HC Deb 29 March 1995 vol 257 cc1011-3
9. Mr. MacShane

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the state of relations with the President of the United States of America; and if he will make a statement. [14948]

Mr. Hurd

Relations with the United States Administration remain close and friendly at all levels. The Prime Minister will visit Washington next week for talks with President Clinton and senior members of the Administration and Congress.

Mr. MacShane

Is it not a fact that, since the Prime Minister sent a couple of central office flunkies to try to sabotage President Clintons election and behaved like a petulant child over the taking of telephone calls so that President Clinton will now visit Paris, Moscow, Brussels and Bonn but not London, we are incapable of having an adult relationship with our oldest partner and ally under this Government, and that the policy of unsplendid isolation can end only when others are responsible for this country's foreign affairs?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman is wrong about the election and wrong about the American Presidents travel plans. The idea that our relationship with America depends on the timing of telephone calls between busy people is absurd and childish.

Dr. Twinn

When engaging in discussions with the American Administration, will my right hon. Friend make it clear that we in Europe expect the United States to put pressure on Turkey to ensure that it does not exercise a veto over the peace settlement in Cyprus or, indeed, the widening of the European Union?

Mr. Hurd

We are a guarantor power, with Turkey and Greece, of the Cyprus settlement. We work closely with the Americans and the Secretary-General of the United Nations to urge forward a settlement in Cyprus. My hon. Friend the Minister of State has just answered questions about the relationship between that and the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Does the Secretary of State agree, and share my concern about the fact, that the President of the United States perhaps pays too much attention to guidance on golf greens to support the so-called Irish Americans, forgetting that 60 per cent. of them are Scots-Irish? Is it not time that there was a campaign to inform the United States of its indebtedness, not only to the Scots-Irish, but to this nation as a whole?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman knows that the British Government, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in particular, have been extremely energetic in presenting the truths about Northern Ireland to the American people. He and his colleagues have recently been playing a vigorous part in that, which I welcome.

There have been differences over Ireland with the United States Administration. In our view, it is important that substantial progress should be made on the decommissioning of weapons, and that any funds raised by Sinn Fein should not and could not be used to fund terrorism. These are matters that the Prime Minister will discuss with President Clinton. The responsibility for handling them rests with the Government who are responsible to the House, and that is accepted by President Clinton.

Mr. Duncan Smith

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who go on about doom and gloom in respect of this so-called special relationship fail to take full account of opinion in the United States, not least that in Congress and the Senate? I hope that, like me, my right hon. Friend was heartened to note the other day that Senator Dole issued a press release in which, while urging the President to visit the United Kingdom for the VE day celebrations, he said that not only was Britain Americas closest ally but that America owed a great debt to us for our position in the second world war and that the ties between the two countries are very close and very deep?

Mr. Hurd

Indeed, that is true. We cannot rest, though, simply on comradeship during a war 50 years ago, however important that was. That is why the particular ties which we have with the United States in defence, intelligence and other matters, remain strong and greatly in our interest. Of course the whole Anglo-American relationship does not just depend on relationships between Governments. Everybody—parliamentarians, members of all professions in this country—plays a part in that.