HC Deb 12 March 1980 vol 980 cc1321-2
8. Mr. Sainsbury

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is satisfied with the preparations being made for the Madrid review of the Helsinki Agreement.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Blaker)

Yes, Sir. Preparations are continuing, though, as I told the House in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) on 13 February, much will depend on Soviet actions between now and November when the Madrid review will take place.

Mr. Sainsbury

My hon. Friend will recall the Soviet objections to a proper discussion of the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Agreement at the Belgrade review. Does he agree that it is now the human rights aspects of the Helsinki Agreement that most require attention if we are to make progress on co-operation and security in Europe? Does not my hon. Friend agree that it would be intolerable if the Madrid conference did not include human rights on the agenda? Should not human rights feature as the most important item on that agenda?

Mr. Blaker

I can assure my hon. Friend that human rights will figure on the agenda at Madrid. It is right that we should discuss all aspects of the Helsinki Final Act. Various parts of it are in the first basket relating to the principles regarding the preservation of peace and we shall certainly wish to discuss that aspect in the light of recent events in Afghanistan.

Mr. Whitehead

Would the Minister care to comment on a report in the press today that, at the United Nations, Britain has agreed to drop its request for information from the Soviet Union about Academician Sakharov in return for the dropping of a request by the Soviet Union for information about Northern Ireland? Surely if we wish to raise the issue of human rights this sort of trade-off is not the right way to go about it.

Mr. Blaker

I am glad to assure the hon. Gentleman that there was no such bargain as that he suggests, which was implied in some press reports. The Soviet Union, of its own volition, decided to drop its motion on Northern Ireland, perhaps recognising that it would not be successful. The Western countries agreed to a proposal that the item on Dr. Sakharov—which had been well ventilated—should be placed first on the agenda at the next session of the Human Rights Commission.

Sir Frederic Bennett

Can the Minister confirm, in regard to the Madrid conference, that if one or other of the Powers decline to attend—for reasons that one can well understand—the conference will nevertheless go ahead, despite the fact that there may be some empty seats?

Mr. Blaker

It is certainly our intention that the conference should go ahead, as things stand. This is a conference of 35 European countries and it does not depend solely on the volition of one country or another.

Mr. James Lamond

Since the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus is clearly in breach of the Helsinki Final Act can the Minister say whether the Government will raise that matter at the conference?

Mr. Blaker

We shall have to consider as time passes what matters we raise.

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