HC Deb 02 February 1977 vol 925 cc542-3
35. Sir B. Rhys Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations he will hold with Foreign Ministers of other European Community countries to prepare for the Belgrade meeting to assess the consequences of the Helsinki Agreement.

Dr. Owen

Foreign Ministers of the Nine met in the political co-operation framework on 31st January and preparations for the Belgrade review meetings of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe were fully discussed. The Foreign Ministers of the Nine reaffirmed their intention to maintain the closest co-operation in preparing positions for Belgrade and noted the need for intensifying consultations in the months immediately ahead.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

In thanking the Foreign Secretary for his important answer to the previous Question and the Minister of State for what he has just said, and bearing in mind that the free movement of people and the exchange of ideas is central to the British tradition and that of our partners in the Community, may I ask the Government to seek to discuss the possibility not only of speaking at Belgrade with a united voice but of imposing effective sanctions in particular cases when the British public are troubled by details of the persecution of minority racial groups and dissident voices under Communist régimes?

Dr. Owen

We take this issue very seriously. That is why we are trying to co-ordinate an approach within the Nine. We held discussions in the Council of Europe last week to try to ensure that, as far as possible, 19 voices speak with a common purpose on these issues.

Mr. Greville Janner

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the 19 voices will back up and emphasise the condemnation by President Carter of the persecution of Andrei Sakharov, his view representing that of all of us?

Dr. Owen

As my right hon. Friend made clear, this issue requires considerable discussion to get a unified voice. We need to take account of all the differing views which are coming from some of the people who are currently representing the views of the human rights movements in Eastern European countries.

Mr. Churchill

Are the Government capable of differentiating between totalitarian Governments who seek to deny human rights only to their own people and the Government of the Soviet Union, who have as their avowed aim the denying of those rights to their own people and the people of the whole world?

Dr. Owen

Yes, we are quite capable of differentiating.