HC Deb 11 July 1979 vol 970 cc450-3
10. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied with the progress being made in the implementation by the Soviet Union and its allies of the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act.

Mr. Hurd

Progress on implementation by the Soviet Union and her allies has in general been slow and uneven. For detailed comment on the record of implementation during the last six months, I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my hon. Friend to my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) on 25 June.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the forthcoming trial of the 10 members of the Charter 77 group in Czechoslovakia is totally incompatible with the Helsinki agreement? Does he agree also that there is no point in holding the Madrid review conference next year if the Soviet Union and its allies continue to harass and persecute human rights campaigners in the way that they are doing at the present time?

Mr. Hurd

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's first point, and we have so told the Czechoslovak Government. On the whole, we believe that the review conference in Madrid, and similar occasions, offer a means that would not otherwise exist for pressing for the carrying out of the Helsinki agreement in full. We believe that the right course is to go to Madrid and to make good use of that opportunity.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we all applaud his intention of continuing to press the Soviet authorities to implement the final act of the Helsinki agreement in Madrid and elsewhere? Before Madrid, will he emphasise to the Soviet authorities that while they continue to keep people in gaol, and people such as Slepak, Nudel and Begun in exile, there is very little prospect of our regarding their compliance as anything other than minimal?

Mr. Hurd

Of course, it is the existence of the Helsinki agreement that gives us the standing to make that kind of point.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Soviet Union is one of the biggest and strongest backers of the Vietnamese Government? What representations have we made to the Soviet Union to try to bring pressure upon the Vietnamese Government to stop implementing one of the most racialist, barbaric and brutal policies in the exploitation of their own people that the world has ever known?

Mr. Hurd

I agree with my hon. Friend's phrase. My right hon. Friend has made these points to the Soviet Government, and so did the Prime Minister when she stopped over in the Soviet Union on her way to Tokyo.

Mr. Heffer

I agree totally with those hon. Members who oppose what is happening in Czechoslovakia and Eastern Europe, but may I appeal to Conservative Members to stand up and speak out as loudly as they do on the Soviet Union on countries such as Chile and others in Latin America?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a question.

Mr. Hurd

That is almost the oldest argument in the House. However, I point out to the hon. Gentleman that we now have in Vietnam a quite exceptional and appalling case, and it is pathetic to read in the Tribune newspaper attempts to excuse what is going on.

Mr. Sproat

Does my hon. Friend agree that it makes a total mockery of the spirit of the Helsinki agreement when the Soviet Government continue to persecute and imprison their own citizens for doing no more than monitoring the activities of of their own Government in carrying out the Helsinki agreement? What further steps does my hon. Friend propose to take to increase the free flow of information, as set out in basket 3, so that, for example, the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mirror can be as freely available in Moscow as Pravda is in London?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend, who follows this matter very carefully, knows that we continually press these points, and that from time to time there have been occasional signs of progress. I would not put it higher than that.

Mr. Shore

We, too, of course attach great importance to the Helsinki final act and its implementation. We share the view that the Madrid review is bound to be helpful in giving us the occasion precisely to press the defects and shortcomings in its implementation so far. Is the Helsinki final act being kept under close monitoring by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office? What information does the hon. Gentleman have about the flow of Jewish people from Russia and other Eastern European countries?

Mr. Hurd

With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's last point, this is an area in which there has been some improvement, although there is a long way to go. Of course we are keeping the implementation of the Helsinki agreement under close review. If we were not, the House of Commons would rightly insist that we did.

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