HC Deb 11 July 1990 vol 176 cc304-6
13. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Romania on the development of democracy there since June 1990.

Mr. Waldegrave

We protested formally to the Romanian authorities in London and Bucharest on 15 June about President Iliescu's use of vigilantes to crush the opposition on 14 and 15 June. We invoked the Helsinki agreement on 21 June to request information on three arrested student leaders. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and his European Community colleagues strongly condemned the violence in a statement on 18 June.

Mr. Flynn

The Minister has the support of the whole House: we join him in condemning, and expressing our outrage at, the crimes of the statesponsored and state-organised lynch mobs from the Valley of Zin. One of their victims was Mr. Leon Nica, who was a recent visitor to the House. Despite assurances given to the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and me on Monday this week in Bucharest, it appears that he is still in prison, and—according to rumours in Bucharest—has been so badly disfigured by the beating that he suffered that he is not fit to be seen.

What will be the Minister's response to the new despair, pessimism and fear in Romania? Can he assure the House that we will not desert the people of Romania, and that we will redouble our efforts to build on the links that now exist between us and them, so that the barriers do not rise again and Romania does not become isolated and indifferent to western opinion?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am grateful for the steadfast support that the hon. Gentleman has given to the line that has, I think, been taken by the majority of hon. Members—although opinion is not unanimous; the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) takes a different view. The position of Mr. Nica is one of the matters about which we are most worried. He is one of the three people about whom we inquired. There was a rumour that he had been released, but we do not believe it: his student organisation says that he has not. We will press his case strongly.

As for the general policy, we should be building and maintaining contacts, but we should not yet be offering the prizes of economic and other support that we have made conditional, for the other countries of eastern and central Europe, on progress towards law, free markets and genuine democracy.

Sir Bernard Braine

May I strongly associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn)? Together with French and Belgian Members of Parliament, we had a meeting with the Romanian Government on Monday.

Is my right hon. Friend aware—I am sure that—he is —that the sorry events of June have left the Romanian Government floundering? There is considerable fear and even despair in Romania. Will my right hon. Friend use his best endeavours—with our partners in western Europe —to bring home to the Romanian Government the fact that help will be forthcoming for that floundering, sad country only when it puts its house in order—when democracy is practised, dialogue with the people is undertaken and the atrocities referred to by the hon. Gentleman cease?

Mr. Waldegrave

I agree with my right hon. Friend. His views and knowledge of that country are well known, and I share them. It is, however, important to recognise the steps that have been taken. It is the fact that those initial gains seem in danger of being lost which makes us so worried, angry and frustrated. That is why we thought it right to instruct Her Majesty's ambassador to attend the inauguration of the elected President—he is, after all, the first elected President, and that is a major step, although my right hon. Friend is right to say that that alone is not enough.

Mr. Wareing

Will the Minister take it from me that, having seen the democratic way in which the elections were conducted on 20 May, my Conservative colleague and I were disappointed to see what happened with the incursion into Bucharest of what I can only call Communist party vigilantes—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Miners."] I call them vigilantes.

Does the Minister agree that one way in which we can influence events in Bucharest is by having talks with the appropriate Ministers, and encouraging British business men to show what can be on offer to the Romanian economy if Romanian democracy is allowed to progress in the way in which it appeared to be progressing on 20 May, when nothing sinister was clear to the observers in that country? Does he further agree that a real effort is needed by the British Government and British business to influence further progress?

Mr. Waldegrave

We believe that the election had many flaws; we also believe that it is likely that the National Salvation Front would have won a wholly fair election. We must recognise the steps that have been taken. I did not say—as I was quoted as saying by Mr. Conor Cruise O'Brien —that there is no difference between Ceausescu and Iliescu. There have been tentative steps forward, and we should encourage them, but we should not—we cannot—yet say that the conditions for general economic aid and for our know-how fund have been met. We must keep in place the carrots for further vital progress.

Mr. Onslow

Does my right hon. Friend think that democracy has any chance in Romania as long as it is up against Scargillite National Socialism?

Mr. Waldegrave

It was the very disturbing methods used by Mr. Iliescu at the first challenge that worried us so much because they were just the same methods as Ceausescu used to use. My right hon. Friend's anxieties are well founded.