HC Deb 11 January 1989 vol 144 cc830-1
6. Mr. Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the concluding document of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe review conference in Vienna.

Mr. Waldegrave

We hope that the Vienna meeting will conclude shortly with the adoption of a substantial and balanced document. That should represent a major step forward on previous CSCE commitments—for example, on religious freedom, freedom to emigrate, and freer flow of information.

Mr. Atkinson

I commend my hon. Friend and his western colleagues on their refusal to conclude the Helsinki review conference until substantial progress on implementation can be agreed. Will he accept that, far from a few dozen religious and political prisoners being left in the gulag—as was suggested following Chancellor Kohl's visit last October, when he announced that all prisoners would be released—there remain several hundred prisoners, the names of whom I have given to my hon. Friend? Will my hon. Friend confirm that there will be no human rights conference in Moscow until further real, substantial and irreversible progress is made on human rights in the Soviet Union?

Mr. Waldegrave

As we have said, the United Kingdom's attendance at the Moscow conference depends on the Soviet Union's making further specific human rights improvements between now and 1991. I shall arrange for a copy of the Foreign Office statement on the matter to be placed in the Library of the House.

Certainly some political and religious prisoners remain in the Soviet Union, but we think—and this is a happy state of affairs—that my hon. Friend's list is somewhat out of date, and that the number is now somewhat less. However, it is still very much higher than a few dozen.

Mr. Michael Marshall

My hon. Friend will be aware of the parliamentary exchanges through the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which are part of the CSCE process. Will he take this opportunity, in a week when the leader of the German IPU delegation is visiting the House, to reaffirm his understanding of the position whereby both British and German parliamentarians have refused to meet in Romania in May to discuss CSCE progress? Does he understand that position and support it?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is no news to the House that Her Majesty's Government regard the human rights position in Romania as very unsatisfactory and getting worse. There are problems now between Romania and its allies, who, I think, are almost as fed up with it as we are.

Mr. James Lamond

Is the Minister looking forward to the talks about conventional weapon reductions in Europe which should flow from any agreement in Vienna? Will we be making a positive, progressive proposal there, rather than taking the negative attitude that we have taken to the proposals of President Gorbachev?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman rightly emphasises the next great step forward available to us, which should result—as he says—from agreement in Vienna. The principle of reducing the disequilibrium in conventional forces to which President Gorbachev has committed himself is very welcome, and there will certainly be a practical response from the western side.

Mr. Corbett

Given the importance that the Foreign Secretary attaches to the rights of individuals who have emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel to be reunited with their families there, does the same principle apply to people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh who have waited for up to a decade for their families to join them in this country?

Mr. Waldegrave

That is quite a creative development of a question about the Vienna CSCE. The hon. Gentleman knows what the regulations are, and he knows that there are queues.

Mr. Lawrence

I hope that I shall not embarrass my hon. Friend, but what on earth happened to the Government's commitment of only 11 days ago not to support a human rights conference in Moscow until the Soviets had improved their performance on human rights more than they have so far managed to?

Mr. Waldegrave

It would be impossible for my hon. and learned Friend to embarrass me on this or any other matter, and I am sure that that is not his intention.

The position is clear. We believe that it is right that the progress that has been made should be recognised by an acceptance in principle of the possibility of a human rights conference in Moscow, but we reserve the right not to go if the firm pledges made by President Gorbachev and his colleagues are not met, and we shall retain that right up to the day before the conference.

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