Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 99)



  80. It is clearly something we and others would wish to return to fairly speedily I would have thought.
  (Mr Hain) Yes, I would welcome that.


  81. In relation to Serbia, would the Foreign Office be content if the domestic courts in Serbia were to deal with former President Milosevic if there was a clear undertaking that he would be dealt with adequately within their own courts, or are we still pressing him to release Milosevic for the International War Crimes Tribunal?
  (Mr Hain) We are still pressing him to release Milosevic to the International War Crimes Tribunal. He is self-evidently a war criminal.

  82. Are there any signs that the new President Kostunica will comply or is he intending to go ahead with a domestic tribunal?
  (Mr Hain) I do not have the up-to-date diplomatic views on that, but we continue to engage on that and continue to press for that.

Mr Mackinlay

  83. The Chairman's question prompts a further one on this. These people cannot be a hostage to lifting the possibility of prosecution of Milosevic in or outside Serbia, can they? Is there a danger of that? You mention the amnesty law.
  (Mr Hain) No, I do not think so. I think that this is one of the matters of unfinished business as a result of Milosevic's fall from power which will still be pursued.

  84. It is a very good report on Belorus, but both Mr Trend and myself met the Belorus opposition at the invitation of the Foreign Office recently. They drew our attention to the fact that the British Council have closed down their operation in Minsk. Incidentally, can I say there is no BBC Belorus service but that has not closed down; that does not exist. Whilst I recognise the independence of the British Council, this seems to be quite in contrast to what we should be doing.
  (Mr Hain) The British Council has been engaged upon and decided upon a new strategy which has involved decisions like that. What it has also done is expanded hugely, for example, in Eastern and Central Europe, especially in those countries that are likely to come in under European Union enlargement which we think is really important.

  85. That is not answering my point, with the greatest respect.
  (Mr Hain) There are priorities and the priority was to do that.

  86. To withdraw the facility from Minsk sends all the wrong signals. This is packing up and going home. The map of Europe does not have Belorus in it.
  (Mr Hain) I do not accept that at all. What the British Council is also doing, both in that region and elsewhere, is looking at new ways of maintaining a presence there, in some cases certainly in partnership with a British private company which has got commercial interests there so we can maintain a presence and offer much the same kind of services but get additional funding for it. I can understand your irritation on it but British Council decisions are about priorities and the priorities were felt to be elsewhere in the world.

  Chairman: Minister, we shall be meeting the Director-General in the early New Year and this can be a marker for him and we shall certainly pursue that further.

Mr Mackinlay

  87. Can I go to the overseas territories. The report you have published, we have had it for some months, says you will bring forward Orders in Council later this year in relation to homosexual reform, for instance. We have not had those Orders in Council, have we?
  (Mr Hain) No, I do not think we have.

  88. Why not?
  (Mr Hain) I cannot say.

  89. What makes me cross is the fact that your Department—and to some extent probably not you Minister—does not appear to care what it says to Parliament. Earlier you said we were going to get a Green Paper; we do not have a Green Paper. Your Report says we are going to have Orders in Council "later this year"—those are the words—and we have not had them. I do not want to go back over old sores, as it were, but your planted Parliamentary Question on the last day of July talking about the publication of an International Criminal Court was aborted to suit the Foreign Secretary's arrangements. When are you going to say things to Parliament and say what you mean and keep to them? Why have we not got these Orders in Council? Who is stalling? Who has been dilatory?
  (Mr Hain) Andrew, I accept your reprimands on this and I am not seeking to dodge them. Incidentally, the publication arrangements for the International Criminal Court Draft Bill were not aborted, but I do accept that the day was shifted by three or four days and therefore the answer I gave before when giving notice of this was wrong by three or fours days and I am sorry about that. But we are wanting to bring these Orders in as quickly as possible and we will do it as quickly as possible.

  90. When do you expect the arrival date of these Orders?
  (Mr Hain) Soon.

  91. We can come back to that.
  (Mr Hain) As soon as I have information on that, Chairman, I will write to you with a copy to Mr Mackinlay.

  92. Your colleague Ministers or Sir John Kerr really must understand that if they say things to Parliament they have got to stick to them. We are Parliament in this context here. I think that throughout this Parliament there has been a cavalier disregard for this Committee and things which have been uttered to it.
  (Mr Hain) Obviously that is a very serious point to make. I will make sure the Foreign Secretary and the Permanent Under Secretary are aware of the vehemence of that thought. I do not think it is entirely fair, but the force of the point is made and must be reported.

  93. The other point (which I am not sure I will take my Committee with me on) is looking at Article 21 of the Universal Collection of Human Rights, has it occurred that we are in breach of Article 21 in respect of all our overseas territories in as much as we do not give them representation to government, again in contrast to the United States, the Netherlands, France, Spain which also have overseas territories?
  (Mr Hain) It was because we regarded, as an incoming Government, the position of the overseas territories as not being acceptable by maintaining them in this constitutional limbo in respect of the citizenship, in particular, that we brought out the White Paper, and we are committed to legislation as soon as we can to implement the broad policies that were consulted on in the White Paper. I think the idea—and I know you have not suggested that—that we are indifferent to this is not true. We are taking forward this agenda.

  94. This White Paper which has not been enacted and legislation has not been brought forward. Again, if you look at the statements of the time, we are overdue on that legislation. I cannot quote chapter and verse on that, but I think we were promised legislation on citizenship in this Parliament and it actually featured some Queen's speeches ago. The point I was coming to was the fact that we are not providing representation in the legislature to overseas territories.
  (Mr Hain) On the question of legislation I do not think a timetable was specifically given, but I stand to be corrected. The important point that we can agree upon, and I hope the Committee welcomes, is that we are committed to legislation. We have prepared instructions for Parliamentary Counsel jointly with the Home Office to draft the Bill and we will make available a slot in the legislative timetable for the business as soon as one becomes practically available.

  95. Finally on this, what is demonstrably so is we still have got the obligation on Gibraltar, on the European Union franchise.
  (Mr Hain) Yes.

  96. I know it is a matter for the Home Secretary but it is a matter for you also. Actually, the next European elections are not all that very far away. Your colleague, Mr Vaz, has shifted to new ground, which I welcome. He indicated it had to be done with the agreement of others, he has now said he might do it unilaterally. When do you think we can expect this legislation?
  (Mr Hain) Well, as you rightly point out, and I acknowledge your expert interest in Gibraltar, following the important announcement of the European Court of Human Rights in February pretty well immediately, I think within a month, February 1999, we tabled in Brussels an amendment to the 1976 EC Act on Direct Elections to try and get the provisions of that judgment carried into effect which would give European parliamentary representation to Gibraltar. We have not yet been able to get unanimity amongst Member States, which is our problem. We cannot allow this sort of history to go on forever because we are in breach of the Court with, as you say, elections coming up in a few years' time.


  97. We will be coming back to it.
  (Mr Hain) By all means.

Sir David Madel

  98. On the question of the trial of Milosevic, is that a united position with the European Union that there should be a trial at the Hague?
  (Mr Hain) As far as I am aware, Sir David. If I may I would prefer to write back to you on that matter because I do not have the day to day responsibility for the Balkans.

  99. Could it be the French tried to change the policy during their Presidency?
  (Mr Hain) I do not think that is the case but I would not really want to speculate on that until I have proper information.

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