HC Deb 10 January 1990 vol 164 cc939-40
15. Sir Russell Johnston

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with Jacques Delors regarding the current situation in eastern Europe.

Mr. Hurd

I have had a number of such discussions recently with Mr. Delors. The subject, as the hon. Member knows, was also discussed at the Strasbourg European Council and the ministerial meeting of the Group of 24 on 13 December.

Sir Russell Johnston

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply. I am sure that he will agree that none of the changes in the East would have been possible without Gorbachev. Will he tell Mr. Delors and his colleagues in the European Council of Ministers that we must all think about helping not only the newly democratised countries in central Europe but the Soviet Union? Gorbachev is in trouble and it is in our and everyone's interests to help him.

Mr. Hurd

The credit does not go solely to Mr. Gorbachev; it must also go to the countries of the West, Europe and the United States, which stood firm at a time when the Communist dictatorships seemed impregnable. That needs to be recorded. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has often said, we certainly believe that it is in the interests of the West that Mr. Gorbachev should succeed with perestroika. But his problems cannot be solved to any major extent by financial aid from this country or from the West. His problems are essentially those of nationalities within the Soviet Union and of an economy that is drifting downhill because of its basic nature, which needs to be changed.

Mr. Michael Marshall

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity of drawing to Mr. Delors' attention the work on the development of representative institutions of eastern Europe, which has been facilitated by the British Government, the Great Britain-East European Centre and the Inter-Parliamentary Union? Does he agree that that work has been recognised by all sides as immensely valuable? Will he encourage such activity within the Community?

Mr. Hurd

I certainly will. I know of my hon. Friend's interest in and leadership of such ventures. The contribution that Britain can most aptly make to those countries as they move towards free institutions is to show them, through many relevant projects and in many different ways, how to erect free institutions, free media and free elections, and how to move from a command economy to a market economy. That is why we have put such emphasis on the know-how funds that we have set up for Poland and Hungary.

Mr. Nellist

Before the Secretary of State has any further discussions with Jaques Delors, will he first talk to the Secretary of State for Defence, who yesterday, in a disgraceful outburst, donned his Captain America uniform and claimed that he alone was saving the world for peace and democracy? Will he ask him to show some regard for the millions who demonstrated in Leipzig, Bucharest, Budapest and Prague, and those who lost their lives in Romania? Will he tell the Minister of State, who is sitting next to him, that those whom he disparagingly regards as Trotskyites are those who, for the past five or six decades, have explained that there cannot be Socialism without democracy, just as one cannot be a human being without oxygen? It is as justifiable to call what happened under the dictatorship of Stalin "eastern Europe Socialism" as it would be to call what happened under the Spanish Inquisition "Christianity".

Mr. Hurd

I am having a little difficulty following the hon. Gentleman's logic, but it appears to be deeply defensive stuff. Political and economic freedom go hand-in-hand; neither survives well without the other. That is the lesson that the peoples of eastern Europe are teaching their former rulers.