HC Deb 12 July 1989 vol 156 cc953-5
1. Mr. Baldry

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what items he expects to be discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 17 July.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

Discussion is expected on follow-up to the European Council and on relations with the United States, eastern Europe, Gulf states and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Mr. Baldry

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will she confirm that the Foreign Affairs Council collectively will leave China in no doubt as to Europe's total abhorrence of recent events in that country? Will it clearly signal that any help in relation to China's future economic performance will depend upon its demonstrating a preparedness to behave towards the people of Hong Kong in a manner that commands the support of the European Community? Is not the best guarantee for the people of Hong Kong the preparedness of Europe and the civilised world in general to act together in their relations with China?

Mrs. Chalker

China should be in no doubt about our view. In Madrid on 27 June, the member states agreed on four actions: the suspension of military co-operation; an embargo on trade in arms with China; the suspension of ministerial and other high-level contacts; and the postponement of all new co-operation projects.

At the United Nations in Geneva we raised the issue of human rights in China and we are taking every opportunity to enforce our condemnation of the violent repression of peaceful demonstrators and the tragic loss of life. Yesterday, European Community colleagues agreed that the troika should make a demarche in Peking to underline the Community's position and to convey the request for independent observers to have access to trials and to prisons.

China is in absolutely no doubt that Hong Kong and the remainder of the world believe that matters went very badly wrong, and that it is for China to show its preparedness to work with the remainder of the world.

Mr. Alton

When Ministers are considering Hong Kong, will they also examine the position of Portuguese citizens in Macau who will be given the right to live in any European Community country after Macau returns to China? Does the right hon. Lady accept that it will create a difficulty—indeed, a major discrepancy—if Hong Kong citizens are not treated in the same way?

Mrs. Chalker

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. I shall be meeting my Portuguese opposite number next week and we shall discuss these matters.

Mr. Temple-Morris

During that meeting will my right hon. Friend raise the increasingly important questions of the enlargement of the Community and what constitutes Europe? Will she bear in mind her distinguished school days at Roedean when, I hope, she was taught that Turkey was not part of Europe? Does she agree that the sooner that that is made clear to everyone, including Turkey, the better off we will all be?

Mrs. Chalker

Turkey's application to the Community, which is currently with the Commission, will produce an opinion by the end of the year. Whatever the aspirations of Turkey and many other countries, I remind my hon. Friend that the Community is united in the belief that its top priority is to complete the single market. Enlargement is a matter very much for the future.

Mr. Robertson

Should not the next Foreign Affairs Council consider the whole question of economic help for eastern European countries that are struggling towards more democratic systems? Has not the West's response so far been feeble, half-hearted and lamentably inadequate, given the economic plight facing the democratic reformist forces in Poland and Hungary?

If the West is genuinely interested in the return of political choice to those nations and in keeping a check on the forces of reaction that threaten them, is not a more generous and imaginative response from Europe urgent? When will this country put in hard cash, even if it is tied and conditional? Sympathetic words about freedom are a poor substitute.

Mrs. Chalker

That matter was discussed thoroughly yesterday under the heading of European co-operation. The Community is in the process of negotiating an economic and commercial agreement with Poland, and the position in respect of other countries will be investigated in detail when the opportunity arises. We have no doubt whatsoever that those countries should be assisted to make their own moves towards real democracy and to the modernisation that they need.

Mr. Michael Morris

When my right hon. Friend meets her colleagues, will she raise the worrying problems arising in southern Asia, particularly in Sri Lanka? It appears that unless the Indian presence leaves Sri Lanka by 29 July there will be a mass exodus to Europe.

Mrs. Chalker

That matter is not on next week's agenda, but we shall see whether it can be raised during the discussion that we shall have at lunchtime.