HC Deb 02 March 1994 vol 238 cc939-40
16. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Britain's support for the Washington accord on resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Her Majesty's Government are helping to fund 10 surgeons in Jerusalem and Hebron, together with the provision of specialist medical supplies and nursing to treat the victims of the massacre in Hebron. More generally, our aid to the occupied territories will amount to £20 million this financial year and £70 million over the financial years 1994–96.

Mr. Townsend

Is it not to be regretted that the Security Council was unable to condemn the horrendous massacre in the mosque immediately and without reservation? Can my right hon. and learned Friend explain that? Is he satisfied that the commission of inquiry will be able to tell us what actually happened at dawn prayers? Finally, should not the British Government offer to fly some of the many people who were seriously injured in the massacre to this country for hospital treatment?

Mr. Hogg

All members of the Security Council condemned the crime that occurred. We are now finding out whether a special Security Council resolution can be passed to assist a number of forward policies. For instance, we want to establish whether we can station observers in the area, along the lines suggested by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel).

Five members of the commission of inquiry have been appointed, under the presidency of the supreme court. I think that it will be fair and independent. As for the question of flying people to the United Kingdom, the consul general in Jerusalem has instructions to liaise with the Palestinians to find out whether there is any specialist treatment that they require and we can provide.

Mr. Ernie Ross

I am sure the Minister will agree that, while we welcome the concern and anger that have been expressed about last week's murders in Hebron—and the letter from the Prime Minister will be very welcome—what is required is an early resolution of the peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. If those talks are to resume, a more positive move must be made by the Israeli Government, along the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham).

Does the Minister agree that it would not be unusual for us to have an international presence on the west bank? We have already had one in the form of European consuls general in Jerusalem. Surely we could use those immediately, as we did when our own consul general Ivan Callan went to Beit Sahour to investigate alleged incidents in that town. That would be a more positive move.

Mr. Hogg

I entirely agree that it is very important for the peace talks to resume as speedily as possible. I think, however, that the hon. Gentleman would want to say of Prime Minister Rabin's response that many of the steps that he has taken were directed expressly to that end. Mr. Rabin is as deeply shocked as I believe the hon. Gentleman is, and has made it plain that that represents the attitude of all Israel. He has also indicated his willingness to release, I think, 1,000 detainees. He has set up a commission of inquiry which I believe to be fair and independent, and has announced a willingness to disarm extremist settlers. I hope that those steps will be seen as constructive.

Sir Donald Thompson

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is disgusting that a joint delegation of Members of Parliament will not be allowed to go to Israel next week because of Labour policy?

Mr. Hogg

I agree with my hon. Friend. I think that the failure to observe the usual courtesies between the two sides is actually preventing hon. Members on both sides from engaging in activities that are helpful to international relations and advance the work of the House here.

Mr. Winnick

Is it not sickening that there are extremist elements who have tried to make a hero of the mass murderer who carried out the recent terrible crime? Should it not be made clear to Israel—one recognises that there has been a substantial change since the last elections —that there can be no lasting peace until there is a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel? That is an absolute essential for justice for both Jews and Palestinians.

Mr. Hogg

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. It is appalling if anybody in the state of Israel seeks to endorse this murder. But it is also fair to say that those who do are in a tiny minority and that the people of Israel as a whole must be deeply distressed and shocked by what has happened.