HC Deb 12 April 1989 vol 150 cc890-1
2. Mr. Knapman

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to Hungary and Czechoslovakia about human rights abuses in those countries.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave)

We have made bilateral representations to the Czechoslovak authorities four times this year about their handling of human rights issues. We have not raised human rights issues with the Hungarian Government recently as Hungary's record on these matters is relatively good.

Mr. Knapman

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I agree that the Hungarian Government's record on human rights is better than that of Czechoslovakia, but can my hon. Friend assure the House that those differing standards will be taken into account if either of those countries seeks closer economic co-operation with the west, and particularly with EC countries?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend makes a good point in relation not just to those countries but to others in eastern Europe. The EC has recently halted all negotiations with Romania on the matters to which he refers. It is obviously right that the progress of countries in that respect should be reflected in our relations with them generally.

Mr. Winnick

Is it not the height of political illiteracy for the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman), who has never worried about such matters in South Africa or Chile, to compare Czechoslovakia, which remains the prison house of Europe, with Hungary where, as the Minister has conceded, there has been remarkable progress? If European Governments are to be represented on 16 June in Budapest, when the remains of Imre Nagy are to be reburied, will the British Government be represented? It should not be forgotten that when the Hungarian uprising was crushed in blood in November 1956 the Tory Government were engaged in criminal action at Suez.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman has managed to widen the question to take in Suez and a number of other matters. It is a little unwise of him to accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) of illiteracy. My hon Friend was making the perfectly justified point that one of those countries is meeting fits conference on security and co-operation in Europe obligations while the other is not. That is the distinction.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the reburial of Nagy. We have not yet considered that, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman about it. Mr. Nagy's memory has not yet been restored to its proper place. As Mr. Grosz recently made clear, Mr. Nagy is being reburied as a humanitarian gesture, but he has not been rehabilitated. We should like the Hungarians to go a little further on that.

Mr. Boswell

Does my hon. Friend accept that in many respects, not just this one, the Warsaw pact is a case of some animals being more equal than others? In relation, for example, to the relaxation of visa requirements, which I welcome in principle, will he bear in mind the importance of taking matters one step at a time and making them conditional on adequate performance in relation to human rights in individual countries and on the performance of their security services?

Mr. Waldegrave

All those matters should be taken into account, but none of us should miss the opportunity of recognising that the Hungarians and the Poles, having recognised that Socialism does not work, are steadily moving away from it.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the Minister agree that in Czechoslovakia there remains substantial evidence of discrimination, particularly against doctors and teachers, 21 years after they chose to express their opinions freely? Will he make further strong representations to the Czechoslovak Government in that respect?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely right. We have recently been protesting about the whole new series of trials that have been held in Czechoslovakia. The most famous is that of Vaclav Havel, but he is not alone. The tragic thing about Czechoslovakia is that it is a country with a tradition of democracy which wants to make real progress but it has a Government who are resisting the clear but carefully expressed will of their people.