HC Deb 12 April 1989 vol 150 cc895-7
6. Mr. Conway

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the President of the United States of America; and what matters will be discussed.

8. Mr. Gwilym Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has any present plans to visit the United States of America.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I plan to visit the United States next Sunday and Monday, 16 and 17 April. Following President Gorbachev's visit last week, East-West relations and arms control will be on the agenda. I also expect to discuss regional issues, particularly the middle east and southern Africa.

Mr. Conway

I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's announcement that he will be visiting Washington next week. When he meets President Bush, will he assure him that, despite the warmth of the reception received by President Gorbachev on his recent visit to the United Kingdom, we are not gullible and there is still a constant need to be prepared for all eventualities in relation to countries which still do not appreciate a true democracy? Will he assure him that we still need to maintain a proper role in NATO and that the steadfastness of the United States in this matter is still deeply appreciated?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall certainly make the central point of my hon. Friend's question when I meet members of the United States Administration. They, too, will share our feeling that the changes taking place in the foreign policy thinking of the Soviet Administration represent a challenge and an opportunity, as has been pointed out in the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. However, they will also understand the central point made by my hon. Friend that we need to maintain our vigilance and unity in defence of our security because it is that formula which has helped us to move as far as we have in recent years.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

During the talks in Washington, will my right hon. and learned Friend thank the United States Administration for their strenuous efforts to inhibit the fund-raising activities of extreme Irish nationalist groups on behalf of the IRA? Will he also make it clear that neither Government will relax their vigilance so long as the terrorist threat remains?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall certainly emphasise my hon. Friend's last point. Neither Government should or will relax their vigilance so long as the threat remains in any form. It is also right to say that the United States Government have taken significant steps to inhibit the fund-raising activities of extreme Irish nationalist groups. The House appreciates that, as I shall make clear when I am in Washington.

Mr. Steel

If during his discussions in Washington the Foreign Secretary is tempted to press for an early commitment to the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons in Europe, will he make it clear that he does so without the support of the other European members of NATO?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall conduct my discussions on that topic in Washington and elsewhere on the basis of the Brussels communiqué of the North Atlantic Council in February last year—that it is necessary for NATO to continue to modernise its weapons, nuclear and conventional, where necessary.

Mrs. Clwyd

Will the Foreign Secretary raise the important question of the future of Kampuchea, given that the Vietnamese troops are to be withdrawn completely in September? Will he convey the great concern of many hon. Members that any future political settlements must ensure that there can be no return to power of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Kampuchea?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall certainly discuss Cambodia with the United States Government in the light of the prospective withdrawal of Vietnamese troops, just as I did last week with Mr. Shevardnadze and a few weeks ago with the Chinese Foreign Minister. As on both those occasions, I shall make it clear that this House and the overwhelming body of opinion round the world would regard the return of Pol Pot and his cronies as an intolerable prospect.

Mr. Kilfedder

As the Foreign Secretary will be aware, another terrible atrocity has been committed today by the IRA in Northern Ireland. Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in the United States, the IRA and its front organisations are consistent in their propaganda campaign in the media? Surely it is time for this Government and the United States Government to counter that campaign, which brings in funds for the IRA.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to underline the importance of putting that message across. It is a message that has been put across in every possible way by our embassy and staff over there, and by a series of visits by, among others, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. That message will go on being put across by this Government in every possible way. Alongside that, incidentally, we shall also hammer home our opposition to the so-called MacBride campaign because it is counter-productive to investment and takes no account of our own fair employment proposals, which are more radical and more effective.

Mr. Kaufman

Was not the Foreign Secretary's response to the question put by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) a deliberate and disingenuous attempt to dodge the issue on the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons? Is it not a fact that Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Spain have made it clear that they are against forcing an early decision on modernisation, that the Netherlands and the Federal Germans have great misgivings and that the President of France gave the Prime Minister the brush-off by saying that it was a sovereign decision for the Federal German Government? Why is the Prime Minister alone, of all the NATO heads of Government in Europe, impervious to reason on that issue?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The right hon. Gentleman never loses his gift for getting something absolutely wrong. As I told the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), NATO committed itself in principle last year to the modernisation of nuclear and conventional weapons where necessary. It is agreed that short-range nuclear weapons are one type of weapon that needs to be modernised and there is no doubt about that. The only question, about which there are widely varying views, is at what point particular decisions need to be taken in that respect. As it has in the past, NATO will reach an agreed conclusion without any help from the right hon. Gentleman.

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