HC Deb 10 January 1990 vol 164 cc937-9
13. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the United States Secretary of State: and what matters were discussed.

Mr. Hurd

I last met the United States Secretary of State on 14 and 15 December at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels. Secretary Baker also called on me in London on 11 December, when we discussed a wide range of issues.

Mr. Winnick

Has the right hon. Gentleman had the opportunity to discuss the appalling and brutal murders of the six priests in El Salvador? They were undoubtedly carried out, as has now been confirmed, by members of the military force, some of whom were American-trained. Does President Bush intend to send in an invasion force to bring about the rule of law in El Salvador? How many detectives from Scotland Yard have gone out? What is their brief and precisely what will they report back to the British Government?

Mr. Hurd

I have not discussed that matter with the American Secretary of State. We have been glad to accede to the request for help in clearing up these atrocities. The team consists of three Metropolitan police officers who are helping the local authorities in the pursuit of justice.

Mr. Dykes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the striking and attractive features of the new, more articulate and better-educated American Government is their enthusiastic commitment to Britain's full participation in the processes of developing the European Community?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, I think that the renewed United States enthusiasm for development in Europe is correct, particularly as the Americans have made it clear that they are not seeking to intervene in the discussions in the Community about what sort of Community it should become, and are placing their emphasis, as we do, on completion of the single market and the achievement of a liberal and open trading system.

Mr. Mullin

Has the Foreign Secretary had the opportunity to put it to the American Secretary of State that it might be a good idea if the United States called off the Vietnam war and ended its trade and aid embargo of Vietnam, with a view perhaps to stopping the flow of refugees from that country?

Mr. Hurd

I have discussed the whole question of the boat people with Mr. Baker and I shall do so again when, as I hope, I visit Washington at about the end of the month. I very much hope that at the steering committee meeting on the boat people in Geneva, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, will be held next week, we shall find the international community—perhaps with some help from the United States—moving on from the position that it took last June. That was not in itself sufficient to deal with what I regard as the major danger—a new onrush into Hong Kong of people from Vietnam during the spring and summer.

Sir Peter Blaker

On that point, has my right hon. Friend expressed to the American Secretary of State the surprise and indignation of many Conservative right hon. and hon. Members at the United States' high moral line on the compulsory return of the Vietnamese illegal immigrants from Hong Kong, at a time when the United States is returning illegal immigrants daily to many countries, including Mexico, and to Haiti, to which it has returned 20,000 boat people within the past year with much less careful screening to determine whether they are genuine refugees than is carried out in Hong Kong? Can my right hon. Friend hold out any hope of an improvement in American logic?

Mr. Hurd

Points similar to those made by my right hon. Friend have been put repeatedly to the United States, and I believe that the reaction in the United States to the repatriation of the planeload of 51 to Vietnam was a good deal more moderate than some of us had expected. Certainly, there is increasing understanding within the United States Administration of what we are trying to achieve and why, and of why we and Hong Kong deserve more understanding and help from the international community than has so far been received.