HC Deb 04 March 1992 vol 205 cc299-300
5. Mr. Hague

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the most important international non-EC meetings which he expects to attend this year.

Mr. Hurd

There is the North Atlantic Council consultative meeting and the conference on security and co-operation in Europe ministerial meeting this month; the North Atlantic Council meeting in Oslo in June; the economic summit of the Group of Seven in Munich in July and the CSCE summit in Helsinki in July, both of which I shall attend with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister; the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September; the CSCE council of ministers in Stockholm in early December, and Western European Union ministerial meetings in June and November.

Mr. Hague

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the fact that when he attends those international meetings and many others in the EC he will discover that Britain's standing, authority and reputation are vastly higher than they were a few years ago? Is not that a tribute to the work done not only by him but by his recent predecessors? Would it not be a national tragedy if that were all to be thrown away by any alternative team of Ministers, who were wrong about every international defence issue in the 1980s and who carry no conviction in the 1990s?

Mr. Hurd

That is rather a difficult question to answer. I hope that we have a reasonable record on piloting Britain's foreign affairs through troubled times. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and his team are always ingenious in defending whatever the policy of the moment is; it is just that that policy is changed so often that it leaves a little bit of a question mark over whether they have any plan or direction at all.

Mr. Galloway

When the Foreign Secretary visits the Group of Seven summit in the summer, will he bang some heads together to try to bring forward a new deal for the third world? The announcements made by the Minister for Overseas Development a few minutes ago about the food situation were welcome, but people in Africa are starving and the terms of trade that they receive in their dealings with the developed countries, the problem of their huge indebtedness to the developed countries and the world order over which we now preside are such that hundreds of millions of people live on the edge of catastrophe. The Group of Seven has a responsibility to the human race to deal with that this summer.

Mr. Hurd

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman is looking forward to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself going to the G7 summit in mid-July. He was specific on that point; rather markedly so I thought. We shall be delighted to seek out his advice just before we go if he is still a Member of the House at the time. Of course he is right on his serious point about debt and that is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been so energetic in pressing what are called the Trinidad terms to enable the poorest countries of the world to benefit from those terms. We shall do our best within reason and common sense to ease those burdens as best we can.

Miss Emma Nicholson

In the wake of the impressive list of meetings that the Secretary of State will be attending for the remainder of this year, will he encourage the Security Council to have a special meeting, after Britain's anticipated endorsement of the Van den Stoel resolution on the destruction of human rights within Iraq at least to ensure that human rights monitors are in south Iraq to protect the unfortunate Shias?

Mr. Hurd

We are worried about the extent to which Saddam Hussein is still able to inflict hardship and persecution on the peoples of Iraq, both the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development is trying to arrange a donors conference to bring further help, but, as my hon. Friend would agree, the best relief of human rights would be if the Iraqis accepted resolutions 706 and 712 and began to sell oil, the proceeds of which could go to the relief of poverty as well as the compensation of those whom they have victimised.

Mr. Foulkes

I advise the Secretary of State to ensure that all his flight bookings are transferable. However, in the few weeks remaining to him, will he pursue at all relevant meetings the question of the massacre at Santa Cruz in East Timor. In particular, will he urge that the Indonesians should immediately abandon the trial of the two East Timorese survivors and press for a full United Nations investigation? Finally, will he make it clear, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has done, that British aid and trade depend on Indonesia seeking an agreed solution and ending its illegal occupation of East Timor.

Mr. Hurd

If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that our trade with Indonesia depends on a resolution to that question, that is a new and rather remarkable policy statement. The hon. Gentleman must not beg policy in that way. If he does, his place on even the Opposition Front Bench will be at stake. He is, however, right about the basic seriousness of the problem, which I discussed with the Indonesian Foreign Minister—as, perhaps, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has done. The report published by the Indonesian Government and the action that they subsequently took—for example, against certain military commanders involved in the incident—show that they are not concerned simply with a cover-up. I agree that further action needs to be taken. We are in close touch with the Community and the United Nations about how the issue should be progressed.

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