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12. Mr. Lidington : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to improve diplomatic and commercial links between the United Kingdom and Taiwan.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad) : Although the United Kingdom has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, we attach great importance to our commercial, cultural and other links. British exports rose in 1993 by 22 per cent. to £668 million. The United Kingdom has attracted over half of Taiwanese investment in Europe. The British Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei, established in October 1993, is being reinforced with additional staff to develop those links further.
Mr. Lidington : While accepting that we do not recognise Taiwan diplomatically, may I ask my right hon. Friend to assure the House that the Government will ensure that we have enough people of sufficient calibre in Taiwan to help to guarantee that British companies, rather than French or Japanese ones, make money out of that important market ?
Mr. Goodlad : Indeed, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Starting with the establishment of the British trade and cultural office in Taipei, we are taking steps to achieve a commercial presence in Taiwan. We are increasing the number of United Kingdom-based staff from three to four and strengthening the number of locally engaged commercial staff. The year 1994 has started well : Davy International announced at the weekend a blast furnace contract worth $97 million, which will also provide work for about 250 subcontractors in this country and spare parts will be supplied for many years to come.
Mr. Tony Banks : Is it not about time that we recognised the Taiwanese Government and set up diplomatic relations with them, given the importance of that country to our economy ? Will the Minister convey to the Taiwanese authorities the great concern of many of us at the stockpiling of rhino horn in that country-- [Interruption.] Rhino are an endangered species--I wish that Conservative Members would recognise that. Will the
Column 936Minister tell the Taiwanese authorities that if they would act against the dealers they could do something to preserve the endangered species of rhino in Africa ?
Mr. Goodlad : On the subject of recognition, the British Government acknowledge the position of the Peoples Republic of China and that Taiwan is a province of China. We recognise the Government of the Peoples Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China. In our view the status of Taiwan is a matter for Peking and Taipei to resolve between themselves.
On the subject of rhino horn, on which I know that the hon. Gentleman is a considerable expert, trade is a matter for the European Community as a whole. We made it clear that there was significant concern in the United Kingdom about rhinos. Other member states agreed to maintain pressure on Taiwan and review the need for further action in the light of progress later this year.
Mr. Colvin : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that although normal diplomatic relations between this country and Taiwan do not exist, the Chinese on Taiwan nevertheless give our representatives in Taipei de facto though not de jure diplomatic recognition ? In view of growing trade and improving relations between our two countries, and the fact that the Republic of China on Taiwan is now a fully fledged democracy, is it not about time that we gave the same democratic status to Taipei's representatives in Britain, and the niceties that go with that ?
Mr. Goodlad : All Taiwan representative offices in the United Kingdom are private companies or institutions. Under British legislation, exemption from tax, import duties and so on is available only to diplomatic missions considered as such under the terms of the Vienna convention. We have no intention of using the legal situation to create difficulty for the Taiwanese offices here.
Mr. Hurd : Britain is contributing substantially to the observer operations of the United Nations, the European Union and the Commonwealth. The exact number of British observers in the election has yet to be finalised.
Mr. Bayley : Does the Foreign Secretary share my concern about the withdrawal of Inkatha from the elections because people living in Inkatha areas who vote will be deemed to be African National Congress supporters and their lives may be at risk ? How many polling stations will there be in the elections and is it the intention of Britain as the former colonial power, together with other countries under United Nations and Commonwealth control, to ensure that there are enough observers to have at least one at every polling station ? Finally, does the right hon. Gentleman recall that for the first multiracial election in Zimbabwe Britain sent a large number of police officers, and will he consider doing the same on this occasion ?
Column 937Union 312 and the Commonwealth 60, so there will be enough observers. The hon. Gentleman will know that we are already giving help to the South African police.
Even more important is the hon. Gentleman's first point : I understand that there was a good meeting yesterday between Mr. Mandela and Chief Buthelezi, and I hope that out of that improved atmosphere may come progress towards a fuller joining of all concerned in the elections on April 27.
Sir Michael Marshall : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the United Nations estimate of some thousands of observers is a critical part of ensuring free and fair elections in South Africa ? Does he agree that it would be a great tragedy if British parliamentarians alone were ruled out by the present situation in the House ? Will he use his best offices and urge the Opposition to let us participate ?
Mr. Robert Hughes : Does the Foreign Secretary agree, as I think he does, that the monitoring of the election in South Africa would be much easier if Chief Buthelezi and Inkatha were to take part ? Does he therefore welcome, as I do, the tentative moves made yesterday in that direction ? Will he use his best endeavours and take every opportunity to encourage Chief Buthelezi to join the elections in full participation ?
Mr. Hurd : I have just said that I think that it is very important. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed what the President of the United States and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agreed yesterday--that our two countries would work hard to strengthen the tangible, practical steps we can take to promote the process of democratic reform in South Africa.
Rev. Martin Smyth : I am disappointed that there are no such plans, bearing in mind that many people in the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere are concerned about the conflict in southern Sudan, which has been going on for far too long. The fact that they happen to be black upon black does not relieve us of any responsibility.
Mr. Cash : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that 40,000 Muslim fundamentalists have been airlifted from Khartoum to southern Sudan ; that 200,000 people from southern Sudan have been driven into Uganda over the past few months ; and that there is a prospect that that figure could rise to a million, which Uganda simply could not cope with ? Will he ensure that every effort is made to ensure that the people moving into Uganda are given every
Column 938support by the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development and by the American and British initiatives that are currently under way ?
Mr. Hogg : What my hon. Friend says reinforces the importance of the present peace initiative. I echo what I have already said--that we think that the Government of Sudan should respond positively to that initiative.
Mr. Gunnell : What steps has the Minister taken through the United Nations to seek a solution to this problem ? Will he ensure that the negotiations that are under way are discussed with the United Nations so that it, too, may play its maximum role in sorting out this mess ?
Mr. Hogg : It is important not to undercut the present initiative. Therefore, for the moment I should prefer to see weight placed on the initiative to which I have referred--that promoted by the Kenyans, Ugandans and others. If it becomes plain that that will not succeed, one can consider other mechanisms.
Mr. Cryer : When the Minister does meet the appropriate Ministers, will he make it clear that, despite the cosy consensus between the Front Benches, millions of people outside the House see no benefit from the Common Market, do not want greater political union and, given the chance, would get out ? Those people recognise that that would immediately knock £24 a week off the average family food bill, reduce our payments by some £2,500 million a year and perhaps help to reverse the £10 billion deficit of payments that we have with the Common Market, which has been nothing but a millstone around our necks ever since we joined.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The vision of the European Union that the hon. Gentleman is scared of is written up in the socialist manifesto to which his party is fully committed, so I invite the hon. Gentleman not to vote Labour in the forthcoming European elections.
Mr. Oppenheim : Should we not do our best to ensure that any deepening of the European Community does not preclude its widening, too ? Is my hon. Friend not just a little bit ashamed of the position in the European Community ? Having preached the benefits of open markets to the countries of eastern Europe for so long, the European Community is now refusing open access to goods from those countries just when they most need our help--and all to appease a few inefficient, cosseted vested interests such as the European steel industry and European farmers. Will we in Europe not look back with shame in future years at this selfish short-sightedness ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : We are in the forefront of those European Union members calling for openness of markets with the former communist states of central and eastern Europe to help stabilise them, but I can bring my
Column 939hon. Friend some good news : I have just come back from an Accession Council meeting in Brussels, which lasted for five days. I am glad to say that we now have political agreement with three new member states--Finland, Sweden and Austria. When they join the Union, they will reinforce our model of a Community which is decentralised, free trading, diverse and open to the world.
Mr. Bill Walker : Does my hon. Friend agree that it will never be the Government's policy to embrace federalism in whatever form in the European Union and that we believe firmly in nation states, with more of the power returning to the nation states and fewer directives coming out of Europe ?
Mr. Dafis : As the Minister will know, the new Committee of the Regions established under the Maastricht treaty will meet for the first time next week. Does he agree that it will constitute a vital mechanism for the representation of the interests of the small nations and regions of Europe, which should really be the building blocks of a new federal Europe ? Does he also agree that the Committee of the Regions could and should become the second chamber of the European Parliament ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I am not sure about a second chamber of the European Parliament, but the creation of a Committee of the Regions is certainly in line with our view of the European Union--a body that is decentralised and makes decisions as near to the citizen as possible.
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,
Column 940we 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.
17. Sir David Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he proposes to have discussions with his European Union partners concerning the strengthening of intergovernmental co- operation on foreign policy.
Sir David Knox : Which particular areas have been identified in which the countries of the Community can work together during the next few months ? Will my hon. Friend agree that this process has been greatly facilitated by the Maastricht treaty ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The Maastricht treaty set up the intergovernmental pillar of the Union to allow us to carry forward these initiatives. My hon. Friend asks which areas. The middle east, the former Soviet Union, South Africa and the former Yugoslavia are four of them, and already we have a joint action to deliver humanitarian aid in Bosnia.
Mr. Worthington : Is not the Sudan a further area in which the European Union could work together and throw its full weight behind the report of the special rapporteur on human rights, Gaspar Biro, and insist that the Sudanese Government allow international aid agencies and international observers into all parts of the Sudan and, in particular, into the Nuba mountains where there is mass destruction and mass killing ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The fact that the European Union is concerned about the Sudan does not mean that the problems are any more intractable and difficult, but this is certainly an area which concerns the Foreign Ministers of the Union, and I will pass on the hon. Gentleman's particular concerns.
Mr. Paice : Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the major benefits of the recent decision regarding the accession of three new member states which he mentioned earlier is that, whether we are talking about the foreign policy pillar or any other pillar, we have seen a substantial shift from net recipients to net contributors and that this shift in the balance of decision-making in the Community must be very good news for this country ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : My hon. Friend is entirely right. Probably all, but certainly three, of the new member states who we hope will accede will be net contributors to the budget and this will make them as interested as we are in budgetary discipline.
Lady Olga Maitland : Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House when the joint British-American reconstruction programme in Sarajevo is due to begin ? Does he agree that this came as a result of the very worthwhile talks between President Clinton and our own Prime Minister ?
Mr. Austin-Walker : What action have the Government taken in respect of the aggressive and oppressive action by Serbia against the people of Kosovo ? Will the Minister also comment on recent incursions across the Albanian border by Serbia-Montenegro ?
Mr. Dickens : In respect of the former Yugoslavia, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that Great Britain can stand tall ? Were we not the first to send troops to that area ? Were we not the the first to send medical supplies, food, airborne warning and communication system aircraft and ground monitoring equipment ? As far as the world, NATO and the Security Council of the United Nations are concerned, Great Britain has really played its part 100 per cent.
Ms Lynne : I am grateful for that answer. Has the Minister had discussions with his Commonwealth partners about setting up an eminent persons group to visit Indian-held Kashmir to see for themselves what the situation is ? Does he agree that the Indian Government's refusal to allow an all-party group of British Members of Parliament to see for themselves leads one to believe that they may have something to hide with regard to human rights abuses ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : If it were the wish of the Indian or the Pakistan Government to have a special group from the Commonwealth to visit Kashmir, one or other would have drawn the attention of the Commonwealth secretariat to that matter. It would be for them to draw it to the Commonwealth's attention, not for us.
As to the latter point of the hon. Lady's question, I said in an earlier answer that there have been many impartial visitors to Kashmir in recent months.
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