HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 c857
Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made recently to the Government of Romania on the development of democracy in that country.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs told the Romanian Foreign Minister when he met him in Ottawa on 11 February that the British Government expect to see steady progress towards a pluralist democracy in Romania. Free and fair elections later in the year will be vital. I raised similar points when I visited Romania on 15 and 16 January.

Mr. Flynn

Does the Minister agree that both Government and voluntary aid to Romania has been swiftly provided and that it is of great value? I pay tribute to the people of Newport, who have worked heroically to equip several lorries and dispatch them with medical aid. Is not the paramount need now to ensure that the elections in May are conducted fairly? In the unique situation in Romania where the apparatus of terror is still in place, is not it our right to intervene and use our influence in a thoroughly exceptional way to make sure that democracy is firmly rooted in that still unhappy land?

Mr. Waldegrave

Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman talks a great deal of sense about Romania, which he knows well. He pays tribute to the people of Newport. I join him in that and hope that it will not be misunderstood in any way. I hope that he will forgive me if I also pay tribute to the people of Bristol, because Bristol Mencap, under the leadership of Mrs Hannam, exposed the horrors of mental asylums there. The hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the Government's work. We have sent about £6 million of emergency aid, but all the voluntary aid is needed. As I said in my principal answer, it is now essential to ensure that there are free and fair elections, with access to the media for the opposition parties.

Mr. Richard Shepherd

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his response, welcome as it is in a sense, betrays a fundamental contradiction in British foreign policy? We are giving praise to and pushing Romania towards full democracy, for which we have no constitutional responsibility, yet we deny it to Hong Kong, for which we have constitutional responsibility. Is it not better to pursue those interests for which we have responsibility? Full democracy in Hong Kong may ameliorate some of the difficulties that the Government face in terms of giving passports—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question is about Romania.

Mr. Waldegrave

I think that I would get into trouble with you, Mr. Speaker, if I launched into an answer on Hong Kong. It seems a little paradoxical to blame my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who introduced democracy in Hong Kong for doing so.

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