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Commons Chamber

Volume 208: debated on Wednesday 3 June 1992

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 3 June 1992

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MADAM SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Railways (No 2) Bill

Lords amembnents agreed to.

Oral Answers To Questions

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations have been made to the Government of Peru in relation to the coup in that country; and if he will make a statement.

The recent events in Peru are a substantial setback to democracy in that country. In company with our Community partners, we have expressed deep concern at the suspension of constitutional rule and reports of human rights violations. We urge the early re-eastablishment of democratic institutions and respect for human rights within the framework of the rule of law. The Peruvian charge d'affaires was left in no doubt of our position when he called on me at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 22 May.

If the principle of delivering non-humanitarian aid to Governments who are prepared to move towards liberty and democracy is to mean anything, will the Minister ensure that the Peruvian President is made aware of the fact that the people of this country consider that the days of South America being ruled by dictators are long gone? Will he further ensure that our partners in Europe understand our policy on that matter and that we deliver no aid to that country, other than the most vital humanitarian aid, until we have proof that democracy has been re-established?

We discussed those matters at length last week in Santiago, Chile, with our Community partners and with members of the Organisation of Amercian States. We are working with them to try to bring about a return to democracy in Peru as soon as possible. As the hon. Gentleman says, we must take other action to reinforce that position and we have already suspended balance of payments assistance promised to President Fujimori during his visit to this country earlier this year. We have also suspended consideration of the write-off of certain Peruvian debts owed to the Government, as well as action on aid proposals. We shall, of course, continue with existing humanitarian aid programmes.

Will the Minister tell the House what representations have been made by members of the joint Houses of Parliament of Peru to the British ambassador, and what action he intends to take about them?

I cannot answer the specific question, but the hon. Gentleman will wish to know that we are aware that there is substantial support for President Fujimori inside Peru and that our efforts and those of our Community partners are directed towards seeking to help him to return to democracy as soon as possible. I understand that on Monday of this week he made a statement that elections for a constituent assembly would be held on 18 October. That seems to us a hopeful step towards a return to democratic rule in Peru.

Although we welcome what the Government have already done, and the Minister's statement today, the Minister will have read the Amnesty International report published yesterday, which shows that the human rights situation is much worse than we feared. Members of APRA—the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana—in particular, are under threat and there is no indpendent judiciary. It is, therefore, necessary to convey to Mr. Fujimori—and I hope that the Government will take strong action to do so—that unless there is not only a return to democracy but an end to human rights violations, the Government, through the EC and the United Nations, are prepared to take much firmer action.

I take the hon. Gentleman's point and he can rest assured that any action that we take, with our Community partners and in co-operation with the Organisation of American States, will aim to assist Peru to rectify the mistake that we believe has been made.

Although my right hon. Friend is correct in stressing our support for the spread of democracy in Latin America and in disapproving of the action of the President of Peru in overturning the power of his congress, will he please bear it in mind that the President has to cope with a terrorist movement—Sendero Luminoso—which in many ways is worse than the IRA? It does not have popular support in Peru and it did not have the courage to test its popular mandate in either the recent presidential elections or the elections for the congress.

My hon. Friend's point is well made. That is why we have to balance our reaction to these events with the knowledge that there is substantial support for President Fujimori in Peru. Much of that support derives from the fact that the Peruvian people have suffered for more than a decade now from one of the most violent terrorist organisations on the face of the earth.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his European Community counterparts on the situation in the former state of Yugoslavia; and if he will make a statement.

The Yugoslav crisis has been discussed at every recent meeting of European Community Foreign Ministers. I made a statement to the House about it yesterday.

May I first apologise to the Secretary of State for having been unable to attend yesterday because of a constituency engagement?

Is the Secretary of State now discussing specifically with his counterparts the possibility of the implementation of a naval blockade and air cargo inspection to ensure that sanctions are effective in resolving the problems, especially in Serbia? Has he had any specific discussions with representatives of Greece—[Interruption.]—one of the European Community partners, given that Greece may suffer as a result of the sanctions?

The hon. Lady was not very courteously treated by the hon. Members in front of her, so I did not hear the last part of her question. On the first point—

I answered questions on the hon. Lady's first point yesterday. I am not sure that a naval blockade or an inspection of air cargoes would add very much at present to the efficacy of the sanctions. A monitoring committee of the Security Council in New York will keep an eye on the matter. We are in very close touch with the Greeks, not only on the question of Macedonia, on which they have especially strong views, but on the whole question. They are bound, and accept that they are bound, not only by the European Community decisions, but by the mandatory decision of the Security Council.

Does my right hon. Friend think that the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) does not see the parallel between Yugoslavia and Great Britain, in which all attempts at ethnic fragmentation, when 80 per cent. of Scots live in England and half those who live in Scotland are not Scots, are fallacious and wrong? The Government did well to protect the Union.

I admire my hon. and learned Friend's ingenuity. I cannot say what was in the mind of the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing). My hon. and learned Friend compels attention across the world as a flower of Scottish democracy.

Hong Kong Governor


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the future role of the new Governor of Hong Kong.

The whole House will want to join in wishing Mr. Patten well as he prepares for this demanding job. His role and that of the Government will be to administer Hong Kong justly and efficiently until the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, and to do everything possible to lay secure foundations for preserving Hong Kong's way of life and economic success beyond that date, as provided for in the Joint Declaration.

How can Chris Patten expect or demand the respect of the Chinese Government when the British Government have failed to democratise the Government in Hong Kong? May we have an assurance that Chris Patten will not spend his expensive time collecting funds for the Tory party?

The hon. Lady is notably misinformed. The Government have begun the task of introducing democracy—directly elected representatives—in the Legislative Council. That is something that no previous Government have done but which we now have under way. The question is one of pace, as the hon. Lady knows: it is a question of how much further progress we make in 1995 and of how we ensure that the process continues after the transfer of power. The hon. Lady ought to know better than to ask such tendentious questions.

Like many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I welcome the choice of Chris Patten as governor. He is a friend and colleague of hon. Members on both sides of the House and I believe that he will be an outstanding governor. Further to the answer that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just given, can he tell the House a little more about what decisions he expects to be taken regarding, for example, the future composition of the Executive Council and the number of elected members on the Legislative Council in the run-up to 1997? Obviously, those matters are of continuing and great interest to Hong Kong.

I do not think that the new governor will want to rush to conclusions on these matters as soon as he takes over. He would be wise to want—I am sure that he will want—to consult widely after his arrival, to weigh up all the factors and then to put his advice to us. That will take time. I would not expect conclusions on the kind of matters that my right hon. Friend mentioned to emerge until the autumn at the earliest.

On the specific point concerning the 1995 LegCo elections, we have said that we shall be discussing those elections with the Chinese side with the aim of ensuring as much continuity as possible. Decisions on electoral arrangements will need to take account of such discussions; they are, I think, some way off.

How can the Foreign Secretary in principle agree that a man rejected in democratic elections in this country should be imposed upon the people of Hong Kong?

Because he is a first-class man, as hon. Members know. The hon. Gentleman will know of the very wide and hearty welcome that his appointment has received in Hong Kong.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to bring Gibraltar within the external frontier of the EEC.

We and the Spaniards are in discussion with the Portuguese, as the EC presidency, to find a way of ensuring that the external frontiers convention applies in Gibraltar.

When I tabled the question, the kind of Common Market to which Gibraltar, as a Crown colony, would belong was clearer than it is today. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, as a British Crown colony, Gibraltar will benefit from all the provisions of membership of the EC? Can he tell us why Gibraltar is at present expressly excluded from the air services agreements in Europe from which other member states have benefited?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Gibraltar's membership of the Community is undisputed, its having become a member by virtue of Britain's accession in 1973. As my hon. Friend will know, the attachment to the air liberalisation agreement of the implementation of the airport agreement has meant that the air liberalisation agreement has been withheld for Gibraltar. We have urged Gibraltar to implement the airport agreement: we believe it to be in its interests to do so.

Will the Minister take on board that fact that time is of the essence in discussions of this matter because the financial infrastructure and plans of Gibraltar depend on the air agreement? Can the Minister assure us that the Government will do everything possible to expedite those discussions?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Implementation of the airport agreement 'would substantially reinforce the efforts of the Gibraltar Government to promote Gibraltar as a financial centre. We do not believe that the airport agreement has the sovereignty implications that the Gibraltar Government believe that it has. We have urged them over a number of years to proceed to implement the airport agreement.

Portugal is an excellent friend of this country and it is close to Spain. Is there not now a unique opportunity under the Portuguese presidency to make progress on the airport issue? Will the Minister give the people of Gibraltar a clear assurance, to allay any anxieties, that their democratically elected Government will be kept fully in the picture on any tripartite discussions about the future of the Rock? Will he also tell us the current status of the reference to the European Court of Justice?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The Portuguese presidency is uniquely well placed to help the United Kingdom and Spain to resolve the issue. All parties are extremely grateful to the Portuguese presidency for its enormous work on the issue which we hope will be crowned with success. With regard to the case before the European Court of Justice, a preliminary hearing on admissibility took place on 5 May, but the European Court has yet to pronounce on it. We think that it is likely to do so in July. It would be difficult for me to comment until we know whether the European Court has ruled that it is admissible.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he proposes to take to help bring about a solution to the conflict in Kashmir.

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

We take every opportunity of impressing on the Government of India our concerns over human rights in regard to Kashmir, and the need for a political process there, and on the Government of Pakistan the need to prevent material support being given to the men of violence in Kashmir.

When does the Minister expect the Indian Government to respond positively to the proposals made last year by this Government that international independent organisations should be allowed in to investigate violations of human rights? Serious violations of human rights in Kashmir are reported daily and they affect many of the families and relatives of our constituents.

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to those problems. Human rights abuses are totally unacceptable wherever they come from, whether from terrorists or, as they have undoubtedly come, from the security forces of the Indian Government—although there has been much exaggeration about that. We have emphasised to the Indian Government the need to respond to those terrorist threats by respecting human rights and the rule of law. We are encouraged by their decision to establish an independent human rights commission and I talked to the high commissioner about that only two weeks ago.

Is it not basically an internal matter for India? What moral support can we give India in resolving that tragic and long-standing problem?

Of course, as my hon. Friend knows, we are friends of the Indian and Pakistan peoples and we wish to maintain that friendship. We are balanced on that important issue. We know that it must be resolved. It is a serious problem which has led to three wars in very recent memory and we will do anything that we can. However, any intervention on our part must be with the agreement of both sides.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his bromidic utterances this afternoon contrast markedly with the encouragement that the Foreign Secretary gave to Kashmiri voters in Luton when he was seeking to rustle up Conservative votes there—that this Government were going to try to do something specific to deal with a problem that has lasted far too long, has resulted in many deaths on both sides and serious violations of human rights and in respect of which the United Kingdom has a unique role and responsibility?

The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The Government's position has not changed. We make our views absolutely clear. I am happy to follow every word that my right hon. Friend has said. May I also add that when he went to India he insisted on the need for a political process in Kashmir. That is also fundamental and we stand by that position.

Is it not the case that, apart from the efforts being made with the Indian Government, some pressure ought to be put on the United Nations, bearing in mind that two Security Council resolutions—the first dated April 1948 and the second dated January 1949—still guarantee that the Kashmiri people shall have a plebiscite on their future? Why can we not put pressure on the United Nations on the matter?

As my hon. Friend knows, those resolutions are about 40 years old, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then and there were also resolutions calling for a plebiscite for the state of Jammu and Kashmir to decide whether to accede to India or to Pakistan; the question of independence was not at issue. We believe that some political process to enable the Kashmiri people to state their wishes for the future is the way forward.

South Africa


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the prospect for a democratic settlement in South Africa.

In spite of the lack of final agreement at the CODESA 2 conference, some real progress has been made in the negotiations. We welcome the commitment by all parties to continue those negotiations and will continue to give full support to the process of reform. We are deeply concerned about the amount of violence. We urge all political leaders to support the peace structures which are now in place.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the South African Government's dogmatic insistence on a 25 per cent. blocking veto for whites is totally undemocratic and that it calls into question President de Klerk's sincerity, especially since his security services are involved in political killings which are running at 12 a day? Surely the South African Government would be best advised to pursue the majority rule course which successfully accomplished the transition in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

One would not guess from what the hon. Gentleman said how narrow the point of difference is. On the majority necessary for regional devolution in the constitution-making body, the ANC proposes the decisions being taken by 70 per cent. and the South African Government by 75 per cent. That is an important, but relatively narrow, point of difference. I very much hope that it can be bridged, but I do not think that it will be if we, or anyone from outside, start to lay down the law about it.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the cause of democracy in South Africa is ill-served by those in this House who champion the negotiating position of one of the parties to the negotiations—the ANC—to the total exclusion of other, equally legitimate interests? Is it not by far the wiser course for us to leave the South Africans to settle it among themselves?

The constitutional negotiations must be concluded between themselves. The line that we have taken on the matter under two Prime Ministers has been vindicated by events. As a result we have an ability to help, which is accepted on both sides, and we are giving help, for example, by encouraging those involved in the peacekeeping process to take advantage of policing experience in this country.

While the Government have a commendable desire to give every possible assistance, including economic assistance, to South Africa during the transition to democracy, is the Foreign Secretary aware that there is some anxiety among South Africa's neighbours in the South Africa Development Coordination Conference—all of which are poorer countries —that their needs might be forgotten. Can he lay those anxieties to rest?

There is something in what the right hon. Member says. We are especially concerned because of the present drought, which is savagely affecting countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia. The right hon. Gentleman may know—if not, we can tell him—of the extent of the help that we are giving, and encouraging others to give, in those circumstances.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made in Cambodia towards a peaceful settlement and democratic government.

Under the leadership of the United Nations Secretary-General's representative, Yasushi Akashi, events are on course to meet the timetable of free and fair elections under United Nations auspices in April and May 1993. The United Nations transitional authority in Cambodia was established on 28 February. The repatriation of those Cambodians now in camps on the Thai-Cambodian border under the supervision of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees began on 30 March and cantonment and demobilisation of the armed forces of the four Cambodian factions will start on 13 June.

Given the political complexity of the situation in south-east Asia, can my hon. Friend confirm that the Khmer Rouge and the other parties to the Cambodian settlement are all co-operating fully with the United Nations temporary agreement?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We are concerned at the Khmer Rouge's unwillingness to co-operate with UNTAC and we have registered our concern with it. It is vital that all the factions work fully and unconditionally with UNTAC.

Ec Presidency


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government proposes to do during its presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Community.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hopes to catch your eye, Madam Speaker, to make a statement later today on the implications of the Danish vote yesterday.

Apart from those implications, the Government will have two main priorities for the United Kingdom presidency—the completion of the single market and preparation for enlargement negotiations. We will also take forward, from the Lisbon summit, the future finance negotiations now under way and develop closer relations with eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

In view of the Danish people's rejection of the Maastricht treaty, which they clearly saw as more about a bankers' Europe than a people's or social Europe, what proposals will the Government bring forward to amend the treaty to get rid of the excessively restrictive monetarist provisions such as the 3 per cent. budget deficit proviso? Will the Foreign Secretary also accept his responsibility for the fiasco caused by the British Government's ridiculous opt-outs on the social charter and on economic and monetary union?

I think that it would add to the clarity of the afternoon if I left questions about the Danish referendum to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—if he catches your eye, Madam Speaker. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right: the Community must work and develop for the benefit of its citizens. The completion of the single market and the practical measures needed for that are precisely in the interests not of bankers, but of citizens.

Will my right hon. Friend give the House a categorical assurance that during the British presidency and in the few weeks before that begins, the British Government will not agree to the renewal of Jacques Delors' post as president of the European Commission?

No, Sir. Mr. Delors is a highly intelligent and dedicated public servant—[Interruption.]—with whose views on the future of Europe we sometimes strongly disagree. No commitment or decision has been taken by the British Government as to whether he should continue in his present office after the end of the year.

Why does the Foreign Secretary not admit that the Tory Government's wonderfully laid-out plans at Maastricht have fallen apart? Why does he not acknowledge that the halcyon days of the Common Market are over, that political union is now off the agenda, that there will not be a single currency for all the Common Market states, that the European bank has gone out of the window and that the Common Market is crumbling? The sooner the Tory Government and those on the Labour Front Bench understand that, the better.

I am only sorry that, by catching your eye now, Madam Speaker, the hon. Gentleman may have prevented himself from making those observations to the Prime Minister.

Will my right hon. Friend consider, during the British presidency, the enormous importance of the north-south divide and the contributions that the Community and the countries of the Council of Europe, of which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will also be president, can make in alleviating the tremendous poverty in many parts of the world? That poverty is putting great pressure on the frontiers of the European Community as people seek to enter the Community to escape from the conditions at home.

My hon. Friend is quite right. That is one reason why we hope very much that before we take over the presidency it may be possible to reach agreement in the GATT round. We are not so far apart now. It is conceivable that agreement will be reached; and, more than any measures of additional aid, success in the Uruguay round would help to solve the problems of the south to which my hon. Friend refers.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that one of the most worrying aspects in Europe—and worrying to everyone in this House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)—is the rise of racism, xenophobia and right-wing populism which seems to derive from increasing levels of unemployment throughout the continent? Should not one of the top priorities for the British presidency therefore be tackling the growth of unemployment? Is not the fact that that is not a priority evidence that the Government who do nothing about unemployment in this country are encouraging a do-nothing policy throughout Europe?

The best cure for unemployment is a recovery that is substantial and durable and does not fade away because panic measures have been taken too soon. The hon. Gentleman should also look at the experience of race relations in this country and deduce from that the importance of being able to keep in place effective frontier controls against illegal immigration.

Middle East


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the latest position in the middle east peace talks; and if he will make a statement.

The fifth round of bilateral negotiations between the parties took place in Washington on 27 to 30 April. Although progress towards resolution of the difficult issues involved has inevitably been slow, substantive discussions are now under way. The momentum of the peace process has been maintained in the five multilateral regional working groups which have taken place in various capitals over the last three weeks.

To help the peace process, would it not be sensible when we assume the presidency to take an initiative similar to the Venice declaration to make it clear that Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories, that the human rights of the Palestinians living there must be restored and that all United Nations resolutions on the subject should be adhered to?

We are, of course, committed to the provisions of resolutions 242 and 338. We think that the best way of tackling the problem lies within the peace process. Certainly the United Kingdom will do her utmost during her presidency to underpin the peace process now under way.

A recent report published by the Israeli central bureau of statistics states that the number of housing starts on the west bank and in Gaza climbed to 8,110 in 1991—a fourfold increase on the previous year. Bearing in mind the international consensus on the illegal nature of those settlements can the Minister tell the House when the Government last made representations to the Israeli Government on this issue?

We do so repeatedly. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says: the settlements in the occupied territories are indeed unlawful and an obstacle to the peace process. We make that point repeatedly, and I do so again now.

To what extent has the success of the talks been made more difficult by the massive flow of armaments into the middle east from former Warsaw pact countries? And to what extent have the activities of the British Government and other Governments been successful in stemming that serious flow of armaments?

My right hon. Friend is right. The flow of armaments into the middle east is a destabilising factor. We have tried to persuade a number of actual and prospective suppliers not to supply. We are of course heavily committed, in the process within the multilateral talks, to try to prevent the flow of arms into the middle east, but the truth is that until the peace process brings about a settlement of the essential dispute it is likely that arms will continue to enter the middle east.



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

The United Kingdom is deeply concerned at the recent suspension of constitutional government in Peru. A number of measures affecting our bilateral aid programme have recently been taken and the content of the bilateral relationship is currently under review.

President Fujimori's actions have created a democratic vacuum, with the result that the wretched people of Peru are faced on the one hand by the military, whose human rights violations are well documented, and on the other by the most ruthless terrorist group, the Sendero Luminoso, which is not content just to kill people but stuffs their dead bodies with dynamite so that they and perhaps also their neighbours are blown apart. In view of that, and in view of President Fujimori's statement that on 18 October there will be a renewal of constitutional rule, but that political parties will be excluded from the process, will the Government assure us that they will maintain the political and diplomatic isolation of Peru until the situation becomes clear and the democratic process is reconstituted?

I think that I can give the hon. Gentleman half the assurance that he wants. We are not in the business of seeking the isolation of Peru: not only with our partners in the Community but with other democratic states in Latin America, we are seeking to draw Peru back into the democratic fold. The hon. Gentleman is slightly inaccurate in saying that President Fujimori wishes to exclude political parties. I recognise that what the president said is controversial. He said that those who seek election to the constituent assembly will not subsequently be able to seek election to whatever assembly is agreed by the constituent assembly. I do not think that President Fujimori has excluded political parties from the process, as the hon. Gentleman hinted.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when a Minister from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office last visited Cyprus to discuss the situation in the island.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to make an official visit to Cyprus to discuss progress towards a settlement; and if he will make a statement.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent progress has been made towards resolving the situation in Cyprus.

We give full support to the United Nations Secretary-General's efforts to bring about a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus. There are grounds for some sober optimism. All sides have now endorsed the ideas set out in Security Council resolution 750, and the secretary-general has invited the leaders of the communities to New York for talks on 12 June. We have had frequent talks with Cypriot Ministers, and with all other parties to the dispute, since the last bilateral ministerial visit, which was in 1983. It has been important not to cut across the negotiations by United Nations envoys in Cyprus itself, which are again active.

Does the Foreign Secretary not appreciate that to the Cypriot community in this country the absence of a ministerial visit indicates that the 1974 invasion by Turkey and the continuing occupation of the northern part of the island of Cyprus is not a high priority for the Government? Does he not consider that the fate of the refugees and of the missing people in that country deserves a much more vigorous Government approach?

The hon. Lady will be able to explain to the Cypriot community why this has happened. The last ministerial visit, by Lady Young, took place before Mr. Denktas had proclaimed that part of Cyprus as an independent state. If a Minister went in the present situation he would face the difficulty of having to choose whether to meet Mr. Denktas. Either way it would be difficult to argue that such a visit would help towards an agreement. Our main interest is to get an agreement and there is a possibility of that. I am strongly in favour of a British ministerial visit so long as we can be clear that it would help and not hinder an agreement.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the Government of Cyprus would welcome such a visit? As the British Government do not recognise Mr. Denktas, what is the difficulty about the Foreign Secretary going to Cyprus? He will go to Athens and Ankara to talk about Cyprus, but he will never go to Nicosia to do so. Why does he not do that?

I have explained the reason. We had an exchange a few weeks ago and the hon. Gentleman is perfectly right to say that we recognise one Cyprus in which there are two communities and, as everyone accepts, those communities are of political equality. We keep in close touch with President Vassiliou of Cyprus and with my Cypriot colleague and shall continue to do so.

While recognising the importance of the present UN efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is particularly important for Britain to support continuing negotiations on the application by Cyprus to join the EC, as not to do so would not only be entirely unjustified but would give an effective veto to Turkey which occupies half of the island?

I am sure that we should try to strengthen the relationship between the communities in Cyprus. The technical position is that we are waiting for the opinion from the Commission that the Council of Ministers requested in September 1990. We want this relationship between the communities in Cyprus to facilitate, not to make harder, the solution to the inter-communal dispute. Finding an answer to that dispute, which is possible, would unlock many doors.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is intolerable that, at a time when barriers are coming down all over Europe, a small Commonwealth island should still be divided in two? What is the Government's attitude towards the suggestion by the secretary-general that the peacekeeping force in Cyprus might be reduced, bearing in mind that Britain plays such a sterling role in that force?

There is a strong case for reduction, and we are proceeding cautiously in that direction in concert not just with the secretary-general but with others such as the Canadian Government, who are also involved. I agree with my hon. Friend's first point. There is now a better opportunity than there has been for some months to get a solution, and we are bending all our efforts to helping the secretary-general in that direction.

The House will have noted that the Foreign Secretary signally, significantly and shiftily failed to answer the specific question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche). While Ministers have scuttled off regularly to Turkey, the right hon. Gentleman himself having gone there only a few weeks ago, the right hon. Gentleman and his Cabinet colleagues will not go, and have not been, to Cyprus. This demonstrates that there is a significant tilt of the Government's policy in favour of Turkey and against the sovereign Cypriot Government. In reply to the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs), who asked about membership of the Community, the right hon. Gentleman said that he hoped for speedy Turkish membership of the Community, but did not respond to the proper application of a sovereign Commonwealth country—Cyprus—to be a member of the Community. Is it not time the Government stopped being pro-Turkish and anti-Cypriot on this matter?

The right hon. Gentleman seems determined to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. He was wholly inaccurate on a central point. He has never heard me advocate, firmly or otherwise, full Turkish membership of the Community. He is wrong about that. I have chosen my words carefully and they have not added up to that. I will tell you why—[Interruption.] I will tell the right hon. Gentleman, through you, Madam Speaker, why we have not in recent years had a ministerial visit to Cyprus. I have already explained it. We want every step that we take to contribute towards a settlement, for the reason that 1 gave to the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche). It is clear that if we paid a ministerial visit to Cyprus, the choice—as the Canadian Minister has just found for herself—in terms of arrangements for a programme, far from helping a settlement, might set one back. For heaven's sake, let us concentrate on the central objective, which is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) said, to bring about an inter-communal settlement in this one sovereign island with two politically equal communities.

Human Rights


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make a statement on the priority that Her Majesty's diplomatic service gives to the monitoring of human rights abuses overseas.

All diplomatic missions overseas monitor closely, and report on, the human rights situation in the country to which they are accredited.

If it is being monitored efficiently, the Minister will know of the continuing abuse of human rights in Indonesia, where the massacre of innocent people still goes on. Despite that, the Government have a policy of selling arms to the Government of Indonesia. Is it not time that that policy was reviewed and revoked?

We remain concerned about human rights in East Timor. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Foreign Office issued a statement on 28 January on the tragic events which took place in Dili. We shall continue to make our concern crystal clear to that Government.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that the diplomatic service monitors the abuse of human rights in countries that are recipients of aid from the United Kingdom and from the European Community? Will he ensure also that all future aid packages have strings attached to ensure that we no longer prop up unacceptable regimes which use weapons and aid to suppress the reasonable political rights of their countries' inhabitants?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I think that he would agree that there is a distinction to be made between humanitarian aid and programme aid. In those countries where there is gross abuse of human rights, there would be a powerful case for cutting back on programme aid. Indeed, we have done that in respect of Burma, Sudan and China.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the Bangladeshi high commissioner to discuss United Kingdom-Bangladesh relations.

I look forward to an early meeting with the new Bangladeshi high commissioner.

As the majority of people in Bangladesh are extremely vulnerable to any small effect of global warming, how far can the Government reassure the high commissioner that the Government will do everything that they can at the Earth summit to deal with the problems of global warming?

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is not aware that the United Kingdom has indicated that it will be signing the climate change convention, which deals precisely with the matter that he has raised. Furthermore, we promised about £40 million to the United Nations global environment facility, with a conditional offer of more money for the developing countries. We have helped Bangladesh specifically with cyclone relief by providing large sums of money—for example, 10 million last year.

Rudolf Hess


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has to release to the Public Record Office the papers held by his Department relating to the arrival, interrogation and incarceration of Rudolf Hess between 1941 and the Nuremberg trials.

Order. I hope that the House will settle down. It is difficult for Ministers and for those hon. Members who are asking questions and it is difficult for me to hear.

I propose to release to the Public Record Office virtually all the papers relating to the arrival, interrogation and incarceration of Rudolf Hess between 1941 and the Nuremberg trials previously withheld by my Department. The first batch of papers to be released is being transferred to the PRO this week. The remainder should be released by July.

I welcome the main part of the Foreign Secretary's reply, but what does he mean by "virtually"? Is he aware that a promise was made to historians last autumn, long before the Prime Minister's, that the Hess file would be released to the PRO in the spring? It was not. The Prime Minister subsequently made it clear that he intended to practise more open government, hut, in spite of that, the Government have become more closed. How does the Foreign Secretary intend to communicate to the historians who read the file when it is eventually released which parts he has withheld by the process of weeding? What is it that the Government have to hide?

The hon. Gentleman is rather grudging in his welcome to what is a substantial move forward, although it has not come so fast as he would have wished. So far. I have agreed to the withholding of only one paper —for reasons which have nothing to do with the substance of the Hess question. There are certain records which still pose a risk to national security—[Interruption.] Of course there are. I have said that we are reviewing withholding. I have said that the process will not amount to a sudden avalanche. The hon. Gentleman, who takes an interest in these matters, will find as the months progress and the review continues that it is producing a substantial advance for the benefit of historians, and one far greater than has been contemplated before by any Government.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his policy on recognition of the countries that were formerly (a) French Somaliland, (b) Italian Somaliland and (c) British Somaliland.

We recognise the Republic of Djibouti, formerly the French territory, and the Somali Democratic Republic, which was created by the union of the former British protectorate and the Italian-administered territory.

Only two of the five Somali nations represented by the five stars on the Somali flag are within the republic known as Somalia. As my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, French Somaliland is now independent as Djibouti, and British Somaliland is part of Somalia. Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the people of Somaliland hope that they, too, will return to independent status some day? Will he keep an open mind on that, as the people there and their Government move towards the conditions in which such recognition might one day become possible?

I have great sympathy with my hon. Friend's concern for the people of the north, with whom we have many historic ties. Their plight is often overlooked. The Somali national movement is, however, divided and is not in control of northern Somalia—so the question that my hon. Friend poses does not arise at the moment.

Does the Minister accept that the people of northern Somalia, that is the Somaliland Republic, who have strong links with this country through family ties and the service that they rendered in successive world wars, are caught in a trap? Unless they can achieve stability and good administration, they cannot win recognition from Britain or the international community, but without recognition and help they are unlikely to be able to create the administration, peace, and stability to which I am sure the Minister also aspires. Will he seek a creative way of trying to help the people in the north?

I am sure that my noble Friend the Minister for Overseas Development would look kindly on initiatives to help the hard-pressed people in the north, along the lines that the hon. Gentleman suggests, were it possible to deliver aid to that area. The prime obstacle in the way of helping in any part of Somalia is the security situation—though we have managed to provide some help to the north in recent times.

Gulf Co-Operation Council


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Co-operation Council: and what was discussed.

At the third EC/GCC Foreign Ministers conference in Kuwait on 16 May, I met the Foreign Ministers of all the Gulf states except Saudi Arabia, which was represented by its Oil Minister. We discussed ways of developing closer economic co-operation between the European Community and the Gulf Co-operation Council and regional issues—especially the strengthening of the Gulls collective security. I stressed that the security and well-being of the Gulf states remain of great importance to us.

Was careful consideration given to any growth in the reconstruction of the Iraqi military machine, which would destabilise that region?

Everyone at the conference was clear that we must maintain sanctions against Iraq in their full present rigour and that we must insist on Iraq's full compliance with the Security Council resolutions—notably those which provide for the inspection and then the destruction of the weaponry of Saddam Hussein.

Abu Dhabi


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on relations between Britain and Abu Dhabi.

The Minister will know that more than 100 right hon. and hon. Members signed a personal appeal to the Sheik of Abu Dhabi asking him to increase the compensation agreement that he put forward to the creditors and depositors of the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows also that negotiations are at a critical stage. Does he agree that now is the time for the British Government to become directly involved in securing the best possible deal for the bank's British depositors and former employees?

The hon. Gentleman has discussed that with me on a number of occasions and he will therefore know the position of Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Government have no locus in the matter: it is a matter for the courts, the creditors and the liquidators; consequently, I do not think that it would be right for Her Majesty's Government to press the principal shareholders in any way to increase the contribution that is already on offer. That is a question for the others to whom I have referred.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to raise the situation in Kashmir with the Governments of India and Pakistan.

We shall continue to raise our concerns about Kashmir in our regular dialogue with the Governments of India and Pakistan.

In being—as the Minister put it earlier—a friend to both India and Pakistan, are not the Government being all things to all people? That is hardly an honourable position in the face of such violations of human rights.

As I indicated in my answers to an earlier series of questions, of course we make representations about the abuse of human rights whenever appropriate. First, terrorism constitutes such an abuse and must be put down by a legitimate Government. Secondly, we make it clear that the putting down of such abuse must be done by proper means, and we have criticised the conduct of the Indian Government in the past.

Maastricht Treaty (Danish Referendum)

3.30 pm

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the implications of the Danish referendum.

All 12 members of the European Community agreed and subsequently signed the treaty of Maastricht. The treaty amends the treaty of Rome, which can be changed only by unanimity. To come into effect, the Maastricht treaty needs to be ratified by all 12 member states. As the House knows, the Danish people voted against the treaty by a narrow majority yesterday. The Danish Government are now considering how to respond to that vote. One option is to resubmit the matter to a further referendum.

The Maastricht treaty began to build the kind of European Community that we wish to see. It introduced the concept of intergovernmental co-operation outside the treaty of Rome. It established the principle of subsidiarity rather than centralism. It established financial and other controls over the Commission.

The House has three times endorsed our policy. It did so before the final negotiation, and again after it. Following the general election, the House gave a Second Reading to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill by a large majority. The Government continue to believe that the deal that we secured at Maastricht is in the best interests of this country. In the expectation that Denmark will in due course be able to join them, our partners propose to complete the ratification procedures. We share that judgment, and intend to continue with the passage of the Bill.

It is clearly necessary, however, to consider further the legal and practical implications of the Danish referendum result before we can sensibly invite the House to proceed with the Bill's Committee stage. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will make a business statement later this afternoon to change the business for this week. We shall, of course, consult widely with our European partners.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend a meeting of the Twelve in Oslo tomorrow. He will report to the House on his return.

The Maastricht treaty provided mechanisms for more broadly based development of the Community, and introduced procedures to reverse the trend towards centralism. These developments create a sound basis for co-operation, and open the way for the future enlargement of the Community. We hope that that enlargement will include the countries of the European Free Trade Association, and those of eastern and central Europe. The ratification and implementation of the treaty is in our national interest, and we shall continue during our presidency to work for the Community that we secured in that negotiation.

I thank the Prime Minister for responding to my request for a statement on the conditions arising from the result of the Danish referendum. I also welcome his agreement to postpone consideration of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill.

May I ask the Prime Minister to make arrangements to present a thorough report to the House about the discussions and consultations on the full implications of the Danish decision before any further progress is made on the Bill? Does he not agree that such a report should be in written form rather than in the form of a ministerial statement, or a series of ministerial statements, which would not be adequate for the purpose of informing the House properly? Does he not also agree that the House should debate such a report before any further progress on the Bill is sought? Does the Prime Minister accept that such clarification is essential because it would not otherwise be possible to justify continued consideration of a Bill to ratify a treaty which the passage of events and the requirements of Community law might well render incapable of implementation?

Does the Prime Minister concur with the view that, unless and until there is an agreement in the Community that is capable of being implemented by the whole Community, it would be somewhat unreal to debate an agreement which, for the time being, has been cast into doubt by the votes of the Danish people?

Finally, does the Prime Minister agree that, whatever occurs in the immediate discussions on the Maastricht treaty, the enlargement of the European Community is still important, that the European monetary system will continue, that the democratic deficit will remain in existence, that the single market will be completed on 31 December of this year and that the social dimension is far from being adequate? In view of all that, does the Prime Minister share my view that the conditions that gave rise to the treaty persist and that the need to achieve more accountable decision making, to improve social protection and to promote the co-ordination of economic policies therefore remains?

I can agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman said about the development of the Community, both in the short and long term. I am grateful for his support for the postponement of the Committee stage until the present situation is a little clearer.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need to consider and report upon the Bill. We shall examine that. We shall be discussing the matter with our European colleagues, and I shall consider in what form a report might be laid before the House before we return to the Committee stage of the Bill. I would, though, suggest that the best way of considering the prospects for a debate would be through the usual channels. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will have heard what the right hon. Gentleman had to say about that matter.

May I respectfully suggest to my right hon. Friend that the result of the Danish referendum merits neither triumphalism nor recrimination? However, it does place upon the British Government a responsibility to respond with the initiatives that will be at their disposal during their period as President of the European Community. May I suggest that there is increasing evidence that, in the context both of the Danish decision and of the British ambition for a wider European Community, we need further institutional reform—above all, reform that will enhance the role of intergovernmental co-operation to which my right hon. Friend referred in his statement—and, correspondingly, a contraction of the centralising consequences of the Rome treaty and the European Single Act and of the overriding and pervasive political authority of the European Court? It is a challenge to the statesmanship of the British Government in their European character to see that those matters are addressed.

As my right hon. Friend knows, to curb centralism and to move towards intergovernmental co-operation were two of the objectives that we set for ourselves in the Maastricht negotiations. We achieved those aims and, subsequently, we achieved the support of the House for what we did in those negotiations.

At Maastricht I believe that Britain did help to turn Europe away from the direction of centralism. There is no doubt that that is the direction in which we must continue to move as we take over the presidency of the Community later this month. If we are to exercise the presidency in a way that delivers what is best for Europe, it is vital that we act with care and deliberation. The treaty has created the basis for co-operation in Europe. It has opened the way to the enlargement of Europe which for economic, social and political reasons is, I am sure, the right way for it to progress. We shall continue to work throughout our presidency for the kind of Europe that we have set out in these debates.

I greatly welcome the Prime Minister's statement. This is a decisive moment for Europe.

Order. These are very serious matters. I hope that the House will come to order and hear what all hon. Members have to say.

The Prime Minister has given a clear lead to his party and has committed Britain to giving a clear lead to Europe during the presidency to ensure that Europe does not go into retreat. In both those matters, he will have the full support of this Bench.

Does the Prime Minister accept that the Danish "No" vote results from trying to create a Europe too much for politicians and bureaucrats and too little for its citizens? Does he accept that after the House confirms the Maastricht process, as I hope it will, the British people are entitled to have their say in a referendum and that the cause of Europe has nothing to fear from that process?

We are entirely concerned to ensure that we create a Europe that respects the individuality of nation countries and individual citizens within the Community. It was precisely to meet those objectives that we fought so hard for the subsidiarity clauses and for those parts of the treaty that provide for greater control over the Commission by elected Members of the European Parliament. There was the British proposal to ensure that there is a European ombudsman to deal with those problems, which also meets the points mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. We share those objectives and we think that they are achieved in the treaty that we have produced. That is why we shall continue to fight for the provisions of the treaty.

I thank my right hon. Friend and the Government for getting the balance right and for making the obvious decision about the Committee because of the need for second thoughts, further thoughts and reconsideration of all the aspects. Can my right hon. Friend offer us the prospect of some firm statements by the Lisbon European summit at the end of June, which heralds the British presidency, so that we can have clear guidelines for the rest of the year on how the Maastricht treaty will prevail?

Upon the latter point, I prefer not to prejudge what might emerge at Lisbon. I hope that the way ahead for the Community after negotiation will be made clear by individual Governments in advance of the Lisbon summit, though no doubt these matters will be discussed there.

I inadvertently neglected to reply to the question of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) about a referendum. I am not in favour of a referendum in a parliamentary democracy, and I do not propose to put one before the British people.

Whatever else it was, the Danish referendum was a victory for democracy and a defeat for European bureaucracy and centralism. Will the Prime Minister look upon this event as a major opportunity, with Britain as President of the European Community, to attempt a substantial renegotiation of the Maastricht treaty with the objective of extending massively the area that falls under intergovernmental co-operation and reducing radically the area that comes under the supranational control of the European Community?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the provision for intergovernmental agreement is a new provision. It was obtained at British insistence and operates outside the treaty of Rome and outside the jurisdiction of the European Court. It was precisely because we wished to admit that fresh avenue of development within Europe that we fought for and obtained the provision in the agreement at Maastricht. There is always the possibility for developing that on future occasions. That is one of the fresh options for development of the Community that the Government find extremely attractive. However, I do not believe that a substantial renegotiation of the Maastricht treaty is a practical proposition at this time. We must wait and see what action the Danish Government take, but I still hope that the full provision of the Maastricht treaty will be carried forth into law.

Is not it paradoxical that some of those in the House who are opposed to the Maastricht treaty are in favour of a referendum, which is an alien idea and incompatible with our representative system of democracy? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, if some other countries had followed the example he set in negotiating so skilfully the opt-out clause, we might not now be facing the present problems? Perhaps the way ahead lies in that direction. Should not we be reassured by the fact that my right hon. Friend is about to assume the presidency in what undoubtedly will be an extremely difficult period? His presidency should be warmly welcomed.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. We certainly will seek to use our presidency to try to bring Europe together and to try to solve the difficult problem that lies immediately ahead of us. As for the referendum, my right hon. Friend is characteristically generous in using the word "paradoxical".

Will the Prime Minister use his presidency to ensure that no pressure is applied to the Danish people to reverse their democratic decision? Does he realise that he has nothing whatever to fear from the widest consultation with the citizens of the four component parts of the United Kingdom on a common system of decentralisation of powers and in regard to relationships with any external institution?

I can certainly confirm that the decision in Denmark is for the Danes and I see no external pressure being put on them, but it is a matter for the Danes and for their Government to decide. As for decentralisation, the right hon. Gentleman will have heard what I had to say a few moments ago. That represents all that I have to say on that matter today.

In the light of my right hon. Friend's insistence on decentralisation in Europe, with which we all agree in principle, how is it that there is in the common provisions in title I of the treaty an insistence that we comply as an obligation with the single institutional framework which implies centralisation together with those provisions that deal with the union, which imply that we will be citizens of a union with duties imposed on us, and as a result of which we shall be moving into a centralised Europe?

I do not agree with my hon. Friend, who, I believe, is wrong in almost every particular. I do not agree only in principle with the question of decentralisation; I agree in practice with decentralisation, and that is why among the institutional arrangements that we have produced is the intergovernmental agreement which is covered by the areas that my hon. Friend mentioned.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the real importance of the Danish referendum is, first, that the Danes recognise that people have rights in how they should be governed and, secondly, that they have exercised those rights against the transfer of power to people who are not elected—commissioners and bankers? Far from ruining European co-operation, when history comes to be written the Danes will be seen to have opened the way for a different sort of Europe, harmonising by consent in intergovernmental co-operation that could extend over the whole of Europe a commonwealth of Europe rather than a federation.

Will the Prime Minister recognise that, if one lives in a democracy, the only common currency that matters is the common currency of popular consent for the laws under which we are governed? On that basis, the Government are right to defer the legislation because, in my opinion, the Danes have struck a blow for the people of every country in Europe, not just their own.

The right hon. Gentleman will know, as a distinguished Member of the House for many years, that common consent in this country is exercised through a parliamentary democracy and through the voices and words of Members of Parliament in this House. As for the sort of Europe to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—a decentralised Europe—I believe that the point that is central to the agreement secured at Maastricht is that Maastricht traced the pattern for the development of that sort of Europe. That is what lies behind the provisions for intergovernmental agreement rather than agreement only under the treaty of Rome, and that is what also lies behind a number of the other provisions, including subsidiarity. We have begun to build that sort of Europe.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the siren voices now suggesting that the timing of enlargement should be slowed because of our present reappraisal of the situation should be rejected? During his presidency, will he reassure the House that we shall move with all speed and not be delayed in any way in bringing the countries of central and eastern Europe into this alliance?

That would certainly be my intention. I believe that the more speedily we can move to enlargement, the healthier we shall find democracy across Europe and the more secure democracy will become in those eastern states that first become association members and then full members. It is, of course, a matter that will need to be agreed with all our Community partners, but the British position is quite clear: we favour enlargement, and we favour it sooner rather than later.

Looking forward to Edinburgh in December, may I ask the Prime Minister on what basis the Danes will attend? As one who, rightly or wrongly, voted for the Maastricht treaty, may I ask what the price of all this is in terms of European co-ordination on the environment, the rain forest, and the ozone layer? In terms of the environment, what do we have to pay for the Danish decision on Maastricht?

The Danes will, of course, continue as full members of the Community. They have been full members and valuable partners within the Community, and will continue to be so in the future, as they have been in the past and are at present. Co-operation on the matters that the hon. Gentleman mentioned will also continue, precisely as at present. As for the future—the new areas covered by the Maastricht treaty—that will depend on how the matter eventually falls out, and what final decisions are taken by the Danish Government.

As the Prime Minister will face a rather more difficult but also a more hopeful and more flexible opportunity as President of the Council, will he tell the House whether there is any truth in the rumour that the Government have agreed to extend Mr. Delors' period in office by two and a half years—or is it totally untrue? If it is true, what would be the implications of such an extension?

On the first part of my hon. Friend's question, on the presidency of the Community, nobody said that it would be easy at any stage, and I doubt whether it will be now. None the less, there is a great deal to be done, and we shall try to move in the direction in which we believe Europe should go over the next six months. No decision has yet been taken on the presidency of the European Commission, and any reports to the contrary are unfounded and premature.

Will the Prime Minister tell the House what the Government's objectives will be when they carry out the urgent consultations with our European partners?

First, we need to examine all the details of the precise impact of the Danish electorate's rejection of the Maastricht treaty. Some parts of the treaty do not need to be carried into domestic legislation—for example, the part on intergovernmental agreement. We first need to examine precisely what does and does not require to be taken into domestic legislation. We shall then wish to discuss with our partners in Europe precisely what mechanisms exist to carry the treaty fully into operation, and to discuss with the Danes how they now see the future. Clearly, that is the first matter, and a great deal of consultation will be necessary.

Would the Prime Minister care to put on the record today the fact that in doing as it did the Danish nation was exercising its democratic right, and that the Danes deserve to be accepted for what they did in a democracy? Does he also welcome the fact that the people of Denmark have surfaced in defence of what they believe, and that their vote was a vote against Maastricht and has to be accepted as such?

The Prime Minister has confirmed at the Dispatch Box today that he is against centralism in Europe. Does he not believe that, as France is to have a referendum—far be it from me to advocate following France—the people of this country should have the same opportunity for a referendum? Having imposed on the people of Northern Ireland the so-called alien system of referendum, why will he not impose it on the rest of the United Kingdom?

I am pleased to follow such a prominent francophile as the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). The Danes were operating within their constitution, with its provision for a referendum. Provision for a referendum has long been in the French constitution, too. If I recall accurately, one of the provisions of the French constitution is that if a matter is put to the people in a referendum the result can override the will of the French Parliament. That is not a constitutional arrangement that we have ever accepted in this country, nor do I believe that it would be generally acceptable to the House of Commons, or in the interests of good government in this country.

The Prime Minister was generous in responding to the Leader of the Opposition by offering a debate and, perhaps, a report. Will he now be as generous to the leaders of the national parties in Wales and in Scotland and invite them to talks as they supported the principle of the Maastricht treaty? We now have an opportunity to discuss the Prime Minister's interpretation of subsidiarity and to consider the way in which membership of the Committee of the Regions should be organised.

Matters such as the hon. Gentleman mentioned are best aired on the Floor of the House in the time made available by the House. I told the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that I would make available to the House the way forward as we saw it and what we saw as the implications of what has happened in the past few days. I also said that it was for the usual channels to consider whether there should be a debate. Personally, I am sympathetic to the request.

Is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister aware that he is absolutely right to affirm as he has done his determination to support the Maastricht treaty which he and the Foreign Secretary were responsible for negotiating? The House gave it a majority of 244—an overwhelming majority—and rejected the hostile views which have been put forward again this afternoon. That is a sufficient basis for my right hon. Friend to continue his work.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the suggestion, as I understood it, by the Leader of the Opposition that we should go no further in Committee until we see where other countries are going is really not tenable? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because if every country did that, nobody would see where anybody had got to. The basic point is for us to press ahead.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he is also right in saying that this is a matter primarily for the Danish Government and the Danish people? Will he also recall that, in the history of the Community, we have had difficulties at times? One example is when President de Gaulle left the chair empty for several months and withdrew French participation in the Community. The French now, of course, have come back again. Will my right hon. Friend also recall that, when President de Gaulle vetoed British entry into the Community, the five discussed having a Community of six with us and rejecting France? We have had such problems before and the Community has not only survived them but overwhelmed them, and has become increasingly successful. That will continue on this occasion.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he said. I see our role in the presidency as helping Denmark and not as condemning it in dealing with the difficulties that lie ahead. In my experience in the Community, one generally finds that all things are possible in due course.

My right hon. Friend mentioned the position of other countries. A number of other countries have made it clear that they intend to go ahead with ratification without, as far as can be seen from their preliminary statements, any delay. I agree with my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary and I believed that this was the right treaty when we negotiated it. The treaty itself has not changed, nor has my view of the treaty.

The Prime Minister is clearly proud of the intergovernmental and subsidiarity provisions of the Maastricht treaty. Will he use the opportunity of the presidency to extend those excellent provisions to the very heart of the treaty—economic and monetary union—so that we can reduce the power of the bank, of the Commission and of the court over economic and monetary matters?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that is not a presidency matter as such, but a matter that would need to be dealt with in an intergovernmental conference. None is planned; such conferences tend to be planned some time in advance. The right hon. Gentleman will also know that, because of our concern that the House could take a decision on those matters at an appropriate time, and in the economic circumstances that were clear at that time, we secured a provision to opt into that arrangement at a later date, if the House of Commons felt it right to do so.

Would my right hon. Friend suggest to Monsieur Napoleon Delors—who today, rather than showing humility, seems to be showing his customary arrogance—that, henceforth, 2 June should be a public holiday throughout Europe, to be known as the day of the people, the day of democracy or, even better, the day of the nation state?

I am not sure that I would put it in quite the way that my hon. Friend suggests to me—certainly not for this country. I cannot say what may happen in other countries, although I seem to believe that Hamlet said something like, "At least, I am sure it may be so in Denmark."

The Prime Minister will be aware that his statement will have done nothing to clear up the confusion that probably exists among thousands and millions of people in this country. Will he clarify the matter for me? As all 12 countries must agree to the treaty, and as one country has now agreed not to sign up to the treaty, are we not now faced with a completely new situation? What happens if France has a referendum and other countries have referendums and vote against? When do we decide that enough is enough and that we must start all over again?

The hon. Lady should not be too impatient. The decision in the Danish referendum was taken yesterday. We need to reflect and consult upon that and determine what decisions the Danish Government propose to make. It is in the light of that consultation and consideration that we can decide the way forward. The hon. Lady is perfectly correct, however, in saying that if, at the end of all those considerations, Denmark still cannot ratify the treaty, amendments to the treaty of Rome as such cannot be made. That is undoubtedly the case.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, owing to the agreement between all the political leaders in this country, there was no proper discussion either of the details or of the principles of Maastricht at the last general election? Does he agree that, if we are to avoid having a referendum, there must be full, adequate and proper discussion in the House of all the details of the Maastricht treaty, otherwise we shall be left with a people who do not know what has been signed up to and we shall have much the same misunderstanding as we have had about the Single European Act, which was so disgracefully guillotined?

As my hon. Friend knows, before my right hon. Friends and I went to Maastricht, there was a substantial debate in the House. There was a further debate on my return. It was a matter at issue at the general election and we have also had the Second Reading of the Bill. My hon. Friend expresses his enthusiasm for detailed and proper discussion. I believe that we shall be able to accommodate him when we move to the Committee stage of the Bill.

As the Prime Minister is obviously a great supporter of parliamentary government, I am sure that he will learn from the Danish example that the Danish people were fully informed about the pros and cons of the agreement. Will he therefore consider issuing to the people of Britain, as a matter of urgency, copies of what is proposed in the Maastricht treaty so that, during the re-examination process, they may make their views known to hon. Members, who can then inform him of what the British people want?

It is not for me to comment on the motives of millions of Danes who cast their votes in the referendum yesterday. They may well have had a whole series of differing motives for casting their votes as they did. The hon. Lady suggests that we advance the details of what is in the treaty to people in this country. I believe that we have one of the most extensive parliamentary and media reporting systems of any nation in Europe. We have also spent far more time debating the matter—both before and after the agreement in Maastricht—than any other European nation.

Had my right hon. Friend noted that among those who voted no in Denmark yesterday were those urged to do so both by those who thought that the Maastricht treaty would over-centralise Europe and by those who thought that it did not go far enough? On that basis, will my right hon. Friend not draw too many conclusions but instead press ahead, as he has said he will, to ensure, before the November leaders' meeting in Edinburgh, that the basis of the Maastricht treaty is the basis of agreement within the European Community? We can then ensure that we safeguard the principles that he negotiated last year—in particular, those that restrain the existing treaty of Rome, such as the Court of Auditors and increased powers of scrutiny of the European Parliament.

I believe that my hon. Friend is right. I had noticed the point that he drew to the attention of the House and it was largely for that reason that I indicated that it was not for me to comment on individual Danish motives. Clearly, many separate motives would have been at work in the decisions that individual Danes took.

In these days of democratic, open government, with lots of information, will the Prime Minister explain why every household in Denmark received more objective and partisan detail about the advantages and disadvantages of the treaty than was received from Her Majesty's Government by any Member of the House? On his comments about intergovernmental co-operation, does he agree that such co-operation need not depend on a single currency or, bearing in mind the history and development of our eastern neighbours in Europe, on a single market.?

A single market is attractive to increase the flow of free trade and it is in the interests of the consumer in minimising the price levels that would otherwise apply. That issue has been discussed in this Parliament and throughout the European Community, largely, it must be said, at British instigation over recent years.

On the hon. Gentleman's initial point, I believe that a great deal of documentation has already been made available. I believe that people are well aware of the substantive issues.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have never been a critic of the Government's European policy, and I pay tribute to his achievements in modulating the Maastricht treaty? Nor do I share the extravagant fears of some of my colleagues about sovereignty. However, it must be said that the Maastricht treaty was never wanted by this Government, this House or this country. The Maastricht treaty makes the best of a bad job. There is no enthusiasm in the country, nor, I detect, even in the Government, for the treaty because the Government seem rightly more proud of their amendments than of the treaty. So well have the Government done that misgivings are developing in Germany over European monetary union and in France over the political implications of the treaty.

Therefore, I would recommend to my right hon. Friend, if I may, that he uses the presidency to promote in future, as he has promoted in the past, a dilution of the unrealistically federalistic aspects of the agreement and that he should bear in mind the motto that the Maastricht treaty was what back-burners were invented for.

If one went down the route that might inevitably follow what my hon. Friend has said and perhaps reopened an intergovernmental conference, I fear that we would go right back to the arguments about a centralist Europe that we spent so much time at Maastricht seeking to rebut. There is a great deal in the treaty that we have sought in this country for some years: the recognition of intergovernmental co-operation; subsidiarity; the reinforced rule of law; co-operation on justice and home affairs; improved foreign policy co-ordination without circumscribing this country's freedom in foreign policy; and stronger budget disciplines. All those are matters upon which the House has previously expressed a view and urged the Government to seek greater clarity in European policy to achieve it. We have achieved it in the treaty.

Given that the Prime Minister and his colleagues will never again be able to say that a small nation of approximately 5 million people cannot possibly have a major influence on the development of the European Community, will the Prime Minister seriously take on board the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones), that the democratic nationalist parties elected to this House are willing to meet the Government to discuss the principles of subsidiarity and the extension of the European Community? Given that we supported the Prime Minister in the Maastricht accord, surely he should consider that because the usual channels ignore us.

No one in the Government would ever suggest that the nation of which the hon. Lady is a representative has no influence in these isles or beyond. Indeed, it fills a large number of seats in my Cabinet at present, and will no doubt do so in future. The way for the hon. Lady and for the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones) to make the points about which they are so concerned is in the series of debates and ample time that will be made available to debate those issues. Those representations can be made, and it is always open for other representations to be made direct to Ministers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is one vital British national interest—the proper completion of the single market by the end of this year? In all his negotiations in the weeks ahead, will he bear in mind that the enforcement provisions are badly needed if that policy is to succeed and we are to be able to achieve a proper and effective single market throughout Europe?

I agree with my hon. Friend; he is right. Some difficult decisions still have to be taken to ensure a free and fair single market across Europe by the end of this year. That is the objective that the Community has set itself, and it is one that I hope that it will be able to achieve during the British presidency.

Does the Prime Minister agree that the main lesson to be learnt from Denmark is that the sovereignty of the people is far superior to the phoney sovereignty claimed by any over-centralised institution, including this place? Does he also agree that the nations of Europe, including the people of Scotland, want the maximum self-determination consistent with maximum co-operation between all the nations of Europe, on as equal a basis as possible? Why not have a referendum on that?

On the question of a referendum, I have explained to the hon. Gentleman before that we are a parliamentary democracy and I believe that it serves our interests to operate as one. The extension of co-operation is one of the great themes set out in the Maastricht treaty, and so I look forward to the hon. Gentleman's support on those matters in the Division Lobby later.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the derailment of Maastricht is not a problem; it is an opportunity? Does he further agree that British public opinion has never changed on Europe? Our people have always been in favour of a Europe-wide free trading area. They have never been in favour of the gradual and surreptitious building of a European state. Does he agree that, if we defer consideration of the Maastricht treaty for a considerable time, we shall strengthen his negotiating hand, and, with his presidency, perhaps build a Europe at ease with itself?

As my right hon. Friend rightly says, the people of this country have consistently voted to make a success of our membership of the Community and in recent months we have repeatedly set out our vision of the development of the European Community. It is too early to determine precisely how events will continue. A great deal of consultation and consideration will need to take place in this country and with our partners abroad.

Why can we not have a referendum in this country? Is the Prime Minister uncertain of his position when arguing in a referendum? It is wrong to say that referendums are alien to this country. They are unusual, but not alien: we had a referendum in 1975. If it is right for other parliamentary democracies such as Denmark, France and Ireland to have a referendum, why cannot the British people have one?

On the hon. Gentleman's 1975 illustration, as I recall, the Conservative party voted against a referendum in 1975. It was introduced only to cover up divisions in the Cabinet of the day. No such divisions exist in my Cabinet.

Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister confirm that the no vote in Denmark is binding upon the Danish Government, and that if one country of the Community fails to ratify the Maastricht treaty before the end of this year the treaty collapses? If he is prepared to confirm those facts, will he give the House an assurance that we shall start all over again and renegotiate along the lines of the excellent suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher)?

My hon. Friend is partly correct on the facts, but not wholly. He is certainly correct in saying that, if one country fails to ratify the treaty, the amendments to the treaty of Rome cannot be made; they can be made only by unanimity. He is not correct in saying that ratification has to be by the end of the year. That is not necessary.

From the various answers given by the right hon. Gentleman, may we take it that it is the Government's intention, after a period of postponent and consultation, to return to the House with the same treaty and the same Bill and to try to implement it?

We propose to negotiate with our partners and others. On the basis of that negotiation, we will bring back the treaty to the House at Committee stage, yes.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of us who greatly admire what he has done and support his stand nevertheless feel that the biggest single impediment to achieving what he wishes to achieve is the continued presence of the present President of the Commission?

I note with interest what my hon. Friend has to say on the matter.

Is the Prime Minister aware that all of us who believe strongly that this country has already lost enough sovereignty are very grateful to the people of Denmark for their decision yesterday? The Prime Minister constantly reiterates that there was a substantial majority in favour on Second Reading, but is he aware that that was on a whipped vote? Bearing in mind the comments of some of his hon. Friends today, is he aware that there is no basic enthusiasm for the treaty among the British people or among a large number of hon. Members, possibly a majority? Therefore, in view of what the Prime Minister says about democracy and why we should not have a referendum, the next time that the treaty comes before us, would it not be right for arrangements to be made on both sides of the House for a free vote?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is well aware of the debates that we had on that matter prior to the general election and of the debates that we have had subsequently to it. Before I went to Maastricht, no one was in any doubt about the negotiating stance that I would take in Maastricht. It was placed before this House, it was debated in this House, and it was approved by this House. Similarly, when I returned from Maastricht, I laid the agreement before people. It was discussed, it was debated, and it was approved. It was the policy of the Government in the general election, and the British people were not whipped in the decision that they took on that occasion.

Business Of The House

4.16 pm

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Tony Newton)

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement.

The business for today and for the remainder of this week will now be as follows:

TODAY—Debate on the Earth summit in Rio on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. I am glad, for once, to accommodate him.

I accept that as well.

THURSDAY 4 JUNE—Proceedings on the Community Care (Residential Accommodation) Bill [Lords], followed by proceedings on the Mauritius Republic Bill [Lords].

FRIDAY 5 JUNE—The same business I proposed when I made my statement last week—a debate entitled "Tenants' Rights, Opportunities and Participation" on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

I shall, of course, be making a statement tomorrow, in the normal way, on the business for next week.

Before I call hon. Members to ask questions on the business statement, I remind the House that it is a supplementary statement and that it deals only with the business for today and tomorrow. It would be totally out of order to ask other questions; I would not accept them.

I thank the Leader of the House for the statement and welcome his announcement of a debate later today on the Earth summit. May we have an assurance that, following the Prime Minister's return from Rio, we shall have a statement in the House on what transpired during that important conference in Brazil?

May I also express my disappointment that the Leader of the House has not taken the opportunity provided by the new time available to arrange a debate on the plight of the Maxwell pensioners? I understand the Government's need to bring the two Bills that will be discussed tomorrow to the Chamber at some time, but surely this was an excellent opportunity for the Government to provide time for a debate on the plight of the Maxwell pensioners—

But I am talking about tomorrow. I am asking the Leader of the House to think again about the business that he has announced for tomorrow, to take off the Bills that he has announced and instead hold a debate on the plight of the Maxwell pensioners. I am sure that that is in order, given the statement that has been made.

I reiterate the request made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister—that following the discussions at the Council of Ministers and the consultations in which the Government will obviously be involved, the Prime Minister should lay on the Table of the House a written statement of the Government's conclusions; and that that statement be debated before consideration of the Maastricht treaty is undertaken.

To take those points in reverse order, the hon. Gentleman will have heard what the Prime Minister said in response to his right hon. Friend's request and his subsequent acknowledgement that, although this was a matter for further consideration, including by me, he was sympathetic to the proposal. I need hardly add that the Prime Minister's expressed sympathy for the proposal will be borne very much in mind by me.

As for the hon. Gentleman's intermediate point, I cannot add at this stage either to what I have just said in my statement or to what I said at business questions last week. The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has said on a number of occasions that he hopes before too long to make a statement on the Government's proposals on the review of the framework of occupational pensions law. That will provide some opportunity for comment along the lines that the hon. Gentleman has sought.

Lastly, I would expect there to be a statement following the Prime Minister's return from Rio.

The first item under Orders of the Day is not to be moved, but I notice that on the motion for the Adjournment my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Sir T. Arnold) will raise the matter of the future of the British banking industry within the European Community. Will my right hon. Friend explain how he will accommodate the two debates that appear to be before us today?

My right hon. Friend is a former Chief Whip with considerable experience of these matters. I hope that I am right in saying that I expect that the Government Whip will shortly move the Adjournment of the House and the debate on Rio will take place on that motion until 10 pm—at which point the motion to allow further debate of the Maastricht Bill will not be moved and the Adjournment will again be moved so that the debate to which my right hon. Friend refers can take place.

Whatever view one takes of the issue, I am sure that the Government were right to defer debate on the Committee stage to a later date. That gives everyone a chance to take stock.

There is some prospect of the Foreign Secretary engaging in some quick negotiations with some of his counterparts in Europe, and he may be in a position to make a statement on Friday, so will the right hon. Gentleman encourage him in that and ensure that the facility to do so is provided?

Will the Leader of the House take to heart the fact that as the debate on Rio today takes the form of an Adjournment debate, so that the issue is unamendable and will not be voted on, we shall need an opportunity later for proper debate on a substantive motion which could be amended and voted on?

The hon. Gentleman's last point should be considered once we know the outcome of the Rio summit and have heard the statement that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will doubtless want to make on it.

One advantage of a debate taking place on a motion for the Adjournment is that it enables hon. Members to range widely; it is not excessively restrictive in terms of the negotiating position that the Government will need to adopt at Rio.

I have forgotten the hon. Gentleman's second point—

I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will seek to inform the House of the conclusions of the meeting at Oslo at the earliest possible opportunity.

So as to remain in order, the Leader of the House said that he would make his normal business statement on Thursday. I remind him of the Procedure Committee recommendations about the business statement. The House seemed to agree that, as far as possible, the Leader of the House should announce business for two weeks rather than one. If my right hon. Friend could move in that direction, he would become even more popular.

That sounds like a rather ingenious way round one of your earlier observations, Madam Speaker. My respect for my hon. Friend is such that even in those circumstances I am prepared at least to take note of what he has said.

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his response to the question about Maxwell pensioners? Is he aware that many thousands of Maxwell pensioners are facing severe financial and physical hardship? Is he further aware that those pensioners are getting ministerial views on the matter from the newspapers? Does he not think that it would be better for Ministers to make a statement tomorrow about the position of those pensioners?

I cannot add to what I said in response to the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). Obviously the Government are aware of the concern about this matter.

I welcome the statement about a debate on Mauritius, which occupies most of my waking thoughts. I hope that during the debate we shall deal with the problems that Mauritius may have about referendums. There is a distinct resemblance between the referendum in Denmark and a Mauritius referendum and it strikes me—it is only a thought—that the Danish Government might ignore the result of the referendum or have a replay in the hope of reversing the decision. I trust that the same thing would not happen in Mauritius.

Given that the purpose of the Mauritius Republic Bill is to provide for the consequential effects of Mauritius not only being independent but being a republic, I shall not attempt to use this occasion to tell the Government of the Mauritius Republic how to conduct its affairs; nor do I intend to seek to add to what the Prime Minister said about the decision in Denmark being a matter for the Danish Government and people.

Would the Leader of the House reconsider his business statement for today and tomorrow and find time for a discussion of early-day motion 82 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell)?

[That this House condemns the Government for pursuing policies that have led to an emerging crisis in National Health Service dentistry; notes the increasing difficulties experienced in many parts of the country in obtaining registration as National Health Service dental patients because of the growing number of dentists that have been driven to withdraw National Health dental services through a deliberate policy of underpricing the new dental contract; warns that further and rapid deterioration will take place if the Government fulfils its intention of cutting dental fees further; condemns the pursuit of a backdoor policy of privatisation of dentistry through underfunding and higher patient charges; and commends the General Dental Practitioners Association for drawing this serious situation to the nation's attention.]

Many dentists in my constituency—

Order. I regret to call the hon. Gentleman to order. I know that he is a new Member, and I am trying to be helpful. That is the type of business question to put to the Leader of the House on Thursdays during normal business questions. The hon. Gentleman has had a good try. I hope that he will attempt to catch my eye on another occasion.

In relation to the business that has been announced for tomorrow, does my right hon. Friend recall that 10 days ago, when we discussed the business for this week, the shadow Leader of the House said that he wanted a debate on Maxwell? I supported that call for a debate and said that in the previous Parliament the Opposition had not called for such a debate.

Order. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The hon. Gentleman must come to order and ask a question about the business today or tomorrow, and he must be precise.

I am trying to clarify the situation. When I left the Chamber at the end of business questions last time, I was unfairly and incorrectly criticised by the shadow Leader of the House. [Interruption.]

Order. I am prepared to hear the hon. Gentleman if he has a precise question to put to the Leader of the House about the business for today or tomorrow.

Order. I will take no points of order until we have finished questions. If the hon. Gentleman has a question to put to the Leader of the House, I am prepared to hear it.