HC Deb 16 December 1987 vol 124 cc1079-80
4. Mr. Soames

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on East-West relations.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We welcome the results of the Washington summit and hope that the intermediate nuclear forces agreement will lead to further effective and verifiable arms control measures. The more stable and cooperative East-West relationship that we want also requires full Soviet respect for human rights and cooperation over regional conflicts, including early withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Mr. Soames

The House will rejoice at the signing of the INF treaty in Washington and the roles that were played by my right hon. and learned Friend and the Prime Minister in the successful conclusion of the talks. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that future progress on East-West talks must clearly be linked to the Russians demonstrating, not only by word but by deed, that they are fit to be treated as the moral equals of the West and that they must get out of Afghanistan?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support of the INF treaty. I am sure that the House will join me in expressing the hope that it will be speedily ratified and brought into force. I agree with what my hon. Friend said about the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The continued presence of over 100,000 Soviet troops there and the continued absence, as refugees, of 5 million Afghan people from their own country are severe obstacles to the proper development of full relations between East and West. Improvement in that respect is one of the several touchstones by which we shall judge the long-term attitude of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Harry Barnes

Is not the Foreign Secretary now trying to undermine the INF treaty, which was signed only a week ago, by entering into negotiations for an Anglo-French air-launched missile, thereby destroying the arrangement that previously existed? Will he not be regarded as committing an even greater crime against humanity than those that have been perpetrated by other members of the Government Front Bench?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The intemperate language that the hon. Gentleman seems to find it so difficult to resist demonstrates the total emptiness of his question. We have negotiated and worked long and hard to secure completion of the INF agreement. We welcome it and want to see it ratified, endorsed, and fully in effect. At the same time, we are perfectly entitled, just as the Soviet Union and its allies are, to maintain the effectiveness of forces that are not covered by the agreement.

Mr. Sackville

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that while Soviet citizens who apply to emigrate continue to be persecuted, and while religious and political dissidents continue to be subjected to imprisonment, systematic torture and psychiatric abuse, it would not be prudent to regard glasnost as anything more than another exercise in exploring the frontiers of Western gullibility?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Certainly we should keep in mind the extent to which standards in the Soviet Union and in other Eastern European countries fall well short of those enjoined by the Helsinki agreement. At the same time, we must acknowledge that many subjects that were not previously under discussion are now open for discussion. We welcome that as an important step in the right direction. We want to take advantage of that increased openness to achieve the higher standards for which my hon. Friend rightly presses.

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