HL Deb 11 July 1986 vol 478 cc577-9
Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the planned visit of the Russian Foreign Minister on 14th-15th July.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

Mr. Shevardnadze will have talks with my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and will also call on my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. They expect to discuss a full range of issues in East-West relations. This is an important visit offering the opportunity to advance the process of arms control. work for resolution of differences on regional issues; press for progress in human rights; and deepen bilateral co-operation.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that very interesting reply, may I ask whether she will also consider including in the discussions pointing out to the Russian Minister how difficult friendly relations—which we all want with his country—are made by the practice of training terrorists, whether from Libya or the ANC, or other parts of the world in Russia for depredations in other friendly countries? Will my right honourable and learned friend urge on the Russian Minister that desisting from this policy would be a major contribution to Anglo-Russian friendship?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I certainly note what my noble friend has to say on this point. I undertake to draw it to the attention of my right honourable and learned friend.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that one of the important issues that should be drawn to the attention of the Russian Foreign Minister is the fact that Britain has unilaterally decided not to manufacture any chemical weapons of any kind since 1950? That is 36 years during which we have applied the ban. Will she be good enough to ensure that our Foreign Secretary asks their Foreign Secretary to do the same? Most of us in Britain judge people on what they do and not on what they say.

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware of the Question that was put down on this subject yesterday by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing and the Answer which I gave on that point. I confirm of course that we have abandoned production and stockpiling of chemical weapons. Again, this will be a matter that will be raised in the discussions. We have accepted the proposals made by the Soviet Union in April on this subject. But the key issue on chemical weapons is challenge inspection.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, will the noble Baroness take the opportunity of raising with the Soviet authorities the conditions in which political and religious prisoners are kept in Russia?

Baroness Young

My Lords, yes. The noble Lord will be aware of what I said in my original Answer. We shall press for progress in human rights.

Lord Broxbourne

My Lords, in the context of human rights, to which my noble friend very properly referred, will Ministers in their discussions—without seeking to intervene improperly in the internal affairs of the Soviet Union—make clear the importance attached in this country to the rights of minorities and, for example, deprecate the institution of any policies of apartheid or approximating thereto concerning the Jewish population in Russia?

Baroness Young

My Lords, on the latter point that my noble friend asks, we shall ask the Soviet Union to ease the restrictions on the levels of emigration of the Jewish community from the Soviet Union. But we shall also bring to the attention of Mr. Shevardnadze the need for a better implementation of the commitments under the Helsinki and Madrid CSCE documents in particular as regards the treatment of their citizens including religious minorities.

Lord Boston of Faversham

My Lords, will the Minister accept that this visit is very welcome in that it is a significant development in the dialogue between our two countries? Will she also accept that her announcement yesterday that the subject of chemical weapons is to be included in the talks is welcome? Can she perhaps say more about the statement which was made during his Moscow visit by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, that Mr. Gorbachev had been taking a new and more positive approach to this matter? Have there therefore been some developments on the Russian side since the ones to which she referred which took place in April?

Baroness Young

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for the way in which he has couched his question and the importance which he and his noble friends attach to what we believe is a very important meeting and an important opportunity for dialogue; it is something to which I think all of your Lordships would attach importance. On the specific final point that he raises, I cannot add to what I have already told your Lordships. However, we must all hope that in all the different current arms control discussions some progress will be made.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, will the Government not agree that, while tension between East and West, chiefly owing to the very nature of the Soviet regime, is likely to continue almost indefinitely, there is no reason why we should not arrive at a perfectly good and durable understanding as regards nuclear weapons and arms control generally? It is obviously in the interests of both East and West to promote it?

Baroness Young

My Lords, yes. There will be discussions on the full range of arms control issues with Mr. Shevardnadze and we believe that there are elements in the latest Soviet proposals at Geneva which deserve further exploration.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, in view of Mr. Gorbachev's progressive measures, might it be a good thing to point out to the Foreign Secretary of the USSR the grave apprehension felt in this country for men and women of great professions in the USSR who are suffering discrimination and who have a degree of fear when they do not fall in line with the views of the government of that country?

Baroness Young

My Lords, yes; I have already made clear the importance that we attach both to the Helsinki agreements and to the CSCE agreements.

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