§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. John M. Taylor.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call on the Minister, I must announce to the House that, in view of the many right hon. and hon. Members who wish to participate today, I propose to limit speeches between 11.30 am and 1 pm to 10 minutes. I hope that those called before 11.30 am will bear that limit in mind. Yesterday, a number of hon. Members were disappointed as a result of rather long speeches at the beginning.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)
Yesterday, the House examined the critical significance for Hong Kong of events in China. Today, is our opportunity to look at the broader international scene, which is very important. In the past six months, we have seen a unprecedented pace of change across the world—some might say a revoluntionary pace. The 1789 revolution which we, together with 34 other national leaders, celebrate with the French today, was far-reaching in its significance. At least the storming of the Bastille is unlikely to be re-enacted as a result of today's debate. The fireworks in Paris last night will today give way to political and economic co-operation in the summit 7 discussion this weekend.
I want to pay a tribute to the French. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It was Valery Giscard D'Estaing who called the first summit, which has led in recent years to decisions which have well guided the economic recovery of the western world. It was an important and fundamental move with which we were entirely at one.
§ Mrs. Chalker
No, because I have hardly begun.
With the other industrial nations, we shall be taking stock in the summit of the many changes all around us. Unlike the appalling tragedy in China, much of the change is encouraging. There has been the acceleration of political reform in the Soviet Union and parts of eastern Europe. There has been welcome progress in East-West relations and rapid progress in the European Community which, more than ever, is acting as a dynamo for Europe as a whole. There has been progress towards the resolution of long-standing regional conflicts, notably in southern Africa.
Last November, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said:we live in a time of great opportunity for constructive action by the United Kingdom in foreign affairs".—[Official Report, 25 November 1988; Vol. 142, c. 336.]1240 That is more than ever true today. The challenge we face—which this Government are facing successfully—is one of active encouragement with our allies and partners in the management of this fast-changing international scene.
Over the past 10 years, the Government's consistent, clear and practical policies have helped to lay the foundation for many of the positive developments that we are now seeing. We remain in the forefront of discussion on all the main issues. Britain's views are sought, Britain's voice is respected and Britain's experience is valued and all that is as it should be. It is a direct consequence of the way in which the Government are putting to work this country's established place in the international community. We are using effectively our membership of NATO, the European Community, the Council of Europe, the United Nations and the Commonwealth, and our extensive bilateral links. We are not simply part of the crowd and we certainly do not lack the courage to speak out for the policies we believe to be right. That has always been true in East-West relations and in our attitude to events in eastern Europe. It is here that the changes have, perhaps, been most dramatic.
The elections to the Soviet Congress of People's Deputies were the first steps towards a more open, representative system of government in a country not used to people power. In Poland, the process has gone a stage further with Solidarity's stunning victories in the freest elections for over 40 years—a quite remarkable outcome. In Hungary, the acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the 1956 uprising reflects the new political freedom in people's lives in that country. It is interesting to note that in his recent visits to Britain, West Germany and France, Mr. Gorbachev has repeated his commitment to reform and his desire for greater co-operation with the West. At the United Nations last December, he argued for the removal of ideology from international relations.
§ Mr. Winnick
I welcome the reforms in eastern Europe, as the Minister probably knows. But if it is right that eastern European countries should be able to follow their own paths—one hopes that there will never be a repeat of what happened in Czechoslovakia in August 1968—is it not equally important that central and south America should be able to follow whatever path they want, without intervention from the United States? That means no repeats of what happened in Guatemala in 1954 and in Chile in 1973. It also means an end to the continuing efforts to destabilise the regime in Nicaragua.
§ Mrs. Chalker
The whole House knows that we believe in democracy in all countries. Sometimes democracy leads to unwelcome events; in this country it has sometimes even led to the election of a Socialist Government.
The changes that are taking place in the Soviet Union and in the East are of major importance. The failure of the Soviet economic model now contrasts sharply with the successful dynamism of the European Community. Mr. Gorbachev knows that he is being left behind and that is why the Soviet Union moved to establish diplomatic relations with the Community. Mr. Gorbachev has recognised what we—and most recently President Bush—have been saying all along: stability and prosperity will last only if people are free to determine their own future, economically and politically.
We realise that Europe has a historic opportunity to develop and to reduce the barriers that divide us. The 1241 Government are determined to grasp the chance. We are ready for the co-operation that Mr. Gorbachev seeks and we are working consistently towards it.
For the United Kingdom, as for the West as a whole, our starting point in East-West relations remains the strength and unity of the NATO Alliance. Without this, we cannot be confident of our security or in our approach to the new opportunities before us. The Government have consistently upheld that simple principle, and will continue to do so.
The recent NATO summit demonstrated once again the strength, unity and confidence of the Alliance. President Bush, attending his first summit as head of state, offered an impressive example of constructive United States, leadership.
In NATO's 40th anniversary year, we can look back on a record of solid achievement. At the same time, we also look forward, in the words of the summit communiqué, to the possibility of movingbeyond the post-war periodto anew political order of peace in Europe".I shall leave it to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Comonwealth Office, to comment further on our approach to arms control and relations with the Soviet union and eastern Europe. On the latter point, we have two related objectives—to develop stronger political, economic and cultural ties to help to erode decades of mistrust and to encourage, as far as we can, greater political and economic freedom in those countries, including real progress with human rights.
We shall continue to work closely with our allies and partners to achieve those objectives.
§ Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)
My right hon. Friend has referred to work in eastern Europe and to co-operation with our allies. In a week that marks the centenery of the official recognition of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, would my right hon. Friend care to reflect on the way in which parliament and governmental diplomacy may help in these, as in other matters?
§ Mrs. Chalker
Yes, indeed, and I have seen the early-day motion in my hon. Friend's name. We have always believed that non-governmental organisations have a role to play. The Inter-Parliamentary Union is second to none in its work on these matters. All hon. Members will recall the visit to the United Kingdom of Mr. Gorbachev as leader of a Soviet IPU delegation in 1984 and the reciprocal visit led by Lord Whitelaw in 1986. I pay tribute to the continuing work of my hon. Friend and the IPU in this as in many other matters. The IPU can often forge links that it may initially be difficult for Governments to form. I remember also the work that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) did before he became Secretary of State for Defence. Let us have bouquets all round.
Mr. Gorbachev spoke in Strasbourg last week ofmarkets open for trade and minds open to ideas.Where are those open markets and open minds to be found? The blueprint for Mr. Gorbachev's much-canvassed common European home is here in western Europe and in the relationships and institutions that our democracies have forged since the war. Those institutions include the Council of Europe, whose 40th anniversary 1242 celebrations my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary attended in May. With the accession of Finland, the Council of Europe unites all the countries of western Europe in a common commitment to respect and defend basic democratic principles and human rights.
The European Community has also covered much ground. The Community is stronger and more dynamic than ever and increasingly it is becoming a magnet for the rest of Europe. It is also a focal point for trade and development in the world as a whole.
Much of the European Community's present success is due to the efforts of this Government to give the Community real direction. There will always be those whose ideas are fixed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and who misunderstand—I put it no stronger than that—the extent of our commitment to Europe. But it was our contribution that led to the reform of budgets and the common agricultural policy and to the single market programme. Those policies, more than anything else, have revitalised the Community. That is why the Community has become a subject of everyday relevance, both in Britain and beyond the Community's boundaries.
The voice of Britain came through loud and clear yet again at last month's summit in Madrid. Once more, we advocated a pragmatic, measured approach to Community development. The press promised blood in the bull ring—death, or at least defeat, in the afternoon—for the British approach. In fact the Community was the victor at Madrid. The Madrid summit marked an important step for the Community on several key matters. It was the end of a good presidency, exceptionally well conducted by the Spanish. It also reflected that the Community has learnt to set realistic targets and achieve them before staking out new ones. That was the essence of the businesslike approach that we have always advocated.
Economic and monetary co-operation is a classic example of an aspect of policy in which trying to achieve too much too quickly could be harmful. That is why we argued strongly that the decisions must not be rushed and that, far from encouraging progress, inflexible deadlines risk leading to wrong decisions. The force of those arguments was recognised at the Madrid European Council, which not only refused, despite pressure from some member states, to set any inflexible deadlines; we agreed that any intergovernmental conference must be preceded by full and adequate preparation. That is plain common sense.
The Madrid Council also recognised that there is no automatic link between stage 1 of the Delors report and the subsequent stages. We shall fully support the rapid implementation of stage I. That, too, makes sense.
Practical progress in the Community is best achieved by allowing it to evolve, not by shackling it to detailed and mechanical timetables that could not necessarily be adhered to.
§ Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)
I am grateful that my right hon. Friend has given way, because I know that time is limited. She has outlined the important decisions that were taken in Madrid. These were taken by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister before she went to Madrid and subsequently the Government have not held any kind of debate in this Parliament and we have not discussed these issues. Therefore, the European Council has become totally unaccountable to national Parliaments.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety. He has expressed it on the Floor of the House, in Committee and to me privately on many occasions. It is not always possible to discuss the detail, but it is essential that the issues come up in debate, as they did on 18 May, when we had quite a full debate, in which I think that my hon. Friend took part. We have discussed these issues on many other occasions, and my hon. Friend will know that my right hon. Friend the Lord President is looking at ways to have more debate. I ask my hon. Friend not to press me today on decisions that my right hon. Friend the Lord President has quite properly taken, in conjunction with the Committees that have been looking into the ways to have more effective examination of Community business in Parliament.
Another important factor about the Madrid summit is that it formally confirmed the principle of subsidiarity. That is an awful word but a sensible principle. It is the principle that we should legislate at Community level only when national measures alone do not suffice. It is a principle with an excellent pedigree, as it is enshrined in the constitutions of both the United States and West Germany.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I am sorry that the hon. Lady does not seem to understand and has not bothered to listen to the word. It has important implications for the House. Its acceptance by the Madrid Council vindicates the stance that the Government have adopted over many years and that has been endorsed by many right hon. and hon. Members in recent months when we have discussed European subjects.
Madrid also quietly approved a further important measure—our common-sense approach to the reduction of frontier controls. We have maintained the delicate balance between removing barriers to the movement of Community nationals and goods, while still maintaining adequate security. We have already succeeded in galvanising the Community into action against fraud. Now, concrete targets have been set, just as we wanted. The Council's conclusions now give new impetus to the whole anti-fraud programme.
These are the reasons why Britain and the Community have good cause to celebrate the outcome at Madrid. We can be satisfied, too, at the wide range of international issues—including China and Hong Kong—addressed in the Council's conclusions. They reflect the Community's outward-looking stance—and the scope of European political co-operation, which this country has done so much to develop.
We are also working closely together with our European Free Trade Association friends. EFTA is the Community's largest trading partner and our annual EC-EFTA trade is now over £140 billion. Closer integration between the EFTA countries and the single market will benefit us all. The Government fully support the efforts to establish even closer co-operation between the Community and the six EFTA countries.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
Now that Austria has announced its intention to apply for membership of the Community, will her Majesty's Government support that application, provided that no difficulty is raised over the non-alignment provisions of Austria's state treaty?
§ Mrs. Chalker
The question is not whether the United Kingdom alone but whether the whole Community supports the application.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I understand that, if an application is received, it will be considered in the Council of Ministers on Monday next. Following such consideration, which I am sure will follow a similar path to other applications to join the Community, and as on previous—
§ Mrs. Chalker
—as on previous occasions when an opinion has been given by the Commission, it will be carefully considered; then we shall decide.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
Will the Government make the decision between today and Monday?
§ Mrs. Chalker
The opinion takes some months, as the hon. Gentleman will know. The latest opinion, on the application from Turkey, has still not been produced.
I have said many times that the Community is a western European success story. As such, it has a key part to play in the West's strategy for encouraging change in eastern Europe. We have a great deal to offer in the way of trade, investment, skills and training to countries pursuing reform. Britain has been at the forefront of moves in the Community to encourage change in Hungary and in Poland through trade and co-operation agreements, and the help that we can give them. We also strongly support the Community's decision not to pursue an agreement with Romania, so long as she continues to follow the bankrupt policies of repression.
Britain has worked hard to ensure that the single market's liberalising philosophy applies in the external as well as the internal sphere. We worked long and hard to ensure that our major trading partners understand that 1992 is an opportunity and not a threat, and the message is getting through. President Bush, speaking in Boston on 21 May, stated:We believe a strong, united Europe means a strong America.We now find that American and Japanese businessmen are jumping aboard the 1992 bandwagon. One has only to look at the surge of investment from those countries into the Community in recent years to see the truth of that. There was another announcement yesterday. Much of that investment has come to the United Kingdom thanks to the Government's success in transforming Britain. We are now a welcome and profitable European home for many overseas companies. No one can doubt the Government's commitment to see Britain lead the Community in the 1990s.
The Government's commitment to liberalisation is clearly reflected in our approach to the GATT Uruguay round. Here, we have helped to develop a purposeful Community approach. No one should under-estimate the importance of a successful GATT round for keeping protectionism at bay. Major gains are to be had from extending the open multilateral trading system into new areas like services and intellectual property, as agreed at the mid-term meeting in April.
However, we shall not be able to realise these gains unless there is also substantial reform of agricultural trade. The Community is now, thank goodness, committed to 1245 substantial reform, and this will continue in agricultural trade. That is another change for the better that Britain has helped to bring about. We have more work to do to ensure that the new Lome convention—Lomé IV—which is under negotiation, further improves access to Community markets and Community aid for the developing countries.
We need to use our diplomacy to good effect in other places. We have already done much in the Community to help the developing world, but there is more to be done. In particular, there is more for Britain to do in helping to achieve the resolution of regional conflicts. The Government have consistently argued that negotiation, not confrontation, offers the best chance to put an end to the conflicts and injustices across southern Africa. At last, it seems that negotiation is being given the chance to work.
The agreement last December on Namibian independence was a major success for patient diplomacy. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a personal, and valuable, intervention in support of the authority of the United Nations, when the peace plan faced an early crisis in April. The United Kingdom is making major financial and practical contributions to the United Nations force in Namibia. In addition, we are contributing £500,000 to help the repatriation of Namibian refugees. With our EC and Commonwealth partners, we are ready to help an independent Namibia. A stable and a prosperous Namibia will benefit not only its own people, but the whole region.
So, too, will a successful internal reconciliation in Angola and in Mozambique, and there are some welcome signs on this front. We continue to do all we can to encourage the process so that the peoples of Angola and Mozambique, who have suffered for far too long, will be helped to find, at last, peace, stability and some economic revival.
Change may also be in prospect in South Africa as the elections fixed for 6 September approach. Our policy towards South Africa has been balanced, realistic and constructive. In the past few months, my colleagues and I have met a number of South African politicians, some of whom are likely to play a prominent role in the next Government. We have emphasised to Mr. de Klerk and to others where we want to see signs of early progress—the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela and other political detainees, the lifting of the state of emergency, the unbanning of political organisations and the initiation of real negotiations with credible black leaders without preconditions or constraints. In this context, we are encouraged that Nelson Mandela and President P. W. Botha have met. We do not know what will come of, it, but contact is better than no contact.
We believe that the new generation of South African leaders understands the need for fundamental change. Regrettably, apartheid will not be abolished overnight, but a start must be made. We want to see real movement towards a genuinely representative system of government after the elections. We have made this abundantly clear to Mr. de Klerk. We shall judge him by his actions, not his words.
§ Mr. Anderson
Will the Minister confirm that terrorism in Northern Ireland and the supply of arms by South Africa, or agents of South Africa, to terrorists was raised at the meeting between the Prime Minister and Mr. de 1246 Klerk? We consider that the timing was extremely unwise. Is it now the Government's view that there is evidence that South African agents were responsible for supplying arms to terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland?
§ Mrs. Chalker
I shall simply say that the issue certainly was raised between the Prime Minister, her colleagues and Mr. de Klerk. I ask the hon. Gentleman just to leave it at that for the moment. There is no question but that the issue was thoroughly raised.
I hope that the whole House by now realises that negotiation and the encouragement of negotiation in South Africa are not the only way in which we are trying to help bring about a speedy end to apartheid. We are also doing much to help black people in South Africa.
Britain is spending more than £25 million in the five years to 1992 to help South Africa's black victims of apartheid. We are setting up or supporting clinics, new housing, homes for children and the elderly, small black-owned businesses and schools, training and technical assistance. By 1990, we shall be financing 1,000 black South African students each year, and we intend to go on seeking to help through our system and with the assistance of many of our European neighbours, those people who have been denied their opportunities.
We are also helping South Africa's neighbours with substantial development aid and, in the case of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, with military assistance in the form of training their men. Presidents Mugabe and Chissano have made it clear to the Prime Minister how greatly this is appreciated and they repeated that again when she met them in Zimbabwe in March.
I have talked about our response to change in the international environment, but the phrase can be interpreted more literally still. The global environment, the natural world in which we live, is changing fast. We do not yet know enough about phenomena such as ozone depletion and global warming, but we already appreciate that they could be as significant for the future of this planet and thousands of millions of people, as anything now happening on the political scene.
Britain and British industry have led the way in international efforts to find out more about the causes of these phenomena and how they might be controlled. I am sure that the Government are at one with Opposition Members on this issue. The Government have a responsibility, with all other major countries, to help mobilise the international community to take action to protect our environment.
As part of that effort, in March we successfully co-hosted, with the United Nations Environment Programme, an international conference of more than 130 nations on saving the ozone layer. It attracted new pledges of support for the Montreal protocol, which sets targets for CFC emissions.
We followed that conference up with two major initiatives. First, we doubled our financial contribution to the United Nations Environment Programme, making Britain the second largest contributor after the United States and we have urged others to follow our lead. I am pleased to say that the Federal Republic of Germany has recently done so too. We have also called for steps to be considered to strengthen the United Nations Environment Programme institutionally within the United Nations system.
1247 Secondly, we called for an international convention on global climate changes, which would commit signatories to reduce activities that contribute to global warming. That proposal has also attracted widespread support.
Environmental issues are often sensitive. Many developing countries put a higher priority on economic growth, but we are working to encourage the kind of co-operation that promotes sustainable growth, the wealth creating that does not cause irreparable damage to renewable resources. We do not want a grey approach. We are determined to succeed in the search for green growth—economic growth that is real but takes full account of the needs of our environment.
That approach has been reflected in the recent visit to Brazil of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, where he signed a very important environmental agreement aimed at finding joint approaches to the exploration and management of forest resources and to environmental monitoring. It is a balanced and sensible agreement and we believe that it will be successful in operation. We hope that all the other nations will join in this vital approach to try to conserve our forest resources.
I have covered only some of the many areas in international affairs where the Government are making a significant contribution to the management of international change. The message is simple and clear—at a time of great opportunity, Britain is at the forefront in helping to shape events. In Europe, as in other regions of the world, and in areas of truly global concern, we are managing that change constructively.
The Government have solid experience, sound judgment and sensible, practical policies, and it is those that we are applying to the issues. We are meeting rapid change with a dynamic response. We are successfully defending this country's interests and at the same time co-operating with others to build a stronger, safer framework for the conduct of international relations.
Those are the achievements in which this country may justly take pride. We shall continue to be guided by those policies, which I now commend to the House.
§ 10 am
§ Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)
Any of us who seek some explanation for the timing of this foreign affairs debate on a sunny July Friday need look no further than what the Minister described as the fireworks in Paris. It is no coincidence that the acceptable face of Thatcherism has been left behind today to hold the fort and do a repair job on British-French relations.
Paying a tribute to the French must be highly uncomfortable, one would have thought, in the light of the displays of the Tebbit school of diplomacy of the past couple of days—the theory of making friends by insulting and abusing them at a time of maximum national celebration.
As the Minister said, we live in momentous times. The whole geology of international relations has been shifted in the past few years and the very pace of change renders practically every generalisation redundant almost as it is spoken. Even the past week has seen its share of major events. We have seen President Bush's significant sweep through eastern Europe and the speech by President 1248 Gorbachev to the Council of Europe just a week ago today. This weekend in Paris we shall see the summit of the richest Western powers.
Few people would have dared to predict, five years ago or even three years ago, that elections in Poland would trounce the Communist party, that Hungary would have campaigning, independent parties, and that even in Moscow an elected Parliament would robustly debate and declaim and even sack useless Ministers, an exercise which in this country is still carried out by the old Stalinist process that the Soviet Union has done away with Some Conservative Members will get to power only by revolution while Opposition Members need only an election to do that.
We have also seen the formal end of the Brezhnev doctrine, the exit of Cuba from Angola and the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and major arms control agreements—some of them already signed and some of them promised. It must be a time for Britain to play a major or even a decisive part in this new world. As the Minister reminded us, we are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and a leading power in NATO and in the European Community. We are at the centre of the Commonwealth and we are still in the Group of Seven richest nations meeting in Paris this weekend. But the sad fact is that our impact on events is declining, not increasing. Britain is increasingly on the edge of the action and nowhere near the centre. After Ronald Reagan, the special relationship is no longer so special.
In NATO, the nuclear phobia of the Prime Minister left her high and dry at the 40th anniversary Brussels summit. Suddenly the Germans and their vision of a safer, more trusting Europe had America's ear. It was the German blueprint that won the day and the British policy of resistance to negotiations and short-range nuclear forces and a desire for new nuclear systems was firmly squashed.
Last month, the respected German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung—[interruption.] We all know that one of the chief talents that the Minister brings to Government is her fluency in German. I apologise for my lack of fluency. Because of her expertise she knows how influential, conservative and authoritative that newspaper is. It said that after the NATO summit, President Bush visited Britain only as a consolation prize for the Prime Minister after the end of the Ronald Reagan special relationship. The Minister will know just how damning that indictment is.
In the European Community, we stand totally isolated against the social dimension of the single European market of 1992. When the Prime Minister calls our Community partners Socialists and Marxist it no longer produces outrage but merely derision. In the Commonwealth, our eccentric resistance to sanctions against South Africa has left us on the fringe and our chair is empty. What a tragedy for Britain and for all those who care for this country to see us relegated in that way and to see our ability to influence those momentous events so reduced.
Much of our loss of influence is related to the Prime Minister's personality. She built a myth of a British economic miracle and held it up to the world as a shining example. It certainly got attention, and from those who did not look too closely it received praise and admiration. They now know better as, day by day, Britain drifts further into industrial strife, all of it legitimised by Tory laws It can be seen that the short-term impact on productivity and performance through the intimidation of unemployment 1249 and the bludgeon of the dole queue did nothing for the underlying problems and divisions that so greatly hurt our economy. So much for the economic miracle. There is also genuine sadness about the lost opportunities and the wasted chances.
To be fair, in the early 1980s the Prime Minister's break from the cold war time warp opened some new doors and some old minds. Perhaps her influence on Ronald Reagan persuaded an elderly Right-wing populist that he could get into the history books. She achieved a breakthrough on Rhodesia and, at whatever cost in other areas, she forced some reason and sense into our EC budget contribution. Those were the credits on the balance sheet.
But all those credits were not part of a grand strategy or of any coherent idea of Britain's role in NATO, Europe, the Commonwealth or the world. They resulted from a personalised ego trip—a parade of single-minded grudges, complaints and croneyisms combined with the Prime Minister's obsession of getting her own way even when it meant winning battles before losing the war. The Prime Minister is a triumphant general of a dozen pyrrhic victories.
President Bush's tour through Hungary and Poland this week has shown the western response to what is happening and being allowed to happen in eastern Europe. More than anything else that response will dictate the sort of continent in which we will live for the next 40 years. One of the saddest headlines of the week was in Tuesday's edition of the Financial Times, a paper not noted for its sensationalism in foreign policy. It said:Bush heaps praise but not much cash on Poland".Poland and its neighbour Hungary are on the brink of the unthinkable dream. Perhaps they will have a pluralistic democracy, contested elections and mixed economies and will see the return of choice in the shop and in politics. With those things will come freedom to speak, think and write and perhaps even freedom before the law. How often have politicians in the West cried out for the very things that now beckon the citizens of those two people's republics? How often have we urged, cajoled and even threatened the oligarchies that ran eastern Europe? How we sighed when, in East Germany in 1953, in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 the fire of freedom was snuffed out. Now it could all happen, but suddenly everybody wants to wait for the Americans or the Japanese to do something. They want to wait to see whether Gorbachev will last the year and whether elections are allowed. If we keep on waiting there will be nothing to wait for. Unless democracy, pluralism or glasnost produces the goods, the old certainties and the comfortable old subsidised prison-camp states may again look too attractive to resist.
The crows are waiting for the experiments to fail. The Stalinists are not dead but merely wait for us to wait and for economic chaos to liberate the treasured designs of their past. The rich West has the resources to grip the problem, as former President Giscard d'Estaing said this week at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, if we act together now we can relieve the economic pressure and guide the sick economies along a path that will ensure stability. Of course, it requires imagination. It demands the same courage and vision and the same enlightened 1250 self-interest that launched the Marshall plan at the end of the second world war. It also demands generosity, even if the cash is tied and conditional and cautiously applied.
§ Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Poland the Confederation for an Independent Poland and Solidarity are extremely wary of large amounts of cash from the West because they believe that they will bolster the existing regime? Is he also aware that it was precisely this sort of unfettered aid given by West Germany in the late 1970s which allowed the Stalinist Polish regime to remain in power?
§ Mr. Robertson
If the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene, it would help if he listened to what I am saying. I made the point that the aid can and should be targeted, it can be conditional and it can be involved in the projects that we in the West think beneficial, to Poland and to us. Solidarity's demand for aid was for $10 billion. President Bush offered $115 million. Solidarity does not see that as bolstering the Communist dictatorship. It sees western aid as salvaging democracy from the ruins of what could be the economic chaos that faces them.
This initiative from the West requires imagination more than anything else, and urgency. That is why the western and especially the British response has looked so grudging, ineffective and hopelessly disproportionate in the past few weeks. If I were a Solidarity activist in Poland contemplating sharing power and the extremely tough decisions that will be required with the outgoing Communists, I would remember vividly the ringing declarations of the martial law era and the chorus of noises of support that rose from every single western capital; and when I saw the meagre aid that President Bush brought, I would feel betrayed. We say that we should give aid as part of an agreed package, and that we should give it for specific projects such as pollution control, high technology investment, management and education. We say that we should give aid for private projects and joint ventures, but the key is to give aid before the fragile, trembling steps to freedom are crushed by the meanness and parsimony of mature democratic powers which waited and waited until it was too late.
I want to ask the Minister of State who will reply to the debate one specific question. He was reported in The Daily Telegraph as having said in Hungary on Tuesday that Britain was ready to provide support for Hungary's fledgling political parties in the run-up to free elections. Will the Minister be more specific about that? The seminars that he said were scheduled for some Polish and Hungarian politicians in the autumn will be run by the Great Britain/East Europe Centre, an admirable organisation on whose governing body I and other hon. Members serve. But the amount of money involved so far would hardly pay for the election address for a Bristol constituency, so if we are to have an impact on helping those new politicians and do not want all the work done by the magnificent, omnipresent German political foundations, much more cash will be necessary. How much will be available, and how soon?
The Prime Minister's increasing isolation is vividly on display in the European Community. We have heard a gloss from the most communautaire of the Foreign Office Ministers, but the European Parliament election campaign, masterminded as it was by the Prime Minister herself, was a miserable humiliation for the Conservative 1251 party. The campaign was a churlish, negative, trivial display of arrogant mismanagement and it is small wonder that the electorate rejected the Tory party and the message that it put forward.
What was the response from the mastermind herself—an admission that she got it wrong? Not on your life. Was the advertising campaign the disaster that their losing MEPs and some Back-Bench Members said it was? Was the reason the Bruges speech and its hectoring repudiation of the Single European Act, which the Prime Minister had accepted and then told the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) to go to Brussels and sign? Was it her denunciation of her fellow European Right-wing leaders, whom she told, according to the Daily Mail in May:We think your attitude of putting people on boards and committees because they are a trade unionist goes back to the Marxist period, a class struggle period.Apparently it was none of those explanations: it was all down to the weather. According to the Prime Minister, the First Lord of the Treasury of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it was such a warm day that the Tory voters simply stayed in their gardens. That I find unbelievable, but it was the definitive political explanation from the Prime Minister of the rout and gutting of the Tory party—the humbling of a Government long on arrogance and short on common sense. Now the diminutive group of Tory M EPs crawls round the Palais des Nations in Strasbourg vainly trying to find partners willing to be tainted by the insensitive, crude, anti-Community attitude of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. That Tory group is still struggling to find companions in the European Parliament, which is perhaps the most vivid example of just how isolated the Government's attitude to Europe has become.
§ Mr. Robertson
It is good to see how the hon. Gentleman, who abandoned his seat in the European Parliament to come to the lush pastures of Westminster, goes into the minutiae and technicalities of industrial relations in the British Labour group. The Tory group is so small it has no industrial relations problems. If that was the seventh cavalry, it tells us a lot about the defence policy of the Tory party.
Worse is still to come for Britain. Marginalised as it is by the personality of the Prime Minister, after Madrid she finds herself locked into a process of European monetary union which is wending towards its conclusion—a process which she had gone to Madrid specifically to balk. She returned from the summit full of the grand idea that she had got her own way again and told the House that her master plan and no one else's was on the table. All the other leaders went back to their countries and told the truth to the European people. We heard the truth from a 1252 source even closer than that. Why else did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say last week in Paris, as reported by The Times, thathe would like to have had a say in the final compromise reached last month in Madrid"?The Times reported that the Chancellor had wistfully said that it might have been better if finance Ministers also attended European summits. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes that degree of criticism, we can treat with true scepticism the laudatory noises from the Foreign Office.
Now there will be an intergovernmental conference which the Prime Minister tried to stop. She cannot stop it now. When it takes place, as it assuredly will, she can veto any treaty amendment that emerges but she cannot stop the others going it alone—perhaps outside the treaty—and Britain will be left attached to a train with no say over the route or the driver.
We find ourselves isolated and marginalised on European monetary union, and even more so on the social charter. Alone among all the European states, Britain sees the charter as a Marxist trap. All the other Right-wing parties see it as a crucial component of persuading workers that the single market is not just about business but is a vital prerequisite to what the Foreign Secretary told the CBI at dinner last month was a "level playing field" for trading. Our Government alone, in their private obsession—delusion, even—know better than the best that the charter is a Marxist danger.
I ask the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), who is probably as wet as the right hon. Member for Wallasey, to enlighten us. We keep asking which elements of the social charter have their base in "Das Kapital"? It is an intriguing question which the Foreign Secretary refused to answer on Wednesday. The draft charter has now been published; Madame Papandreou has put it forward. Which aspects of it led the Prime Minister to tell the Daily Mail that it originated in the Marxist period?
§ Mr. Robertson
As my right hon. Friend says, that would be regarded as a Marxist document, too. Probably Joseph Stalin's interpretation of Marxism is the version that the Prime Minister accepts as her own working document.
Given Britain's isolation, it is small wonder that last week the distinguished Europe correspondent of Newsweek, Mr. Scott Sullivan, who is scarcely a supporter of the Labour and Left-wing movements in Europe, wrote:Thatcher's high-handed, arrogant manner often detracts from her good, or at least defensible, ideas.He added:Labour's capture of the banner of Europeanism has goaded Thatcher into a spate of pettiness.How true that is. The catalogue of pettiness includes the obstruction of the Lingua programme of language teaching in our schools and involves health warnings on cigarette packets, the veto on concessionary travel for pensioners and the twisting and turning on drinking water standards in which the Secretary of State for the Environment has been indulging this week. Mr. Sullivan's conclusion was spot on. He wrote:Margaret Thatcher, the most reluctant European of all.The tragedy of it all does not rest only with the electoral kamikaze policies of the Prime Minister. The real tragedy 1253 is that our country will suffer for a generation because of her folly. Britain faces the single European market of 1992, and the years before it, with crippling handicaps.
§ Mr. Ian Taylor
The hon. Gentleman has been attacking my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister throughout his speech. It comes ill from a spokesman of a party which has only recently found that it believes in Europeanism, which had to get rid of its European MEP leader immediately after the election to cover its embarrassment, which has more CND Members of the European Parliament than any other group, and which on wider issues has sat uncomfortably with NATO, being unsure whether it is unilateral or not. We could go on about the confusion in the Labour ranks. It would be much better if the Labour party were to try to find a consistent policy.
§ Mr. Robertson
The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends went on and on during the election campaign about the issues to which he has referred. When they were put to the ultimate test, the electorate chose to believe the Labour party and its vision of Europe. It rejected the carping and the negative views of the Prime Minister and those who toed the party line during such a dreadful and sabotaged campaign.
We are going into the single European market of 1992 with the highest inflation rate in Europe, along with the highest interest rates and the largest trade deficit, a deficit that is growing every month. As if that were not enough for our beleaguered economy to withstand, our vital manufacturing investment is still barely above the level in 1979 when the Government took over the economy. When education and training give all our competitors the edge, even before 1992, we are cutting higher education. Our training record is appalling. Teacher morale is at rock bottom and some children in London cannot even go to school because of teacher shortages. The Government are selling off the public sector and the seedcorn of Britain's future in the very market place that is the Prime Minister's dream.
I move on to the middle east. There is undoubtedly a major crisis facing Israel. That view is shared widely in the House. Even Israel's strongest and most robust friends throughout the world are in a state of despair about the suicidal shortsightedness of current Israel policy. As the intifada continues, the killings on each side go on apparently unrestrained. Every one of us—not only those who have strong affections for Isreal—shared the anguish and anger after the bus outrage last week. As each week passes we are ashamed by the killings of Palestinians in the occupied territories, yet the pointless and degrading violence on both sides continues.
The decision last week by the Likud hardliners to try to trap the party and the Government of Israel into conditions that will render the West Bank elections a travesty and a mockery of the very democracy on which Israel has always prided itself, must make the few remaining middle east optimists in the world weep with despair.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
No one would dispute the point that my hon. Friend is making. He will be aware, of course, that over 70 men and women have been murdered in the West Bank and in Gaza because they "collaborated" with 1254 the Israeli authorities in moving towards some form of elections. I am sure that my hon. Friend will condemn that as strongly as he condemns other happenings in Israel.
§ Mr. Robertson
I warmly endorse what my hon. Friend says. The violence on both sides is indefensible and regrettable. Our criticism of the Israeli Government does not detract from the fact that violence on all sides is escalating and that we must seek a solution. In that context, it is regrettable that the Israeli Government have taken such a negative position.
I pay tribute to the Labour members of the coalition who joined in the tough decisions that the Government made to help the country. They helped their country to salvage its honour and now they must watch the Likud party destroying everything. The Labour group in Israel is right to threaten the coalition, even if it takes a few weeks to pull the rug. To stay with this doomed group of unrealistic and self-deluded bigots would be to hand a poisoned legacy to future generations of Israelis. If, as rumour has it this week, the United States is considering in the face of the Likud decision promoting an international conference on its own, can we be assured, and will the Government confirm, that the United Kingdom will back the conference? In the meantime, let us continue to impress upon those who will not see that security and safety for Israel will never be achieved by a gun being held permanently to the heads of those who are in the occupied territories.
Another area of the middle east should haunt the world. Within Iraq an unspeakable campaign has been mounted against the Kurdish minority. First, they were bombed and then they were rocketed. They were shot at and blasted into the mountains where they live. Much, much worse was to come. Last summer the Iraqi forces, freed from the war with Iran, were turned on their own people. This time they chose to deploy chemical weapons, which were outlawed by the civilised world after the first world war. At the village of Halabja the cameras covered the outrage. A horrified world saw for the first time the sheer barbarity and indecency of the slaughter of innocent civilians by poisoned gas. Last September, I visited the camps in south-east Turkey. They were full then, and, disgracefully, they are today, with the Iraqi Kurds who had fled from the poisoned gases that had been dropped on their villages. It was an unforgettable experience. The faces and the horrifying stories of those proud people will stay with me for ever.
For a time the West rightly reflected the outrage at the criminality that the Iraqi Government deserved, but soon much—too soon—it was business as usual. the Iraqi Government, having managed to face down the condemnation of the West, having ignored the vilification of the civilised world, and having seen that Governments such as ours, who had the evidence—in many ways the British Government produced the evidence—and who made the noises of outrage, then went back to doing business with the merchants of chemical death, learnt a cynical lesson pretty quickly.
The persecution continues in Iran. Entire villages are being demolished and communities are being devasted. Thousands of Kurdish people are being "resettled". They are being transported to camps at the other end of a vast country. The world remains silent as the campaign continues. The announcement this week of the order for Hawk trainer planes perhaps explains the silence. As the 1255 genocidal use of chemical weapons lingers in the air, and even as the Kurdish villages are being bulldozed, the selling of war planes continues.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave)
Before the hon. Gentleman's statement becomes established mythology, I tell the House that no permission has been given to export Hawks to Iraq. Those matters have not in any way been decided.
§ Mr. Robertson
The Minister has answered the question that I was about to ask. The order cannot go ahead unless the Government give the OK. The Government's policy, which sometimes is a little frayed at the edges, is not to sell lethal equipment to Iran or Iraq. The Minister says that no decision has been made, but what do they intend to do? Will they block it? The Minister should have said not that a decision has not been reached, but that it had been reached and the answer was no. The Government must get off their knees and put real pressure on the Iraqi Government to stop their campaign against the Kurds. If they do not do that, they will live with the stain of the unfilmed, untelevised, but nevertheless very real atrocities.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised the problems of the Kurdish people in Iraq, and I am sure that they will be grateful for that. Although the Government may not allow the export of military hardware to Iraq, is it not just as beneficial to the Iraqi Government to be given banking facilities, credits and increased trade? They have exactly the same effect of propping up the Iraqi economy, which is used to finance the war machine that is practising genocide against the Kurdish people.
§ Mr. Robertson
My hon. Friemd makes an accurate point. One of the most indecent acts during the events last year was that while the Foreign Office was correctly expressing its outrage about the deployment of chemical weapons—as verified by the Government's defence research establishement—the Government sent a Cabinet Minister, no less, to the Baghdad fair to announce the doubling of trade credits to Iraq. How the Government can hold their head high when practising such double standards defies description.
This debate can cover only a small number of issues. It is a dramatic time; a time of real decision in the world. In South Africa, central and Latin America and the far east, the process of change is breaking up all the old preconceptions and stereotypes. It should be a time for Britain, in all the arenas where we still have influence, to play a decisive role in shaping the sort of world that will emerge. If we have become observers instead of players, marginal instead of central, ignored instead of listened to, that is a reflection of how British foreign policy has become an extension of the Prime Minister's increasingly personal and unstable style of Government at home. That style was on trial in the European Parliament elections last month. The Tory vision of Britain in Europe faced the test of the ballot box—the ultimate test of the British people. That vision and that style at home, in Europe and beyond, was solemnly rejected by the people of Britain. As the right hon. Lady ploughs on relentlessly, incapable of learning any of the lessons of that electoral disaster, she heads for an even worse result when she finds the courage to face the British electorate again.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. I remind the House that Mr. Speaker has appealed for brief speeches.
§ Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)
I am both pleased and honoured to be called so early in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I suspect that this honour was not because of me, but because of the subject that I intend to discuss—the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and in particular the role of the British group. This is not just the centenary year, but is the centenary week of the centenary year of the IPU, and a bust of its co-founder, Sir William Randal Cremer, is sitting in the Member's Lobby. He is the first Back Bencher to be so honoured, so perhaps there is hope for all of us—the noble breed that carries on the work of this House by day and by night.
As most hon. Members are aware, I am a recent ex-chairman of the IPU. I congratulate and salute the excellent, capable and hard-working present chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall). He is ably supported in his work by the senior Opposition officer on the IPU, the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), who I note is deservedly sitting in his place on the Opposition Front Bench.
The British group and its responsibilities are rather different from most of the other groups in the 111 Parliaments of the world. It does not simply provide British representation at various inter-parliamentary conferences of both a plenary and, increasingly, a specialised nature, it also deals with the bilateral parliamentary relations between Britain and other countries. The ability to send delegations to any other parliamentary countries, coupled with the contacts between Parliaments that can be furthered above and beyond those bilateral delegations and visits, is essential to our IPU role.
In answer to an earlier intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State referred to the role that parliamentarians can play in international relations. That is now becoming both self-evident and appreciated, but it was not always so. My right hon. Friend's Department was a little slow on the ball in the 1970s, and even in the early 1980s, and it was not until after the Falklands war that it suddenly realised that such contacts were vital and that the Foreign Office needed to maintain a close relationship with the House, with the IPU being very much a part of that relationship.
Hon. Members are close to, but not part of, Government and, therefore, can meet their parliamentary counterparts on an informal basis and establish links, build bridges and float ideas. The Government cannot do that because, understandably, they are bound by Government policies and have to stand on formal positions. The combination of foreign relations between Governments—especially our Government—and parliamentarians is becoming increasingly useful.
I wish to state three examples that began during my time in office and have since been furthered. The first relates to East-West relations. It was not an accident that the British group decided to take the initiative on the eastern bloc at a time when it was far less fashionable to do so. It was not an accident that the IPU British group 1257 provided the vehicle for Mr. Gorbachev to make one of his most significant international visits in December 1984. Nobody would pretend that he came here simply to talk to Back Benchers, but it is fair to say that they definitely contributed to the success of his visit. I well remember the return visit led by my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Whitelaw, ably supported by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). I have affectionate memories of that visit to the Soviet Union when the right hon. Gentleman gave an ample display of both his diplomatic and photographic talent.
The second example relates to Argentina, with which we have maintained parliamentary relations. It is my fundamental belief that at the right time—which I hope will not be too long delayed—those parliamentary relations will prove very useful. The third and for me the most important example is the way in which the British group has made a significant contribution to and a continuing development of parliamentary relations with the Republic of Ireland. We should all be conscious of and encourage that.
It is not for me to make a long speech about the various IPU conferences and the issues that they discuss. I want to deal with more general matters within the international work of the IPU. All of the 111 Parliaments of the world are members of the IPU. In the old days it was a sort of democratic club. In the 1950s it was under the world leadership of Viscount Stansgate—not an uninteresting fact—that a decision was taken that all Parliaments of the world, and in particular of the Communist countries, should be admitted. That has led to East-West contacts at all levels, now prominent in terms of governmental as well as parliamentary contact—but in those earlier days at least we maintained some kind of contact.
It is very pleasing when countries again become democracies and rejoin the Inter-Parliamentary Union. It is not often realised that when a coup occurs the country concerned is obliged to resign from the IPU if it does not have a Parliament. I well remember a conference in 1984 when I sat near the delegation from the Cameroons, which kept on leaving and then re-entering the chamber. The reason they kept leaving was that their president was losing a particular gun fight at the presidential palace. When he began to win the gun fight, they re-entered the chamber again. Fortunately, the Cameroons retained its Parliament by the end of that conference—but that particular delegation had a particularly busy and mobile time. Virtually all Latin American countries have rejoined IPU, and they have been very well received.
My second point concerns the uses that Governments, as well as parliamentarians generally, can make of the IPU in establishing positions. A Government's position is often reflected by the comments of parliamentarians. One example of that was the vote on the Falklands issue at the IPU conference in Rome in 1982, which was a most useful precursor to a vote important to Britain that was to take place in the United Nations one month later.
My third point relates to personal contact—the opportunities for which are legion in the IPU. Right hon. and hon. Members may smile when I say that the British-lrish interparliamentary body originated in part at a lunch given by the British group in Seoul in Korea. That seems an odd place for British-Irish relations to 1258 commence. Nevertheless, the Irish delegation on that occasion included the Speaker of the Irish Parliament and the parliamentary party leaders of both Fianna Fail and Fina Gael. That is an example of the opportunity that such conferences provide to establish useful contacts.
Finally, I pay tribute to the international work that is done in relation to the human rights of parliamentarians. As right hon. and hon. Members sit in the relaxed atmosphere of this Chamber, it is easy to forget that being a Member of Parliament is an extremely hazardous occupation in many countries. The work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in that respect has been valuable and has contributed to, if not directly led to, the release from imprisonment of hundreds of our colleagues since the war.
I recall that at the height of the repression of the Iranian revolution the Iranian delegation was put in the dock at an IPU conference and had to defend itself with regard to two prisoners whom I knew personally, and one of whom had gone blind. They were both released shortly after that conference.
The British-Irish interparliamentary body is an example of the IPU's bilateral work and stems directly from improved parliamentary relations through a continuous exchange of delegations with the Irish. After the joint studies report of 1981 and the Anglo-Irish Agreement, we now have, as the result of the marriage of governmental commitment on the one hand and of parliamentary action on the other, the body that we hope will shortly come into being and play a very useful role. I want to express my gratitude for the support I received both from the Government and from the official Opposition in forming that body.
Over the past year, the basis of the body has been agreed with the Irish. It will have 25 members a side, will meet in plenary session twice a year, and will have an appointed membership for the duration of each Parliament. It will be quite unique, and will provide something far more than just the normal exchange of delegations between two countries. We are at the stage where a formal application is about to be made to the Treasury for the independent funding of that body under the auspices of the IPU. Despite the ominous murmurings of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am reasonably optimistic that the interparliamentary body will have its first plenary meeting next February.
As to the future, there is a need to exploit the parliamentary aspect of foreign and diplomatic relations to the utmost, and in that the IPU has a crucial role to play.
As this is the IPU's centenary week, obviously I have concentrated on its activities, but I must pay tribute also to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and to the British-American Parliamentary Group which, although their functions are slightly different, play an equally important role.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been very helpful, and it is extremely conscious of the role that the IPU can play. The British-Irish interparliamentary body is a positive example of the future relationship between two Parliaments. We must consider carefully our attitude towards parliamentary groups and their funding, particularly if the IPU is to continue to operate effectively. It is not easy dealing with all the Parliaments of the world and for the IPU to be responsible not only for the British-Irish body but, for example, the virtually annual 1259 exchanges with the Soviet Union. The IPU needs to respond to virtually every country of the world, many of which spend much more than we do on parliamentary relations—perhaps because they realised its importance before we did.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union is certainly not a travel club for right hon. and hon. Members. Its activities are becoming increasingly specialised and concentrated. Long may it continue, and long may it have the support of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I hope that the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) will forgive me if I do not take up his points, except to reminisce that when I first attended the Council of Europe in the early post-war years one of the French Union delegates failed to return from the summer recess because he had been eaten by his constituents. There is a risk in being a member of some Parliaments that fortunately does not exist in our own.
I wish to echo the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and to describe both the opportunities and the dangers presented by the end of the cold war and Britain's role in meeting that challenge. The cold war is over. That is proved in a million ways. It is proved by the continuing talks on arms control and reduction between the Soviet Union and the United States. More importantly, and more convincingly, it is proved by the co-operation between the Soviet Union and the United States in areas of tension in many parts of the world.
In the middle east, for example, the Soviet Union is currently trying to shift the policies of both Syria and Iraq into more constructive directions. The United States and the Soviet Union, almost single-handed but with useful assistance from the British Government, produced the recent agreement on Angola. In the far east, co-operation between the super-powers seems likely to produce a settlement of the appallingly difficult problem of Kampuchea, and even on central America Mr. Shevardnadze recently handed President Bush a message indicating that the Soviet Union is ceasing its supply of arms to Nicaragua.
In the light of all that evidence, it is ridiculous to pretend that the situation is as it was even two or three years ago. Even more important in some ways is the fact that glasnost, which was introduced by Mr. Gorbachev, has finally destroyed Communism as an international force. Now that the Russians themselves admit the appalling state of their economy, and the weaknesses in their present democracy, and now that the world has seen the response of the Chinese Communist leadership to democratic protest by the students in Tiananmen square, it is not possible now to regard Communism as a threat to international stability. Some Communist parties might be a threat, but the international Communist menace has gone for ever.
However, I hope that we are beginning to realise that the cold war, by dividing the more powerful countries into two blocs under Soviet and American leadership, gave much of the world 40 years of moderate stability. If the opposing alliances had not existed, it is difficult to feel confident that Turkey would not by now have been at war 1260 with Greece, and, in eastern Europe, Hungary at war with Romania. The ending of the cold war has allowed the nationalisms that were suppressed in the opposing blocs to come to the surface again.
That is challenging many elements of stability in the modern world. Not only the Yalta settlement, which most of us would wish never to have been adopted, but even the settlement of Versailles is at risk in the present troubles in Yugoslavia. Concepts that were last familiar before the first world war are now re-emerging as forces in international affairs. For example, the concept or mettel Europa is now attractive to many Germans, Austrians, Poles, Czechs and Slovenes. We now face a world that is changing fundamentally as a result of the ending of the cold war.
Glasnost—the introduction of more openness in the Soviet Union—is now threatening the unity of the Soviet Union itself. After all, Russia is the last 19th century empire to have survived until nearly the end of the 20th century. In recent meetings of the Soviet Parliament we have seen very powerful national forces showing themselves in the Baltic states, in Georgia and in the Asian republics. All of them, to a greater or lesser degree, want something that they would call independence. How the Soviet Union comes to terms with this new wave of nationalism and what consequences it may have for stability in adjoining parts of the world is sometimes somewhat alarming to contemplate.
I noticed that, in a recent meeting of the Soviet Parliament, one Russian delegate even suggested that, if things go on like this, Russia should secede from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In the Russian republic now there is an extreme nationalist movement called Pamyat, although, fortunately, it did not win any seats in the recent elections.
One might think that, in some respects, the world is set for a return to the politics of the 19th century, but we cannot afford to return to the politics of the 19th century because the world cannot afford any more wars, even wars with conventional weapons. Science has created certain global problems that can be satisfactorily dealt with only by global solutions under the auspices of global organisations. We are all very familiar with the problems created by nuclear power, both in its civil and military forms, and we are becoming more aware of the problems created by chemical pollution which, like nuclear problems, recognises no frontiers and can be dealt with only by international action.
As I said when I spoke in our last foreign affairs debate nearly a year ago, it is a reflection of Britain's diminished role in the world, and indeed of Britain's diminished interest in the world, that we so rarely debate foreign affairs in their broader aspects. We used to have four or five two-day foreign affairs debates every year when I first entered the House about 40 years ago.
There is an overwhelming case, as I said last time, for trying to develop the United Nations as originally intended, as the basis of a world society, with appropriate institutions to fulfil that role. For the first time since the United Nations was set up, Mr. Gorbachev has created the conditions on which that might be done. For its first 40 years, the United Nations could not work as the charter envisaged because the Soviet Union did not believe that a world society was desirable or possible. I am sorry to say that the only person who still holds that view is the British 1261 Prime Minister, who believes that the word society has no meaning either at home or abroad. I will discuss the implications of her position in a moment.
Action on those problems is now extremely urgent for two reasons. First, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton said, we cannot be certain that Mr. Gorbachev will remain leader of the Soviet Union for the rest of his natural life. There is a growing and dangerous gap between his ideas and Soviet reality. That gap is well expressed in the saying that glasnost has given the dog more freedom to bark as perestroika pushes its food bowl further away. The deterioration in the Soviet economy over the past few years is bound to create dangerous tensions in the Soviet Union, and could lead to some changes of direction in Soviet domestic policy, although not to any significant change in Soviet external policy. The facts that produced the change in Soviet foreign policy under Mr. Gorbachev are facts whether or not he is there and are bound to influence his successors, if he goes, as much as they have influenced him.
There is a second reason why the problem is urgent. We have imagined far too lightly that the problem of world peace and stability are mainly for the super-powers and their allies. We now see military missile technology spreading fast all over the world. Already 22 Third-world countries have missile programmes, and 17 have already deployed missiles. Some of those countries either already have nuclear weapons or the capacity to acquire them quite fast. In all cases, they could use missiles to fire the poor man's nuclear weapon, chemical weapons, a problem to which my hon. Friend rightly paid attention.
Unless we can proceed much faster than Governments presently seem prepared to envisage in building an international framework through the United Nations for coming to grips with some of the problems, we may find that this weather window—this moment of opportunity—is passing. The new situation creates special problems for us in Europe. I will mention a few of the more obvious.
How can we help east European people to return to the community of Europe, which is not necessarily the same thing as the European Community. How can we reconcile the return of east European peoples to Europe with the desire of the European Community in its narrower sense to strengthen its internal cohesion? That problem raises some difficult questions, which, I am sorry to say, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office dodged when I asked her about the Government's attitude to the Austrian application for membership of the European Community—an application which may be followed in the next year or two by applications from Sweden and Finland, and it is possible to envisage applications by Poland and Hungary within four or five years.
The question of how, if this development proceeds, the inevitable dilution of the European Community can be reconciled with many European countries' desire to increase the internal coherence of the existing Community will create some difficult problems for us quite soon—perhaps even in the coming months.
Another question that we must consider is whether it is possible to Finlandise eastern Europe, which has rightly been described as a sensible objective, without Finlandising at least parts of western Europe. That raises some very difficult questions. When he opened the debate 1262 for the Opposition my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton rightly criticised President Bush for offering so little financial economic assistance to Poland. I do not quite understand why the European Community, which is now as wealthy as the United States, should not take the lead in offering financial and economic assistance to eastern Europe, a lead that it would be much easier for the Soviet Union to accept than a lead by the United States. So far, however, apart from a very interesting speech this week by ex-President Giscard d'Estaing, there has rarely been even speculation about these problems by any of the western European leaders, least of all, I fear, by our own Prime Minister.
The central question that bulked so large in the recent NATO meeting was how, in the new situation, to meet the special needs and fears of that newly-created state, the Federal Republic of Germany, which is already feeling the pull of the concept of mittel Europa that to many Germans is another word for Gross Deutschland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is all right for hon. Members to say, "Hear, hear", but these problems are with us now and underlie many of the tensions that were evident at the last summit.
With some reluctance I turn to what Britain is doing in this extremely challenging though sometimes dangerous but also hopeful new situation that has been created by the end of the cold war. As I said earlier, one problem is that the present Prime Minister rejects the mere concept of society. She says that the word has no meaning. She rejects it—as we saw at NATO and at the recent European summit at Madrid—just as much in the international context as in the national context. She has nothing to say on these issues, except to go round the world parroting about the need to protect national sovereignty. However, by agreeing to deregulate the British financial markets and by taking the lead, as the right hon. Lady the Minister of State said, in asking for an open industrial and commercial market in Europe by 1992, she has abandoned British sovereignty. No one knows better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he is no longer master of his own economic and financial policies. He can be blown off course by events not only in Europe but in Latin America the United States and any other part of the world. We enter the new period in a somewhat dangerous position—very much weaker, relative to our partners, than we have ever been before.
Today's summit in Paris has exposed Britain's economic weakness. In its report the other day, the OECD pointed out that Britain has now lost fifth place among the world's largest economies to Italy. For the last two years we have been producing less than Italy. We have higher inflation now than Italy, something which would have been inconceivable to many of us a few years ago. It is obviously unfamiliar to many of the bemused faces which I have stirred out of their hebetude on the Conservative Benches. I am not, of course, talking about the Government representatives on the Treasury Bench.
§ Mr. Waldegrave
The Labour Government managed to get United Kingdom inflation far above that of Italy.
§ Mr. Healey
No, with respect, they did not. The interesting point about the inflation gap between Britain and her European partners is that it was much lower when we were in power because inflation generally was much higher. It was pointed out in the Financial Times the other 1263 day—I apologise for responding to a sedentary intervention by the Minister of State—that the big difference between the time when we were in power and now is that the terms of trade deteriorated by 17 per cent. in the industrial countries during the 1970s. During the eight years of this decade that deterioration has been reversed. That is the main reason why inflation has been a much less serious problem, but the gap between the British inflation rate and that of our European partners is larger now than it was. At no time when the Labour party was in power was our inflation rate higher than that of Italy.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton pointed out, we now have higher inflation, higher interest rates and a bigger balance of payments deficit than any of our major competitors and any of our colleagues in western Europe. That is not a good position from which a British Prime Minister can influence the policy of Britain's partners in any of the international organisations to which we belong. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has not, like Mr. Gorbachev, removed ideology from the sphere of international relations. She finds it almost impossible to make a speech these days which is not redolent with comic strip nationalist ideology—the only ideology, apart from that of the market, with which she is familiar.
During the last year the right hon. Lady has met every challenge by insulting all her allies simultaneously, which is a very odd way for the Prime Minister of a country that has been reduced to weakness to talk. She accused President Kohl and Mr. Genscher of "wriggling" after the last NATO summit. She insulted President Mitterrand repeatedly at some press conferences, as I see the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), recalls. Although she has not yet told us so, it is quite clear that she regards President Bush as an upper class wimp, so wet that one could shoot snipe off him. However, it has not helped Britain, or even the Prime Minister, to add the diplomacy of Alf Garnett to the economics of Arthur Daley. However, that is the twin blessing that she has showered on us in recent years.
As I pointed out in the House the other day, the Prime Minister instructed Mr. Bernard Ingham to tell The Daily Telegraph correspondent that she was going to help Kohl to screw Genscher. Instead, Kohl helped Genscher to screw her, and he did very successfully. I apologise for the word, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it is Mr. Ingham's, not mine. I should have been infinitely more delicate in referring to the operation that was carried out.
The Prime Minister even rewrote the whole of British history by telling the French this week that they should not be so proud of liberty, equality and fraternity because we first introduced it in Magna Carta. I learnt some history when I was a little boy. My impression was that Magna Carta had been imposed on a wicked British King by the barons. It brought no freedom to the ordinary people of our country. If the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity existed before the age of enlightenment in 18th century France, I suppose they existed among some members of the Roundhead group in the British civil war, notably among the Levellers.
That has not done the Prime Minister very much good, either. I read this morning, to my horror, that our Prime Minister was booed by the people of Paris when she appeared yesterday at a ceremony to commemorate the rights of man. I suggest that we all write a letter to her, offering our support, as she may find that essential. I understand that tonight the right hon. Lady will be 1264 accused by the French Prime Minister on Channel 4 television of what he calls her "social cruelty"—a nice phrase that will figure more often in our debates in the future.
The Prime Minister has isolated herself in Europe, in NATO and in the Commonwealth and has done so at a time of our greatest relative economic weakness. I should like to make a timid suggestion because I want to help the Prime Minister to overcome the problems created by what my Peruvian psychiatrist friend rightly described as—what was it? I have forgotten it, but it will come back in a moment. The Prime Minister would do well to confine her rottweiler politics to her Cabinet colleagues, who are now quite used to the virago intacta and who, in any case, never feel it possible to answer back.
Better still—I am being daring in making the suggestion in the presence of the right hon. Lady's two loyal advocates on the Government Front Bench—would it not be a good idea to let the Foreign Secretary run British foreign policy and to give the Foreign Office a look in? The Box is strangely depleted now and I suspect that that is because three of the civil servants have gone out to divide "Das Kapital" into sections and to find out which particular section justifies the Prime Minister in describing the European Community's social charter as a Marxist document.
What is odd and disturbing about the Prime Minister is her position on Europe and especially on the need for some institutional structure to underpin the open market which she wants and which the Minister of State has told us that she is working so hard to achieve. It is not a wild idea to say that, just as the horrors in Peking, which the House debated yesterday, came about because the freeing of the market was not accompanied by the creation of democratic institutions to regulate and control it, so the freeing of the European market could lead to appalling disturbances and disruptions, unless it is accompanied by institutions capable of regulating and controlling it, of which the proposals in the social charter can undoubtedly be one.
It is now clear that, if the Prime Minister is serious about environmental problems, she must agree that the rich countries should help the poor countries to adopt techniques for, for example, freezing food, which do not involve destroying the ozone layer. If she wants to deal with the drugs problem, the rich countries will have to help the poor countries, which depend on growing crops which produce drugs, to find alternative ways of making a living. There are many such countries in Latin America and in southern Asia.
Until the Prime Minister takes off the rusting and decrepit medieval armour which she loves so much and returns from her time-warp to join us all in the 20th century, Britain will remain, as she has alas become, an irritating irrelevance in world affairs whose importance does not even require a response.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I remind the House that speeches made between 11.30 and 1 o'clock must not exceed 10 minutes in length.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)
I was able to say a few words yesterday about the Chinese question, and I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me today. I will, indeed, be brief.
Before I leave the subject of China, I should like to refer to a statement made by the Under-Secretary of State who replied to yesterday's debate—that we must go slowly and find out the views of the people of Hong Hong. We are past that stage now. Nobody with any deep acquaintance of Hong Kong and nobody on the spot doubts for one moment that the people of Hong Kong want to move faster towards the democratisation of the colony. Clearly, saying that we must go slowly and find out their views does not answer our point.
I want to make two points on Europe, which are tied up with what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has been saying. I have had the opportunity in public in the past few weeks of making known my views on the European position, and I shall not follow the right hon. Gentleman in several of the points that he made. First, we are hearing a great deal about the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, which many of our colleagues in the Community treat as a further weakening of our attitude towards the Community. Perhaps that is because this is the Council's 40th anniversary. It achieved useful work, especially in relation to human rights, during its early years, but it was formed as a forum for discussion and nothing more. It has never been able to fulfil any other purpose than being a useful forum for discussion. We used it when we discussed the future membership of the Community.
The Prime Minister has praised the Council continuously in her answers to questions. Again, that raises doubt in people's minds about whether the British Government want to weaken the Community rather than to strengthen it. I want to make it absolutely plain from my point of view—and, I think, from that of many people in the country—that the Council of Europe is no substitute in any way for anything which the European Council does—
§ Mr. Heath
I am glad to have the endorsement of the Minister of State. I know that my right hon. Friend strongly supports the development of the Community. I am pointing out the reaction in the Community, with which I am always in touch, to what is said when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister warmly welcomes the Council at Strasbourg in three successive weeks and, in answers to questions here from Labour Members, says, "Yes, of course, it is a splendid organisation, doing much better work." I want to make that point clear, in view of our relations with our Community colleagues.
My second point relates to the development of Europe. Looking back on the past two years, one sees that it has changed with bewildering rapidity. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East has said, many of the questions are open ones. At the moment we can give answers to some of them, and I should like to try to do so briefly.
The first question relates to our attitude towards Austria—and, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East mentioned, to Sweden and Finland also. My view is that, until the end of 1992, the Community has all that it can manage to handle when dealing with achieving the open 1266 market by 1992. I have spent five years in negotiations in the Community and I know the burden that that places on everybody, from Foreign Office Ministers downwards, when trying to reach agreement about a future member of the Community. Therefore, it is not practically possible for the Community also to handle questions such as the admission of Austria, Finland or Sweden.
Secondly, Austria is bound by the treaty of 1955. I know of no indication from Mr. Gorbachev that he is prepared to waive that treaty and to allow Austria to become a member of the European Community.
Thirdly, I do not believe that, from the point of view of the Community after 1992, we can admit neutral members. Therefore, we must ask whether Austria is prepared to give up neutrality to come into the Community, even if the Soviet Union would allow it? Having been in close touch with those in authority in Austria, I must report that I have had no indication that Austria is prepared to give up neutrality.
The same thing applies to Sweden and Finland. When the right hon. Member for Leeds, East asked whether the solution was the Finlandisation of eastern Europe, I must reply that Finland has existed, under skilful political manoeuvring, in its present position because it has acted without upsetting the Soviet Union and without becoming fully tied into the European Community.
§ Mr. Healey
Ireland is a neutral country by its own choice, and that has not prevented it from joining the Community, being welcomed there or taking part in all its discussions.
§ Mr. Heath
Of course, it was part of our negotiations. Ireland is the exception that proves the rule. Most of us hoped that, when we became a member of the Community with Northern Ireland, like the Republic of Ireland, the Republic's attitude towards the common defence of Europe would change. I still believe that there is a possibility of that happening, but it has not happened so far.
§ Mr. Heath
I am sorry, but I shall not give way because I must be brief. If it were not for that, I would gladly give way, because the hon. Gentleman used to be a very strong supporter of European policy.
Looking still further east, I do not believe that there is evidence to make us work on the basis that Poland or Hungary, let alone Czechoslovakia, is in a position to seek membership of the European Community. For all Mr. Gorbachev's policies, is he prepared to see the break-up of the Soviet empire? I do not think so for one moment. Of course, I am strongly in favour of having a proper working relationship between East and West—we did a great deal to achieve that, from the first test ban treaty in 1963 onwards. I do not believe that Mr. Gorbachev is prepared to see the break-up of the Soviet empire, with those countries becoming members of the European Community when the Soviet Union is not.
It is becoming fashionable to say that Europe should go as far as the Urals. That raises an additional problem: what happens east of the Urals? Will that be the remaining Soviet Union? Will the Soviet Union break from east of the Urals? These are hard, practical questions. The idea is completely unrealistic. It gives everyone the impression 1267 that we want to abandon the treaties that we have signed and weaken the Community. Anyone who looks at a map knows that this is the utmost nonsense from beginning to end.
Our task is to make a success of 1992; then other countries that are prepared to become full members of the Community can do so. So long as the Soviet Union exists, I do not believe that Sweden, Finland or Switzerland will regard themselves as able to join—Austria may want the best of both worlds,b but I do not believe that it is possible for it to have it.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State used a word with which I am not familiar and which I cannot pronounce, but she said that it meant that we will go on doing everything we can. I am afraid that my view differs. A deep difference of philosophy exists. Our attitude in other aspects of international relations is that if we can do anything together, it is better to do it together. This is why the public have lost confidence in us, as evidenced in the Euro-elections. They ask, "Why be in a minority of one?"
For example, why be in a minority about the notices setting out the dangers of smoking? Common notices would simplify the manufacturers' job, and that fits in with the rest of our philosophy. Why should they not be allowed to have such notices, or be told to have them? Public opinion is increasingly in favour of persuading people not to smoke. There is a big lobby, about which I am getting many letters, saying that smoking should be forbidden in Whitehall offices and that people should be able to work without being interfered with by smoking. We can take a legal view—even if it is not justifiable—that this action cannot be taken by the Community, but if it is a benefit to everyone, why not take it?
Exactly the same thing applies to languages. Our children desperately need more languages. Why do we say that this cannot be done by the Community but not do it ourselves? This is an extraordinarily extreme, legalistic bureaucratic approach. We are the bureaucrats, not the Community which is trying to achieve this aim. The same thing applies to cards for pensioners so that they can get their benefits wherever they go in Europe. That is what ordinary people want. They want to be able to get the benefits of Community life. Why should we stop it? The public do not understand why, as emerged clearly in the Euro-elections. The Government were obstructive, bureaucratic, rigid and dogmatic and we were not getting the benefits offered to us. The general public could not see anything more foolish than that.
There is a difference of philosophy. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will pursue her real belief that we should work together inside the Community to the utmost extent and not take a dogmatic line that makes us say that, if something does not happen to fit in with one or two views in Government, we should not follow it. We should be clear what our scope can be in the future, certainly until 1992, and by then, no doubt, the international picture of what will happen between East and West will be clearer.
§ Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)
Yesterday's debate on Hong Kong and China was rather sad—perhaps it would be better to say that it was "realistic", because that it the fashionable word to use. It harshly displayed where we now stand—something on 1268 which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) touched. It showed that our country, which recently—certainly within the memory of most hon. Members in the Chamber—dominated the world, is largely impotent and notably lacking in generosity. The rising sap of Empire has become like a dribble of spittle from the corner of an old man's mouth.
Even little poverty-stricken Portugal demonstrates greater responsibility towards its citizens in Macao, yet, after listening to the Minister of State, I believe that we still seem capable of remarkable self-deceit. The picture that she painted—she does it so well, persuasively and nicely—of a progressive, forward-looking Britain, leading policy in the European Community and in the world at large and widely admired by everyone, is one that I fail to recognise.
In the short time that I have to speak, I should like to touch on a few matters to which we could, in co-operation, make a more positive contribution.
I must point out that, although appeals were made to the Front Benchers as well as to ordinary mortals, the Minister took 34 minutes and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) took 35. It seems a bit hard for the rest of us, even if we speak for a party, to get 10 minutes.
I should like to say a last word on Hong Kong. Yesterday, the debate did not address the question of what we will do if, at the agreed time of handover in 1997, events similar to, or worse than, the massacres in Peking are taking place. If contingencies are to be discussed with other Ministers in the Council of Ministers, they should consider what we would do if it were unthinkable that the handover should take place when it was supposed to take place.
I should like to refer also to our position in the European Community. It is difficult to add much to what was said so effectively by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and the hon. Member for Hamilton. It is certainly a travesty of the truth to suggest that the United Kingdom is taking a lead. We are following in economic respects, kicking and struggling against Delors, who is backed by the French and Germans, in our response to the social charter, and in our ideas on regional and social policy. We are isolated and we are not being terribly diplomatic. I shall not go over again the remarks that the Prime Minister has made about the French revolution, but they were hardly diplomatic.
The hon. Member for Hamilton mentioned President Gorbachev's speech in Strasbourg a week ago yesterday. I heard that exciting speech. Having heard the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, I should like the Minister to say something about what the Government think the Council of Europe should do. It is a perfectly fair question. Apart from its work in human rights, which is largely the work of the court, there is its work in culture, which is useful. It also appears to be now developing a role in making a bridge across the iron curtain. It is possible for Hungary to become a member of the Council of Europe. It will not be possible for a long time yet for Hungary to become a member of the European Community or to leave the Warsaw pact, but it is possible for Hungary, Poland and others and, if the process accelerates, even the Soviet Union itself, to join the Council of Europe, as Mr. Gorbachev said. That is a role that the Council of Europe may fulfil and I would like to know the Government's 1269 view. If the Council of Europe is to have such a role, it will need a higher profile and more money, as it has none at present.
Mr. Gorbachev's speech was less encouraging in one respect, which was that it emphasised the limitations of interference in state powers and the fact that a limitation of state powers was inadmissible. In other words, he was against interference in domestic affairs. However, with human rights, there is no such thing as other people's business. The fate of the Turks in Bulgaria, the Hungarians in Romania and the Kurds are all our business. I would like the Minister to describe the Government's view on that.
The Government could have said that we would not sell the Hawks. I do not know what further deep discussions are necessary. We all know what Hawks can do or not do and the argument about whether they can be used only as trainers or in other roles. I would have thought that it was generally agreed that they could be used in other roles.
Mr. Gorbachev has pointed to the great potential of the United Nations now that the Russians co-operate fully. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East referred to that. We have a chance to develop peace-keeping forces that will be more effective than the United Nations force has managed to be in southern Lebanon. The Government have not been very supportive of the United Nations. When are we going back into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation? It is about time that we did.
What are the Government doing to further the concept of an international conference on the middle east? I know that the Minister takes a steady, sound and sensible view of the middle east. I want to refer briefly to the death of Moshe Kol, of whom many may not have heard. He was one of the founding fathers of the state of Israel and a former leader of the Israeli Liberal party. He was a man with a great commitment to pluralism and he represented the good, positive side of Israeli politics, which is in retreat at present, although it is still there—if hard pressed.
I also want to pay tribute to another individual who is about to leave the political scene and whose example of high courage has been an inspiration to many. I refer to Mrs. Helen Suzman, who has served for a long time in the Cape Town Parliament and who will shortly cease to sit where she has so consistently and bravely attacked apartheid. What is the Government's present relationship with the Commonwealth on the degree of pressure to be applied to South Africa to bring about the end of apartheid? What role are the Government playing in the difficult, but hopeful, negotiations which will follow the ceasefire in the Angolan civil war? There is still a wide gulf between the view of President Dos Santos from Luanda that the rebels should be absorbed and President Savimbi's view that there should be an interim Government and free elections. As we are in favour of pluralism, I imagine that we are working to further the latter view, and I would like to know the position.
I am afraid that my time has all but run out and I hate to be told to sit down, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although fortunately that does not often happen. I want to conclude by myself by saying that the right hon. Members for Leeds, East and for Old Bexley and Sidcup, in different ways, were both wholly right in saying that the way forward for 1270 this country is not to go round shouting about nationalism, but to develop a real community sense within the European Community and to make the fullest possible contribution to the international agencies, many of which we have sadly shunned in the past.
§ Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston): I agree with him strongly on one point. I attended virtually the whole of yesterday's debate, and I agree that it was a sad debate. To add a footnote, I am extremely grateful to the Government for responding to the application made by me and other hon. Members that Chinese students should have their visas extended for six months, which at least gives a breathing space. There is also a private fund, for which Sir Alec Cairncross is responsible. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends whether, if the need arises, the Government will consider contributing to that fund. I know that many of my own students in Cambridge are under severe financial difficulties.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that we do not debate foreign affairs very often. I recall when I first came here in 1955, in a different capacity, that one of the great features, apart from episodes such as Suez, was that there was virtual agreement between the parties on foreign affairs and defence. A signal example of that is the approach to Namibia. Resolution 435 was passed under a Labour Government and was supported by the Conservative party in opposition. The present Opposition, and especially the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), have strongly supported the Government throughout the process, which we hope will end happily. There are still difficulties, and I have real apprehensions about intimidation in the elections, but I am still optimistic that the Rhodesia-Zimbabwe experience will be important. I would welcome warmly Namibia's arrival in the Commonwealth.
I want to concentrate on the middle east, where we are dealing with a rapidly changing scene. The adage about a week being a long time in politics has particular reference to this week, because the position now is different from the position on Monday. The new conditions on the elections of Palestinians imposed by Likud must be regarded as a major setback, although I do not regard it as disastrous. None the less, the process has begun and must be encouraged. I do not share in the criticism of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary for meeting yesterday Mr. Bassam Abu Sharif of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. However, I understand the concern it has caused in certain quarters. When we talk about Israel, I hope that we do not give the impression of interfering in the internal affairs of a friendly country. I much regretted the remark of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who described the democratically elected leaders of a friendly country as "deluded bigots". Such language coming from a party spokesman is helpful to no one.
There is a long record of British involvement in the Jewish national home and in Israel. One thinks of people such as Arthur Balfour, Churchill and Victor Cazalet. That friendship is enduring and durable. However, it also often requires considerable patience as well as understanding. I was struck by the final words of my right hon. Friend 1271 the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in yesterday's debate. He was referring to Hong Kong, but his wise words have great relevance to the middle east.Lel us be open and frank. We now face the most difficult task in politics: to remain patient in unknown circumstances that we cannot control and to which we can see no immediate answer."—[Official Report, 13 July 1989; Vol. 156, c. 1183.]Our role with Israel is to encourage and to praise as well as to warn and to criticise. There is much about which to warn and much to criticise, but I hope that the people of Israel of all parties, not necessarily the Government, will recognise that in this country there is not only a tradition of support and friendship which goes far beyond the Jewish community and which I call the wider diaspora, but a desire and belief that that nation should and must succeed.
There may be dismay at particular actions and deep unhappiness about certain aspects of current policy, but the deep friendship is there and surely we are entitled to look not only at the area as a whole and to our friends in the Arab world, but to our friends in Israel and to exercise our right as friends to warn and criticise but also to encourage and praise.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
I, too, propose to refer to the middle east, although the hon. Members' references to important aspects of European policy have been of considerable interest to me. Many of us regard the Community's attitude towards foreign affairs as one of its most interesting and perhaps one of its most defensible aspects.
When we discuss difficult questions such as the middle east, in this democratically elected Parliament, it is tremendously important that we remember that Israel is also a democratic state. In recent years we seem to have grown into the habit of holding forth about the difficulties of the Israeli Government without making it clear that we understand that Israel has always remained faithful to its democratic traditions. The Government party elects parliamentarians, which cannot be said of many other parties in the world. The party has also criticised many internal decisions, and the action of the Israeli Labour party, in seeking to debate in considerable detail the decision by Likud to limit the negotiating position of the Government, shows some of the best aspects of democracy at work. The Labour party is anxious not to destabilise the Government, but it cannot accept limitations on negotiating positions vis-a-vis its Arab opposite numbers.
Sometimes, in our anxiety to promote peace in the middle east, we seem to represent the PLO as the only democratic organisation. In fact, it is manifestly nothing of the kind, and the very welcome statement about the acceptance of the right of the Israeli state to exist has not been confirmed by the Palestine Council as a whole. In such circumstances, it would be helpful if this Parliament occasionally made it clear that we reject violence wherever it comes from. Those on both sides of the debate must accept that. It is true that we have seen more of what happens in the Israeli controlled territories, but my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) described the truly terrifying situation in which the Kurds in Iraq find themselves. He made it clear that one of the things that distressed him most before he was able to visit the camps was a television programme about the effects of the use of poisoned gases on the Kurdish people. But it is 1272 fairly unusual for that problem to be dealt with in the media. Although the appalling genocide against the Kurds is debated from time to time, media coverage is neither constant nor clear, and the reason is very simple. Whereas it is possible to get pictures and comment from Israel, it is not easy to get such comment from Iraq or the surrounding states. That is an important point.
One of the strengths of the Israeli people has always been their openness. Their openness in debating their internal problems can be disastrous. I admire the fact that, when the Israelis have a problem with their army personnel, for example, they make it clear that they propose to take action against the person involved. They have courts martial and open control of their army representatives. That is the right way to proceed. I hope that, in similar circumstances, we would have the same degree of openness in the United Kingdom, although I am not sure that we would. I should like to think that that was how democratic states dealt with problems presented by internal disturbances.
None of that means that we should not have considerable reservations from time to time about the actions of Israeli political parties. It is precisely because the Israelis have a democratic system and a political divide that we can support those of our own political persuasions and those who support the democratic system. That is what we do and what we shall always do. It is most important that Britain, above all, should not be seen to be supporting only the PLO.
The opportunity exists to open talks. I would welcome the development of an electoral system in the West Bank and Gaza, but that can happen only when Arab candidates are allowed to come forward in safety and offer themselves for election. To that end, it is important that the Israeli Government do not impose preconditions on the negotiations. It is equally important that the PLO makes it clear that it will cease any form of physical attack against its own people if they offer themselves as candidates in an election. Only when the deaths cease will we begin to believe that the PLO wants to move towards some form of electoral representation capable of negotiating with the Israeli Government. There is a window of hope, but it is very small, and any action on either side that makes it more difficult to proceed will be savagely damaging.
The British have a particular role to play in the discussion. We should not always appear to be openly critical and not encouraging. We should not always highlight violence on one side and not on the other. Above all, we should say that, as elected representatives of a country with democratic traditions, we support an electoral system in which political power changes hands side to side at the wish of the electorate, and not at the wish of those who seek to dominate by the power of the gun. We should understand that those are the traditions that Israel seeks to support and encourage Israel to come to the negotiating table. We should not say, "You must agree to these conditions" or seek to lay down preconditions in talks with the large nations such as the United States and the Soviet Union. We should simply say to the Israelis, "You have a great deal of which to be proud. Do not retreat into the laager and give more power to your enemies who will then suggest that you have abandoned all that is best and most powerful in your tradition."
1273 The middle east is a vital area, and it is essential that we should support the democratic and properly elected representatives who can negotiate the peace settlement that we all seek.
§ Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South East)
I am afraid that constraints of time prevent me from responding to the various observations about our membership of the European Community. I think that it is true that some Conservative Members are disappointed about certain aspects of the stance of the British Government on our membership of the Community. Certainly, this was the case in the recent European elections.
I shall speak this morning about the situation in the middle east. Before discussing the conflict in general terms, I shall make a few remarks about United Kingdom bilateral relations with a number of countries in the region. Earlier this year, four members of Parliament visited the Yemen Arab Republic, North Yemen, and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, frequently called South Yemen or Aden. The PDRY, is the only Marxist Moslem state. Its economy is weak and it is a poor country by any standards. Hitherto, it has had close political ties with the Soviet bloc. However, there are signs that the PDRY is anxious to improve political relations with the West. For example, it is talking to the United States through a third country.
This change of emphasis is in part due to the change in leadership that has occurred in the Kremlin. In the Brezhnev era, there was a far cosier relationship than there is now, under Mr. Gorbachev. Incidentally, the same change in emphasis was also apparent when I visited Syria last October. Leaders of countries such as Syria, the PDRY and the Yemen Arab Republic no longer enjoy the automatic confidence and support of the Soviet leadership, whether it is manifested in political or economic terms.
I hope that the United Kingdom will respond positively to any favourable signals emanating from the PDRY. Any improvements in such relationships will be modest. We are talking about increasing the number of English language teachers, providing more student places in our universities for people from South Yemen and possibly helping tangibly to develop their agriculture. It is not without significance that, all through the period of difficult relationships with that country, following our withdrawal in 1968, British Petroleum continued to assist the state refining company.
The country now has mineral wealth, with high quality marble that is undeveloped, and it will need help from the West to develop it. There is also oil. The geographical location of the oilfield is significant, because it extends across the frontier into South Yemen, and the two countries, which until recently were at loggerheads, have formed a joint company for its development. Parallel to this commercial development between the two is the establishment of joint commissions at governmental level. These new arrangements are still in their infancy, but the United Kingdom should take a close interest in this development.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary visited San'a earlier this year. From the remarks made to us, I know that his visit was much appreciated, and there 1274 was universal agreement about its success. However, we cannot and must not rest on our laurels. North Yemen is very much flavour of the month as a destination for international statesmen and Ministers. The country has recently joined Egypt, Iraq and Jordan in forming a regional economic group. This relationship could have significant implications, and it is important that Britain should become as involved as it can with this development.
Our relationship with Iran has not yet been discussed this morning. As the House will know, I was one of five parliamentarians who visited Tehran some 13 months ago. During last summer and autumn, some improvements took place in our relationship with that country, because there was evidence that Iran was anxious, after eight years of Islamic revolution, and almost an equivalent time when it was at war with Iraq, to rebuild some bridges with the United Kingdom. We then had the Salman Rushdie affair, and our Government's decision to withdraw our presence from Iran. In other words, we were back to square one.
Since then, there has been the death of the Ayatollah. Contrary to some pessimistic predictions, the situation in Iran has not deteriorated as some thought that it would. There is probably an intense power struggle going on, but there are strong signs that Mr. Speaker Rafsanjani may emerge as the new president with executive powers, including power of co-ordination of the various sectors and groupings. If this is the case, and he decides to follow a more pragmatic approach, including a desire for better relationships with the West and the United Kingdom, I hope that the Foreign Office will not pursue an unnecessarily cautious line. Iran is a regional power occupying an important geographical position. It has considerable economic potential and we must not forget the implications of our overall relationship with Iran in the context of the three British hostages held in Beirut and Mr. Roger Cooper, in gaol in Tehran.
Earlier this year, I became a little more optimistic about the overall situation in the middle east. Since the cessation of hostilities between Iran and Iraq, this peace has held, although it is a little fragile at times. In doing so, it has removed a major source of instability in the region. Egypt now enjoys a much better relationship with its Arab neighbours—a crucial factor in the jigsaw. The Soviet Union under Mr. Gorbachev has shown its willingness to undertake a more constructive role. Finally, the United States at least appears to have accepted—perhaps reluctantly—the principle that an international peace conference under the auspices of the United Nations might provide the most appropriate framework for negotiations to take place between the interested parties.
It is worth reminding ourselves of the objectives of any peace negotiations involving Israel and the Arab world, and the Palestinians in particular. A declaration at the recent Madrid summit confirmed the policy of the Twelve in respect of the middle east conflict, as defined in the Venice declaration. It includes, rightly, the upholding of the right to security of all states in the region, including Israel, and the right to live in secure, recognised and guaranteed frontiers. It also—
§ 12.9 pm
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
We would like to debate many issues, one being the issue of Cambodia where there is a great threat and a great fear that the Khmer Rouge may once again inflict terror. I hope that the Minister will let us know how the Government view the Khmer Rouge and whether they stick by their proposition that it should have no future part to play in Cambodia.
I shall devote most of my speech to southern Africa, because there is some optimism that there might be peace and stability in that region. In Angola, there appears to be some rapprochement between the MPLA Government and UNITA. If the United States and South Africa have finally withdrawn their military, financial and strategic support for UNITA, there is some possibility of progress. The same is true in Mozambique, where there is a possibility of discussions between the Frelimo Government and the MN R. The key is that the South Africans must totally withdraw their support. In Namibia, the independence process is under way, and we are all hopeful that there will be independence under resolution 435.
There are still major concerns which are shared by the United Nations, the Security Council, and even by the Government, that intimidation is still being carried out by the South Africa Kovoet forces. More ominously, there are now reports of UNITA personnel acting with Kovoet and harassing and intimidating people in northern Namibia. The Government must look closely at that and investigate it to make sure that the situation is cleared up.
The current mood over South Africa is optimistic. I know of no other oppressive regime that has more defenders and more apologists. I know of no other such country that has been given more chances. No other repressive regime has had more money directed to it in order to allow it to continue in its wicked ways. The investment is made under the pretext that more investment will bring about change. People who believe that are naive enough to believe that if a tiger is fed more and more meat, one day it will turn into a vegetarian.
Whenever there is an element of change, it is met with euphoric headlines. The big bang of change is said to be upon us. We had P. W. Botha's crossing-the-Rubicon speech, and now we have the five-year plan put forward by F. W. de Klerk. Any objective examination of that reveals it to be a most disappointing document. It does not even begin to measure up to the challenge of a free and democratic non-racial South Africa. The truth is that F. W. de Klerk is nothing more than a P. W. Botha clone. The face presented to the West is genial, and the words are honeyed and sweet, but the face looking inwards to the republic is the stern face of harsh repression. It is the continued state of emergency and the continuing killing and the banning of all legitimate political activity. It is state terror and oppression, and there is now the new terror of paramilitary oppression and the assassination of anti-apartheid activists.
Nothing so far in South Africa shows any sign of real progress. The five-year plan forms the basis of the National party's manifesto. Yesterday, I had a discussion on the radio with the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who sought to excuse the paucity of ideas by saying that the leader of the National party was only the President-in-waiting and not the President. People say 1276 that, because of that five-year programme, major change is on the way. For greater accuracy, the Library got a copy from the South African embassy. It says:The National party will, within the next five years … seek agreement among leaders on a more just and meaningful basis on which groups may be defined for political participation;".What on earth does that mean? The only clue that we have is from a National party MP called Boy Geldenhuys. He said that apartheid is now being replaced by differentiation. That is playing with words, and is absolute nonsense.
The only way to make real progress is for South Africa to accept that there is only one group on which it can base integration and a truly democratic society. South Africans, irrespective of race, class, creed or colour must be allowed to participate, and that is the only way forward. If South Africa would take that bold step, we could begin to see the binding together of the nation. Apartheid cannot be modified, reformed, or adapted; it must be changed.
People say that meaningful negotiations are in prospect. Everyone who has taken an interest in South Africa for many decades wants a negotiated and peaceful settlement. No one says that there should be any other way. If there are to be proper and meaningful discussions, some pre-conditions must be met. Those have been made clear many times to the British Government. On Wednesday, they were made clear to the Prime Minister when she met Mrs. Albertina Sisulu and representatives of the United Democratic Front. I welcomed that meeting, and I hope that during it the Prime Minister learned some humility from their demeanour, their intelligence and the way in which the United Democratic Front is approaching matters. She has much to learn.
The first pre-condition is that Nelson Mandela and all the other political prisoners in South Africa must be released unconditionally. The state of emergency must be lifted and all the banned organisations must be legalised. The restrictions on political freedom must be lifted, and there must be the right of free assembly and discussion. Above all, the military must be removed from the townships.
There has been much speculation about Nelson Mandela's meeting last weekend with P. W. Botha. The statement was issued second-hand, and it is a pity that Mr. Mandela cannot make a public statement himself. He has made it clear that the people of South Africa must be properly engaged in the process of negotiation. Settlement cannot be imposed by the white-dominated Government. He has made it clear that the African National Congress and the UDF and all the other parties must be involved in the discussions.
§ Mr. Hughes
No, I have only 10 minutes.
How can we influence events from outside? External pressure is important and forms part of the struggle of people in South Africa. There must be more pressure because South Africa does not shift without pressure. Anyone who believes that the Namibian settlement was reached because the South Africans suddenly changed their minds, has never looked at realities. South Africa decided to move on resolution 435 because of the cost of military pressure. In a sense, it is the Vietnam syndrome. White conscripts were sent back with limbs missing, or otherwise badly injured and sometimes in coffins, and that made the white South Africans realise the price that they 1277 were paying. The economic and military pressure has made them change. F. W. de Klerk's visit to Britain had nothing to do with promoting the five-year plan. It had to do with defending South Africa's economy, which is in major difficulties. It faces debt rescheduling and problems about overseas debt repayments.
The apologists for South Africans say that sanctions play no part, but the facts prove otherwise. The five-year plan makes, that pefectly clear when it says:Adversities such as the worst drought in living memory, a prolonged slump in the gold price and the most vicious international attempt—over more than two decades—to destroy the South African economy by boycotts, sanctions and disinvestment, having strained the economy of the country and of every business and household.There we have it, from the horse's mouth. Sanctions are having an effect, are important, and must continue to be imposed.
The whole of southern Africa is an area of immense riches in material, and people, and the time for it to be developed in the interests of its people is long overdue. If only people would recognise the great promise that it holds for the future and the fact that the African National Congress, the United Democratic Front and all the people who stand for free and truly democratic non-racial society should be accepted as partners and equals, the enormous potential of that area could be enjoyed by all its people.
§ Mr. George Gardiner (Reigate)
When my right hon. Friend the Minister of State opened the debate she rightly drew our attention to political changes of a kind that few of us dared to pray for and that are occurring in many countries and continents, most notably in central and eastern Europe. I was glad that she devoted part of her speech to developments in southern Africa because immense changes are taking place there, too.
I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). I believe that never has the opportunity to resolve conflicts across the troubled continent of Africa been greater than today. The starting point was almost certainly President Gorbachev's recognition that promoting the armed struggle with Soviet arms, funds and advisers represented far too great a drain on the Soviet economy, and that without increasing the effort by at least 10 times it could achieve nothing. The effect of this has been to stimulate a sort of peaceful revolution stretching across a continent.
In Angola this revolution has led to an agreed withdrawal of Cuban and South Africa troops and to warnings to the Marxist MPLA that Soviet support cannot continue. That has led to a cautious rapprochement with Dr. Savimbi's UNITA. In Namibia it has led to Cuban and South African withdrawal and elections in November under United Nations supervision to elect a constituent assembly which will draw up a constitution.
In Mozambique the peaceful revolution has enabled friendly relations to be restored with South Africa and the chance of reconciliation between the Marxist Frelimo Government and the RENAMO rebels. All this has had a potent effect on opinion, especially white opinion, in South Africa. The ruling National party under Mr. de Klerk is now entering an election on a programme promising an 1278 end to white domination, open-ended talks with black leaders on a power-sharing constitution and moving to abolish apartheid.
Another significant factor has come into play. The deputy Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union has warned the ANC through Oliver Tambo that it must think of laying down arms and adopting a negotiating posture. That will make the release of Nelson Mandela politically possible and pave the way for him to make a constructive contribution alongside Chief Buthelezi and other acknowledged leaders to what will undoubtedly be a long negotiating process.
All these factors represent recognitions of reality—that the days of the armed struggle are over and that far more can be achieved through reconciliation. I hope that we in the West can cut away from many of our former prejudices and recognise changing reality, too.
I welcome my right hon. Friend's words on Namibia. Despite SWAPO's pre-emptive invasion earlier this year, we are now back on track to a peaceful settlement and SWAPO is returning without arms, as agreed in the first place. I urge the Government to use all their influence to ensure that the campaign for the elections in November is fair and open and that the democratic parties are not placed at a disadvantage.
There is undoubtedly anxiety about the situation in the camps for returning refugees. Many are administered by the Council of Churches in Namibia, which makes no secret of its open support for SWAPO. The CCN is still denying the SWAPO-Democrats, led by Andreas Shipanga, access to their members in these camps. It is essential for the election that all parties have access to all voters.
There are also worries about the preponderance of international aid going to SWAPO as that creates an unhealthy situation and an open invitation to corruption and bribery. There is, too, a continual flood of propaganda from Radio Zambia in favour of SWAPO.
I concede that there appear to be two sides to SWAPO. There are some in the organisation who want to let bygones be bygones and who speak of national reconciliation; but there is also a darker side, witnessed by refugees returning to Namibia, who tell of torture, rape and murder in SWAPO detention camps. SWAPO has asserted that if it receives a two thirds majority in the constitutional assembly it will impose a one-party state. That is not in the interests of Namibia or of the region. We need only look at other one-party African states, such as Zambia, to see how disastrous it would be. There needs to be open democracy in which SWAPO comes to terms with the other parties and, in fairness, the other parties come to terms with it.
My right hon. Friend had some constructive words to say about South Africa. Anyone who has visited it this year, as I have, and spoken to the new generations of Ministers, to opinion formers of the Afrikaans press and to a wide number of opinion leaders outside Parliament, must be convinced that a real window of opportunity for reform is opening up. I cannot share the dismal and negative attitude of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North. That the National party can go into an election with such proposals, together with hints of Mandela's imminent release, is highly significant.
The whites in South Africa are coming up against reality, too. They are recognising the futility of trying to rule 20 million blacks who have no constitutional rights at 1279 national level yet who command growing economic power. Reality has caught up with black activists in the townships, too. Gone is the dream of three years ago that a wave of riots and strikes could topple the whites from power. Nor is there any illusion that economic sanctions will do the trick. Countless independently conducted opinion polls of recent months bear that out.
There is also a quiet revolution in the workplace. In the coal industry I watched black apprentices training side by side with whites for skilled jobs once reserved for whites, and at identical rates of pay. The greatest advance of blacks is seen in the economic clout that they have won for themselves. They command increasing purchasing power. Their minibuses are the fastest growing industry, followed by street trading. Small provisions shops are run from side rooms, and building materials are sold from back yards. I happily pay tribute to the work of the British embassy in diverting British funds into the squatter camps and into the townships, thereby getting the smallest of businesses going. Sewing machines for women, for instance, enable them to make dresses and contribute greatly to uplifting the blacks in these areas.
All these things increase employment, and black economic power is paving the way for political power. The entrepreneurs are achieving where the rioters failed.
Those developments underline the new mood of hope in South Africa. The old wind of change is blowing again. I urge the Government and Prime Minister to use all their influence to persuade other nations to help it on its way and to offer full encouragement to the reformers from all races in that country.
§ Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) has already spoken about the plight of the Kurds in Iraq. I have a list of towns and settlements that the Iraqi Government have already depopulated or are in the process of depopulating. They are deporting at least 100.000 Kurds from the north of the country to the south, from a fertile area where they have farmed for generations to an arid area, in most instances, where they will be unable to continue with their agricultural settlements.
The deportation of Kurds has been continuing for a long time. The Iraqi regime has refused access to all international observers, both diplomatic and journalistic. Earlier in the year when, on behalf of the Campaign Against the Repression of Democratic Rights in Iraq, I went with some of my colleagues to see the Iraqi ambassador, he offered us a trip to a cultural festival in Baghdad. We said that we would be interested to go to Iraq but we explained that we wished to see the Kurdistan and not merely a cultural festival. For several months the ambassador played a cat-and-mouse game with us by sending telexes to Baghdad, receiving replies to the effect that the authorities were not happy for us to go to certain areas, and suggesting an alternative programme. The upshot is that none of us has been allowed to go to Kurdistan. We can draw our own conclusions from that.
Against that background, it is obvious that there are not many details of how many Kurds have been evicted from their historic towns, which towns have been affected and to where Kurds have been sent. I stress that it is said that at least 100,000 have been involved. The Iraqi Government claim that the operation has been carried out 1280 for border security reasons. There is no evidence, however, that the Iraqi Government intend to evict border populations along the Arab part of Iraq's frontiers. Instead, the operation is aimed at the Kurdish people, and is the latest campaign in the long and bloody war of genocide that the Iraqi Government have waged against their Kurdish people and the opposition movement. Even the Iraq-Iran war did not prevent the Iraqi regime from pursuing its internal war against its own people.
More than 4,000 Kurdish villages have been razed to the ground since 1975. Massacres and evictions have been taking place since then. Many areas have been depopulated. Their inhabitants have been moved to so-called modern villages. The zones that have been depopulated have been declared security zones and an order has been issued that any human or animal found within them shall be shot dead on sight.
The attacks on the Kurds took a sinister turn in 1987 when chemical weapons were used for the first time. The attacks continued throughout that year with no comment by the international community, to its eternal shame. In March 1988, the Kurdish town of Halabja was bombed with canisters containing mustard and nerve gases and 5,000 civilians were killed. In August 1988, after the cease fire in the gulf war with Iran, a large military offensive was launched in Kurdistan in which chemical weapons were used on a mass scale, with the result that thousands more were massacred. More than 100,000 Kurds fled for their lives across the border to Turkey and Iran. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton said, many of them are living in appalling conditions. The regime has announced a number of amnesties for those whom it has deported, but few have taken those very seriously. We are told that those who took up the offers were later either imprisoned or redeported.
Large areas of Kurdistan lie empty. Villages have disappeared. Kurds have been scattered in camps and prisons throughout Iraq. This is not an internal matter; it is a humanitarian issue of international concern.
I shall refer to recent developments concerning human rights. In August 1988 there was a decree that gave Ba'ath party local organisations the right to pass the death penalty on those suspected of desertion and the right to execute on the spot. They can bypass both military and civilian courts. In February of this year, Amnesty International published a major report on the torture and murder of children in Iraq. Children are held hostage to force relatives to "confess" or to give themselves up. Victims are often as young as five-month-old babies.
In April, the regime held phoney elections for a national assembly that has no legislative power. The regime is all the time attempting to improve its image to the world.
I shall deal briefly with economic ties with Britain. To the extent that we can influence events in Iraq, I think that we should consider carefully our economic ties with the regime. Iraq's economy has been shattered by the war. Its reserves are spent and it is crippled by foreign debt. It desperately needs loans and easy credit so that it can trade. The regime wants to continue to spend large sums on the military and it is interested in developing its own military industry. Despite the ever-continuing violations of human rights in Iraq and the growing scale of the violations, Britain has maintained easy term credit for Iraq. When I asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about trade links, he said that we have export credit 1281 arrangements with Iraq that amount to £340 million. It is disgraceful that those record export credit loans should have been agreed at this time.
Several trade missions have been sent to Iraq. The Department of Trade and Industry sponsored-four up to May this year—the British Water Industries Group, the Engineering Industries Association, the Association of British Healthcare Industries and the British Electro-technical and Allied Manufacturers Association. There have been three missions from the Nottingham, Coventry and Manchester chambers of commerce. When I asked the Department what briefings were given to those trade missions before they went to Iraq, I was told that they concentrated on commercial relations and aspects of doing business in that country. Apparently, no briefing is given on violations of human rights. That is disgraceful.
The Government should link those credits with an end to human rights violations. They should ensure that no deal is struck to help Iraq to develop its own military industry. We must try to prevent British Aerospace selling Hawk trainer jets to the regime. We must not forget the importance of the air force to the Iraqi regime—the same air force that attacked Gulf shipping with Exocet missiles during the war of the tankers, the same air force that dropped mustard and nerve gas shells all over Kurdistan. I ask the Minister to deal with those matters today and to assure us that the Government will review their policy in the light of the continuing human rights violations in Iraq.
I wish briefly to touch upon the subject of Cambodia, a country in which I have a great interest. Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of time available to do so. Once again I appeal to the Minister. There is about to be a settlement of the Cambodian problem, and it is essential that it excludes the Khmer Rouge. For the Khmer Rouge to be given official status within Cambodia would be equivalent to inviting Hitler and the Nazis to return to Germany and to give them a position of importance.
I ask the Government to spell out their policy on the Khmer Rouge. I hope that they will take an active part in the Paris conference. I ask them to deplore the fact that the Khmer Rouge is still sitting at the United Nations as part of the Cambodian delegation, something to which this country acquiesced. The people of Cambodia, who have suffered so much, would regard it as a positive step if the Government were to withdraw their recognition of the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations.
Above all, I ask the Government to give Cambodia the aid that it will need when the Vietnamese pull out at the end of September. That country has suffered so much and we have done so little to help it. We will have our opportunity to do so in September.
§ Sir Dennis Walters (Westbury)
Yesterday the House debated Hong Kong and the need for Britain to do all in its power to ensure the safety of Hong Kong's inhabitants when they lose the protection of British rule. People in this country feel a moral responsibility towards the Hong Kong people and it is right that we should consider all the options that might help them. Yet nothing could be worse than to make a promise now and then to cut and run when 1282 the time comes to redeem it. That is what we did to the Palestinians, as I shall remind the House during my brief speech.
Fifty years ago, there was uncertainty about Britain's intentions in Palestine; the British Government published a very solemn undertaking:His Majesty's government therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish state. They would indeed regard it as contrary to their obligations to the Arabs under the Mandate, as well as to the assurances which have been given to the Arab people in the past, that the Arab population of Palestine should be made the subject of a Jewish state against their will.If the Palestinians had known that the British would let them down, they might have handled their case differently—we cannot tell. Whatever might or might not have been done, it is certain that the outcome would not have been worse for the Palestinians—every one of whom is now living in exile or under Israeli military occupation.
We should never forget our responsibilities for the Palestinian tragedy, which should form the background to our thinking when we examine British policy today and reflect on whether we are doing enough at this important time, when action aimed at making progress towards peace is possible. President Reagan and Mr. Shultz were totally committed to Israel, regardless of western interests and irrespective of international law, justice and morality. President Bush and Mr. Baker are not. They take a more balanced view. But for the situation to change not only in theory but practice, President Bush's Administration must do more than make even-handed statements. It must act firmly and speedily in making it clear to Israel that no longer can it get away with flouting international law and successive United Nations resolutions, and at the same time benefit from American economic aid and unconditional support.
By accepting United Nations resolutions 242 and 338, and by rejecting the use of violence, Chairman Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organisation adopted the policy that successive British Governments and Western Governments continually urged upon them. That was a statesmanlike decision, especially bearing in mind the horrors of Israeli repression on the West Bank and Gaza. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) seemed to advance the extraordinary proposition that, if brutality and repression is carried out by an elected majority, it is somehow better than if carried out by a dictatorship. In fact, it is more repellent.
Very little has happened since the PLO's statements and concessions. The Israeli response was almost wholly negative, contemptuous and dismissive. Admittedly, at long last a dialogue has started between the Americans and the PLO, but so far that significant development has not achieved much. Also, Shamir was shamed into making some response, and produced half-baked proposals to hold elections. During the several months that we have been discussing the form that those elections should take, Israeli repression has continued unabated, and racist Jewish settlers on the West Bank, acting as agents provocateurs, have stepped up the shooting and killing of Palestinian men, women and children, with little effort being made to restrain them. Meanwhile, Shamir admitted, when speaking privately to his own party supporters, that the whole election idea was a gimmick.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
Why does not Arafat call off the intifada? Then there would be less bloodshed.
§ Sir Dennis Walters
My hon. and learned Friend must make his own speech in due course.
Shamir admitted that the election gimmick was designed to buy time and was never intended to be a serious initiative. Sharon's antics have since brought out into the open the fraud that had already been admitted in private.
Where do we go from here? The European Community, with Britain taking the lead instead of lagging behind, should nudge the American Administration into action. The first step should be an international conference with the participation of the parties to the conflict, naturally including the PLO, the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France. I was glad to learn that Mr. Baker is beginning to look upon that proposal with some favour.
From there, we should explore the possibility of a transitional period of autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza. Twenty one years have passed and the landscape of the population is quite different from what it was when the draftsmen of United Nations resolution 242 envisaged a restoration of the status quo ante of June 1967. The Israelis are unlikely to countenance conventional United Nations peace-keeping, either now, to relieve Palestinian suffering, or in a transition arising out of negotiations. Should we not therefore explore with the Americans building on the Venice commitment to participate in "guarantees on the ground", the possibility of a non-United Nations force, perhaps including themselves and the European Community? I realise that the multinational force in Beirut is not the happiest of precedents but the multinational force and observers in Sinai is. The assumption must be that all the parties want a peaceful settlement. That was true in the case of Egypt and Israel but not in Lebanon in 1982 and 1983.
I do not believe in the good intentions of the present Israeli Government, and the lack of them has been comprehensively demonstrated, as has their de facto rejection of resolutions 242 and 338. However, there are people in Israel with good intentions who, unlike Mr. Shamir, Mr. Arens and Mr. Sharon, are willing to abide by those crucial resolutions and would like to talk to the PLO and reach an acceptable peace settlement. This is the time for them to show their colours, and I hope that the Labour party there will do so. It would help if serious pressure was applied on Mr. Shamir by the Americans and Europeans, and now is the right time to apply it.
As a minor and obvious step, we should upgrade PLO diplomatic representation. I was pleased that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary met Mr. Bassam Abu Sharif yesterday. He should meet Mr. Arafat soon and I hope that that will be arranged. President Mitterrand and France are well ahead of us..
For reasons of history and self-interest, and in order to prevent the possibility of a future disastrous war in the middle east, Britain should be in the vanguard, promoting actions and initiatives to resolve the conflict and trying to bring peace to the middle east. I urge the Government to be bolder and more far-sighted, for there is an opportunity and an opening now and it should not be missed.
§ Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)
We do not often get an opportunity to have a go at Foreign Office Ministers in this place; hon. Members have already mentioned the infrequency of foreign affairs debates. We can get at all the other Departments but not the Foreign Office, and now it has chosen a Friday to hold this debate. This is our opportunity to get stuck in to Foreign Office Ministers and find out what they intend to do about the issues that they are neglecting.
Most hon. Members have an interest in one particular country, and my interest is Cyprus. I was disgusted that the Minister of State did not mention Cyprus when she opened the debate. Given the difficulties and problems facing that beautiful island, something could have been said, especially bearing in mind the work that has been done outside the British Government. The Government have sat on their hands, and they must get off them. They have to get stuck in and do something.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) made a first-class contribution for the Opposition to show where this nation stands in foreign affairs. Since 1979, we have gone downhill, and we will go further downhill until the next election, when Opposition Members will be on the Government side and will do something about the problem.
My hon. Friend mentioned the way in which the Prime Minister goes about her job. She flits here, she flits there, she flits every damn where, but she does not like to flit to Europe because of what happens there and the opinions expressed about the British Government. I do not want to waste my time. I want to refer to Cyprus. The Minister can take the grin off his face. That applies also to his Parliamentary Private Secretary behind him, the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell). This is a serious matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) told me not long ago that his father said that all the wise men come from Swansea, East. I believe that, because he advises me wisely on Cyprus. A chappie in the high commission in London, Mr. George Allis also feeds me information on what is going on in Cyprus. What do we hear from that lot on the Treasury Bench? Not very much, unless we go down on our hands and knees to ask them exactly what is happening.
I am thankful, too, for what is happening in the United Nations. The Secretary General certainly set his stall out about what should be happening on that divided island. I have visited the island—not very often; I cannot afford to go there often. Many hon. Members can fly out of Heathrow. I accused the Secretary of State for Energy of doing that the other day, because I have a problem about energy and I could not get hold of him. I suggested that the Leader of the House should go to Heathrow and grab him one day before he goes and bring him here so that I can give him a going over. I hope to give the Minister a going over about Cyprus.
We want some answers. We want to know what the Government are doing, bearing in mind that many people outside the United Kingdom are working like mad to try to sort out the problem.
There was the invasion of 1974. Troops poured into Cyprus from the mainland of Turkey. I am particularly interested in Cyprus, and I am sick of asking the Foreign Secretary about the missing people. More than 1,600 1285 people from the north of that island went missing when the invasion took place. We do not know where they are. It is the Minister's responsibility, on behalf of the United Kingdom Government. Here is another Member who continually asks, "Where are the 1,600 people?" If Denktash can be invited to speak to the Prime Minister, surely she can ask him where they are. The Minister should get the message and have a word with the Prime Minister so that, next time she sees this Denktash fellow, she can ask him where those people from the north are.
We have a real problem with Cyprus. Many hon. Members are showing their concern about what should happen. My responsibility is to stand here and tell the Government what the Opposition feel about them. [Interruption.] Yes, at our annual conference only last year we discussed the problem of Cyprus. What do we get from the Conservative party conference? Not a word about Cyprus. What do we get in the House of Commons? Not a word about Cyprus. The Government could not care less. All they are bothered about are pounds and pence. That is all that is behind their policies. That is why the people denied them all those seats in Europe. My hon. Friend was correct. The people of this nation have had a bellyful]. [Interruption.]
That Whip, the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household, the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), has just walked in from the Whips Office because he saw my name appear on the monitor. He is now bawling from his seat. A Whip should behave himself. I always do. I speak when I am invited to do so by the Chair. I respect the Chair at all times. When I am sat down doing the Whip's job, I keep my mouth closed. The hon. Gentleman has just come in from the Whips Office and now he has his mouth wide open.
§ Mr. Haynes
I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman has come into the Chamber to be educated about foreign affairs, particularly about Cyprus.
I want to know what the Government intend to do about that island. After the next election I shall not be here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Before I leave this place I want a settlement in Cyprus. It has a marvellous president. He sweeps clean, like a broom. He is a breath of fresh air. He is saying all the right things. The other side is listening to his suggestions. I have promised to have lunch or dinner with him in Kyrenia after the problem has been sorted out, so get stuck in, Minister.
We want action by the United Kingdom Government. We do not get much action on foreign affairs because we are rarely given the opportunity in this Chamber to question Foreign Office Ministers. I often have a word with the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) outside the Chamber about foreign affairs, but I want him to tell us today exactly where the Government stand on Cyprus and what they intend to do to settle the argument so that Cyprus can be peaceful, with the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots living peacefully together, as they ought to do. Then we should all be welcome in Cyprus.
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) on the theme of Cyprus, but I recall that when the Turkish forces landed in Cyprus a Labour Government were in power under Lord Wilson, as he now is. The hon. Member for Ashfield ought to ask Lord Wilson what happened to those who are missing.
The Commonwealth has not yet been referred to in this important foreign affairs debate. It is a remarkable institution. It consists of a great variety of nations that hold many different views. It is held together as an institution by Great Britain. That common thread has helped it through difficult times. It is now stronger and more able to perform a constructive role.
I pay full tribute to the outstanding leadership, hard work and dedication of the Queen who, as Head of the Commonwealth, has done so much to hold the Commonwealth together. All the members of the royal family are conscious of the importance of the Commonwealth. They spend a great deal of time visiting Commonwealth countries, which I am sure helps to bind the Commonwealth together. I am delighted that Pakistan is to rejoin the Commonwealth. It will be most warmly received at the Prime Minister's conference in Kuala Lumpur.
I praise the work that is done by the Commonwealth, but much more could be done, particularly to improve the environment and protect the rain forests. The Commonwealth can also help to improve democracy. We are always trying to find ways to improve our own democratic institution. It is a hard enough task to make changes here. But it is important that younger democracies should have the advantage of connections with officers of this House. The connections between those officers and the officers of the various Commonwealth legislatures need to be extended wherever possible.
The Commonwealth has had its fair share of famine and poverty. We should do all that we can to improve the way in which we tackle poverty and famine throughout the Commonwealth. Nothing is of greater importance than protecting the health of populations by means of new methods of health care. Education is of the utmost importance, too. Student exchanges with Commonwealth countries play a major role in creating stable democratic institutions and in binding together the Commonwealth as a whole.
I turn now to the role of the Commonwealth in the problems that we are facing in Hong Kong. I praise the speech made by my right hon. and learned Friend yesterday, following his courageous visit to Hong Kong. That colony has been through—and is still going through—the most colossal emotional turmoil. To a certain extent, logic, reason and patience are overridden by the instant frenzy and anxiety that has taken over as a result of what happened in China.
It is important that we act as soon as possible to try to give as great a reassurance as we can to Hong Kong while the horrible memories of what happened in China are fresh in people's minds. I am sure that those memories will remain in people's minds but I believe that it is in the immediate future that we have an obligation to try to find a way of giving the citizens of Hong Kong the insurance of rights of abode if in 1997 the situation was such that they wished to leave that beleaguered colony.
1287 Although I believe that there could be changes in China in the intervening period, we must work to undertake the obligation to provide that insurance. Through its collective discussions the Commonwealth can draw the attention of each and every member of the Commonwealth to the part that it should play in giving a pledge and creating that necessary insurance.
There will, of course, be discussions on this in the European Community and in the United Nations, and I welcome both. However, I hope that the Commonwealth will be able to do something constructive and positive. I do not under-estimate the great difficulties in doing that, but we must focus our attention on the fact that we are asking for a pledge for each member country to take a proportion of people from Hong Kong by giving them a right of abode in the event of the Armageddon scenario.
In my view, we are not going to suggest—nor should we suggest—that a right of abode should be granted to all Hong Kong citizens ahead of 1997. The way forward is to suggest that through the machinery, which I hope will be set up within the Commonwealth with possibly a group of other nations which are prepared to take in people, the necessary documentation can be issued accepting requests for a right of abode within agreed quotas. Only in the run-up to 1997—possibly in 1996—should those requests for a right of abode which have been made and documented then enable the individual concerned to obtain the right of abode guaranteed by the request document.
Individual countries would have to decide for themselves how to evolve the selection procedure. It is not for us to dictate to other countries that might be good enough to take Hong Kong residents in the Armaggedon scenario exactly how they should undertake the selection procedure. However, in each of those intakes, I believe that there should be a ballot for part of the intake to ensure that there is an element without discrimination. If the procedure were over-subscribed, the ballot would mean that there was always a chance for some of the people involved being accepted without discrimination.
If we can bring about those provisions, they would ensure that, by their actions, the Chinese Government would have to persuade the people of Hong Kong that their safety and future could be safeguarded; otherwise, China would be faced with the humiliation of a mass excursion of people from Hong Kong in the run-up to 1997.
I am convinced that it is in the interests of the people of Hong Kong to remain in Hong Kong for the time being, until 1997 at least. I am also convinced that it is in the interests of China to ensure that Hong Kong continues to flourish, because that is the major way in which Hong Kong can be of use to China's economy. I hope, therefore, that, through the continuing dialogue with China, we will build on the Sino-British agreement. I hope that we will go forward to a better future for Hong Kong in the light of that discussion.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. It will be evident to the House that many hon. Members still wish to speak. The two Front-Bench speakers hope to catch my eye at 1.45 pm. I am grateful to hon. members who are co-operating so well in making short speeches. I hope that 1288 there will be even shorter speeches from now on. In that way, it might be possible for every hon. Member who wishes to speak to do so.
§ 1.5 pm
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I suppose that the 200th anniversary of the French revolution is an appropriate time for the House of Commons to have a debate on foreign affairs. I am not surprised by the Prime Minister's remarks. What she said in France was inappropriate and rather impertinent. One wonders what would have been the position if, on a visit to this country, the President of France had started to pontificate on the events of 1642 or any other aspect of British history. In making those remarks about 1789, the Prime Minister certainly did not speak for the majority of the British people.
I agree with every word of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) about South Africa, about which I have spoken many times here. I shall not say more because I agree entirely with the sentiments of my hon. Friend's speech.
On the Arab-Israeli conflict, my view remains that the failure of Israel to show genuine willingness to start talking with the PLO about the future of the occupied territories—they are occupied territories in international law—plays into the hands of the worst kind of extremist and terrorist who completely rejects any kind of Israeli state. The sooner that Israel recognises that there is no meaningful alternative to talks with the mainstream of the Palestinian movement and that the West Bank does not belong to Israel, the sooner there will be a chance of peace. I have always supported Israel's right to exist, even before 1948 when I wanted that state to emerge. I do not know what more the PLO leadership can do at this stage to bring Israel to the negotiating table. I hope that, first and foremost, the United States will apply the pressure that must be applied on the Israeli leadership.
I want now to talk about the present events in eastern Europe. I welcome the substantial political changes in Hungary. Those changes are warmly welcomed by the Opposition. As long as I live, I am never likely to forget Sunday, 4 November 1956, when the uprising in Hungary was brutally crushed by Soviet troops. That was the second intervention. The first, in late October, sparked the uprising. I learnt about what had occurred not on the radio but a few yards from here. I was on the largest demonstration that I have ever been on, one organised by my party against the Suez adventure. Aneurin Bevan was the main speaker. Many of us felt so humiliated by what had happened and by the collusion with France and Israel that we continued to demonstrate until 7 o'clock or 8 o'clock in the evening. It was on that day that I, like others, learnt of what the Russians had done in Hungary—two crimes on the international scene at the same time.
I am also extremely pleased by the progress in Poland. The House last debated Poland as such on 22 December 1981, when Solidarity had been banned and martial law was imposed. I took part in the debate, and in the course of deploring those events I said that if genuine, free elections were held in Poland it was unlikely that the ruling party would receive more than about 5 per cent. of the vote. Bearing in mind what has happened in the at least limited free elections in Poland, I have not, I suppose, been proved wrong. I am pleased that Solidarity is again a legal 1289 force in Poland and is playing its legitimate part in the affairs of that country. I welcome those events, and I hope that they will lead to political progress in the rest of eastern Europe.
However, I am concerned that some western leaders, such as President Bush, can over-react. What is happening in Poland and Hungary is new in any country under Communist control. Any over-reaction could produce a backlash. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was right today. The Soviet Union will not necessarily give up its empire, so all the talk about Communism being defeated and the ideas of western Europe dominating the rest could play into the hands of very conservative forces in the Soviet Union and the other countries concerned. There could be a backlash. When we consider what happened in the 1950s and the 1960s, and the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, we should be rather cautious and wary about making remarks and acting in a way that could play into the hands of those elements in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union that do not want to see political progress.
So much in eastern Europe depends on what happens in the Soviet Union itself. Does any hon. Member imagine that the changes that we can see in Poland and Hungary could have come about without the political changes in the Soviet Union itself since 1985? Could such progress have come about under the Brezhnev regime? The answer is obvious. To repeat the point I made in an intervention in the Minister's speech, if it is right that the countries of eastern Europe should be able to pursue their own policies, that should also be recognised in central and south America by the United States.
I remember what happened in Guatemala in 1954, and no one can argue that it is now a country where the rule of law exists. I remember only too well the coup encouraged in so many ways by the United States which overthrew the democratic Government in Chile in 1973 and the efforts to destroy or destabilise the current regime in Nicaragua. If it is right for eastern Europe that people should be able to decide their own future, that should apply equally in central and south America.
I am concerned that there has been no political progress in Czechoslovakia. We know, of course, that since the invasion in August 1968, the most conservative elements have been in control and that there has been continued repression. Czechoslovakia remains, if not a totalitarian dictatorship, a very authoritarian one in so many ways. I am not sure of the distinction between the two. I went to see the Czech ambassador by arrangement on 1 March to protest against the imprisonment of Vàclav Havel, the distinguished Czech playwright, who has since been released. The ambassador would not allow me to put my views, and I wondered why he had agreed to see me. I had not gone to the embassy to discuss my holiday plans in Czechoslovakia or the climate there, yet he refused to listen. It is unfortunate that there has been no political change in Czechoslovakia.
Alexander Dubcek campaigned for and tried to bring about change and reforms within the Communist structure in the first six to eight months of 1968. Such progress is happening elsewhere in eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union now. Mr. Dubcek was somewhat before his time, 1290 but it will be a happy occasion indeed when the people of Czechoslovakia have far more freedom than they have now.
All countries in Europe should be able to enjoy basic human rights and civil liberties. As I have said on other occasions, although not necessarily in the House, I hope that I shall live to see the day when there is not a single dictatorship in Europe. I hope that what I have always wished for will come about soon. Many of the dictatorships in western Europe have disappeared. Greece, Portugal and Spain all now have the rule of law and the democracy that we have been fortunate enough to enjoy for so long.
Democratic liberties are starting to appear in eastern Europe and that is not only good for those who live in those countries, who have as much right to enjoy freedom as we have, but for Europe as well. There will be far less tension and less possibility of an incident triggering an international crisis that could threaten international security and world peace. I hope that the progress that we have witnessed in eastern Europe, albeit on a limited scale, will continue because that will be a very good thing for the whole of Europe, east and west alike.
§ Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)
I wish to speak on four subjects—the European Council in Madrid, development and the environment, growing out of debt and right of abode in view of events in China.
The European Council made some very serious decisions about the European monetary system and future arrangements for finance in Europe. Those matters have not so far been discussed in this Parliament, although they were recommended for debate on the Floor of the House by two Select Committees—the Select Committee on European Legislation and the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee. They were not introduced for debate before the Madrid conference and they have not been debated since.
That leaves the House with a problem. We have a Government, elected from among Members of Parliament, who do not wish and will try to stop Parliament discussing matters connected with the European Council. Unless this national Parliament asserts its sovereignty over the Government, it will never be able to discuss or seriously influence policy matters for discussion at the European Council and other forums of the European Community. That leaves a serious democratic deficit in the Community. The House must consider how it can control its Ministers and influence the policy of the European Comunity. Either the House will have to address that subject or we shall have to find or invent different institutions through which we can control and influence democratic decisions made in Europe.
I welcome the initiative of the Minister for Overseas Development in going to Brazil and presenting a practical programme by which we can help people in Brazil to make a living by harvesting the forests without damaging them. That is perfectly possible, particularly in timber exploitation, if we allow the forest to regenerate. That means a system of management of the forest. Third-world countries, which do not have managerial and administrative skills at their fingertips need exactly that sort of assistance. Significantly, the Brazilians, who resent much of the criticism levelled at them by unthinking 1291 environmentalists in this country, accept and will work with just the kind of assistance that we have offered. I congratulate the Government and the Minister for Overseas Development on the initiative.
It may have escaped the notice of many hon. Members that the conference held in the Grant Committee Room on 6 December last year, which was led by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has given birth to a book entitled "Growing Out Of Debt" produced by the all-party group on overseas development. In the introduction, ideas are put forward based on the contributions of international figures ranging from Mr. Cheysson of the Commission to our own Chancellor of the Exchequer and Senator Bradley of the United States.
We call for a new initiative to be led by Britain, following logically Britain's initiative on debt in Africa. The key point here is that the developing countries—the indebted countries—are paying massive sums in capital repayments and interest to the developed world. Any initiative must redress that flow. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer initiated the idea that we should forgive debt in Africa, recycle it and put in grant money. I am glad to see that Germany, Canada and the United States followed our example. As a result, there is now a positive flow into most Africa countries from all the efforts of the IMF and the World Bank. This has reversed international financial flows—Government flows—but has done nothing about investment by the private sector in Africa. Such investment is essential if those countries are to grow again and achieve a better standard of living, above the level of starvation that many African countries face. We must also reverse the flows in Latin America and other debtor countries, including eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary.
We made a suggestion about a Government initiative, and this is being taken up by President Mitterrand with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Paris today, so it is apposite to talk about it, particularly as the forthcoming IMF and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development meetings in Washington will have to follow up the Brady plan, which was almost stillborn. It has been discussed but nothing has been implemented since March this year. Many steps will have to be taken, such as reduction in debt, the issue of bonds, debt-equity swaps, and changing the economies of the indebted countries so that they are in a condition to grow, and are benign to inward investment and private investment. Debts must be reduced, interest rates must be reduced and the period over which debts are repaid elongated, until they reach a level of repayment per annum that the exports of the country can stand.
Furthermore, to make such economies attractive to private capital and to keep money in that country instead of taking it back overseas, we should permit the creditors to put the money into a local account in local currency. They should be asked to invest that money, with the help of local government and entrepreneurs, in industries that will grow and provide the foreign exchange that is necessary to repay debts. In this way, those debts will be kept in active accounts and will not have to be written off. Such a scheme would need an international guarantee power, and that should be formed by the IMF and the World Bank. The capital would never be called, but it would act as a guarantee of repayment for the private investor who puts his money or retains it in the 1292 under-developed country, in accordance with the agreement made for reinvestment and keeping the money in the local currency account.
In this way, we shall engage the abilities and the resources of private banks and private entrepreneurs, the IMF, the World Bank, Governments and local entrepreneurs, in trying to rebuild economies and recycle the money for the benefit of the country concerned and the banks themselves. Such an initiative will reverse the terrible outflow of money haemorrhaging from the developing world to the developed world, to the disadvantage of both.
I am a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and I want to say this to the people of Hong Kong who seek the right of abode here. The whole reason for trying to get the right of abode here is to restore confidence in the future of Hong Kong. That is the crucial objective of their seeking the right of abode here—it is a sort of insurance policy. We know that 60 per cent. of the people there will never come here—they have said so. The trouble is that it is an insurance policy which will not produce the confidence that is needed, particularly if, in practice, Britain cannot provide the right of abode for all people in Hong Kong.
Therefore, we must look for other confidence-building measures, and I have two to suggest. One is that advanced in the report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee—that students who come here may be permitted to count their time as a student towards citizenship. The second is that we should reduce the amount of money that people must bring to invest here before they are permitted the right of abode. If that is combined with a serious effort to get guarantees from the international community to assist the Hong Kong people, should there be an Armageddon after 1997, and with the democracy proposals and additional safeguards that we are seeking from the Chinese, I believe that there should be a bright future for the people of Hong Kong. I suggest, and hope, that they abandon this pursuit of the impossible—the right of abode in this country.
§ Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)
Bearing your guidance in mind, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall try to keep my comments to the absolute minimum.
In the forthcoming South African elections on 6 September, and with the new leader, Mr. de Klerk, we want quite clear guarantees that South Africa will take steps to end apartheid. When the Minister of State opened the debate, she gave us a list of certain items, but I know that it was by no means finite. The two chief things we must have as a sign of commitment to ending apartheid in South Africa are the ending of racial registration and the Group Areas Act. Those two pieces of legislation underpin apartheid, and until they are removed we will not see an end to that policy, which we want to be removed as speedily as possible.
I shall concentrate my remarks on Namibia, as I was there at the end of May and the early part of June. I therefore know how seriously concerned the people, particularly in northern Namibia, are about the absorption into the south-west African police force of former Koevoet forces.
We were in northern Namibia for only a few hours before we saw the large number of Casspir vehicles that 1293 constantly go along the main roads during the day. They were most threatening, intimidating and worrying to the people of Namibia. It was quite clear that the people were worried during the day, but at night, when the vehicles go off the main roads into the bush, and through the villages, they became terrified.
Unless the Koevoet forces are withdrawn completely—their former commander is now in charge of the police force in that area—the people cannot believe that they will be allowed to have a free and fair election.
I know that the Government have made their view known, but they have to continue to say on every possible occasion that we condemn the Koevoet force and that it must be completely off the scene if the process is to move forward peacefully.
In our short time there we saw five separate abuses of human rights. They were quite clear violations, all of them since 1 April. The worst incident involved young men who were forced to dig holes in the sand. They were buried head first until they were nearly suffocated, pulled out and beaten. The process was repeated time and again. It is that type of activity, which is still taking place, that gives rise to concern about genuine moves towards free and fair elections. Britain must ensure that it makes clear on every possible occasion to the United Nations special representative, Martti Ahtissarri, and the UN forces there that we shall give them our full support in their role in that country, which is to supervise and control free and fair elections. There is, of course, a great difference between the phrase "supervise and control" and the word "monitor". We have to ensure that everything possible is done to enable supervision and control to be carried out. If at any time assistance in election matters is sought, I hope that the Government will respond positively.
Farm workers form a large part of the electorate and political parties must have access to them. Each farm is marked on the map and as they are private lands there is restricted access. The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance is holding meetings and the farm owners are taking people to them. The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) spoke about SWAPO. Any evidence of bribery involving large sums of money which I saw while I was there showed that the DTA rather than SWAPO was the suspect. I hope that the Government will do everything possible to ensure people's access to all the political parties contesting the elections later this year.
South Africa is clearly creating some financial difficulties for Namibia. It is responsible for the financing of services until Namibia becomes independent, and we must ensure that it carries out that role. We must also do everything possible after independence to ensure that there are proper negotiations about outstanding debt. It would be totally wrong if Namibia were asked to take over the massive and crippling debt incurred by a Government in which the people of Namibia had no say. That is extremely important.
After independence we shall still have to consider the question of Walvis bay, which will be a problem for future negotiations. Major concessions have been made about the registration procedure for the election. We need to ensure that the procedures and regulations governing the election will ensure confidentiality so that people know that they can vote freely and fairly. Illiterate people must 1294 know exactly how to vote. They fear that if they cannot be assisted to vote in a confidential manner the secrecy of the ballot will be destroyed.
Namibia has a small electorate and any fiddling at the edges can affect the outcome of the results. A party or grouping needs to have 66⅔ per cent. of the vote in order to draw up a constitution, and for that reason the matters that I have mentioned are important. The Government must show that they want a free and fair election and they must back the United Nations 100 per cent. in ensuring that the election takes place in November and is free and fair. We all look forward to Namibia achieving its independence.
§ Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon)
I should like to explore the ground that lies before us after the Madrid summit. That was a good result for the United Kingdom and it was helpful that the Delors report was demoted from the status of the absolute truth and that we managed to neutralise the issue of British membership of the exchange rate mechanism—although both those gains are short term.
The agenda has not changed and the other states have not renounced the Delors goal of economic and monetary union. That means that there is a certain ambiguity at the heart of our relationships. The minimum, though in many respects sufficient, definition of monetary union must be an area of permanently fixed exchange rates with no exchange controls or other barriers to the free movement of capital or the circulation of currencies. For most of the other member states that remains the launch pad for further integration in the European Community. I am not sure whether at the moment the United Kingdom acknowledges that as the ultimate destination, although I was reassured to hear my right hon. Friend the Minister say that we should move as rapidly as possible to the first phase of Delors. I hope that that somewhat contradicts the idea that we were batting for beyond the next general election in the conditions that we laid down. We have bought time, not cancelled the difficult decisions. The important thing now in the short term is to ask how to use that time, and I should like to make two suggestions about that.
First, there is no need at the moment for another idelogical war over the principles of economic and monetary union. Secondly, our proposals, which we have promised, must not be so minimalist as to be insufficient to serve as a rallying point for those who may share some of our reticence about the full scope of the Delors report—the full scope of economic and monetary union. There are people who agree with many of our points, but we must offer them a flag behind which they can line up. If we are minimalist, they will not be able to do so because they will feel that we are not partaking of the ultimate goal.
I want to offer the Government two pieces of cautionary advice. First, it would be helpful if we did not so assiduously give the impression that we are desperately hoping that the liberalisation of exchange controls in France and Italy will lead to chaos. One cannot help but notice occasionally a suppressed anticipation that, with a bit of luck, that liberalisation will cause problems that will let us off the hook. We must be careful not to will that.
Secondly, I suggest that we need to be cautious about the canonisation of the president of the Bundesbank. He is 1295 a non-elected official, and the political decisions in a democracy are taken ultimately by elected members of Government. Chancellor Kohl does not necessarily share the bank president's views, and it would help the latter if we did not pray him in aid so often as a supporter of our opinions.
I believe that the conditions for the United Kingdom membership of the exchange rate mechanism will be fulfilled—and rather earlier than we expect. There will be an intergovernmental conference in which we shall take part, and an insistence on a treaty change for which we would do well to prepare ourselves. We must be careful about the attitudes that we adopt. I vividly remember Ministers arguing several years ago that we did not need a treaty change to achieve the single market; we needed only the political will. It would be difficult to deny now that that treaty change has stimulated a much more accelerated approach to the whole notion of the single market.
I recognise and share the Government's dislike of much of the philosophy behind the social charter. It will return in a new form. At the summit in December there is likely to be a declaration geared to employment. There is unlikely to be a legislative programme as an integral part of the declaration, and that will mean measures emerging under the existing competences of the Commission, measures which we should bat as they come. We do not necessarily need to declare war on the whole idea, because legislation will come forward in a conventional form which we shall treat on its merits as it appears. Our priority must be to press forward with the internal market, particularly in the important areas of insurance and public procurement.
I also suggest that the Government be more willing to acknowledge the victories that we have had. I notice that press statements from the French cabinet note with satisfaction when a certain decision has been taken in Europe of which the French Government approve. We tend to go in for great publicity about the issues over which we find ourselves in conflict; we are rather less good about praising—without crying triumph—those that go our way. Examples that come to mind are the banking directive and the fact that Europe has not embarked on a protectionist course. There will be no fortress Europe, given the decisions taken over the past few months and years.
It would be helpful if the United Kingdom would acknowledge that we are still determining the agenda in many respects in the European Community. The triumphs that we have had and the consensus on certain issues should be the subject of just as much comment as the areas on which we find ourselves in opposition. I note with satisfaction that the Government do not object to the use of article 90 in the telecommunications proposals of the Commission. That does not flow from the Single European Act—it would be a mistake to regard all these matters as flowing from that. It is an article of the treaty and as such it shows that the treaty can be used directly to obtain the deregulatory, free-market objectives of the European Community. I hope that we shall not be too alert to the possibilities of objecting to article 90 when it is used in areas that we find somewhat inconvenient. I think that some of my hon. and right hon. Friends would merely say that in taking that approach we were being rather cleverly French. That is an argument to which I would not necessarily object.
It is unfortunate that we allow the impression to be gained that there is a perennial British problem in Europe. 1296 I suggest that there is also a French problem of a dirigiste tradition in adjusting to the internal market. There is also an Italian problem, which involves a history of non-implementation of regulations, about which the Italian Government propose to do nothing. Milk quotas do not yet exist in Italy. There is also a German problem that involves a highly protected financial services market. There will be traumatic events when the Germans come to dismantle that market. I resent the implication that Britain is always the one-man awkward squad in the Community. Sometimes we make ourselves appear to be the awkward squad when frequently we can argue legitimately that we are leading the field and setting the pace when it comes to issues that are important to us. We must not define Europe exclusively in terms of the things that we want. We must understand that other member states have legitimate reasons to define Europe from their point of view.
There are other issues that have a rather broader effect on the Community than those to which I have referred. A major economic problem that lies at the heart of the Community is the massive German perennial trade surplus. If we had a more balanced and more evenly distributed growth in Europe, there would be far less demand for a social charter, and certainly much less demand for vast regional and social funds, which are essentially mechanisms to recycle the German trade surplus.
I have some sneaking sympathy with the countries that look forward to a central European bank as a means of applying a slightly more reflationary philosophy than that which governs the German economic policy. Some advocates of the British membership of the exchange rate mechanism take that stance on the ground that effectively the president of the Bundesbank would be in charge of British economic policy. One can see the attraction of that if one's priority is to counter inflation. At the same time, German policy is not always conducted in the common interest. It is not healthy for there to be a permament structural imbalance at the heart of the Community's economic performance.
The French identify the same problems with Germany as we do. However, they have opted for the embrace rather than the admonition. It is true that Chancellor Kohl and Mr. Mitterrand have met on about 67 occasions. The French have opted for what might be described as a suffocating embrace. This has meant, however, that they are able to exercise an important influence on German policy. Sovereignty, as in the French definition, is national sovereignty, and applies to the direction in which the nation wishes to go. That reflects a national interest generally and not necessarily the rather narrower terms of parliamentary sovereignty, which I suspect is the way in which the debate will be focused in this place.
The Community will face a significant problem which it has barely begun to address in an era of much freer frontiers, and it will lie with immigration and sanctuary. There will be problems if, for example, the Tamils are accepted in Holland and rejected in Belgium, or if the Syrians are accepted in Belgium and rejected somewhere else. These difficulties will be important within the Community, and we must consider them carefully.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said about the importance of the EFTA. We have much more trade with it than with the United States and Japan combined. We are spending too much time talking about the demise of the Soviet empire. I welcome the 1297 prospect, but I note from my history that institutions tend to survive for longer than external circumstances would suggest. EFTA is at the heart of Europe, and it is difficult to conceive of economic and monetary union with Switzerland or Austria—Switzerland has an especially important currency—outside the EFTA system. I hope that the United Kingdom, with its special relationships with the EFTA countries, will see that it has a leading role in trying to achieve closer relationships. I accept that some special status will have to be devised, at least until we have completed the European single market in 1992.
It is somewhat strange that the Opposition should claim to be the great new party of Europe. I recall our last debate when Labour's new, sparkling European policy was unveiled, only to be promptly assassinated by every Opposition Member who spoke. It is curious that we should be portrayed as the divided party and the Opposition as the united party when the opposite is true. We may be divided on certain ultimate goals, but we are not divided on the concept. That realisation has yet to dawn upon the Opposition.
§ Mr. Corbyn
If an hon. Member is granted an Adjournment debate on a constituency matter, he can speak for about 15 minutes, so it is rather curious that only four minutes is being allowed for me to discuss the rest of the world. I shall make only two brief and simple points.
The Minister praised the Government for their work on environmental matters and claimed that they were the greenest Government in the world. She said that Britain was busy examining all the causes of world pollution and the various phenomena that go with it. That argument would be stronger if the Government had given a commitment yesterday, during the Committee stage of the Antarctic Minerals Bill, to declare the Antarctic a world environmental park rather than allowing the prospecting for minerals that will inevitably lead to the development of mining operations in the Antarctic and damage to the fragile ecosystem. The Opposition forced the Bill to be debated and to be sent to Standing Committee, and there will be another debate on Monday evening. I hope that people will understand our role in that.
The announcement earlier this week of the growth of emissions of carbon dioxide from British industry and British power stations makes Britain the country with the largest increase in the world. That comes at a time when the Prime Minister is lecturing people and saying that she is doing more than anyone to solve the problems of the greenhouse effect. It sits rather ill.
Likewise, although there is undoubtedly a genuine concern about rain forests, the reality is that many poor countries are being forced to chop down their rain forests and destroy their natural resources simply to repay overseas debts. There is an inextricable link between debt and the destruction of the environment. It is time that the British Government clearly recognised that. Market forces are a major cause of damage to the world's environment. We need a strengthened United Nations environmental protection agency and a different attitude from the Government towards the environment.
My hon. Friends the Members for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) 1298 mentioned the problems of the Kurdish people in Iraq. Kurdistan is a nation of almost 20 million people—the largest unrecognised nation in the world. The Kurds are one of the most abused peoples, and the treachery that has been meted out to them throughout the century is a standing disgrace, in respect of which all major Governments are, to some extent, guilty.
Many Kurdish refugees from Turkey have recently arrived in Britain. We have close relations with the Turkish Government and Turkey is a member of NATO. Indeed, the Turkish President was invited to Britain last year and was feted at enormous public expense. Will the Government make the strongest possible representations to the Turkish Government about their treatment of the Kurdish people in Turkey, about those people's legitimate desire for self-determination and about the conditions suffered by 120,000 Iraqi Kurdish refugees? They fled to Turkey not because of a humanitarian gesture from the Turkish Government, but because of the repression that they had suffered from the Iraqi Government.
Will the Government make representations to the Turkish Government to ensure access to the Kurdish camps at Mardin, Mus and Diyarbakir for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Red Cross and other respected bodies such as the International Medical Relief Foundation, which wants to examine the many examples of the poisoning of the Kurdish people by Iraqi agents. Did they not suffer enough in Iraq, with all the oppression, murder and use of chemical and other weapons against them? They were forced to flee to Turkey, only to find Iraqi agents in the refugee camps. Those people deserve something better, and the support of the rest of the world, in their attempts to live a just and peaceful life.
I hope that the British Government will stop pretending that everything is all right in Turkey and that that country is returning to democracy, and will instead expose the abuses of human rights in Turkey and its Government's oppression of the Kurds. We should not shut our eyes to those problems but should stand up for the rights of those poor, unfortunate people—as we would expect others to do for us if we were in a similar position.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
I will at least start on a note of consensus. If we are to pursue a realistic foreign policy, we must first know ourselves. We must evaluate our country's history, strengths, weaknesses and potential. Our history as a country in relation to external affairs since 1945 has been of a process of adjustment to the new role that we can play in the world. Central to that process have been developments within the European Community.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office concluded long ago that our future lies in a closer relationship with the new Europe. Until recently, British public opinion seemed to lag behind that view, but recent public opinion polls, notably that appearing in The Daily Telegraph; and the recent Eurobarometer poll, suggest that it now recognises the value of that relationship.
The Prime Minister—the queen across the water—has had rather a bad day. It was the Prime Minister's failure to appreciate the sea change in public opinion, as evidenced by recent polls, that made her so misjudge her political stance on Europe. That is emphasised by her 1299 insensitivity over the past few days in respect of the French revolution—an event that is fundamental to most French people, and to which they make obeisance. By her criticism, she allied herself in respect of France—as she has in the case of South Africa—with the old regime, rather than with the newly emerging forces.
The Prime Minister's formation ill suits her to understand the processes of change, and her temperament makes it difficult for her to co-operate with others. She still hankers after a special relationship with the United States that is no longer on offer, and still attempts to fan a narrow and unhealthy populism, with a much-reduced response. As the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) implied in his advice to the Prime Minister in his very wise speech, she should turn down the volume in respect not only of the European Community but of other areas of foreign policy.
The cross of Grantham must be one of the biggest burdens that Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers must bear. The two Ministers of State who are with us today are the partially acceptable face of a foreign policy that is directed more and more from Downing street in a strident and populist way—and in a misjudged populist way, because public opinion has changed. Rather like an old end-of-pier entertainer, the old appeals no longer receive quite the response that they enjoyed in the past.
By failing to recognise our strengths, the Prime Minister is failing to capitalise on our potential. Clearly there are few areas in which we can still play a solitary, unilateralist role. One is Hong Kong, on which we had a most valuable debate yesterday. Over the years, one has gained the impression that the Government's obsession with keeping on the right side of the People's Republic of China has led to distortions in our foreign policy on areas adjacent to China. One thinks of the policy on Tibet, and certainly that on Cambodia.
Another area is Argentina. Over the past few days, we have heard what may be construed as encouraging noises from Mr. Menem, the new President of Argentina, in relation to the Falklands. It will be helpful to know how the Government read those signals. It is clearly wrong that our relations are so strained with that great Latin American country. We cannot continue indefinitely in that immobilism. We need a more coherent position. The position that has been clearly adumbrated by my party is that it would be ready to open talks, without preconditions, with democratic Argentina on the future of the Falklands. That is also the view of the Foreign Office, which is seeking wherever possible to build bridges, but there is a vast road block—the No. 10 veto—across the way to closer relations between ourselves and Argentina.
Leaving aside Hong Kong and the Falklands which, in their own way, are a legacy of old colonial relationships, is it not quite clear that Britain's role in the future will increasingly be within our alliances? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said with his usual force, global problems need global solutions. Working within our alliances involves a process of give and take and a series of compromises, not absolutes. We in Britain have a unique position in the world through our permanent position on the Security Council and our role within the Commonwealth and the European Community. Our aim should be to maximise our influence in those organisations in which the sum is greater than the part. Who can deny that, latterly, strident isolationism has reduced our strengths and is contrary to our national 1300 interests? Within the Security Council we pay tribute to some of the work that has been done. It is clear that the negotiating skills of Sir Crispin Tickell, our permanent representative, allowed us to play a substantial and positive role in relation to the Iran-Iraq war.
The Government fail to recognise that the lack of sympathy with Third world issues, and particularly the lack of understanding in relation to South Africa, have mightily reduced the effects of our policies and the positive role that we can play elsewhere. I congratulate the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) on his positive comments about the Commonwealth—another of the areas in which a unique diplomatic asset for us has been mightily underutilised. It is a forum for world problems in miniature.
A day or so ago, the Prime Minister talked about the solution of the drugs problem. Such problems can properly be addressed in the Commonwealth. When the Government talk about the problem of Hong Kong, is it not proper to say that there could be a much greater urge to seek a solution within the Commonwealth context? With the Commonwealth and our EEC partners about 60 countries could help us to share a major moral burden in respect of the future of Hong Kong. I and my party regard the Commonwealth not as an alternative to Europe but as intertwined with Europe, giving us a special strength.
We know that the Commonwealth is not only of proven strength but is increasing. We look forward to the addition of Pakistan. We believe that Namibia is likely to be the fiftieth member, and we understand that Cameroon is already making approaches to the Commonwealth. At least that shows that it is an institution recognised by others as having a new vitality.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) made some cogent remarks about the tragedy of Cyprus. For too long the Government have adopted a laid-back position—cautious, waiting on the sidelines, failing to appreciate the special role that Britain has in Cyprus. Britain has subcontracted the Cypriot problem to the United Nations.
The Government's lack of commitment to the Commonwealth is also demonstrated by their policies towards the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Institute. The Prime Minister demands the right to be different within the Commonwealth. One thinks of the Okanagan statement on the Commonwealth, with the exception of Britain. One thinks of Britain's self-exclusion from foreign affairs Ministers' statements on South Africa. The Prime Minister demands the right to be different within the Commonwealth and the European Community but she expects Stalinist uniformity over developments in NATO. Those demands do not sit easily together.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and other hon. Members have referred to the importance of the Venice and Madrid declarations on the middle east and to the fact that by and large, we follow the decisions that the Israeli Government have taken over the middle east. If the policy change by Mr. Shamir, not just Likud, which is likely to affect the stance adopted by the Israeli Government, effectively scuppers the new peace effort, and if the United States Administration establishes as a consequence an international peace conference, what will be the stance of Her Majesty's Government towards the peace conference? The intifada will continue. There will be enormous human rights abuses. Israel will be the 1301 despair of its many friends. It will harm itself both in relation to the occupied territories and internally as a result of its own divisions, unless it comes to terms with the new facts in that area.
I agree very much with what was said by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) about the Inter-Parliamentary Union and other similar institutions. I agree, too, with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) that one should not seek to portray the Council of Europe as an alternative to the European Community. It can play a bridge-building role between eastern and central Europe but we should not give yet another signal to Europe that we are faint hearts on the European road.
My hon. Friends the Members for Hamilton and for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) have already said all that needs to be said about the Kurds. I repeat the question about the British Aerospace contract. The Government could veto it. We shall regard the British Government's response to the Hawk contract as a litmus test of their policies. Will business considerations prevail? Will the British Government view sympathetically human rights for the Kurds or will they view sympathetically the use of chemical weapons in Iraq?
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambodia—[Laughter.] With respect, I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley might half accept that appellation. As she mentioned Cambodia, I hope that the Government will assure us that they will not favour the inclusion of the Khmer Rouge in any group that is involved in the peace negotiations, given the history of the Khmer Rouge.
As for the Sudan, the only democratic Government in the area have been topplied by a military coup. We know that the Prime Minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi, is under arrest, and it is said that he could face the death penalty. I appeal to the Government to make representations to the new military regime in Sudan on behalf of Sadiq al-Mahdi.
South Africa, is the area in which the Government's policy—or rather the Prime Minister's policy—is seen at its most personal and malign. That is important in itself but it also has symbolic importance. We know that the Government adopt attitudes in relation to human rights in Poland—at the tomb of Father Popieluszko—and in Hungary at the tomb of Imre Nagy. When will the day come when the Government will pay similar tributes to Steve Biko or other major South African patriots? As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said, it is not just a question of the release of Nelson Mandela—even with all the importance attachedn to that—it is also a question of the context within which Mandela is released, analagous to the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group and the conditions that it has laid down for a proper release for Mandela.
Our assessment is that the South African Government have not yet recognised the need for fundamental change. To them "negotiation" means negotiations with people whom they chose. Even the five-year plan talks about group rights. We believe that by colluding and by treating South Africa as just another country, we are playing into the hands of the establishment. Only sanctions or measures—call them what one will—are likely to bring the powers that be in South Africa to the recognition that they 1302 must do deals with the African National Congress. By issuing a statement on behalf of Nelson Mandela, President Botha has implicitly recognised the importance of the ANC. However, to our Prime Minister, the ANC is still just another terrorist organisation. When will the Prime Minister be ready to meet Oliver Tambo and other representatives of the ANC? That would be a positive signal.
I endorse all that my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley, (Mr. Pike) said about Namibia and repeat his questions.
In conclusion, the Government's faults in foreign policy are but an extension of their faults in domestic policy. They are reflected in the curbing of public expenditure. The proportion of our GNP that is devoted to aid is half what it was in 1979. The Government are weak on human rights and have a strident unwillingness to accommodate the other side in any discussions.
Under a Labour Government there will be a new internationalism and a recognition of our new status as a country. We will play to our strengths, which are many. They will not be undervalued as they are under this Administration.
§ 2.7 pm
§ Mr. Waldegrave
I start by paying one tribute in which I know the Opposition Front Bench will join. The diplomatic service provides a great service for our country. Many hon. Members of all parties—on visits to Cyprus, for example—have had the benefit of the help of our diplomats. If they have not, the diplomats are always available. Let us think for a moment about our diplomats in dangerous places, such as Beirut, and pay a special tribute to them.
We have had some magisterial speeches today. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) made the second of two magisterial speeches in two days. He has told me that he cannot be here for my reply to the debate, but 1 should like to put on record the fact that I thought his speech outstanding.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) was in the great tradition of his speeches. This week this country has lost and mourns our greatest entertainer, Lord Olivier, but luckily things are not all bad. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East is his natural successor. He described himself as a timid man, to whom verbal fisticuffs cause deep and lasting anxiety. He made up some amusing new facts about the past. He referred, for example, to the inflation rate. It is boring to have to remind him that the OECD figures show that in 1975 Italy's inflation rate was 17 per cent., but the United Kingdom's was 24.2 per cent. I cannot remember who was Chancellor of the Exchequer that year. The crocodile that ate one of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues would never have dared to take even a nip at him. He would have returned, as he did over the years, having swallowed up many people from the Militant Tendency, with the crocodile well digested.
There was much in the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East with which to agree, just as there was in the speeches of the hon. Members for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). One of the difficulties in debating with the Opposition Front-Bench speakers is that they decorate their fundamental agreement with us on many points with a verbiage of 1303 personal attacks on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. They do so partly to disguise how much underlying agreement there is. We know the game. We learn it from their boss, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). He often agrees with us on, for example, the middle east and our approach to eastern Europe, but that does not preclude a certain personal venom in his approach.
After the prolonged period of paralysis in European politics since the second world war, after the iron curtain fell across Europe, the liberalisation in the Soviet Union has once again put events in Europe back at the centre of the world stage. Not long ago, it was fashionable to say that all the political interests in the world focused on the Pacific. We can now see that the two great events in Europe—the room for manoeuvre which is being allowed in eastern Europe and the development of unity in western Europe—have put those European events back at the centre.
I agreed with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East—although I did not entirely agree with his inflation figures, as he will see in Hansard—when he said that the tide of Communism had turned and that that was recognised in the Soviet Union. In a way, the Soviet Union has become a status quo power and, perhaps belatedly, has recognised that she will do well to manage to maintain much of her present position. This has transformed her approach to regional conflict in a variety of places, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, the hon. Member for Hamilton and others have said.
The Soviet Union now has a quite different approach to the United Nations, which provides an opportunity, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said, to use that institution in some of the ways that its founders hoped it could be used, including the great former Bristolian, Mr. Ernie Bevin, who at the time of the foundation of the United Nations in San Francisco made a speech that bears re-reading. There are hopes for partnership in relation to south-west Africa, the middle east, Cambodia and, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said, central America. As Mr. Gorbachev said in New York, this has ended the primacy of ideology in the Soviet Union's approach to foreign affairs.
There was a fascinating debate between the two leviathans of the debate—I was going to say "dinosaurs"—the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, on where the central and eastern parts of the Soviet Union now extend. I tend more to my right hon. Friend's side of the debate. The Finlandisation of central Europe is an objective that is not without hope. It means the achievement of neutral countries following a non-aligned policy and their own social, political and economic strategies, which Mr. Gorbachev endorsed as being their right in his speech in Strasbourg.
It is therefore somewhat paradoxical if, at this stage, we encourage the idea that those Finlandised countries—to use a form of shorthand—should be encouraged to go into the western camp. I wonder whether that would be in their interests in the medium term—where we go in the longer term is a different matter. We should not be unwilling to make it clear that, if Mr. Gorbachev means what he says, his new freedoms for the eastern European countries should lead to their being able to choose that status for themselves, which would be greatly to the benefit of their people. I also thought that we had an outstanding speech 1304 from my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), to which the hon. Member for Swansea, East has already paid tribute.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is more expert on the European Community than I am. She introduced the horrible word "subsidiarity", which is not hers. The concept, if not the word, was invented by Mr. Delors, who has much to his credit, including that word. If we could think of an English word, it would be more helpful. It is the principle upon which we should be working—that there is quite enough for Brussels to do without loading on to Brussels matters with which it need not deal. I am sure that hon. Members of all parties could make an allowance on that. There is no benefit in pushing matters up to higher tiers of Government just for the sake of it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup had the emphasis wrong. He said that wherever we could co-operate internationally, we should. That is the wrong way round. It is where we need to co-operate internationally that we should.
My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon was right to say that we should re-emphasise the matters that are going right in Europe, in many of which we have played a leading part, such as the liberalisation of the economy and the avoidance of the fortress Europe concept. Wherever I go in the world, 1 find that people from the Maghreb, the middle east and the wider world fear that Europe will turn in on itself and become fortress Europe. It would be a disaster if the greatest trading group in the world became an illiberal force in economics. My hon. Friend gave other good advice and I know that my right hon. Friend will note it carefully for the negotiations that lie ahead.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup asked, a little suspiciously, whether our praise for the Council of Europe meant that we were trying to make it into an alternative to the Community. Of course we are not. A number of other hon. Members mentioned the Council of Europe. A useful, new role is emerging for that body, which is to become one of the forums in which discussions in central Europe can take place. Hungary, Poland and the Soviet Union now have guest status and Mr Gorbachev made his interesting speech at Strasbourg. We should welcome this developing role for the Council of Europe.
The hon. Member for Hamilton and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East talked about central Europe. I cannot answer properly today the question of the hon. Member for Hamilton about additional sources of money for Hungary. I hope that we can deploy some. Some part of the purpose of my visit was to assess what we can do with how much money. He will note that we have provided a fund of £25 million over five years for Poland. In terms of debt, that is nothing, but in terms of moving people and developing programmes to help individuals and training, it is a considerable programme and a departure for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which will be welcomed by hon. Members of all parties. We shall have to think how to spend the money properly, and institutions such as the Great Britain East Europe Centre will have a part to play. The last thing we want to do is to give the impression that the money has been tainted by Government intervention in the politics of other states. We must respond to requests and make it clear that it comes, if possible, with all-party backing and certainly with some independence from Government.
1305 In East-West relations in general, the liberalisation and transformation taking place in the background is being recognised and endorsed in the arms agreements coming forward—not the other way round. Peace is not made by the formalities of arms agreements, as we learnt in the 1930s as a result of the Kellogg pact and other agreements that failed. If the underlying forces are moving to conflict, treaties cannot stop them. It is the other way round. Now that affairs are moving in the right direction, it will become surprisingly easy to make treaties. I am talking about history nervously because of the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) who is looking rather gloomy about my references to the Kellogg pact, so I may have made a mistake there already.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup asked us to consider whether we yet believed that Mr. Gorbachev or any other Soviet leader could contemplate the break-up of the Soviet empire. He was not disagreeing with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East here. I do not think that any Soviet leadership could contemplate the break-up of the heartland of the USSR. There is reason to hope that the internal problems of the Soviet Union—the challenges of the nationalities and the economy—will make it take a more relaxed view about trying to maintain some control over countries that it once thought it needed as buffer states. What is in it for the Russians if they try to run the economy and defences of Hungary, given that they have enough difficulty with their own problems? There may be hope. There may be.
We have heard a number of interesting speeches about the Arab-Israeli question. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, whose leadership of the Conservative Friends of Israel is contributing to the building of bridges between those who are genuinely seeking progress on this matter.
We regard the Likud party decisions with considerable dismay. Yesterday, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary met Bassam Abu Sharif of the PLO to show that we think it even more vital for the PLO to stick to its moderate position, which it reaffirmed last December, now that it is under the extra pressure of watching Israel's tentative moves towards rapprochement apparently being reversed. If the PLO can maintain its position, the other voices in Israel will have time to be heard and the friends of Israel in the United States and Europe will have time to emphasise that the election proposal—in its original form not much more than a minimal proposal—needs development rather than diminution. That is what we should all be seeking to achieve.
The hon. Members for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) and for Swansea, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir D. Walters) asked what would happen if, despite all the efforts, the election proposal dies. I assure them that we are not backward in seeking an international conference. In fact, we have been rather ahead of the United States on this matter and our position is embodied in the Madrid declaration of the Twelve which was widely welcomed in the middle east. In that declaration, we say that not only should there now be an international conference but that the PLO must 1306 participate in it. That is only realistic as it will be impossible to find any other interlocuter who carries weight.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge made two points that I support strongly. The first was that nothing will be gained by seeking to isolate Israel. In that respect, I agree with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). The capacity of Israelis to batten down the hatches and see the world as threatening all round them is one of the problems in making progress towards negotiation. Nothing that reinforces that attitude helps peace. Israel is a democracy, and forces in Israel, movingly represented in a recent piece by Amos Oz in The Daily Telegraph, need our support and help.
Grave problems also exist elsewhere in the middle east. The hon. Members for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) are both known as passionate protectors of the tragic Kurdish people. They both said that the Kurdish tragedy may be continuing. As has been said, the British Government played an honourable role in drawing the attention of the world to the tragedy at the time, when very few others were prepared to speak out. My speech at the Paris conference on chemical weapons was the only one to mention Iraq by name. All the others somehow managed to avoid the subject. I do not claim too much credit for that; we could not keep silent. The question that we face is the perennial, and most difficult of all questions for Foreign Office Ministers and Governments to answer: how we should balance our trading interests and our care for human rights. At what point do we say that we cannot deal with a country, or that we must seek progress by contacts, pressure and influence?
I have heard Opposition Members advance that argument the other way in relation to the Soviet Union at its worst and China at its worst periods. It has been argued that we should not cut countries off and that we should work with those people who we can work with. That can be said of some in Iraq as well. This is a difficult and agonising decision. I have no answer to it today, nor about the proposed Hawk deal. All that I can say is that the analysis of that will be carried out within the guidelines that we have maintained in the past in these matters.
§ Mr. Waldegrave
I can add very little to what I have already said, and I have much of the rest of the world to try to cover. Doubtless if a decision is made that is adverse to those arguments, we shall have other occasions on which to pursue them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) mentioned Iran. He is right to say that if there are signs of progress after the presidential election, Britain must and will respond to them. He is also right to say that the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen is another country that has noticed which way the wind is turning in the Soviet Union's foreign policy and is seeking other friends. Royal Navy ships recently went there, which a few years back would have been surprising, and they were greeted with the usual Aden welcome.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East mentioned Sudan. The first thing that we want to say to that new Government is that, above all, the Sudan needs peace in the south. We urge the new regime to maintain human 1307 rights in relation not only to previous Ministers, but those in the south and in the country as a whole. There is confusion and it is difficult to say at this stage what will happen.
Several hon. Members, led by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), mentioned South Africa. My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) made a speech with which I very much agreed. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) spoke about South Africa and Namibia. I am much less of an expert on this than my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, but I found much of what they said out of date. It seemed to be simply a replaying of the gramophone record of sanctions, as though nothing had happened in southern Africa, the relationship between the Soviet Union and South Africa were not changing, and the hopes of progress were not higher now than they have been for many years. Our opportunity and challenge is to pass on that greatest African economy intact to its rightful owners—the population as a whole—rather than passing on a ruined economy, as happens so frequently in other parts of the world.
The hon. Members for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber and for Aberdeen, North spoke about Angola. We were greatly encouraged when, against the odds, President Dos Santos and Dr. Savimbi met and agreed the ceasefire. Although the delegations have now broken off their talks, we believe that they may shortly be resumed and we are urging both sides to show flexibility.
The return of the murderous Pol Pot regime in Cambodia must be out of the question. Any influence that we can use to that end we shall try to use.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Swansea, East for giving me the opportunity to speak about Argentina. It is true that the recent statement by the new President Menem—whose peaceful transition to power we must welcome in that populous country—and by foreign minister Cavallo, seem encouraging. If Argentina is now ready to exclude sovereignty from talks, we welcome that as a basis for talks. It appears to be saying that it will do that. Things are moving fast, so such a move is a welcome sign to which we shall respond appropriately.
We had a speech of considerable volume from the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Haynes) on Cyprus. I regret 1308 that, a couple of weeks ago, when we had a most moving debate on Cyprus to which I replied, something detained the hon. Gentleman and he could not be there. Nevertheless, we welcome him now. I strongly refute his argument that the Government are doing nothing on Cyprus. The diplomatic activity last year in relation to Cyprus was probably more intense than for any territory with the same population. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, have all met President Vassiliou. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about President Vassiliou. There has been a range of diplomatic contacts aimed at producing progress, and we are certainly as dedicated to the outcome which the hon. Gentleman rightly and eloquently defended as anybody else.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks), the hon. Member for Islington, North, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) talked about some of the new planetary issues and the use of multinational organisations such as the United Nations and the Commonwealth to try to produce solutions on an international and multilateral basis. I pay tribute to the environmental achievements in Brazil last week by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development.
On the proliferation of missiles—
It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.