HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 cc867-8
12. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations have been made to the Soviet authorities about human rights.

Mr. Waldegrave

We have a continual dialogue with the Soviet authorities about human rights. We raised both individual cases of concern and the wider need for institutionalised reform during the meeting of the Anglo-Soviet working group on human rights on 9 January. I followed this up when I visited the Soviet Union from 21 to 25 January.

Mr. Marshall

Did my right hon. Friend make any representations to the Soviet authorities about the evil activities of Pamyat and the threatened pogrom of 5 May? Is he aware that 50,000 people with exit visas are awaiting flights to Israel? Will he make representations to the Russian authorities suggesting that they allow direct flights between Moscow and Tel Aviv?

Mr. Waldegrave

I discussed the first issue with Soviet leaders and with representatives of the Jewish community in Moscow. I am happy to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the Soviet Government are in the process of prosecuting Pamyat under their law, which is rather similar to ours, dealing with the stirring up of racial hatred. We should watch that carefully, but we should welcome it as proof that the Soviet authorities are taking the matter seriously. Direct flights are a matter for the two Governments concerned.

Mr. Janner

Will the Minister accept that there is real anxiety among thousands of Soviet Jews about renewed pogroms and anti-Semitic harassment? Does he accept that a tribute should be paid to Mr. Gorbachev as thousands are now leaving freely to go to live in Israel? As Israel, unlike nearly all its neighbours, labours under the advantage of being a democracy and thus cannot direct its citizens, however new, on where they may or may not live, does the Minister accept that fewer than 0.5 per cent. have settled outside the green line, which nails the propaganda lie that there is a danger of mass settlement—[Interruption.] It is no laughing matter for those whose lives are in the process of being saved.

Mr. Waldegrave

We certainly pay tribute to the much better regime which Mr. Gorbachev and his colleagues have introduced. One of my hon. Friends recently went to Moscow, at the invitation of the Russians, to discuss the drafting of the law. These are all better steps which we welcome. On the latter point, although what the hon. and learned Gentleman says is true, the concern in the middle east about that arose after some rather unguarded remarks —to put it mildly—from Prime Minister Shamir. To talk as he did seemed liable to lead to exactly the outcome that has resulted, which is that everyone is exceedingly worried.

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