HC Deb 20 July 1983 vol 46 cc362-4
4. Mr. Lawrence

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in the area of human rights at the Helsinki review discussions in Madrid.

18. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the review conference on the Helsinki final act in Madrid.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

There is provisional agreement among 34 of the 35 participants on the text of the concluding document. We hope that consensus may soon be reached so that the meeting may be brought to a conclusion.

Mr. Lawrence

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, despite the tremendous efforts of Ambassadors Wilberforce and Williams on behalf of the United Kingdom over the years in Madrid, the worst forms of offence against human rights have continued to be perpetrated by the Russians, who are now persecuting Yosef Begun, whose trial is next week, who have carried on their persecution of Shcharansky and others, and who have closed the door to the emigration of Jews to the state of Israel, which is a fundamental human right? To repeat a question that was asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) yesterday, is this not just agreement for agreement's sake?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I do not accept my hon. and learned Friend's description of the outcome of the Madrid talks. However, I agree with him that the progress being made in that direction is certainly disappointing and much less than we should like. I agree, too, that actions of which we would all complain, and about which we feel as strongly as he does, are still taking place. However, continued pressure in this direction and the exposure of the misdeeds of the Soviet Union and other countries, as a result of the Helsinki process, have been facilitated. The negotiations at Madrid have enabled us to press forward with criticisms and advance the representations which my hon. and learned Friend wishes us to make on behalf of these people. In this process, which must proceed step by step, the Madrid agreement will be of some value.

Mr. Atkinson

Has not the gravest disappointment of Madrid been for those, who like Dr. Yuri Orlov, have been imprisoned for establishing Helsinki monitoring groups? Will my right hon. and learned Friend give an undertaking that no agreement will be signed until ar amnesty has been granted to members of monitoring groups?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I cannot give such an undertaking, but I can say that my hon. Friend has raised legitimate points on behalf of monitoring groups, Mr. Shcharansky and others. They are points that we have continually pressed on the Soviet Union, both inside and outside the context of these negotiations, and we shall continue to do so.

Mr. MacLennan

What arrangements have been agreed at Madrid for monitoring both at Helsinki and the agreement itself?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It proved impossible to obtain consensus on a Western proposal to ensure that all individuals could express their views on the respect shown by the Governments for the final act. However, there is a commitment in the concluding document to encourage genuine efforts to implement that act, which will afford at least some protection to the Helsinki monitoring groups.

Mr. Maples

While considering the question of human rights, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider whether he should advise the Government to sign protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which seeks to write into the convention the abolition of the death penalty? In view of the overwhelming majorities by which certain motions were rejected in the House last week, that would seem to be an appropriate course of action for the Government to take.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

That is certainly a matter that I am prepared to discuss with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

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