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Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Volume 226: debated on Wednesday 16 June 1993

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Resident Diplomats


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the value of locally resident diplomatic representation.

Our diplomatic representatives provide access and influence in order to further the United Kingdom's interests in the political, commercial, economic and other fields. They enhance the security and prosperity of this country and provide a wide-ranging service to British citizens abroad.

Following the successful development of co-ordination between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in supporting British exporters, would not it be extremely unfortunate and counter-productive to reduce the number of our missions abroad, particularly when we are having to put such effort into increasing British exports?

It is increasingly clear to those who follow these matters that diplomacy, the work that I have just described, and trade promotion are intertwined and that, in more and more of our markets, Governments set the rules and, in many cases, award the contracts, so orders are not obtained without knowing the politics and the politicians—and that is not achieved with a fax machine.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that British businesses and expatriates in Nigeria need the protection of the Nigerian high commission under the excellent leadership of Sir Christopher MacRae? I hope that that praise will not prejudice Sir Christopher's career prospects. One of the commission's officials accompanied four Members of Parliament to observe the presidential elections on Saturday, the results of which I hope will be upheld as they were, by and large, free and fair.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend— [Interruption.]—the hon. Gentleman. He was so polite that my tongue slipped. That exercise went well and I am glad that the high commission was able to give some help. Nigeria will remain a huge market. It illustrates the point that I have just made. During the past year, British exports have increased by 22 per cent. and I hope that a smooth movement back to civilian rule will help them, too.

Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that probably the most important diplomatic representatives that Britain has abroad at this difficult time in international affairs is our permanent representative at the United Nations? Will he take this opportunity to pay tribute to Sir David Hannay for the work that he does and confirm that it is extremely important that the United Kingdom retains its seat as a permanent member of the Security Council?

That is our intention. Sir David Hannay sets a vigorous lead in all that he does at the United Nations.

Is not the Secretary of State being a little economical with the facts in his answer? Is not it true that not only are the number of missions being cut but the Treasury has instructed the Foreign Office to cut the number of staff in embassies? In some important embassies —for instance, in north America—the number of staff dealing with trade and exports is being cut, while staff who deal with media and presentation are being retained. Is not that another example of the Government's policy of being all presentation and no substance?

I have had no instructions from the Treasury in these matters. We are just entering discussions on the public expenditure round. We have had to open posts in many of the 20 new countries that have come into being in the past two or three years and that has meant retrenching in other places. This is a matter of setting priorities.

I accept that it is necessary to have as comprehensive a representation around the world as possible, for the excellent growth reasons which were given by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) and reinforced by my right hon. Friend's answer. Does not my right hon. Friend agree, however, that it is better to concentrate rather more on farther-flung places than on the EEC? In that context, will he reconsider the withdrawal of British defence attachées from Quito and Manila who play an important role in addition to the commercially and locally recruited personnel?

Defence attaches are not a matter for me, but we do review the size of staff at bigger embassies. In the past few years, we have cut the size of staff by seven in Paris, six in Bonn and 17 in Washington. Diplomacy inside the Community is crucial. For example, our representatives in Community posts are currently preparing for the Copenhagen summit—warding off developments that we would not like and encouraging developments that we do like. That exercise is important for the summit's success.

East Timor


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to protect human rights in East Timor.

Together with our European Community partners and bilaterally, we maintain a regular dialogue on human rights with the Indonesian authorities and raise particular issues— including East Timor—with them as necessary. European Community partners co-sponsored a resolution on East Timor at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva earlier this year.

Fine words, but since the invasion and occupation of East Timor in 1979, one in three of its population has died and Indonesia has been in breach of two Security Council resolutions and eight General Assembly resolutions. Is not it wholly unacceptable for the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence to visit Indonesia and to give both political and material support to a regime whose record is on a par with that of Pol Pot in Cambodia?

Neither my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence nor my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has visited East Timor. Maintaining good relations with Indonesia, which is the chairman of the non-aligned movement and an important member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, is much the best way of increasing its observance of human rights.

Whatever may have been Indonesia's human rights record over the years, it has improved a great deal—but instead of the regime being given credit for that, wildly exaggerated attacks are made by Opposition Members. Instead of indulging in the wild exaggeration that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), would not the interests of the people of Indonesia and of this country be better served if the regime were given credit for the real steps that it is taking to improve the situation?

My hon. Friend makes some extremely valid points. As I said, our best chance of helping to improve human rights in Indonesia and for many in East Timor is through the processes that we undertake.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has held in the Foreign Affairs Council concerning Angola.

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

Angola was discussed at the Development Council on 25 May.

I am sure that the Minister is well aware that more than 1 million Angolans have been displaced as a result of the war in that country and that the Angolan Government have bent over backwards to bring Dr. Savimbi into the Government, yet he continues to terrorise Angola in the way that the former Yugoslavia is being terrorised. Will the Minister, with all possible haste and urgency, stress on the Council the need for a course of immediate action to assist the Angolan Government—possibly involving the four other Lusophone countries?

I join the hon. Gentleman in condemning UN1TA's action in rejecting the result of the election last September, which was judged by the United Nations special representative, Miss Margaret Anstee, as being generally free and fair. I give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that the European Council will discuss at next week's meeting in Copenhagen the problems of Angola, which are firmly on the agenda.

Will the Minister be a little forthcoming? Since last year's elections, upwards of 20,000 people have been killed and—as my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) said, more than 1 million have lost their homes. The situation in Angola poses a real threat to the international community as well as being a tragedy for Angola's people. Does the Minister acknowledge that UNITA is in breach of Security Council resolution 785, which clearly states that any party that fails to abide by the peace agreement will be rejected and isolated by the international community? What steps is he taking through the international community to ensure that UNITA is diplomatically and militarily isolated?

Clearly, the hon. Gentleman is right. We must all put pressure on UNITA, and this afternoon the House is providing the opportunity to do precisely that. The fact remains, however, that a resolution of the problems in Angola must involve a dialogue between UNITA and the Angolan Government. There is no other way in which peace can be brought to end the dreadful problem.

Exports Promotion


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how his Department contributes to promotion of British exports overseas.

The overseas trade services jointly provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Trade and Industry offer a comprehensive range of expert advice and support to British exporters through commercial sections in 196 posts world wide.

Bearing in mind the Government's declared support for a major export drive, which must be sustained to ensure continuing recovery, and the apparent lack of interest shown in the subject by the Opposition —when only one of their members was able to attend a full-scale debate on the subject on 21 May—will my right hon. Friend assure the House that sufficient priority, expertise and resources will be given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to posts overseas to meet the export challenge?

British exporters have told us unequivocally, and in public, that they value highly the commercial work which is undertaken by the diplomatic service and to which my hon. Friend alludes so graphically and accurately. That is, of course, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's largest single activity overseas. It is our aim to ensure that the service continues to have the resources necessary to enable heads of mission and their staff to maintain their commercially proactive role and to meet the demands made on them by exporters, directly and via the enhanced overseas trade services in this country.

How many embassies use their own property to entertain or to present exhibitions of British manufacturing and exporters' interests, as happened quite successfully a few years ago in Paris?

I think that practically all of them carry out those functions. The British embassy in Paris is using its premises to launch the new Rover model this year. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is an extremely important use for our overseas estate.

Would my right hon. Friend be willing to carry out a special inquiry into the failure of his Department and other agencies to match exports to the European Community with imports? Will he bear it very much in mind that this month we have broken the barrier of the £1 billion deficit since our membership? Is not that a chronic failure which is doing great damage to the l3ritish economy and to jobs and prosperity?

The export services to which I referred have made an enormous contribution to ensuring that our exports to the European Community have been as healthy as they have.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the implementation of Security Council resolution 808 on a war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

United Nations Security Council resolution 827, which was adopted unanimously on 25 May, gave effect to the earlier decision in the resolution referred to in the question—808—to establish an international tribunal for former Yugoslavia. The latest resolution asks the Secretary-General to make practical arrangements for the effective functioning of the tribunal as soon as possible. We support that.

What further practical measures will the Government take to support the work of the war crimes tribunal? In particular, might any person convicted of war crimes by the tribunal eventually be detained in British gaols? Will the right hon Gentleman also confirm that the jurisdiction of the war crimes tribunal will apply to everyone within the territories of the former Yugoslavia, including the military and civilian leaders of all the warring groups in that country?

The answer to the last question is yes, and the answer to the second question about British prisons is that I do not believe that we are likely to make such an offer. However, we shall support the Secretary-General in establishing the three chambers of the tribunal and working out where they should sit, which I hope and think will be in The Hague. We shall also give him general support.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the support that the British Government have given to resolution 827 and to the measures that preceded it, which have led to the establishment of the tribunal. Is he aware that the nature of the evidence that could be presented against any potential defendant is likely to be driven by witnesses rather than by a paper chase through the archives and that it is therefore essential for a special prosecutor to be established as quickly as possible, so that the evidence that could be presented to a court is not lost through further delay? Will my right hon. Friend support the Secretary-General if he chooses to accept the advice given to him by nearly every member of the United Nations and recommends Professor Cherif Bassiouni as the special prosecutor? My right hon. Friend will recall that I took Professor Bassiouni to see my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State at the Foreign Office a fortnight ago.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his expert interest in the matter. I will pursue his point about the individual, and I agree that it is necessary to establish a special prosecutor as soon as possible. Meanwhile, as my hon. Friend certainly knows, there is already a commission of experts siting evidence, and that will continue at least until a special prosecutor is established.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that if, despite what he has told the House, those who have been responsible for the terrible crimes against humanity in former Yugoslavia are not brought to justice, that will encourage the continuation of such crimes and atrocities time and again? Does he also accept that the framework established at Nuremburg after the second world war is a good framework within which to try people held responsible for such crimes against humanity?

We now have a new framework, and it is for the Secretary-General to fill in the details. That will not be easy for him, and the House should not underestimate the difficulties, but the reason for the exercise is that which the hon. Gentleman stated in the first part of his question.

Middle East


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in the search for a peace settlement in the middle east.

Another round of bilateral negotiations between the parties is beginning in Washington this week. There were some encouraging signs at the end of the last round in May that the Israelis and Palestinians were beginning to discuss detail and substance. We continue to urge all parties to work for further progress.

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the Arab states are holding up the search for peace by refusing to accede to his request at the Group of Seven conference in London that they stop the iniquitous Arab trade boycott? As the Government's attitude was that if there were a consensus for Community legislation, we should not oppose that and, as France, Holland and Germany have now initiated legislation against the boycott, will my right hon. Friend kindly consider taking more active steps to stop companies such as ICI cravenly obeying the boycott?

I do not think that the experience of national legislation in other countries suggests that it has a powerful effect. It is largely declaratory and is difficult to enforce, so our course is the right one. Rather than legislating in this country, we seek to urge the Arabs to wind up the boycott. There has been some progress in the Gulf countries in that respect, as my hon. Friend knows —not enough progress, but the Kuwaitis, for example, have reportedly announced the abandonment of the application of the boycott to third countries. We will pursue the matter. The boycott is not the only obstacle to peace, but it is one.

I am sure that the Secretary of State would agree that the greatest obstacle to peace at the moment is the weight of the occupation on the Palestinian population now locked up in Gaza and the west bank as a result of decisions by the Israeli Government. It does not really help to talk about a trade boycott when the producers in Gaza and the west bank cannot sell what they produce in their factories or on their land. If the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) really wanted to help, he would urge that those barriers, and some of the other repressive measures currently "enjoyed" by—or rather, pressed on—the Palestinians, be lifted. That would be a significant boost to the peace talks.

I sometimes think that it would be an excellent thing if people such as the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), who favour the Palestinian cause, would occasionally condemn the boycott, and people such as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton, who usually put questions from the other point of view, would urge the Israelis to do something to ease the burdens of the occupation. If the partisans—or rather, as that is a pejorative word, the advocates—of each cause occasionally used their influence and talents to urge better action on those whom they generally support, we might make more progress. Both those steps are needed.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that two of the barriers to peace in the middle east are the refusal of Arab states to recognise Israel and the refusal of the Arab captors to release Israeli hostages who have been held for many years, such as Ron Arad?

That is another fair point, but it needs to be balanced by the handling of the deportee question by the Israeli Government. The Arab countries that are still technically at war with Israel are not far off negotiating a change, but I doubt whether they will conclude peace with Israel until there is a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That is the most difficult aspect of those negotiations, but it can be helped by confidence-building measures, such as an end to the Arab boycott and the easing of the conditions of occupation.

The Foreign Secretary is right to urge people to play the role of forming a bridge in the difficult negotiations for peace in the middle east, Israel and the occupied territories. I certainly support him in that appeal. Since Britain has a somewhat peripheral role in those matters, may I urge the right hon. Gentleman to make it clear to the United States of America that it, too, should be evenhanded in the conduct of the current peace talks in Washington? Is not it rather depressing that the talks have recommenced on the basis of bilateral discussions rather than all the parties being around the table together? Has the right hon. Gentleman received any approaches from the Israeli Government or the Palestinians, either directly or through the European Community, for Europe to play a part in the economic reconstruction and rehabilitation of the occupied territories; if so, what response has been made? If the right hon. Gentleman has had such an approach, will he seek an initiative of that nature?

We take a part, through the Community, in the multilateral side of the negotiations, which is precisely concerned with matters such as water and economic development.

On the right hon. Gentleman's first point, there have to be bilateral negotiations between Arab countries and Israel, between Palestine and Israel and so forth. We had a good run through the subject with the American Secretary of State in Luxembourg last week and I believe that the United States Administration are pressing ahead with the negotiations in the right way.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in his insistence on the need for evenhandedness, but does he agree that evenhandedness has not been achieved under the Arab boycott, because at the 1991 conference the issue of the boycott was linked to the issue of Israel freezing settlements? Although Israel has made progress on that, substantial equivalent progress has not been made on the Arab side.

There has been progress in ending settlements. My hon. Friend chose his word rightly—it is progress, not an end to the building of settlements, which are still going up in some places. We believe that that should be ended and the occupation eased. Equally, we shall continue to press hard for an ending of the Arab boycott.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about British relations with Cuba.

Relations with Cuba are correct.

The Under-Secretary of State was good enough to give me an encouraging answer to a written question on the subject on 27 April, at column 363, in which he said that the American boycott of trade with Cuba would not have any practical effect on British emergency aid to Cuba. Will the Government take that a step further? They will know that the combination of severe storms and the American blockade is causing severe distress in Cuba. They may not know that Cuban schools and colleges are pleading with Britain for books in English and for other educational aids. Will the Government use their good offices to pressurise the American Government to lift what the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir 1. Lawrence) called an iniquitous trade boycott?

We gave some emergency aid to Cuba earlier this year following the storms and the delivery of that aid was not hindered in any practical way by the United States embargo. The Cuban economy is on the verge of ruin not because of the American embargo but because of 30 years of imposed state communism.

My hon. Friend must accept that that is not good enough. The Government must strive to establish and maintain more open and fruitful relations with countries such as Cuba and North Korea, so that more people may be made aware of the glowing achievements of those remaining—although admittedly beleaguered—beacons of socialism and central planning. Would not that at least make more people aware that, although free market systems may not be perfect, they are a hell of a lot less imperfect than the central planning and socialism in countries such as Cuba?

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. Cuba provides a laboratory example of a socialist state gone wrong. We maintain diplomatic and trading links with Cuba, but our relations can improve only if the Cubans hold free and fair elections and respect human rights.

Western Sahara


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the UN concerning the preparations for a referendum on the future of Western Sahara.

We maintain regular contact with the United Nations Secretary-General through our permanent representative concerning the implementation of the UN settlement plan.

Is the Minister aware that, for a long time, the Sahrawi people have been denied the right to live peacefully on their own land? Methods employed by the Moroccan Government in attempting to impose an electorate in advance of a UN-sponsored referendum would guarantee an outcome favourable to King Hassan. Is not it time for this country and others to stand up in support of UN resolutions 658 and 690 to ensure that the Sahrawi people get a free and unfettered voice in a referendum and not one dominated by the Moroccan military? Failure to do so will lead to a reopening of hostilities, a terrible loss of life and a further blow to the prestige of the UN. Will the Government act to ensure that those people have a free voice?

We very much wish to see the referendum take place. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the UN Secretary-General has just visited Morocco and Western Sahara and we are awaiting his report which is expected in the next few weeks. We believe that he will address the resolution of some of the problems of representation in the referendum. I expect that the Government will he supporting the Secretary-General when we have read the terms of his report.

Does the Minister agree that there have at least been some tentative signs of compromise between the Polisario and the Moroccan Government? Should not we, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, encourage that and, for that reason, will the Foreign Office lift the ban on Ministers meeting the Polisario? We were late to do so in the cases of the African National Congress and the Palestine Liberation Organisation—let us not be too late again.

The way forward is to support the Secretary-General. The Polisario and the Moroccan representative will be in Vienna during the world human rights conference and will be meeting the Secretary-General. Our best contact with the Polisario is in that way rather than by ministerial contact, because we shall be supporting the Secretary-General's recommendations.

Why are the Government in favour of a referendum in Africa but not in Great Britain?

My hon. Friend knows full well that the situation in the Western Sahara is compeletely different. It involves the resolution of an ancient problem in which we wish to see the representation of people who have no Parliament.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had about the situation in Kashmir; and if he will make a statement.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Indian Government on the present position in Kashmir; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs most recently discussed Kashmir with the Indian Vice-President on 25 May during his visit to London.

More than 20,000 Kashmiris have been killed and thousands more imprisoned and tortured by Indian forces over the past three years. Will the Government use their influence, particularly through the Commonwealth and the United Nations, to try to get the Indian and Pakistani Governments to reach an agreement whereby more respect is given to the human rights of the people of Kashmir? That agreement could also give the Kashmiri people the right to self-determination, leading possibly to the establishment of an independent state of Kashmir if that is what the people want.

I can certainly agree that the resolution of that ancient and difficult problem must require dialogue between India and the Pakistan Government—that we urge. We wish to be as helpful as we can. We have certainly made it absolutely clear to the Indians that we are concerned about human rights. In fact, the Indians have initiated legislation to set up an independent human rights commission. But the way forward must be by dialogue between the two factions.

The Minister referred to a meeting. What was the response of the Indian Minister to allowing an all-party group of hon. Members to visit the occupied area of Kashmir? In view of the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Mr. Cunningham), will the Minister give an indication of what progress the Prime Minister is making? In a letter to me in April, he clearly indicated that he would welcome Kashmir being on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Cyprus later this year, because Pakistan and India would be at that conference.

As for visiting Kashmir, the hon. Gentleman must take up his case with the Indian high commissioner. For my part, I believe that it is helpful that there should be visits to that part of the world. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised the problems of Kashmir with the Indian Prime Minister in January and with the Indian Vice-President when he visited Britain in May. My right hon. Friend made his views quite clear on both occasions and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I do so as well.

My hon. Friend will know that there is great concern among hon. Members about human rights in Indian-held Kashmir. Will he confirm that the solution to that long-standing problem must arise from negotiations between the two countries concerned, India and Pakistan, under the Simla agreement? Will he continue to bring to the attention of those countries, in particular India, our concern about human rights and the fact that the United Kingdom will be available to help both countries should they so wish such assistance?

Should both countries seek our support, we will always be willing and ready to give it. An important point that should be made when discussing the human rights problem in Kashmir is that the criticism that is expressed in the House is often mirrored—indeed initiated—by criticism in the Indian Parliament, from the Indian press and, of course, from Indian human rights organisations, all of which express their concern as well.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Simla agreement which India and Pakistan signed involves a commitment to start talking about Kashmir, which unfortunately at present the Indian Government appear to be unwilling to commit themselves to doing? Will my hon. Friend use every opportunity to reiterate to the Indian Government that it is unreasonable to exclude from Jammu and Kashmir independent observers such as British Members of Parliament and representatives of Amnesty International and that, short of such acceptance of independent visitors, India's reputation for human rights must be subject to the deepest scrutiny?

My hon. Friend has expressed his opinion. Obviously, contact between the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistan Prime Minister is highly desirable. They last met at the non-aligned summit in Dhaka in April this year and I hope that they will have future meetings.

Will the Minister press the Indian Government to publish the names of the 52,000 people held in India, including Kashmir, without trial? Will he also advise his counterparts at the Home Office that, in view of India's appalling human rights record and the numbers held in detention without trial, now is not the time to invite the British House of Commons to pass orders approving the extradition treaty between Britain and India?

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we should not have proper arrangements for the extradition of terrorist offenders. There will be the usual safeguards in the extradition treaty provisions which are presented to the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The person in question will have to be brought before Bow Street magistrates court. The court must be satisfied that he will not be prejudiced because of his political opinions. The Home Secretary makes the final decision, which is subject to judicial review. Therefore, there is a great deal of protection for anyone who is brought into the proceedings.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with Mr. Slobodan Milosevic regarding Bosnia.

I have had no discussion with President Milosevic on Bosnia since the London conference in August 1992. However, we ensure that he is kept fully abreast of our views.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning the vicious and brutal attack ordered by Mr. Milosevic on the Serbian opposition leader, Mr. Vuk Draskovic, during the anti-Government demonstrations in Belgrade? Is he aware that there is serious concern about the health of Mr. Draskovic, who is now in prison? He has suffered a broken jaw and a broken arm and has serious head injuries and he can neither walk nor speak. I urge my right hon. Friend to seek his immediate release. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is another example of the loathsome character of Mr. Milosevic, who seeks to promote ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and another example of a fascist dictator?

The Prime Minister, responding to the sort of anxiety expressed by my hon. Friend, sent a strong message to President Milosevic impressing on him the need for the release of Mr. Draskovic and his wife and for them to be given full access to visitors and medical treatment in the meantime. My hon. Friend is right—this is a cruel step backwards in the wrong direction so far as Serbia is concerned.

In any future conversations with this leading war criminal Milosevic, what will the right hon. Gentleman suggest as to the practicality of the restoration of the territorial integrity of Bosnia, which has clearly been abandoned in the Washington agreement to which he shamefully put his name and that of this country?

The hon. Gentleman cannot have read the agreement as it specifically refers to the need for Serb withdrawal from the territories that they have seized.

In view of the increasingly dangerous situation in Bosnia, will my right hon. Friend ensure that British troops are withdrawn if circumstances become so impossible that they are unable to carry on with their humanitarian aid?

Yes. At the moment, our troops, as well as French, Spanish and other troops in different parts of Bosnia, are helping to keep people alive in two ways: by escorting convoys which continue to deliver supplies and, by their presence, averting the sort of massacre that would probably follow if they were withdrawn. So long as that is true and there is no undue risk to them, they should stay. But my hon. Friend is right—if the situation deteriorated further to the point at which we and others felt that the risk had become undue, they would have to be withdrawn. The steps that the Ministry of Defence announced last week to the House were formulated in that context.

Is not the Washington agreement on Bosnia deeply flawed? Did not it give, intentionally or otherwise, a clear signal to the Serbs that their aggression would be rewarded with extra territory? Has not President Milosevic been emboldened by continuing weakness on the part of the European Community and did not that result in the imprisonment and torture of Mr. Draskovic and his wife Danica? Is not it time for the European Community and our other allies to say once and for all that we will take whatever action is required to ensure that the decisions of the Security Council of the United Nations and the Community are upheld in Bosnia?

The advice "Something must be done" is the least useful that can be given in these circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman paraphrased that advice and made it a bit longer. but that is really what he said. The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) alleged that the Washington statement accepted Serb aggression. I pointed out that that was not so. The pressures for reversing that aggression are political, economic and financial. Those who believe that it would be right to send our troops and other troops to enforce a military solution should say so, not take refuge in the sort of rhetoric which is an obstacle to reality.

Nato Information Budget


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the current United Kingdom contribution to the NATO information budget; and if he will make a statement.

The information budget of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for this year amounts to about £4 million, of which the United Kingdom contributes 18 per cent.—currently about £750,000.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is clear that, despite the ending of the cold war, NATO has a continuing, perhaps increasing, role? What is being done to explain that role more widely?

I agree that NATO is a successful collective security pact and we shall not throw it away in what is still a dangerous world. Its role is changing following the end of the cold war. It is developing a new role and it is important that it should explain that role to the public, not just in this country, but in the former Warsaw pact countries, which are keen that the stability that we have enjoyed in western Europe under NATO should be extended to them.

Was not NATO established because of an alleged threat from the east, led by the Soviet Union? Now that that threat has disappeared, even among Tory imaginations, is not it time that we abandoned the massive expenditure on NATO and worked towards its break-up to equate with the ending of the Warsaw pact? Surely that would be a step towards peace. To maintain NATO on the ridiculous presumption that there is some danger somewhere is a waste of money and the maintenance of a useless and outdated empire.

That threat to western Europe was real, even if the dinosaurs on the Labour Benches never recognised it. As I said in my first response, NATO's role is changing and there are opportunities for NATO troops to help with peacekeeping operations. We have seen NATO planes enforcing the no-fly zone in Bosnia. Just because the cold war has ended does not mean that NATO's role is less important.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to consider legislation passed since 1986 for possible amendment or repeal on the grounds of subsidiarity and unsuitability for the United Kingdom, after the Brussels European Council of December 1993.

We are discussing with the Commission and member states action to ensure that subsidiarity is made to work in practice and that legislation is amended or repealed where necessary. The Commission has been instructed to present the outcome of its review on the subject at Brussels in December.

Will my hon. Friend undertake to double and redouble his efforts to apply subsidiarity not only prospectively but retrospectively after the Brussels summit? If he finds difficulty in applying the principle retrospectively because there is no mechanism to do so, will my hon. Friend work with his European colleagues to try to find such a mechanism?

As a matter of law, the subsidiarity clause in the Maastricht treaty is not retrospective—the House respects that principle in its own legislation. But the Edinburgh Council agreed that the Commission should examine existing legislation with a view to amending or repealing it if it conflicted with the principle of subsidiarity or minimum interference, as it should perhaps be called. As a Government, we are looking at the European statute book with the same end in mind.

If the Government like what the European Community is doing they say that it is in line with the principle of subsidiarity. If they dislike what is being done they claim that it contravenes the principle of subsidiarity and that matters should be determined at national level. Therefore, the principle means anything that anybody wants it to. Would not it be better to have greater control over the activities of the Council of Ministers, which is supposed to decide whether subsidiary operates? It would help the House if the voting records of the Council of Ministers were systematically printed in Hansard when reports are made of Council meetings. In response to me, the Prime Minister said that that would be done, but it is not being done. Can we ensure that all Departments act on that issue in future? In fact, there are never any votes taken in Council meetings because, even when matters are to be decided by qualified majority voting, they are always passed on the nod.

The principle of subsidiarity applies to all the institutions of the EC—not just to the Commission and the Parliament, but to the Council of Ministers. Under Maastricht, it will be a legally binding principle, ultimately 'enforceable at law. But in order to make it a binding principle we first need to ratify the treaty. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would assist us with that process.

Is my hon. Friend aware that we welcome his cautious approach as outlined in response to the original question? As the 1986 legislation was mostly to do with the implementation of the single market, based on majority voting, and pursued for the most part by this Government, the question of subsidiarity did not arise as much as people might now think. Does he agree that the amount of legislation coming from the Commission is in any case much less than hitherto?

Even before the treaty has been ratified the Commission is respecting the principle of subsidiarity. That has led to a noticeable reduction in the number of instruments that it proposes. But we are also anxious to look back at existing legislation because, despite what my hon. Friend says, there have been some breaches of the principle in that legislation and we wish to amend or appeal it as appropriate.

May I take this opportunity of welcoming the new Minister to the Dispatch Box? He is the 24th Foreign Office Minister whom I have sat opposite, so I advise him not to get too comfortable or he will go the same way as the rest of them did.

Does not the distinct smell of deceit and hypocrisy come from the Government when they talk about subsidiarity, openness and transparency? What they champion is usually the precise opposite of what they practise. For instance, why, last week, did the new Minister go along with the deliberate decision by the Council of Ministers not to publish voting figures for Council meetings? That was not only in breach of what my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) was told in a parliamentary answer, but in direct breach of what the Danish people were told. This new Minister actually proposed that the European ombudsman should not have access to correspondence between the Council of Ministers and the European Commission, thereby undermining the principle of openness.

Is not it a fact that the Minister, who was the Deputy Chief Whip, is taking into Europe the same old bad habits of that secret society, the Tory Whips Office, when what the people of Europe want is an open, accountable Community?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind welcome. I was indeed privileged to be in the Whips Office for the past year, where I tried to rescue the Maastricht treaty from the political manoeuvrings of the hon. Gentleman—culminating in that heroic abstention on Third Reading.

I entirely reject the idea that the Government take the view that proceedings should be anything less than open and helpful. The hon. Gentleman entirely misunderstands what happened last week in Luxembourg. We said, and we received support from all other member states, that the powers of the future European ombudsman should, in this respect, be the same as those of our own ombudsman—powers which work well in respect of access to secret and confidential documents.

It was a matter of great regret that the European Parliament used that excuse not to agree to extend the subsidiarity principle to its own proceedings.



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

We gave full support to the admission of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia to the United Nations on 8 April, thereby implicitly recognising the country as an independent foreign state. We now have a British presence in Skopje. I visited the country on 4 June and held talks with President Gligorov and acting Foreign Minister Crvenkovski.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he join me in welcoming the reported decision by the United States to deploy American troops on the frontiers between Macedonia and her neighbours to try to prevent border incursions? Does he agree that it might be a good idea if one or two European countries that have declined to contribute their troops to the humanitarian effort in Bosnia and have instead chosen to carp from the sidelines considered following that American example?

The Americans were following the European example in this respect. A Nordic battalion—Swedes, Norwegians and, I think, Finns and Danes—is already established in Macedonia. I hope that the mandates of both the Scandinavians and the Americans now joining can be interpreted or enlarged in such a way that they will be able to help the Macedonians to enforce sanctions. There is no doubt that the main breach of sanctions is now taking place through Macedonia. For the reasons that have already been discussed, it is extremely important that the economic and financial pressures on Serbia should be made effective.

Will the Foreign Secretary, in his discussions with all the people concerned with these matters, remind them that they had better not take a blind bit of notice of what the Liberal Democrats and their leader say on the subject? Three months ago the leader of the Liberal Democrats wanted to bomb the hell out of Serbia and to send in more troops, yet, to a thin House last Friday morning, he said that the troops should be pulled out.

I have read in Hansard the hon. Gentleman's remarks about what the leader of the Liberal Democratic party said last Friday and I agree with them. Will he please continue to monitor the right hon. Gentleman?

While we must all hope that the bloodshed in Bosnia will not spill over into Macedonia, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether Her Majesty's Government will ensure that we do not see in Macedonia a repetition of the declaration of safe havens which has been so disastrous in the case of Bosnia, where there was no evident United Nations determination to deploy forces to make areas safe? Have not these safe havens been just a cruel deception, which has undermined the authority of the United Nations?

Safe havens are an attempt to save people's lives. We started with humanitarian convoys. Then we moved on, despite considerable scepticism. Some European countries provided troops to escort the convoys and enable them to get through. We are seeking to move to the stage of making places safe, but that depends on a Security Council resolution—there is such a resolution—on a degree of local agreement and on the provision of more troops. What is necessary cannot be done without more troops. We are doing our bit, as are the French. Success relies on more countries coming forward in response to the Secretary-General's appeal and some countries are coming forward. Some Scandinavian countries are responding and the Secretary-General is now putting the list together. The greater the number of troops that can be brought in, the safer the areas will become and the more likely it will be that some reality will emerge from the rhetoric of which my hon. Friend complains.

Does the Secretary of State realise how ironic it is that he should be talking about Macedonia in the same terms as about Bosnia? We recognise Bosnia. Is not everyone worried that when Croatia and Serbia have carved up Bosnia, they will turn to other targets? The shame that we shall have to wade through will be similar to what we have done in Bosnia and what is happening in Croatia. In fact, we may find ourselves throwing paper at the antagonists, as the right hon. Gentleman says has been done in the case of the Washington agreement. We should be talking about putting together a peace-making force to guarantee Macedonia's boarders. At the moment, all that we have is a few troops from a few countries.

The position in Macedonia is different. The hon. Gentleman will agree that the great majority—about 90 per cent.—of those fighting in Bosnia are Bosnians. They are helped and encouraged from outside, particularly from Serbia. There is no substantial Serb minority in Macedonia.

However, the hon. Gentleman is the only one I have heard who is in favour of sending a military expedition into Bosnia to impose a solution. I respect the honesty of his views, although I do not share them.

Hong Kong


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Hong Kong to discuss Sino-British relations; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has at present no plans to do so, but I visited Hong Kong from 29 May to I June. Talks are continuing between Britain and China on electoral arrangements in Hong Kong. We are working for an early and successful conclusion in time for us to hold elections in Hong Kong in 1994 and 1995 which are fair, open and acceptable to the people of Hong Kong.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that pushing ahead with the new airport in Hong Kong is crucial to maintaining confidence for the future there, especially among the commercial community? Can he give some hope of progress in the relatively near future in the discussions with the Chinese authorities about the financing arrangements for that airport?

My hon. Friend is correct: everybody agrees that Hong Kong needs a new airport if it is to remain an international trade and financial centre. We have done our best to take account of Chinese problems with financing arrangements and further discussions on those arrangements are taking place. I hope that they will lead to an agreement. Our view remains that if the problems were dealt with on their merits they could be quickly solved and that would certainly be a great boost to confidence. In the meantime, we are maintaining momentum on the airport to avoid expensive cost increases and slippages.

Does the Minister envisage any circumstances in which the Government might renege on the 1997 agreement to withdraw from Hong Kong?