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Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Volume 181: debated on Wednesday 28 November 1990

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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.