HC Deb 24 July 1985 vol 83 cc1026-7
5. Mr. Michael Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to meet the new Soviet Foreign Minister.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I expect to meet the new Soviet Foreign Minister in Helsinki on 1 August during the meeting commemorating the 10th anniversary of the signature of the Helsinki final act.

Mr. Brown

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the main prerequisite for agreement on arms control is that there should be confidence between East and West? Will he use that meeting as an opportunity to stress the British Government's commitment to increasing confidence?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I agree with my hon. Friend that the achievement of success in arms control negotiations could depend substantially on the creation of confidence on both sides. I shall certainly do my best to stress that. It is one reason why we welcome the prospect of contact at the highest level in the forthcoming summit meeting between the President of the United States and Mr. Gorbachev.

Dr. Owen

Before that meeting with the new Soviet Foreign Minister, does the Foreign Secretary think it appropriate to restart the Anglo-Soviet health agreement, which was signed in 1975 but suspended in 1979? The suspension has caused much friction between the two countries. Would not such a gesture be appropriate to commemorate the signing of the Helsinki final act?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall reconsider the matter in the light of the cogent arguments advanced by the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot promise him that my consideration will be concluded in time for the meeting next week.

Mr. Lawrence

When my right hon. and learned Friend meets the new Soviet Foreign Minister, will he say that, although the overseas English language broadcasts of the BBC are not usually jammed, its Russian service broadcasts are always jammed, and that that is in breach of the international telecommunications convention—another international undertaking which the Soviets have signed but do not honour?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Freedom of broadcasting is a matter that frequently arises at meetings of this kind, and it will be relevant to the proceedings at Helsinki next week. My hon. and learned Friend will find that there is a question directed specifically to this subject to be answered later today.

Mr. Boyes

When the Foreign Secretary meets the Soviet Foreign Minister, will he tell him that the British Government are against the deployment of chemical weapons in Europe by any NATO state, and that it would be helpful if the Soviet Union would reduce dramatically its stocks of chemical weapons and produce no further stocks? Will he also say that the British Government would guarantee, on the removal of all Soviet stocks, that they would be opposed to the deployment of any chemical weapons in Europe?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the massive stocks of chemical weapons held by the Soviet Union and the importance of their removal if we are to secure progress towards a worldwide ban on chemical weapons. The United Kingdom has neither manufactured nor stocked chemical weapons for many years. We shall continue to press the Soviet Union, at Helsinki and elsewhere, for a worldwide ban on chemical weapons.

Mr. Key

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take every opportunity to press upon the Soviet Union leadership how welcome it would be if, in a co-operative and uncompetitive spirit, it would increase its contribution to solving the problems of famine and development in the Third world?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall take that opportunity. I drew attention to that point in a speech yesterday, noting the significant fact that, in the past six months, India has contributed 10 times as much to food aid as the Soviet Union.

Mr. Healey

Will the proposed visit of Mr. Gromyko to Britain still take place? If not, will it be replaced by a visit from Mr. Shevardnadze, his successor as Foreign Secretary? When the right hon. and learned Gentleman meets the Soviet Foreign Minister in Helsinki, will he suggest that the Soviet Union should impose a ban on all tests of components or subcomponents of systems that could be used in space, including the Soviet anti-satellite system?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall consider the second point raised by the right hon. Gentleman. On his point about a visit from Mr. Shevardnadze in place of Mr. Gromyko — whom we must congratulate on his appointment to President — the invitation previously extended to Mr. Gromyko has been re-extended to Mr. Shevardnadze and I hope that it will be accepted.

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