HC Deb 24 June 1981 vol 7 cc239-40
10. Mr. Russell Johnston

asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the Government's policy regarding the receipt of representations from minority groups within a sovereign State or States, alleging persecution or claiming a right to independence, such as the Kurds.

Mr. Hurd

We would normally take note of any representations made to us so that we can decide whether Britain could play a legitimate and helpful role.

Mr. Johnston

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that helpful reply. What does he perceive to be the moral and practical distinction between the Palestinians' demand for self-determination and the similar demand made by the Kurds? Has he made any representations on such matters to the Iraqi Government?

Mr. Hurd

The difference is that the question of self-determination for the Palestinians lies at the heart of a major and festering international dispute. Rightly or wrongly, that is not true of the Kurdish question.

Mr. John MacKay

Has my hon. Friend received many representations on the persecution of the Bahais in Iran? If so, has he managed to verify the accusations made about such persecutions and, if so, does he propose to take any action either separately on behalf of the Government, or collectively, through our partners in the EEC, or the United Nations?

Mr. Hurd

We have received many representations on this subject from hon. Members. In all these matters, we must judge whether we can do anything that will help those concerned. It must be remembered that there is a widespread—but entirely wrong—impression in Iran that in the past the Bahais have been used for British political purposes. We must take that impression into account when deciding what could usefully be done. We are in touch with our partners among the Ten to weigh up the evidence that my hon. Friend has referred to, and to see whether, together, there is something that we could usefully do.

Mr. Moyle

Have we taken every opportunity, such as the Lord Privy Seal's visit to Turkey, to make representations to the Government there to the effect that most British people heartily dislike the idea of political prisoners and their persecution? Did we ask the Turkish Government whether they intended to set a date for the return of political democracy? It does not lend credibility to the Turkish Government to pretend that they are defending democracy in NATO when they do not practise it at home.

Mr. Hurd

The Turkish Government have given specific undertakings on that matter to my right hon. Friend and in public. We take those assurances seriously and believe that they will be honoured.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Does the Minister realise that the situation affecting the Bahai community in Iran is one of the greatest urgency? Will the hon. Gentleman undertake that the Government's investigations will be carried out with corresponding urgency? Furthermore, what representations, if any, have been made about the oppression of the Kurdish community in Iraq? If none have been made, why not?

Mr. Hurd

Again, we must judge in each case whether anything that we said would prove useful. I pointed out the background in relation to the Bahais. It is a question not so much of investigation but of deciding what can be usefully done. The same point applies to the Kurds in Iraq.

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