HL Deb 16 November 1995 vol 567 cc1-4WA
Lord Trefgarne

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will report on the outcome of the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in New Zealand.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey):

I accompanied my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in New Zealand on 10– 13 November.

I have placed in the Library of the House the text of the Auckland Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) communiqué and an action plan for the fulfilment of the Harare Declaration. Statements were also issued on Nigeria and disarmament. Commonwealth Heads of Government warmly welcomed President Mandela, representing South Africa for the first time following the country's transition to a multi-racial democracy; and President Biya, following the recent admission of Cameroon as the 52nd member of the Commonwealth.

The meeting rightly took issue with those members of the Commonwealth, notably Nigeria, which continue to defy the principles of democratic and accountable government agreed at the CHOGM in Harare in 1991. The Commonwealth's widespread and increasing concern about the importance of an early transition to accountable democratic government in Nigeria, and the Nigerian Government's callous execution of Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight associates, following a flawed judicial process with no formal right of appeal and no regard for the basic legal rights of defendants, gave the Commonwealth little alternative but to suspend Nigeria. This was essential if the Harare principles were to carry credibility for the future. How long Nigeria remains suspended depends on its own conduct. If the Nigerian Government show themselves willing to abide by the Harare principles, the Commonwealth will be very ready to support them. Conversely, the meeting agreed that if no democratic progress has been made within a time-frame to be stipulated, Nigeria will be expelled from the Commonwealth.

To monitor implementation of the Harare Declaration more generally, the meeting decided to establish a standing group of eight Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, in which my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will participate.

The UK and other members differed over the resumption of French nuclear testing in the Pacific. My right honourable friend recognised the strong views of countries in the region, but also stressed his determination to defend strongly the principles and policies of deterrence which have helped to keep the UK peaceful and free for the past half century. The Commonwealth's statement on disarmament was misrepresentative, and in parts clearly wrong on nuclear weapons testing. We were not therefore prepared to be associated with it. At the same time my right honourable friend underlined that the UK shared with Commonwealth partners the desire for an early end to testing, in the South Pacific or elsewhere. Hence the UK's commitment to concluding a comprehensive test ban treaty and signing the protocols to the Treaty of Rarotonga in the first half of next year.

On Hong Kong, Commonwealth Heads endorsed our view that the rule of law and a high degree of autonomy are important ingredients for Hong Kong's continuing success after 1997. Commonwealth Heads agreed to accept Mozambique's application to join, which was championed by President Mandela and leaders of other southern African Commonwealth states, in view of Mozambique's previous links with the Commonwealth. The meeting also agreed that an inter-governmental group should report on criteria for any future applications.

My right honourable friend invited Commonwealth leaders to hold their next meeting in 1997 in Britain. This invitation was warmly accepted.