HC Deb 26 June 1991 vol 193 cc976-8
2. Mr. Gerald Howarth

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what priority the Commonwealth attaches to the promotion of good government among its members.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

There is wide interest among Commonwealth members in promoting good government. Moves by the Commonwealth Secretary-General to put emphasis on the promotion of democracy will receive our full support. An excellent start, for example, has been made with election monitoring.

Mr. Howarth

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her speech at Chatham house yesterday? Does she agree that as the whole of the eastern bloc and even the Soviet Union are following the lead set by the United Kingdom in dismantling state socialism and moving towards a market economy, it would be conducive to good government in totalitarian and often corrupt regimes in Africa and elsewhere if they did the same? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the readmission of South Africa into the Commonwealth might help to set a good example?

Mrs. Chalker

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments on my speech yesterday. The promotion of good government knows no boundaries. Every country that expects to work in harmony with its people needs to pursue good government, accountability, respect for the rule of law and respect for human rights. I agree with my hon. Friend that dismantling state socialism is one of the most important things that we can help those countries to do and it is part of the good government programme that there should be divestment of parastatals. I further confirm to my hon. Friend that as we told the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in May, in reply to a report on United Kingdom policy towards South Africa, we would support an application from a post-apartheid South Africa to join the Commonwealth when there is a non-racial democracy.

Ms. Abbott

Does the Minister agree that there is a good Government in Sierra Leone? Do the Government take seriously the question of supporting the Sierra Leone Government against incursions by Liberian rebels?

Mrs. Chalker

I know of the hon. Lady's great interest in Sierra Leone. She will be aware that I have been able to respond to the Sierra Leone Government's call for help by the provision of non-lethal equipment to try to help them to restore the order that they used to have there and which I know they very much want to have again.

Mr. Lester

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the essence of good governance is that the government are accountable to their own people and that the people are satisfied with the government? We should be careful, when we promote good governance, which is essential, that we do not try to impose an external model on countries that already have systems that are genuinely accountable to their own people.

Mrs. Chalker

I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend. That was exactly what I said yesterday in my speech. It is not for us to impose a system on emerging democracies, but for them to develop a system that is fully accountable to their own people and involves the participation of those people in the system of government.

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