Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Goodlad : Britain is the preferred location for Japanese investment because we provide excellent access to the European Community market. Companies consistently refer to the welcome that they receive from the Government. The Japanese choice of the United Kingdom shows that the Government have created the right framework for companies to invest and prosper, in comparison with the position in other European countries and in comparison with the position that would prevail in the highly unlikely event of the Labour party ever gaining the reins of power.

Column 622

Former Yugoslavia --

12. Mr. Martlew : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policies towards the former Yugoslavia.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : Our aim is to secure an early settlement of the conflict in former Yugoslavia. We welcome the one-month ceasefire now in force in Bosnia. That must be extended. We support the work of the contact group. We continue to contribute to the humanitarian aid effort and to the international military presence in Bosnia.

Mr. Martlew : Will the Minister today publicly condemn the Greek Government for their continuing blockade of Macedonia ? What effort has he made to ensure that the Greeks back down on that matter, which is crucial for the Macedonians ?

Mr. Hogg : I am very concerned by the dispute between Macedonia and Greece. I agree that the embargo is wrong. I welcome the fact that the European Court is considering the embargo now. The Vance suggestions, which have been worked out in New York, deserve serious consideration by both parties.

Cuba --

13. Mr. McAllion : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last held discussions with representatives of the Cuban Government relating to common security issues in central and Latin America.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I have had no such discussions.

Mr. McAllion : Does the Minister accept that the basis of common security between nations is mutual respect for, and recognition of, each other's national sovereignty ? If so, why did the Government disgracefully abstain on the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly, which would have ended America's illegal contravention of Cuba's national sovereignty--its economic blockade of Cuba ? Why do the United Kingdom Government preach respect for international law, but, on the international stage, remain silent when international law is brazenly broken by their patrons in Washington ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The blockade is a bilateral matter between the Governments of Cuba and the United States. For our part, we operate no such embargo and have full diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Mr. Bill Walker : Does my hon. Friend find it difficult to answer questions from the Opposition about Cuba when they follow questions which revealed the Opposition's attitude towards the democratically elected Government of Italy, a member of the European Union ? Although I have views on that matter, I accept that that Government were democratically elected. Is not it difficult to answer people who ask questions in such conflicting ways ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : It is obvious that the Opposition are operating a double standard. They are happy to recognise and have relations with non-elected Ministers in Cuba, which is the point of my hon. Friend's question, yet we have just heard from Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen that they would refuse to meet or

Column 623

recognise five elected and duly appointed Ministers of the new Italian Government. They would therefore be willing to overlook, ignore and show contempt for the democratically elected Government of modern Italy.

Mr. Ernie Ross : Has the Minister had a chance to read the report, published in May this year, of the Caribbean Trade Advisory Group, which advises the Foreign Office ? It calls for a joint effort by Britain and Germany to reach an agreement on co-operation between the European Union and Cuba, so that the transition taking place in Cuba can proceed in a way that will bring stability to that area and trade to this country.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The hon. Gentleman may know that the Caribbean Trade Advisory Group visited Cuba last year and again last month. The object of those visits was to improve bilateral trade between our two countries. That is of more immediate importance than the longer-term, structural relationship between the EU and Cuba, although that may be developing on a parallel track.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : Is not it the case that in central America and the Caribbean area security tensions have been considerably reduced since the central American republics, in contrast to Cuba, returned to democracy and since, following the defeat of the Sandinista regime, Nicaragua reduced its armed forces ? Should not we be more concerned with introducing democracy and human rights into Cuba ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I agree. All Latin American countries now have civilian Governments, with the exception of Cuba. We look forward to an improvement in the human rights record of Cuba and we constantly urge her to allow free and fair elections.

Mr. Corbyn : Does the Minister accept that the blockade of Cuba that has been carried on by the USA since 1959 is an appalling interference in one nation's affairs by another ? Does he recognise that the lives of the people of Cuba have been severely damaged by it ? Other Governments have managed to trade successfully and normally with Cuba. Why will not he put pressure on the United States to lift the blockade and recognise Cuban Governments once and for all ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I have already said in answer to another question that that is a matter between the Cuban and the American Government, but, to repeat the point, we have developing trade relations with Cuba as well as normal diplomatic relations.

Italy --

14. Mr. Patrick Thompson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has met members of the new Italian Government to discuss recent developments in the European Union.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met the new Italian Foreign Minister at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 16 and 17 May 1994.

Mr. Thompson : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that there are good links between the European Union and the emerging eastern European countries ? In his recent

Column 624

discussions with the new Italian Government, has he had a chance to discuss joint projects to further the support and links between the European Union and eastern Europe ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : My right hon. Friend had a successful and constructive meeting with Signor Martino, the new Italian Foreign Minister, and it was agreed to carry forward a joint initiative to develop foreign policy and justice and home affairs relations between the European Union and the newly emergent democracies of central and eastern Europe.

Mr. Galloway : Is not it true that although Signor Fini and the MSI fascists in Italy were democratically elected, so were Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler before them ? Cannot the Government sense at least some unease in this country, as we celebrate the anniversaries currently, about the fact that British men left their bones in the soil of Europe to liberate this continent from fascism, yet fascism is back in the elected Government of Italy ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The hon. Gentleman's record of support for non -elected dictators is not altogether an honourable one, but I can repeat the important point that those newly elected Italian Ministers have made quite clear their support and respect for the 1948 Italian constitution, which is fully democratic in all respects.

Mr. Dykes : Can my hon. Friend reassure the House that Signor Martino is extremely enthusiastic about the Maastricht treaty and the European Union ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : We are all enthusiastic about the Maastricht treaty and the European Union.

Mr. Janner : Did the Foreign Secretary raise with the Italian Foreign Secretary the concern, which I know is felt on both sides of the House, about the resurgence of neo-fascism in Italy ? Did he discuss it at all with his opposite number and does he share the concern that so many of us feel about the growth of fascism and racism in so many parts of Europe ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Of course, we would be concerned if there was a resurgence of fascism in Italy. It was precisely because we are assured about the democratic credentials and aims of the new Italian Government that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met the new Italian Government and agreed a programme of future developments with that Government.

Argentina --

16. Mr. Simon Coombs : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on British relations with Argentina.

Mr. Hurd : We have made some good progress in many areas. There are regular high-level contacts. British exports to Argentina grew by 50 per cent. last year and there are good investment opportunities. We continue to disagree about sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, but we have an agreement on fisheries conservation and we expect to meet the Argentines next month to discuss oil. We also co-operate internationally ; for example, British and Argentine troops are working side by side in UN peacekeeping operations, both in the former Yugoslavia and in Cyprus.

Column 625

Mr. Coombs : May I tell my right hon. Friend of the great pleasure given to the Falkland islanders and to their many friends in this country and around the world by his visit to the islands earlier this year ? Does he agree that as long as Argentina retains its claim of sovereignty over the islands, there will inevitably be a black cloud over our efforts to improve relations with it ? What part of the Government's policy is it now to persuade the Argentine Government to drop that claim so as to guarantee the long-term safety and security of the Falklands ?

Mr. Hurd : I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the islands after Easter and I learned a lot from it and from the islanders. My hon. Friend is right : we have managed to make good progress on other matters with the Argentine Government, setting aside the disagreement over sovereignty, which remains.

My hon. Friend is perfectly right to say that, once it is possible for Argentina to drop her claim to sovereignty, the possibilities of co- operation in the south Atlantic, to the benefit of both countries and of the islanders, will be very great indeed.

Mr. Tony Banks : In the event of President Menem requesting the extradition of Baroness Thatcher to face various charges in Argentina, will the British Government give him their full co-operation ? I suspect that if they did, it might do something to restore their flagging popularity.

Mr. Hurd : No such request has been made.

Mauritius --

17. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on United Kingdom relations with Mauritius.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We enjoy a close and constructive relationship with Mauritius.

Mr. Greenway : I thank my hon. Friend for that fine reply. Does he accept that Britain is popular in Mauritius and that Mr. Jugnauth and his Government are very friendly towards this country because of their close educational links with it ? If he agrees, how is he seeking to extend that principle ?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The Mauritian Foreign Minister recently said that relations are entering a new period of understanding and co-operation, and he has seen my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary twice in the past year.

As for education, under an agreement called the Laureate scheme, we are providing nearly £3 million over a five year period to fund scholarships which enable 13 Mauritians to come to Britain as students.

China --

18. Mr. Davidson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the United Kingdom's relationship with the People's Republic of China.

Mr. Goodlad : We attach considerable importance to maintaining and building on our wide-ranging relationship with China. We have already achieved a number of successes : for instance, our exports to China in 1993 were 72 per cent. higher than in 1992. We continue to make

Column 626

representations to the People's Republic on human rights issues. A key aspect of the relationship is Hong Kong. Although we have not yet resolved our recent disagreement over the detailed constitutional arrangements for Hong Kong, our immediate priority is to develop a co-operative relationship in other areas, such as the work of the joint liaison group and the new airport in Hong Kong.

Mr. Davidson : Will the Government continue to press the Government of the People's Republic of China on the issue of human rights, not only in China but in the future Hong Kong ? As the Government are no doubt aware, many in this country are worried that human rights in Hong Kong will be severely eroded once the colony is taken over by China. What assurances can he give us that that will not happen ?

Mr. Goodlad : Human rights in China, including the situation in Tibet, are a matter of deep concern. They are on the agenda at every ministerial meeting and we and our European Union partners have repeatedly urged the Chinese authorities to adhere to internationally recognised standards of behaviour and to improve their human rights record.

The Hong Kong bill of rights gives local effect to the international covenant on civil and political rights, and the body of local human rights jurisprudence is steadily accumulating. The joint declaration of 1984 provides that the international covenant will continue to apply to Hong Kong after 1997. The joint declaration also guarantees the continuation of Hong Kong's existing legal system.

Sir Anthony Grant : Will my right hon. Friend enlighten us as to what line the Chinese Government are taking over the nuclear activities of North Korea ? Does he agree that if any encouragement is given to North Korea to export nuclear arms or equipment to, say, the middle east, it could be very serious for the security of the world ?

Mr. Goodlad : My hon. Friend raises a serious matter. We are in close touch with the Chinese in the Security Council. The Chinese are in favour of a denuclearised Korean peninsula, but say that the North Korean issue should be dealt with through negotiations. We believe that China has privately urged North Korea to act responsibly. It was associated with two statements by the president of the Security Council urging North Korea to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Consultations are under way in New York on a possible sanctions resolution, after the flagrant breach by North Korea of the nuclear safeguards agreement and, of course, we hope for Chinese co-operation.

On the middle east, China is co-operating with both Pakistan and Iran on civil nuclear projects. We encourage China to behave responsibly and will continue to encourage it to join and abide by guidelines through the nuclear supplies group.

Mr. Gapes : In view of the position in Hong Kong, does the Minister support the proposals made by many people there, and by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, for a human rights commission to be established so that human rights can be protected after 1997 ?

Mr. Goodlad : The Government are considering the report of the Select Committee very carefully and will respond in due course.

Column 627

Sir Teddy Taylor : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the serious concern in China about the new restrictions introduced by the EC on imports of items such as toys and shoes ? Although I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having voted against the decision by the EC, does he agree that it is totally inconsistent with GATT and that it destroys jobs in China and many jobs in the United Kingdom as well ?

Mr. Goodlad : My hon. Friend is right. The United Kingdom voted against the quotas package at the Foreign Affairs Council on 8 February, because we did not believe that the quotas introduced, particularly on toys, were justified. During the negotiations, we succeeded in getting some proposals for quotas withdrawn and other proposed quotas, including toys, increased, although not enough. We are pressing the Commission to show extra flexibility in the management of quotas, particularly to enable goods already contracted for before the February decision to be exempted from quota limits. We shall also seek an early review of quotas in the hope of securing increases or, better still, their abolition.

Middle East --

19. Mr. Burden : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received from consular officials in Jerusalem on the implementation of peace agreements in the west bank and Gaza.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : The reports are frequent, relevant and highly informative.

Mr. Burden : Does the Minister agree that unless the peace process in the middle east goes forward it could rapidly go into reverse ? What plans do the Government have to increase the amount of practical assistance being given by Britain to the Palestine National Authority, other than in policing ? Will he particularly consider assistance through secondments along the lines of the know-how fund ?

Mr. Hogg : On the latter part of the question, the British Government's support, bilateral and multilateral, is around £70 million over the next three years. As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, it is important that there

Column 628

should be early progress. I should like to see Mr. Arafat back in Jericho. It is very important that the Palestinians take control in the five sectoral areas covered by the September agreement. Perhaps most important, it is very urgent that the parties get down to the final stage of the negotiations as speedily as possible.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the recent hijacking of a Lebanese citizen from Lebanese territory by the Israeli defence forces did nothing to help the peace process in that part of the world ? Have suitable comments been passed to the Israeli Government ? On reflection, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the timing of the announcement to lift the arms embargo on Israel was a little unfortunate ?

Mr. Hogg : I do not seek to justify the Israelis' hijacking of the gentleman from Lebanon. Let me also say that that does not promote the release of Ron Arad, if he is alive. Nevertheless, his continued detention is a disgrace and he should be released by whoever is holding him.

Mr. Gunnell : The Minister will be aware that there seems to have been some hold-up in the provision of money for the Palestine National Authority. People are said to be concerned about accounting procedures. Does the Minister agree that this may prove to be a "Catch-22" ? Without the money, the accounting procedures cannot be set up ; without the accounting procedures, the authority cannot obtain the money. Is not it possible to engage in discussions with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency--in fact, I believe that Ministers have already done so--to ensure that proper accounting procedures can be set up, through UNRWA, to enable administrative help to go into Gaza and Jericho as rapidly as possible ?

Mr. Hogg : The hon. Gentleman is right : there have been discussions, which took place on 8 June. As a result of those discussions, some $40 million of additional money has been pledged. However, the hon. Gentleman should not overlook the importance of proper accounting and disbursement procedures, without which the money might go astray.

Next Section (Debates)

  Home Page