HC Deb 10 January 1990 vol 164 cc930-3
6. Mr. Gerald Howarth

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by Her Majesty's Government to assist East European countries.

14. Mr. Maples

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance is being given to Poland in its efforts to restructure its economy and build up democratic institutions.

Mr. Waldegrave

We are already providing direct financial and other assistance to Poland and Hungary. On 2 January we made a grant of $100 million to the international stabilisation fund for Poland. We are looking carefully at the requirements of other East European countries, and my right hon. Friend and I will be visiting a number of them in the coming weeks. We will respond positively to these countries as they put in place political and economic reforms.

Mr. Howarth

I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's reply. However, as Socialism and collectivism have destroyed the economies of these East European countries, surely the best thing that we could do would be to give advice to them on how to create a liberal market economy, perhaps through a programme drawn up by my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) who is such an outstandingly able proponent of privatisation. Does my right hon. Friend agree that German reunification would not help to create stability in central Europe?

Mr. Waldegrave

The central part of my hon. Friend's remarks are quite correct. The Polish Government and others have made it quite clear that the last thing they want is statist and Socialist economies to advise them. They want to be told how to set up proper market economies. My hon. Friend may know friends of his and mine who can do that with a Scottish accent, and so much the better.

Mr. Maples

Does my right hon. Friend agree that private investment by western commercial companies will be an immense help to Poland and other eastern European countries in developing their economies? What help and encouragement are the Government providing in that process?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is entirely right. One of the perennial demands put to us, for example by Mr. Walesa when he was here, is for private investment. We are now helping the Polish Government in particular, and also the Hungarian Government, with the liberalisation of their economies, with privatisation and the establishment of capital markets. That is what they are seeking. The Opposition see despairingly the remains of their philosophy fading away.

Mr. Madden

In responding to the undoubted wish of the vast majority of British people for the British Government to help the democratic process in eastern Europe, will the Minister give a clear assurance that no British industry, especially the textile industry, will be regarded as expendable nor will the jobs of large numbers of British textile workers be regarded as expendable by our Government turning a blind eye to flagrant dumping by eastern European textile industries?

Mr. Waldegrave

As defined under the international regulations, dumping is not permissible. However, I urge the House and the hon. Gentleman not to protect our own market. The best thing we can do for countries trying to join world trade is to open our markets for the benefit of our consumers and for their future.

Mr. Faulds

Is not a realistic assessment of the situation in eastern European countries the fact that a concerted European effort is needed along the lines of the Marshall plan? If the economies of those countries are not helped to work, democratisation will not work in those countries.

Mr. Waldegrave

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's analysis but perhaps not with the analogy of the Marshall plan as in some countries all the stock and investment was physically destroyed and had to be replaced in short order. The connection that the hon. Gentleman makes between freedom, democracy and the free market is right and his analysis of this issue would make him welcome on this side of the House.

Mr. Soames

I thank my right hon. Friend for the generous increased grant in aid that his Department has given to eastern Europe. Does he agree that cultural links will be very important in the next few years? Will he assure the House that he will do what he can to encourage those links which are so vital to increased understanding on both sides?

Mr. Waldegrave

I agree with my hon. Friend. One of the principal demands we are getting from all those countries is for English language teaching. It is the privilege and the luck of this country that all those countries consider English to be the language of freedom, so there is much that we can do not only in high culture, but in the practical aspect of English language teaching.

Mr. Robertson

Is the Minister aware that the Opposition join in the celebration of the movement to democracy, the rejection of Stalinist communism throughout eastern Europe, and especially the return of Romania from a particularly foul dictatorship since the House last met? Surely it is time for a more appropriately generous and comprehensive aid plan to be designed for the newly democratised countries of eastern Europe. Surely the Government could take a lead in bringing together the rich western countries to establish appropriate aid and the sizeable imaginative package which is required and which alone will safeguard and consolidate the movement to democracy where it was once crushed and repressed. What will the Government do to relieve the COCOM restrictions, the justifications for which are disappearing every day? What will happen about offers of future European Community membership to those countries that are still part of the European continent and which are now aspiring to membership in future?

Mr. Waldegrave

I note that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends welcome the steps that have been taken towards freedom. I further note from a debate in the House that even his few Trotskyite colleagues welcome the overthrowing of the Stalinist regimes—but I do not want to engage in that debate. The hon. Gentleman is a little out of date on the scale of what is being done by the West. Britain alone will contribute about £250 million to Poland this year, and in the past few days the Japanese Prime Minister has announced further measures. Britain took the lead in the European Community and in the Group of 24 to co-ordinate the measures that are now being taken on a massive scale. The hon. Gentleman asked about COCOM, but that is irrelevant. Do Poland and Hungary need to import carbon technologies? No, they need food and basic infrastructure. We should retain that basic military insurance for much longer.

Mr. Andrew Bowden

Does my right hon. Friend recall that a number of eastern European countries have been granted guest membership status of the Council of Europe? Will he support further applications by eastern European countries, as that must be a positive step to help them on the road to democracy?

Mr. Waldegrave

The answer is a clear yes, as long as the criteria are met. I agree with my hon. Friend that the criteria for membership should not be watered down, but if they are met we should welcome new members.