have received many compliments in my life, and those that I cherish most were made indirectly and unintentionally. But I do not think that I have ever contributed to unity in this place or anywhere else. If my hon. Friend meant my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I entirely agree.

Drugs Trade


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support is being given to the international offensive against the drugs trade.

We play a leading role in the fight against drugs, not only through direct assistance to countries such as Colombia, but through our participation in the activities of the United Nations, the European Community and the Council of Europe.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that we continue to enjoy the closest possible co-operation with the United States of America in combating this evil trade? Will he highlight any recent successes, especially in the Caribbean and the dependent territories?

We co-operate fully with the United States authorities in drug enforcement. We have had some particular success in the British dependent territories for which we must take direct responsibility. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that in the British Virgin Islands in November, 614 kg of cocaine were confiscated, and in St. Vincent in October, 317 kg of cocaine were confiscated.

Those finds show not success but growing amounts of cocaine washing round the world. What steps are the Government taking to encourage co-operation by the nations of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union? The fact that their borders are more open makes it easier to smuggle drugs into this country.

The hon. Gentleman is correct: we must pursue further contacts with the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. We are taking a lead in the bilateral contacts with eastern Europe on drugs, and I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that plans are under way for a east—west Europe ministerial conference on drugs in Oslo next spring.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on the future of Kuwait.

I hope to make a fuller statement after questions, but I can tell my hon. Friend that in accordance with the Security Council resolutions we remain committed to bringing about the restoration of Kuwait's independence and its legitimate Government. We welcome the outcome of the Kuwaiti people's conference in Ta'if which agreed a framework for future political advancement in Kuwait.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the one happy affair in this tragic circumstance has been the role of the United Nations, particularly that of the Security Council? It is encouraging for the new world order that is developing that its permanent members have agreed to so many positive resolutions.

My hon. Friend is right. There is a chance that the Security Council will establish itself in the role for which its founders designed it—as the supreme political authority of the international community which can take decisions, as opposed to simply uttering decisions, that are respected. We are not there yet, but my hon. Friend is right that there is a chance.

Surely Saddam Hussein cannot be all that bad if he hates Thatcherism. As that lady has parted with her philosophy to stand in Dallas or elsewhere, might the House look at the issue more clearly? Saddam Hussein makes sense in some respects. he says that there must be dialogue, settlement and a peaceful solution to a very big problem. He says that, but, more important, the British community there, whom I met a short time ago, also say it. Does the Secretary of State agree that they want the British Government to achieve some solution which makes sense without going to war, because war would be costly in human and economic terms? What will the Secretary of State——

It is important to people in this country and, more important, to people——

To say that the hon. Gentleman's conduct and remarks on this matter are silly is to pay him a compliment. Labour Front-Bench spokesmen are following the tradition of the Labour party, which believes in collective security. In the days of the League of Nations, that sometimes led the Labour party into great difficulty. Now, when the Security Council is beginning to make collective security real, is the time for all people who genuinely believe in an international order to rally to its support. In place of that, and not just today, the hon. Gentleman has been blurring the issue. He has, with others, been helping to give the aggressor the idea that the issue can be confused and that somehow he can go away with part of his spoils. The hon. Gentleman is doing no service to peace by the line that he takes.

In the context of Kuwait today, will my right hon. Friend do all in his power to ensure that our poor citizens who are in hiding in Kuwait know from him and from the House that we view their situation with horror and that we shall do all in our power to ensure that this wretched man is thrown out of Kuwait at the earliest opportunity?

The position of the approximately 450 British citizens who are now in hiding in Kuwait weighs daily on all of us who know about their situation. That is one reason why Her Majesty's ambassador in Kuwait remains at his duties, despite the difficulties. My hon. Friend is entirely right. The messages and the views that we receive from these, our fellow citizens, are exactly the opposite of the view expressed by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown).

The Secretary of State will agree that, after a conflict, the victors and the vanquished get round the table to discuss solutions to the problems. If we want a peaceful solution, it is obvious that a dialogue must take place. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider Colonel Gaddafi's seven-point plan for starting a dialogue to find a solution to the middle east problem?

No one in his senses has any wish or appetite for war as a solution to this problem. There is a peaceful solution and it lies entirely in the hands of President Saddam Hussein. He has to comply fully with the resolutions, not of the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but of the Security Council of the United Nations.

Consular Services


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to his Department on the quality of its consular services; and whether he will make a statement.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office—and individual consular officers—receive many appreciative letters from British travellers whom they have helped when in difficulty overseas.

Although I recognise the excellent help that our consular services provide to deal with urgent cases, does my hon. Friend agree that, because of increasing travel abroad, some of the relatively minor matters that are brought to their attention have placed a strain on them? Does he agree that one way of dealing with the matter would be to encourage self-reliance and to encourage people to take out individual insurance policies?

In 1989, 30 million people travelled from Britain abroad, 7 million of them to Spain. Six million British citizens live overseas. My hon. Friend is correct that, inevitably, the great growth in travel imposes strains on the consular services. I emphasise that in cases of great need and bereavement, the consular service is a magnificent service which is always there to help, but my hon. Friend is right that people must look after themselves in dealing with small problems, particularly by taking out insurance.

Was the first secretary at the British embassy in Washington representing Government policy on Northern Ireland when he called for sacrificial lambs, thereby implying that the Fair Employment Commission in Northern Ireland should discriminate against innocent employers?

We are looking into that report, but it sounds as though it is distorted.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Australia regarding their proposals for designating the Antarctic a wilderness park.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the recent conference in Santiago on the future of Antarctica.

We have had no discussions with the Government of Australia regarding their proposals for designating Antarctica a wilderness park.

The Australian high commissioner and the French ambassador called on me on 30 October to deliver their Governments' joint proposals for a new convention for the protection of the Antarctic environment. Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Departments are currently attending the 11th special consultative meeting of the Antarctic treaty parties in Vina del Mar, Chile, and it is likely that discussion of designating Antarctica a world park will take place there.

The Minister has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the most Machiavellian Members of the House. He may be able to deceive half the Cabinet about his true voting intentions—[Interruption.]

Order. This sort of thing takes up a lot time, and it has nothing to do with the question.

—but I do not think that he should try to deceive the British people. A statement was made before the Chile conference, giving a clear indication that the British Government would support the proposal to turn the Antarctic into a wilderness park but what has been said so far at the Chile conference clearly demonstrates that that is not the Government's position. They still support the extraction of minerals from the Antarctic.

What is the Government's true position? Is it to be a wilderness park or the extraction of minerals? The Minister cannot take it both ways.

The position of Her Majesty's Government is to attempt to seek consensus in regard to Antarctica. We have made it perfectly clear that, to achieve that, we are prepared to listen to all the options put forward by other signatories of the Antarctic treaty.

Will my hon. Friend give us some more detail about the existing convention on the regulation of Antarctic resource activities—CRAMRA—and how it uses international consensus to save the Antarctic environment, especially from mineral extraction?

It may be worth reminding the House that CRAMRA was introduced by consensus; it was not a departure introduced by the British Government. It has been agreed to by 18 of the signatory parties. We have made it clear, however, that if consensus on this matter no longer lies with CRAMRA, we shall attempt to be the focus of a new consensus to protect the environment.

I am sure that the Minister will accept that a consensus is achieved when the parties propose various stances. He still has not told us what the Government's position is. What is it?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the conference in Chile was called by Britain to protect the environment. I think that the House should understand that Britain has not been dragged to the conference—indeed, Britain called it.

We have already presented our own protocol for environmental protection which covers environmental impact assessment, tourism, waste disposal, marine pollution and habitat protection. As I think the House knows, all those issues pose an immediate threat to the environment in Antarctica. I am sure that the House will be pleased to learn that the protocol presented by the British delegation has already received a great deal of support from 10 consultative parties, as well as from the five proposing countries. It should be clear that the first thing that Britain has done in the conference is address the immediate threat posed by pollution to the environment in Antarctica.

The threat posed by mining exists, but it is not an immediate one; the immediate threat to Antarctica is caused by tourism, oil pollution and so forth. As I said, if there is no consensus around CRAMRA, Britain will take the lead in trying to find a way of achieving consensus on this difficult issue.

As my hon. Friend is the Minister with responsibility for the polar regions, he will be interested to hear that recently I received a large petition from my constituents who would like Antarctic to be turned into a wilderness park. Is he aware that many of those constituents expressed support and approval for the positive and constructive attitude that my hon. Friend has shown?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and to many hon. Members and members of the public who have put their views to the Government. It is important to stress that those views have, I hope, enabled us to express the Government's position more clearly to the many hon. Members who take an interest in the matter and, through them, to members of the public.

Is not it true that the Minister, having received a relatively modest welcome as a new broom at the Foreign Office from the organisations concerned about the Antarctic when he said that he had no rigid objection to a world park, now appears to have been nobbled by Foreign Office officials? His delegate in Chile put forward a plan which does not include a mining ban or arrangements for enforcement. Will the Minister now, at the Dispatch Box, re-assert his authority? He says that he is prepared to listen. Will he now talk to the Australian Government and support the idea of an Antarctic world park? If he does not, the next Labour Government will.

I recognise, of course, that the mining issue is difficult and that it may run for some time, but it will have to run for a considerable time before the hon. Gentleman and his party have any say in the outcome.

The proposal that our delegation put forward in Vina del Mar seeks to address the immediate environmental threats to Antarctica. As I said, that proposal seems to be gathering consensus around it. It is true that the mining issue must also be resolved, but we know of no one in the world who is intending to mine or is interested in mining in Antarctica. Therefore, although that issue is important, it is not as great a threat as the immediate environmental threats. We have put forward our proposals. We will certainly tackle the mining issue with an entirely open mind and we will listen to any proposals around which consensus may be seen to gather.

Japan (Whaling)


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will meet the Japanese Foreign Minister to discuss the continued slaughter of whales, dolphins and porpoises, in defiance of the international moratorium.

The Japanese Government are well aware of our views on the killing of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply, but will he have another meeting with the Japanese Minister and make it even clearer to him that we are not deceived by their rapacious, duplicitous and selfish action in killing whales because we know that they are killing them not for scientific research but for human consumption? Will my hon. Friend tell the Japanese Minister that we will not allow Japan to continue to fly in the face of world opinion on this very important ecological and environmental matter?

The Government very much share my hon. Friend's views about the undesirability of the Japanese position. On two previous occasions in the past two years we co-sponsored resolutions at the International Whaling Commission calling on Japan to reconsider its programme. We feel that that is the best forum in which to pursue our objectives. I have no doubt that we will adopt a similar position, should circumstances continue to warrant it, at the next International Whaling Commission meeting in May.

The Minister outlined some of the facts and referred to our contacts, but he failed to answer the question. We have great connections with Japan and the Japanese have many factories here and contacts with this country. Will the Minister use his influence to prevail upon the Japanese in a friendly manner to stop killing these noble animals just for profit? That is what they are doing.

The Japanese are well aware of our views, which we continue to express. My point is that if we make our views known at the next commission meeting, we shall have the support of other people and maximum pressure will be brought to bear.

Is not this slaughter utterly disgraceful? Views and representations are having no effect on the Japanese. Is not it time for countries such as Britain to take direct action by starting to ban certain products from Japan until the Japanese obey the moratorium?

My hon. Friend is not quite right. In many areas the pressure that we have brought to bear on the Japanese Government has undoubtedly paid dividends. We expressed our concern about Dall's porpoises to the Japanese Government. In 1989, as a result of a report from the International Whaling Commission scientific committee, the Japanese catch of Dall's porpoise was unsustainable and the Japanese have now reduced the number that they catch. Our pressure is beginning to bear fruit and we shall proceed in the way that I have outlined.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last made representations to the Israeli authorities about the arrest and detention of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

During the visit of my right. hon. Friend the Secretary of State to Israel in October, he put to members of the Israeli Government our position on the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. We have made clear our concern about the recent detention of three Palestinian leaders: they should be charged or released. I made this plain to the Israeli ambassador last week, together with our view that administrative detention is unacceptable.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. However, will he again press the Israeli authorities specifically about the three prominent Palestinians who have been arrested without charge and gaoled without trial in circumstances that continue to inflame the already difficult situation in the west bank and Gaza? At this time of pressing for peace in the region, we should make it clear to the Israeli authorities that administrative detention is not a way to deal with people whom they believe may have committed crimes.

I agree with what the hon. Lady said about administrative detention. I do not think that it is right, as I told the Israeli ambassador last week and as I shall do so again should convenient and appropriate circumstances arise. People who are held should be either charged or released. The process of administrative detention is not conducive to peace or to reconciliation.

Was my hon. and learned Friend able to garner from the Israeli ambassador any reason why the Israelis—who, after all, must know more about the terror of persecution than any other race on earth—should treat the Palestinians in such a contemptible manner?

The Israeli ambassador advanced a number of arguments, but, in my view, the arguments in favour of administrative detention were unpersuasive and unacceptable.

Middle East


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the implementation of United Nations resolutions affecting the middle east.

The Security Council resolutions are crucial for peace and stability in the middle east. The vast majority of members of the international community, including Britain, have confirmed their intention to comply with the resolutions on the Gulf crisis. Once the Iraqi aggression has been reversed, we shall play our full part in the Security Council to carry forward the search for a just and durable solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Does the Secretary of State accept that all the resolutions—those involving Palestine as well as those relating to the Gulf—must be implemented if there is to be stability in the middle east and that it is reasonable to set deadlines? Nobody wants a war—not even on a dry Saudi hogmanay. Having visited the Gulf area with the Select Committee on Defence and seen for myself the firepower that is now ranged against the Iraqi occupation forces in Kuwait, may I urge the Foreign Secretary to do everything in his power to convince Saddam Hussein that his position is indefensible in every imaginable sense of that word and that he must now withdraw if he is to preserve peace in that part of the world?

The hon. Gentleman's question is helpful. That is precisely the point. All the efforts, sometimes well-meaning efforts, to blur the position are fading away. The hon. Gentleman's remarks after his visit to the desert show that the issue is becoming clearer: either Saddam Hussein must leave Kuwait in peace or he will be forced out.

I know that my right hon. Friend is acutely aware that the families of hostages in Iraq and Kuwait are suffering hardship. Do the Government have any plans to relieve their financial burden?

We are trying to assist both the hostages and their families. We are in close touch with the Department of Social Security. In addition, I have been in close touch, for example, with the chairman of British Telecom about telephone calls. We are helping the Gulf Support Group, organised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward). We have our own Gulf support centre in the Foreign Office. We are always open to ideas by means of which we can give further help, but the help that we are giving to relieve anxiety and, indeed, stress is already substantial.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's relations with Iran.

We restored relations with Iran on 27 September on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in each other's affairs. As a result, the British embassy in Tehran opened on 28 October and the Iranian embassy here opened on 2 November.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the past week no fewer than 700 parliamentarians from throughout the world, including 140 from Britain, have issued a condemnation of the Iranian Government for persistent human rights violations? Will he also confirm that within the past month alone, no fewer than 116 official executions have been admitted by the Iranians, to add to almost 450 further executions this year, some of them carried out in the most bestial manner? Will he do what he can in the United Nations and elsewhere to make the Iranian Government understand that such human rights abuses are not acceptable anywhere in the world, particularly by reference to Islamic law?

As my hon. Friend knows, recently the United Nations special representative, Mr. Galindo Pohl, issued a new report covering some of the points that my hon. Friend mentioned. We are now considering, as we must, with our European colleagues, what line we should take when the report comes to the third committee of the United Nations general assembly which deals with human rights issues. However, I hope that my hon. Friend will accept the seriousness with which we take the matter.

Conference On Security And Co-Operation In Europe


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, at the forthcoming conference on security and co-operation in Europe, he will propose a limitation of arms sales to the developing world.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe summit in Paris on 19 to 21 November.

Arms sales are not within the scope of the agreements endorsed at the CSCE summit in Paris on 21 November, but we maintain strict controls on all arms exports.

We welcome the adoption by the CSCE summit of the Paris charter. It expresses a universal commitment by all the CSCE states to the principles of democracy, to human rights and to economic liberty, and sets out a new structure of CSCE activity. My right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) gave the House an account of the CSCE summit in her statement to the House last week.

May I direct the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind to the question? Is not there a danger that manufacturers whose markets are shrinking in Europe and north America may be looking for new markets among developing countries? Does he agree that they will destabilise those areas where, in any event, there should be other priorities for the resources?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes a perfectly fair point, but it is not best dealt with in the CSCE, not least because several of the countries with which we are most preoccupied—for example, Iraq—are not party to that process.

As so much of the work of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe complements that of the CSCE, and as the Council of Europe now includes 31 out of 32 European CSCE states, should not my hon. and learned Friend look no further than the Council of Europe as the proposed new CSCE assembly of Europe, to which we could welcome the north American parliamentarians who are currently in London taking part in the North Atlantic Assembly?

My hon. Friend is a distinguished member of the Council of Europe and I understand what he is saying. There are, however, essential differences between the proposed assembly of Europe and the Council of Europe. One important distinction is that the membership of the Council of Europe is not the same as that of the CSCE; for example, the United States is not a party to the Council of Europe. Another important distinction is that the charter of Paris is, essentially, a political agreement and doctrine rather than a legal one, whereas the agreements that underpin the Council of Europe involve strictly legal obligations.

Iraq (Hostages)


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what provisions are currently being made for the sustenance, comfort and welfare of British hostages in Baghdad and their families in the United Kingdom.

The embassy in Baghdad has so far sent more than 100 bags of comforts to the hostages in Iraq and Kuwait and delivered more than 30 bags to those brought to Baghdad to meet wives visiting from the United Kingdom. The contents include beer, cigarettes, toiletries, vitamins, books and writing materials. In London we have set up a post office box that families can use to write to the hostages and communities in Iraq and Kuwait. We are working with the British Red Cross to set up a system to send parcels from families in Britain.

The Foreign Office Gulf families support centre keeps in regular touch with families and works closely with the Gulf Support Group, providing advice and help.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the great hardship faced by some families of hostages? In the new dawn of compassion that was at least suggested in the election campaign for the leadership of the Conservative party, will he prevail upon his colleagues in the Government to redouble efforts to secure the comfort of hostages' families, especially their ability to maintain telephone communications with their relatives in Baghdad?

The hon. Gentleman does not need to give that edge to his question. I am conscious of the valid point he makes. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is talking about the families here, rather than the hostages in the Gulf. The Gulf families support centre in the Foreign Office acts as a first point of contact for families facing problems. Representatives from the Department of Social Security are on hand to ensure that any requests for help are dealt with promptly. I accept that the families support provisions are not lavish, but if they are properly and quickly administered they ensure that families do not suffer serious deprivation as a result of loss of income.

Middle East

3.31 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on developments in the middle east since I did so on 24 October.

The international coalition is holding firm. Our objectives remain: the full and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait; the restoration of the legitimate Government of Kuwait; and the release of all hostages. President Saddam Hussein continues to show little sign that he intends to comply with the will of the international community and withdraw. He continues to rebuff the United Nations, to strengthen his military position in Kuwait, to destroy Kuwait's fabric and national identity, and to manipulate the fate of British and other citizens trapped in Iraq and Kuwait.

Only by intensifying all the pressures at our disposal—diplomatic, economic and military—can we persuade him that he has no alternative to withdrawal. Sanctions are being applied rigorously. We hope that the existing pressures will suffice to persuade Saddam Hussein to withdraw. If they are not sufficient, we need to convince him that the military option is a serious one. The option for peace is in his hands. No one does any service by blurring the choice before him.

For that military option to be fully credible, the international community must show that it has the political will to exercise it. That is why the Security Council is expected to meet at ministerial level within the next few days and vote on a resolution authorising "all necessary means"—that is to say, including force—to be used to ensure Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolution 660 and later resolutions. The resolution now being finalised will include a date—probably in the first half of January—by which time Iraq is required to comply in full with those resolutions. The House will see that it does not follow from that that military action will follow immediately thereafter—nor indeed that military action will necessarily take place. The purpose of the grace period is to allow Saddam Hussein an opportunity in which he can safely withdraw from Kuwait and release the hostages. If he does not do so, he must face the possibility of military action and certain defeat.

As questions have illustrated, we remain anxious for the well-being of the many hundreds of British hostages and other citizens who remain in Iraq and Kuwait. Some have been released through the intervention of political figures and relatives. We understand the suffering of the families and the humanitarian motives of most of those who go to Iraq. But President Hussein exploits those visits for his own unacceptable ends, and I believe that the international community is, and must remain, united in resisting that blackmail.

With tension increasing in the region, we are keeping under constant review our advice to British communities in other parts of the Gulf. We are now advising those living in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, with children in Britain, not to bring them to the area, but to spend the Christmas holiday here, and for dependants to remain outside the Gulf until the situation becomes clearer. That does not mean that we foresee hostilities around that time—the Christmas holiday—but it is sensible to minimise the number of dependants in that region when we are entering a critical phase, as I hope the House will agree.

I should like to report a positive political step. On 27 September we announced the resumption of relations with Iran. We are now resuming relations with Syria with immediate effect. The respective heads of the interests sections in London and Damascus will be chargés d'affaires pending the exchange, when practicable, of ambassadors. We have received from the Syrian Government assurances that Syria will continue its strenuous efforts to obtain the release of western, including British, hostages in Lebanon and confirmation that Syria rejects acts of international terrorism and will take action against the perpetrators of such acts which are supported by convincing evidence. We have also had a confidential account of the Syrian position on the Hindawi affair. It has not been entirely easy, but I am glad that it has proved possible to overcome the differences between ourselves and Syria.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for responding to my request for a statement. We regard the decision to resume diplomatic relations with Syria as logical. We welcome Syria's commitment to reject acts of terrorism and look to Syria to fulfil that commitment not simply in words but, emphatically, in action.

When I visited Syria last July, I received assurances from the Vice-President and Foreign Minister that their Government would do everything possible to bring about the release of British hostages in Lebanon. They told me that President Bush had written to them repeatedly asking for their help on behalf of American hostages. Now that diplomatic relations have been resumed, will the new United Kingdom Prime Minister write immediately to President Assad on behalf of the British hostages?

Since the Iraq-Kuwait crisis began nearly four months ago, the Labour party, the constitution of which commits it to support the United Nations, has based its approach to the crisis on support for the decisions of the United Nations—sanctions and their enforcement by naval and air blockades and the release of all hostages. We have made it clear that we believe that sanctions should be given the maximum time to work, and that remains our position.

If military force were to be contemplated, we have insisted that any such action should have what I called in the House on 7 September
"the clear and unquestionable authority of the United Nations charter."—[Official Report, 7 September 1990; Vol. 177, 892.]
We have repeatedly put strongly to the Government our view that a legalistic reliance on article 51 of the United Nations charter would not be sufficient justification for the use of force. That being so, while we continue to believe that sanctions should be given maximum time to work, and while we ardently pray that the military option is not taken up and a war which could be horrendously lethal must be avoided if at all possible, we regard a Security Council resolution of the sort described by the Foreign Secretary as fulfilling the stipulations that we have repeatedly laid down since 2 August.

Yesterday, President Gorbachev's spokesman, Vitaly Ignatenko, said in Moscow:
"Our country will vote for language which envisages a clear-cut deadline for withdrawal from Kuwait and freeing hostages."
Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the insertion of a deadline in the draft Security Council resolution has been done at the specific insistence of the Soviet Union? Will he confirm once again that the date in the resolution will not automatically trigger the use of force but is the date after which the option of force could be taken up with the authority of the United Nations Security Council?

We in the Labour party have not seen this crisis simply in terms of the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait and the unconditional freeing of the hostages, indispensable though both things are. We see it above all as a test of the authority of the United Nations. If the 10 United Nations resolutions already carried by the Security Council are not implemented, the authority of the United Nations will be shattered and instead of world order there will be chaos.

If the United Nations resolutions are implemented, preferably peacefully of course, the authority of the United Nations will be enhanced as never before. That authority can then be used to provide for the further actions that must be taken in the middle east. Those are self-determination for the Palestinian people, whose intifada approaches its third anniversary, and a hopeful future for the Palestinian refugees with the aid of the wealth of the Gulf states; a settlement of the disputes between Israel and her neighbours and security for the state of Israel; and an arms embargo and the clearing from the whole region of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

All those are prizes which can be won once the United Nations resolutions on Kuwait are implemented. It is clear that they will be implemented. It is now for Saddam Hussein to prevent the nightmare of war by accepting those resolutions. He brought about this crisis by an act of aggression. He can end it by good sense and statesmanship, and the House and the world await his response.

I am grateful, and rather more than conventionally, to the right hon. Gentleman. We are entering a time of national anxiety on this subject, and at such times it is right to have as much national unity as we can.

One strong thought in the minds of all of us who have been working to bring about the restoration of relations first with Iran and now with Syria is that restoration should bring closer the release of our hostages now held in Beirut. I note the right hon. Gentleman's specific suggestion to my right hon. Friend the new Prime Minister. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman supports the Security Council resolution. Other things being equal, I shall go to New York to take part in the debate tomorrow. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."'] Of course, that depends on the nature of an announcement which has not been made. That is why I inject a note of uncertainty.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the deadline in the draft resolution. I am not sure how that originated, but it has strong Soviet support and is one of the points on which the Soviet Union most specifically insisted. I confirm that the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that the date, if it is inserted or when it is inserted in the resolution, will not be the date upon which military action starts. It is the date after which member states will be authorised to take action in pursuit not of their own objectives but of the specific requirements of the Security Council.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he deserves the congratulations of the House on the skill with which he has conducted British policy on the Gulf throughout the crisis, and the support of the whole House on his proposals for the Security Council resolution and the resumption of relations with Syria? He will be aware that the one major western country that has not contributed forces to the coalition in the Gulf is Germany. Does he anticipate that, after the German election this coming weekend, there may be moves by the German Government to alter the German constitution so as to enable German forces to be deployed outside the NATO area—for example, in the Gulf?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his remarks. I am happy to tell the House that the Federal German Chancellor informed the Prime Minister a week ago of a quite substantial contribution by the Federal Germany Government to the costs incurred by the Government in moving British military forces to the Gulf. I understand, although it is not a matter for us, that the Federal Germany Chancellor proposes, if he obtains the necessary support in the elections on Sunday, to alter the German constitution to enable Germany to take part in collective enterprises such as this.

I offer my support for the Foreign Secretary's statement. Will it not be a sombre and anxious moment when the United Nations adopt the terms of the proposed resolution to which, unhappily, there seems to be no alternative? Even after the expiry of the deadline, will the use of force he justified only if all peaceful means have been shown to have failed? Avoiding all questions of linkage, should we not be working through the United Nations to achieve the necessary long-term solution for the middle east?

The hon. and learned Gentleman is right: only when peaceful means have been proved ineffective would we be justified in taking military action. We are now at the end of November, and the peaceful pressures of sanctions, public opinion and diplomacy have been in place at least since the end of August.

As to long-term solutions, I do not see any realistic prospect of a useful initiative on the Arab-Israel problem until President Saddam Hussein has left Kuwait. However, I say, as I have said before, that, once that has happened, the international community will need to make a further effort, recognising that the basis of such a solution must be negotiation between Israel, the Arab states and the Palestinians.

Will my right hon. Friend reaffirm that the main objective of the meeting of the Security Council this week is to make it clear to Saddam Hussein that the United Nations as a whole will use whatever means are available to achieve the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, and that the sooner Saddam Hussein gets out, the better for him and for Iraqi citizens?

That is right. The issue has been blurred, sometimes by well-meaning people, but it is now becoming clearer and starker for President Saddam Hussein. He has the opportunity to avoid for himself, his people and all of us the undoubted damage and suffering that will be caused by war. That peaceful option is in his hands.

Does the Foreign Secretary have any sympathy with the view of Senator Sam Nunn that the right question is not so much, "Is it justified?" as, "Is it wise?" What does he say to the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who told us that the Iraqis have sown minefields in most, if not all, Kuwaiti oilfields and that flames will go up such as mother earth has never seen before with unknown results in terms of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide emissions?

Some of us think that war in Iraq because of Kuwait is unjustified on a scale of proportion. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown), whom the Foreign Secretary treated in an uncalled—for way, was in the Royal Signals. I was tank crew, firing live ammunition, during my national service. I think that the Foreign Secretary was in the Foreign Office and not in the forces. Ought he not to be a little more careful before dismissing us?

The hon. Gentleman's last point is unworthy of him. As I said, I found the interventions of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) on this matter silly and confused, and they have done nothing to assist.

I am entitled to ask Ministers who send young men to their deaths about their own military experience.

The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong, and he should not make remarks without checking them. That one is competely untrue, but I shall not go into the details. He is usually very fair, but he has not been fair on this occasion.

To return to the point of principle and leaving the hon. Gentleman's pettiness today on one side, I simply say that I have heard the hon. Gentleman make the same point to my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and others; and, of course, he is right in the sense that war is a horrible business and one cannot contemplate a war of this kind without at the same time contemplating a lot of destruction and suffering. But it would not be an indiscriminate campaign of destruction and therefore I am not entering into the kind of details that he postulates. He is perfectly right in that any war, however just, involves suffering and destruction.

The point that the hon. Gentleman has consistently failed to answer when it is put to him is how, if one is to use that argument as being decisive on all occasions, there is an earthly chance of resisting aggression. That argument, if it is allowed to prevail on every occasion, is carte blanche for any aggressor because it could be wheeled forward to justify lying down in front of Hitler, Mussolini or any aggressor of the past. The hon. Gentleman is not a pacifist, but he has not addressed that question. We have to address that question in a serious way.

Order. Please may we have single questions so that I may call as many hon. Members as possible?

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the resumption of diplomatic relations with Syria is opportune and wise? Syria occupies a central and key position in the middle east and it is in the British interest to resume diplomatic relations. Diplomatic relations do not necessarily signify approval of a regime. We have diplomatic relations with Iraq and we certainly cannot welcome the appalling acts in the west bank and Gaza which Israel is perpetrating, but we have diplomatic relations with both.

Does my right hon. Friend also accept——

Does my right hon. Friend also accept that it would be helpful if, while maintaining our stand on Kuwait, we also committed ourselves to take action on the Israel-Palestinian issue as soon as the Kuwait problem has been resolved?

My hon. Friend is right on his first point. I have never regarded having diplomatic relations with a country as conferring great blessing upon it. It should not be regarded in that light. It is simply a question of having a realistic relationship so that useful business can be transacted with a Government.

Once the aggression is reversed, it will be not only possible but necessary to pull the international community together, in so far as we can, in backing a renewed and vigorous effort to bring about a just solution to the Arab-Israel dispute.

Is it not sad and cynical opportunism to enter again into diplomatic relations with Syria when it has complied with neither of the Government's prerequisites for doing so, when the Government have pinpointed the person responsible for the Hindawi affair and the Syrians have promoted him, and when, if The Daily Telegraph today is correct, the Syrians are behind almost all the terrorism in the Lebanon today? Will the right hon. Gentleman please review this and see it as a sad first decision of his newly led Government?

I do not agree. We have been wrestling with the problem all the time that I have been at the Foreign Office, and perhaps before. There has been a real obstacle, based on the background of the Hindawi affair, which the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) went to Damascus to discuss on behalf of the Opposition. We have also discussed that matter through intermediaries and, most recently, directly—and I told the House the outcome in my statement.

We are now in the same position as the United States Government. We shall have diplomatic relations with Syria because it is useful so to do. The hon. and learned Gentleman will have heard the reasonable representations made to us on behalf of hostages held in Beirut, and I do not see the restoration of diplomatic relations with Syria as a patronising pat on the head for the Syrian Government and all that they do. That is not the nature of diplomatic relations. It is a hard-headed calculation in British interests that diplomatic relations should be resumed.

Why is it that the Germans, French, Japanese and Italians, who have greater need for oil from the Gulf, have fewer troops committed and fewer lives at risk, and are less committed to the military option?

We are not primarily concerned with oil from the Gulf. If we were, the international community would have settled with Saddam Hussein and the oil would be flowing. If we were concerned only with oil, as is sometimes shallowly said—although not by my hon. Friend—we would have settled a long time ago. We are concerned with international order, and a fundamental principle of that is that it is unacceptable for one member state of the United Nations to obliterate another.

My right hon. and hon. Friends in the Unionist party welcome the statement, and we totally support the Government's attitude to the rape of Kuwait. We see some justification for resuming diplomatic relations with Syria in pursuing the Government's actions against international terrorism. However, we cannot help but be suspicious, and we hope that is not being done for purely economic reasons. My party supports such actions only on moral grounds.

Can the United Kingdom justify its attitude to the brutal regime in Cambodia, to the unforgivable genocide——

Order. The hon. Member must raise that matter another time. He must confine his remarks to the middle east.

I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I was comparing the situation in the Gulf with the unforgivable genocide in the Sudan and with the more sophisticated but equally immoral attitude taken by the Irish Republic in its harsh, uncompromising and irredentist claim to the territory of Northern Ireland.

I am not sure that all those cases are exactly comparable, but the hon. Gentleman knows of the efforts that we are making in Cambodia and to establish law and security in Northern Ireland. In every instance, we must pursue a consistent line.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the success stories of the crisis has been the Western European Union's involvement in naval patrols? Does he agree also that the sheer professionalism of the officers and sailors involved has ensured that the sea blockade of Iraq is at least 90 per cent. effective?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Western European Union has proved its worth as a focus for co-ordinating European efforts. My hon. Friend mentioned the Italians. The Italian navy is involved as well as the French navy and other members. Their efforts in the Gulf are co-ordinated.

The Royal Navy in the Gulf has already challenged 1,900 vessels and boarded 16 as part of the operation. It is playing a notable part in the peaceful pressure on Saddam Hussein.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we all deplore the invasion of Kuwait, and that we want to see Iraqi forces out of there as soon as possible? However, bearing in mind that sanctions have not yet been given sufficient time, and the deplorable lack of democratic effort to find a peaceful and negotiated solution, would it not be crass irresponsibility on the part of the Government, or indeed of any Government, to declare what is in effect a desert death sentence on many young British soldiers, as well as possibly millions of other casualties, in what could turn out to be one of the most devastating conflicts in human history which would do nothing to solve the problems in the middle east in the short or long term?

We want to avoid such conflict. The whole effort of the British Government since 2 August has been designed to do that. We have not spared ourselves and people in other countries have not spared themselves to do precisely that. Time ticks on. The aggressor is still there.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is fully aware of the enormities now being committed in Kuwait by the aggressor. I hope that he will look at the transcript of the debate in the Security Council today with its evidence by eye witnesses because if that had happened in some of the countries which are dear to the hon. Gentleman we should have had uproar and claims for emergency debates in the House. That is happening day by day. We want to avoid conflict.

Diplomacy has a role—that is right. However, it does not have a role in undermining or cutting away the simple, straightforward demands of the Security Council. Getting those resolutions is fine. We are talking about the diplomatic and economic pressures, such as those applied by President Gorbachev on the Iraqis yesterday—that is diplomacy. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that diplomacy should equal doing away with, weakening or subtracting from the resolutions of the Security Council to placate the aggressor, I think that he is wrong.

If the Chinese Government should veto a new United Nations resolution, can we, in practice, ignore their veto?

I hope and believe that that is a hypothetical question. I hope—I have not total certainty—that that will not arise.

Who is the Foreign Secretary getting into bed with in this deal with Syria? What has convinced him that the Syrian regime today is any different from the regime which ordered the murder of 20,000 Muslims in the city of Hama in 1982, which harboured the Lockerbie bombers, and invaded and colonised parts of Lebanon in what is now greater Syria? The Syrian secret police are no less efficient than Iraq's. They routinely use murder, terror and torture, like Saddam Hussein's secret police. Is it really the case that a couple of thousand Syrian troops in the Western force make him believe that the hands of President Assad are any less bloody than those of Saddam Hussein?

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken about diplomatic relations—they are not a form of blessing. We quite rightly have diplomatic relations in Baghdad because our ambassador is needed to help our people there. We had diplomatic relations with Stalin all the time that he was committing what we know now were clearly some of the worst atrocities ever seen, we had them with Hitler and so on. Diplomatic relations are not a form of blessing or approval but result from a realistic appraisal of whether it is in Britain's interests to have direct contact with a particular Government. In the case of Syria, I believe that it is.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the miscalculations made by Saddam Hussein was to underestimate the determination, patience and procedural efficiency of the United Nations? Does he also recognise that, when I was there two weeks ago, it was clear that the role of the British permanent mission, under the leadership of Sir David Hannay, was highly respected? When he flies to New York, will he take with him the support of the House for the work being done within the United Nations in British interests, by that mission under his leadership?

Our mission, first under Sir Crispin Tickell and now under Sir David Hannay, has played a distinguished part since August in helping to bring together in a reasonable way and with a reasonable tone the efforts of the international community.

Is the Secretary of State familiar with the Christian teaching on a just war? Does he agree that there are three fundamental requirements? First, the cause must be just, and there is no doubt about that. However, there are other just causes about which the Americans and the Government have not taken action. That is the problem of double standards. Secondly, there has to be no other way. In this case there is another way—sanctions. Thirdly, the remedy must not be worse than the wrong. The potential of the horrendous war in the middle east is great. The Foreign Secretary is wrong and the United Nations will be wrong if it sets a deadline in order to bluster trying to avoid a war and we end up with a war that the right hon. Gentleman did not seek. That is the danger that the Foreign Secretary is putting before us. He is breaking the basic teaching of what constitutes a just war.

I read the cardinal's letter in The Times and the archbishop's speech and I accept that it is important for Christians to consider the nature of a just war. However, I do not accept the hon. Lady's interpretation of the criteria. First, the cause is right and just. We have tried and are continuing to try peaceful pressure. The answer to her third question is whether it is safe for any of us that the basic principle of international order should be flouted with impunity. I do not think that it is.

Has my right hon. Friend or any of the allies in Saudi Arabia received a single shred of evidence to sustain the view that the Hitlerian intransigence so far displayed by Saddam Hussein is likely to diminish or disappear if he is given more time? If there is no such evidence, does not the contribution of that time merely give him further opportunities to sow more mines and polish his weapons, with an appalling effect on the ultimate gravity of the conflict?

If one is contemplating a military option, time works for both sides. Part of the trouble over the past few months has been the blurring of issues to which I have referred. The value of the resolution is that it will clear away some of the illusions to which the aggressor may have been subject. It will present him with the stark choice as it exists—either he complies or he is forced out. It may be a good idea to give him a specific period of weeks—not an extended period—in which to face clearly and without confusion that stark choice.

The Foreign Secretary was elected this lunch time the Spectator parliamentarian of the year. That accolade is well deserved and I congratulate him upon it. Will he accept that he cuts an unlikely figure in favour of war, war rather than jaw, jaw? Yet the words he has delivered this afternoon amount to an ultimatum, so that it is more rather than less likely that our constituents—young men—will shortly be coming home dead in bags. I have no truck with Saddam Hussein, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary accepts that. However, on the day when Saddam Hussein has asked President Bush for talks, will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the Iraqis and millions of Arabs across the area who agree with them have a point of view and that it might be useful to sit down and talk about that before the place goes up in flames and our young men and many hundreds and thousands of others are killed?

I have never sought to minimise the dangers and suffering that come from war. Of course, we are fully aware of the Iraqi point of view. There is no secret about it. The Iraqis believe that they are entitled to remain in Kuwait. We do not accept that and nor do the international community or the hon. Gentleman's leadership because it is wrong. To use the phrase of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), it is unwise and unsafe to let that countinue.

Whatever the diplomatic justification for setting a deadline, is not the inescapable conclusion of setting such a deadline that we do not believe that international economic sanctions will ever succeed?

No. The Security Council resolution, if passed, will add to the existing resolutions, including the sanctions resolution, which is the most important of all peaceful pressures. Shortages are beginning to appear, but, as I told the House a week or so ago, they are not decisive. As I said in reply to previous questions, sanctions are being applied. We are proposing to add what should be the most important of the peaceful pressures—the knowledge, which the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), who recently visited the desert, conveyed to us, that the military option is in place and will be used. There is a chance, which I strongly hope will be taken, that this accumulation of peaceful pressures will do the job and that Saddam Hussein will withdraw.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that most Labour Members support the need for a new United Nations resolution to put new pressure on Saddam Hussein? Is he further aware that the way to achieve peace and to avoid war is for Saddam Hussein to get out of Kuwait?

In the past few weeks, we have spoken much of European unity. When my right hon. Friend is in New York, will he take the opportunity to talk to other European Community Foreign Ministers to get some positive measures towards European political unity and to ensure, as many of my hon. Friends have said, that European Community countries, depending on size, do as much as Great Britain in supporting the United States and the Arab nations in this theatre of conflict?

Burden sharing is very important. As my hon. Friend suggests, if our military contribution, its costs and our economic contribution are added together, we are somewhat ahead of our Community partners. The French are a fraction of a decimal point behind, but they have made military and economic contributions. The Germans have now made a substantial economic contribution, but it is true that, of the European contributions, Britain's represents the highest percentage of gross domestic product.

Is it not the case that since 2 August Saddam Hussein and the criminal regime in Iraq have had every possible opportunity of avoiding war by getting out of Kuwait? If the argument is that war can never be justified—in my view, if military action is taken, it will be justified in all the circumstances—what would be the purpose of the United Nations? Surely it would mean, in effect, that any country could commit outright aggression where it has no quarrel——

The hon. Member has put his point of view. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) has an equal right to do so.

I have a right, I hope, as I have done all my life, to oppose fascists and criminal aggression, and I shall do so because I could not care less whether it is popular or unpopular.

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that, if this aggression goes unpunished, if Saddam Hussein refuses to withdraw his troops from Kuwait, it would be direct encouragement for other states to do precisely the same?

I have often disagreed with the hon. Gentleman, but I have always recognised that he is a through-and-through United Nations man. He believes in collective security and international order. He is following the logic of his convictions.

I warmly commend the Government for their decision to restore diplomatic relations with Syria. Some of us feel that four years has been too long. Bearing in mind the more positive approach of the United States and the strategic importance of Syria, will he confirm that it has a crucial part to play in the forthcoming peace process in the middle east?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I repeat that I believe that the arguments in favour of restoring relations with Syria are strong. Of course, they do not involve approval of everything that Syria is or does.

Although the military option must remain credible to ensure that sanctions succeed, will the Foreign Secretary reconsider his suggestion that pursuit of a wider settlement will follow resolution of the Kuwaiti problem, especially as it is essential now to pursue and seek to overcome the intransigence of the Likud, which was demonstrated once again at meetings I chaired in Paris last week?

It is a matter of practicalities. Looking at the practicalities, I do not see the opportunity of a successful international initiative on the Arab-Israel question while the Iraqis remain in Kuwait.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the television reports this week of British troops training in the theatre in Saudi Arabia, demonstrating sophisticated anti-tank equipment and methods of clearing minefields? Does he agree that this kind of media circus could threaten the lives of British troops if we ever have to take action there and that it should be stopped if possible? Will my right hon. Friend make representations to the media, because such reports affect the lives of British soldiers?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is here. He tells me that he is keeping a close watch on the nature of this presence.

The Foreign Secretary referred in his original statement to intensifying all the pressures at our disposal—diplomatic, economic and military. He did not tell us in his statement or answers what diplomatic initiatives he now supports. Will the grace period be used for the British Government and other European Governments to support a further diplomatic initiative, particularly a further Arab initiative, or an initiative yet again from the United Nations Secretary-General following the decision that looks likely to be taken this week by the United Nations Security Council?

The United Nations Secretary-General has a role under the Security Council resolution, as the hon. Gentleman clearly knows. The Secretary-General was rebuffed when he tried to exercise that role. The diplomatic moves in these circumstances must be to reinforce in the Iraqis' minds the advantage for them of complying with the resolution by peaceful means.

In a sense, the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) anticipated my question. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, of course, everyone in the House and outside it is opposed to war and to young people losing their lives? In relation to the visit to the United Nations tomorrow and the probable signing of the resolution, would it not be appropriate to see the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Perez de Cuellar? He began a peace initiative in August which was precipitous and was aborted. It might be appropriate for him now to return again to the middle east and to go to Baghdad to impress on Saddam Hussein the will and intention of the United Nations, so that Saddam Hussein has the opportunity to withdraw while there is still a period of grace and time?

I discussed this aspect in September with the Secretary-General in New York and he felt that there was no point in his offering to go again if he were again rebuffed. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the Secretary-General has a role, as a servant of the United Nations, in trying to bring about implementation of Security Council resolutions.

During the Gulf debates, the Foreign Secretary was opposed to a resolution of the type that is going before the United Nations, on the ground that there was a possibility of its being vetoed. He did not answer the question about a possible veto by China, and I should like him to do so. If the resolution is carried, and as that would be a United Nations commitment, would it not be appropriate that forces in the middle east should be placed under a strict United Nations command structure and should not be operated at the behest of the Americans?

On the first point, it would not have been sensible to go forward with a resolution that one thought would fail, but, as I said, that is not our information at present. On the second point, I do not think that that is likely to be workable in practice or, if there has to be a military option, that it would exercise that option in the most effective and life-saving way. I do not think that that will happen. I imagine that there will be a requirement that any member states that use the authority which the Security Council is about to confer on them should report the results to the Security Council.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, if British blood is to be spilled in the Gulf, Her Majesty's Government ought to pursue a rigorous policy aimed at the total democratisation of all the Gulf states, which certainly do not have a fine record on human rights?

I referred earlier this afternoon to the conference of Kuwaitis—including Opposition Kuwaitis—held recently in Ta'if. That conference agreed to return to the 1962 constitution in Kuwait. That is the kind of movement that I consider sensible and right for Kuwait.

Does not the Foreign Secretary concede that to specify a deadline would automatically put this country on a war footing?

No. It gives a period of grace—a peaceful pause—in which the peaceful pressures for a peaceful solution can reach their height. The expiry of the deadline —I have said this once or twice already, but it is very important—is not in itself a signal for military action to begin.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that one of the most serious obstacles to the establishment of a new international order underpinned by the United Nations is the application of double standards by that body in the face of aggression? If aggression must be met with military force and a devastating war in Kuwait, why is it met with little more than polite protest in the Lebanon, west bank and Gaza?

There is, of course, much more than polite protest. There are Security Council resolutions, because the situation is different: the background to the Israeli occupation of the west bank is entirely different. It is the result of several wars. The Security Council has taken a very clear line—the right line—the author of which was Lord Caradon. The Security Council has said that there must be a negotiation and a reconciliation of Israel's security, and of the rights of the Palestinians to self-determination.

It is not a question of a simple act of aggression which must be reversed, as it is in Kuwait. It is more complicated, and requires—and will be given by the Security Council—a more complicated answer. We must search for that answer. Several of my replies this afternoon have concerned that point.

Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House what efforts his Department has made, and will make, on behalf of the hostages who are still in Iraq? Is he going to secure their release and start a dialogue with Saddam to that end as countries such as Germany, Sweden, Italy and Spain have done—along with others too numerous to mention?

Our argument—the argument that we have used with the Iraqis throughout—is that the policy of the human shield has no justification, that all our hostages should be released and that those still working in Iraq should be enabled to leave if possible. That is our policy, and we have never ceased to impress it on Iraqis. It is also the policy of the European Community as a whole since 28 October that there should not he negotiations—partial negotiations—for the release of hostages: there should be no bargaining on that subject.

Given that it took nearly 40 years to resolve the cold war, and given that there is no sign that sanctions are being breached, will the Foreign Secretary urge patience on the other countries before the United Nations resolution is passed and make it absolutely clear that it would be a far greater triumph for the United Nations—and far better for a new world order—if we achieved withdrawal from Kuwait by peaceful means, even it it took one, two, three or even four years, rather than through the loss of a large number of lives?

Patience is certainly a virtue in relation to these matters, and it has been displayed. There has been no rush to arms—no rush to counter-attack Saddam Hussein. There has been a great deal of patience, which has not been rewarded with any progress.

We are not saying that patience has been exhausted on 28 November; we simply want to point out to Saddam Hussein that there is a limit to the period in which he can spoil Kuwait, kill some Kuwaitis and torture others. There is a limit to the time in which peaceful pressures can be expected to be effective. That is what we are saying.

How effective are the sanctions that are already in place against the export of oil from Iraq and Kuwait? Is it not true that those sanctions are completely effective and that exports of oil have ceased? Since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait to acquire those oil resources and as they have been sterilised, why embark on a path that could lead us to war? Would it not be wiser to give sanctions months or even a year or two to work rather than to prepare for war?

Iraq is not shipping oil. I am not saying that the occasional truck carrying oil does not cross the border, but basically the hon. Gentleman is right. There is no large-scale shipment of oil out of Iraq and therefore Saddam Hussein is deprived of much the greatest part of his foreign exchange. He has quite substantial reserves not least because he stole a lot of money from Kuwait. Shortages are building up in Iraq as a result of sanctions, but, as I have just said, those shortages are not decisive. I do not believe that it is sensible or possible to rely indefinitely on that peaceful pressure to do what is necessary. I doubt whether that kind of peaceful pressure could be sustained indefinitely at its present level of intensity. The hon. Gentleman would have to face the risk of a gradual weakening of the will for collective security. There would then be a danger that at the end of that period the aggressor would sit back in possession of his aggression. It is not safe to contemplate that.

What can the Foreign Secretary tell the House today that will give us any confidence to believe that if there are non-military means to resolve the dispute after the deadline those means will be allowed to continue?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and I and, I am sure, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will continue to do all we can to make the peaceful pressures effective. However, I have felt for a month or so—and perhaps for longer—that the most effective peaceful pressure is the clarity of the military option. The Security Council resolution will illustrate that clarity.

I agree with the Foreign Secretary that the case of Kuwait and that of the occupation of the west bank are not analogous. I believe that the attempt to link the two was started by Saddam Hussein as a diversionary tactic. Is there not a danger that that diversionary tactic may soon move from the realm of propaganda to an attempt to embroil Israel in this situation? Should we not take steps to guard against that and would those steps involve supporting the present Government of Jordan?

The hon. Gentleman is right: that is one of the dangers. I am deeply concerned about the position of Jordan, which, for the time being, has lost its friendship with the Gulf states out of which came a lot of financial help. I believe that it is now largely implementing sanctions and as a result is in desperate economic trouble. We are doing our best within the Community and like the Germans and Japanese who have substantial resources and are not committed militarily in the Gulf, to bring help to Jordan.

Will the Foreign Secretary announce today that he is redoubling his efforts to counter what is ultimately an even greater threat than Saddam Hussein, namely, the brisk international trade in armaments research and information? Is he aware that there are many firms in this country and agencies in the rest of Europe, in south America, the United States, China and throughout the world that are selling weapons and information on exotic conventional weapons such as fuel air explosives, laser battlefield weapons and nuclear, chemical and, the most terrifying of all, biological weapons? That trade will eventually threaten future Saddam Husseins and crises throughout the world unless the new world order can control it.

Arms embargoes are in place with regard to Iran and Iraq. The hon. Gentleman knows how they have been enforced. With regard to his wider international point, there are various international conventions in place. When this situation is over, and even if Saddam Hussein were to withdraw peacefully from Kuwait, I agree that the existence and potential of those weapons would remain a major problem.

I called three of the hon. Members who are now rising at Question Time—[Interruption.]—but I shall call them again if they remain patient.

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that our troops are under the operational command of the Americans, which means that they could be dragged into a war without any reference to the right hon. Gentleman or to any other Minister?

They are not under such operational command.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said, he has worked out detailed arrangements with the United States, but the position is not as the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) has described it. In any case, there is no question of our forces being committed to military operations without the consent of Her Majesty's Government.

I feel horrified about the way in which we are being dragged towards the inevitability of war and that the world community, with all its resources, cannot find ways to make Saddam Hussein get out of Kuwait without war. I am disappointed that the five permanent members of the Security Council now believe that war is necessary. Will the Foreign Secretary explain how the date in the resolution is not the date, upon which war will commence if Saddam Hussein has not withdrawn, because if Saddam Hussein ignores that date, inevitably we will be at war?

The hon. Lady has mistaken the point. The date in the resolution—hether it is 1 January or 15 January—will not be the date on which military action will begin. It is the date from which member states will be authorised—not instructed, but authorised—to take such action which, I repeat, is in pursuit not of their own objectives but of the specific objectives that the Security Council has laid down.

I remind the Foreign Secretary and the House that the tabloid press in this country have a motto—"Make it simple; make it juicy; make it up." May I assure the Government that I was never hounded or imprisoned and that I have never been a prisoner of the Iraqis, although certain newspapers, such as the Daily Record, have suggested that that might be the case? Nevertheless, there are prisoners out there from our own British community and they expect a lot more from a new revitalised British Government who, I hope, will have new ideas. One of those ideas must be to negotiate on and to discuss this problem. We may speak about linkage, and we may speak about Israel, but the one thing that we must speak about is the lives of those 1,400 British people out there, because they are important. The whole world knows that not only those lives but many other lives are at stake. Indeed, the whole world is at stake. What is the Foreign Secretary going to do about that? Will he approach the Iraqis in some way, even unofficially, because they will approach him?

If we had followed most of the advice that we had received from the Britons trapped in Kuwait, we would have started military action a long time ago.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that, although we fully endorse his position that diplomatic recognition does not in any way give support, the parents and relatives of those who died at Lockerbie will want to be assured that Her Majesty's Government have genuine assurances from the Syrians that they will no longer support or in any way encourage terrorist action that emanates from their shores?