HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 cc868-9
14. Mr. Barry Field

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will report on the outcome of his discussions following his recent visit to Hungary.

Mr. Hurd

I visited Hungary from 27 February to I March and had talks with members of the Government and representatives of the opposition. I welcomed the steps which Hungary is taking to full democracy, including free elections on 25 March. I confirmed our support through the know-how fund. The prospects for full and effective use of the fund are good.

Mr. Field

I thank my right hon. Friend for his very full answer and the extension of the know-how fund from Poland to Hungary, as well as 40 other projects. Does he agree, however, that the real test of merit for the Soviet Union is the timing of the withdrawal of its troops'' Having so recently visited the area, can he say why there is such a choke point at the border station of Csap, which also involves the withdrawal from Czechoslovakia? Will he, on behalf of the Conservative side of the House, wish the Hungarian people great success in the election and in overthrowing a Communist Government for the first time in 40 years?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is well informed and quite right. There has been a hiccup in discussions between the Hungarians and the Soviet Government, not on the principle of Soviet withdrawal of troops but on the timing. My hon. Friend may have put his finger on one of the reasons for that—the congestion on the railways which serve for evacuating Russian troops from Czechoslovakia and from Hungary. I join my hon. Friend in hoping that the elections on 25 March are a resounding success and that there is a high turnout.

Mr. Winnick

It would be useful if Conservative Members were committed to free elections everywhere, as Opposition Members are. Will the Foreign Secretary take the opportunity arising from the question to praise the Soviet leadership not only for bringing about the rule of law and parliamentary democracy, or the beginnings of it, in the Soviet Union but for pursuing a policy in eastern Europe whereby at long last the people in those countries will be able to elect the Governments that they want without any interference from the Soviet Union?

Mr. Hurd

Certainly the Soviet Union is now allowing things to happen in eastern Europe which previously it suppressed, but the main tribute for that is due to the people of Hungary who have insisted on that and have been pioneering and making a success of it.

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