Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

HC Stmnt: [CSCE Summit]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [181/291-310]
Editorial comments: 1530-.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 10687
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Parliament, Union of UK nations, Civil liberties, Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands), European Union (general), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Leadership, Conservative (leadership elections), Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Defence (Gulf War, 1990-91)
[column 291]

CSCE Summit

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a very important statement which the House is anxious to hear.

The Prime Minister

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on the meeting in Paris of the 34 Heads of State and Government of the conference on security and co-operation in europe which my right hon. Friend Douglas Hurdthe Foreign Secretary and I attended from 19 to 21 November.

The text of the final document of the summit has been placed in the Library of the House. I shall draw the House's attention briefly to its main points.

First, the final document enshrines the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms which are indispensable for the functioning of a democratic society based on the rule of law. As well as guaranteeing political rights, it commits the 34 Helsinki states to the principles of the market economy and it calls for the protection of the rights of minorities in Europe.

Secondly, the final document provides for regular political consultations between the 34 countries at ministerial and official level. A small secretariat will be set up to service these consultations.

Thirdly, there is a commitment to find better ways to encourage peaceful solutions to disputes. The United Kingdom has put forward a proposal for voluntary conciliation. This will be among the matters to be discussed at a follow-up meeting on the peaceful settlement of disputes in Malta in January. With the new freedom in east and central Europe, after a long period during which national feelings were suppressed by force, we have to reckon with a resurgence of nationality and minority problems.

Fourthly, we established a conflict prevention centre, which is intended to reduce the risk of conflict resulting from misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the intentions of others. It will also have the task of overseeing the measures agreed at the summit to strengthen confidence and security between nations in Europe.

Fifthly, we decided to set up an office for free elections—[Laughter.]

Mr. Speaker


The Prime Minister

—which will facilitate contacts and the exchange of information on elections within participating states.

Lastly, there was agreement on the need for a CSCE parliamentary assembly covering all 34 Helsinki countries. Obviously it is right that parliamentarians themselves should take the lead in setting this up. The Spanish Parliament will host a special meeting of parliamentarians next year to discuss the arrangements.

Another major achievement of the summit was the signature by the 22 states of NATO and the Warsaw pact of the treaty to reduce conventional armed forces in Europe. This is the most substantial and far-reaching agreement for the reduction of armaments which has yet been achieved. It requires the countries of the Warsaw [column 292]pact, and in particular the Soviet Union, to make massive reductions in the numbers of their tanks, artillery, armoured vehicles, helicopters and aircraft.

The overhang of vastly superior numbers of Warsaw pact forces, which has for so long been a threat to western Europe, will be eliminated. There will in future be broad parity in forces between east and west. The Soviet capacity to launch a surprise attack and large-scale offensive action will also be removed. The treaty has very extensive verification provisions.

The steady resolve of the United Kingdom and the United States to maintain strong defence during the years when the Warsaw pact represented a direct challenge to our way of life and our refusal to give way to military threats were crucial in securing this excellent agreement.

A declaration on friendly relations between the members of NATO and the Warsaw pact was also signed at the same time as the CFE treaty, making it clear that we no longer regard each other as adversaries. In addition, I had bilateral meetings with among others, President Bush, President Gorbachev, President Mitterrand, Chancellor Kohl, President Ozal, President Zhelev and Perez de Cuellarthe United Nations Secretary-General. They provided the opportunity to discuss the whole range of current European issues, the situation in the Gulf and other regional problems.

The word historic tends to be used extravagantly these days, but I believe that this summit was an historic gathering. It marked the end of the cold war in Europe and the triumph of democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

The Helsinki agreements played a crucial part in achieving this. They gave encouragement and inspiration to the brave individuals—people like Dr. Sakharov, Mr. Orlov, President Havel and many others—who had to struggle for basic human rights in the darkest days of totalitarianism. They had a charter to which they could appeal to show that not only was their course a just one but that the Governments and authorities that were denying them their rights were in breach of specific obligations. At the same time, the agreements gave Governments and people in the west a locus to inquire into what would otherwise be regarded as strictly internal matters and to insist on observance of human rights in the then communist countries.

Britain has throughout been in the forefront of those who supported the struggle for human rights in those dark days and it was this Government's suggestion that we should have a new Magna Carta for Europe which led directly to the declaration on human rights at this summit.

We should not expect too much of the CSCE. It is not a defence organisation and we should not try to make it one. NATO will remain the core of Western defence, but the CSCE can serve as an example of observance of human rights, of how countries should behave towards each other and of how to settle disputes peacefully. In short, it should be a model for peace, stability and good neighbourliness.

I believe that the outcome of the summit is one of which this Government, this House and this country can be proud.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

I thank the Prime Minister for that statement. This is an occasion when the whole House, together with the country and the wider international community, can truly celebrate the ending of the cold war. It is also an occasion on which it is right for us all in the House to commit ourselves to building, through negotiation and co-operation, an enduring system [column 293]of common security, with all its great opportunities and challenges. May I therefore join the Prime Minister in warmly welcoming the signature of the treaty on conventional forces in Europe and the charter of Paris for a new Europe.

This is the time when it is right to pay particular tribute to former President Reagan, President Bush, President Gorbachev and all those who not only desired but helped to create opportunities for the historic progress that is now being made. [Hon. Members: “And the Prime Minister.” ] And, as the Prime Minister said, it is time, too, to recognise the contribution made over the years by the people of Britain in achieving that objective. It is also time—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. These are very important matters of great interest to the nation. I ask the House to listen quietly.

Mr. Kinnock

It is time, too, to join the Prime Minister in recording admiration and gratitude to those who, from the beginning of the Helsinki process, and indeed for years before it, placed human rights and freedom at the centre of international relations and pursued that cause even at times of difficulty, great frustration and personal danger. The effort for full freedom must continue until all peoples truly enjoy the rights of national and individual self-determination.

Does the Prime Minister now accept that the new architecture of Germany and of the whole of central and eastern Europe makes the presence of short-range nuclear weapons redundant and that they therefore should be removed as soon as a negotiated settlement can be achieved? In that respect, will the Prime Minister confirm that action is being taken to give effect to last July's NATO summit agreement that new negotiations on the reduction of short-range nuclear forces in Europe should begin shortly after the CFE agreement is signed?

May I tell the right hon. Lady that we welcome the decisions that strengthen the institutions of the CSCE and give it a more active role in seeking to assist in the resolution of inter-regional and international disputes? I recognise the role of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Government in trying to achieve that objective.

Can the Prime Minister envisage the possibility that, in addition to the vital role fulfilled by NATO, the CSCE might have a part to play in the verification of arms reduction in Europe? Does she share the view that the best way to ensure future European security is to encourage the advance of sustainable economic growth across the continent, including eastern Europe? Will she acknowledge, however, that, while freedom is essential for that advance, it is not by itself enough? Does she agree that freedom in central and eastern Europe must be accompanied by substantial support from western countries if that freedom is to be certain and sustained? What new proposals does she have, therefore, for increasing Britain's programme support to the levels achieved by several of our allies and European Community partners?

Finally, will the Prime Minister report progress in efforts to maintain effective pressure on Iraq so that the United Nations objective of securing the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait can be achieved?

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The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. It was a very good day—an excellent agreement for the whole of Europe, the United States, Canada and, indeed, the whole of the western world.

Four points arose from the right hon. Gentleman's questions. Negotiations can start on short-range nuclear weapons as the CFE treaty has been signed and starts to be implemented. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that at the NATO summit last year we made it quite clear that short-range nuclear weapons will continue to fulfil an essential role in the overall strategy of the alliance to prevent war by ensuring that there are no circumstances in which nuclear retaliation in response to military action can be discounted. We can negotiate to reduce those weapons, but they nevertheless continue to play a fundamental part in the flexible response. It is vital, from that communiqué, that we keep some of them.

Verification is dealt with in the CFE treaty; it is between NATO and the Warsaw pact and that is where it must remain. There are very sophisticated ways of dealing with this and very intrusive methods of verification, but it is right that they should stay with those 22 countries which signed the agreements. The future of the Warsaw pact is a matter for those countries. Many of them think that it will become more of a political organisation and that it has very little relevance to armaments for the east European countries.

With regard to support, we have know-how funds and we recently announced a new one for the Soviet Union. We shall consider the matter further with regard to the Soviet Union when we have the IMF report, which will be considered at the economic summit at the end of this year, and when we have the full report from Europe, which similarly will be considered in December.

With regard to Iraq and Kuwait, it is vital that the United Nations resolutions are all implemented in their entirety. If they are not, the military option would have to be exercised.

Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)

My right hon. Friend has rightly spoken of our steady resolve in the 1980s which brought about this welcome reduction in arms in Europe. Will she comment on the role played in the 1980s by those who supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament? Could she have been reporting to the House today if those people had had their way?

The Prime Minister

The nuclear deterrent has been a vital part in our sure defence and in our being able to negotiate the conventional force reductions which I announced. It is still a vital part of NATO and will remain so. Had not we been absolutely staunch—we were the first to station cruise missiles in this country—we would not have been in a position to have a disarmament agreement and to see the amazing changes in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

I congratulate the Prime Minister and her colleagues on the historic agreement, to which she set her hand yesterday in Paris, for the peace of Europe. Its only flaw is that it does not take account of the Baltic states; perhaps the right hon. Lady will comment on that aspect. Nevertheless, this is an agreement which the right hon. Lady will be entitled to regard with a certain pride and satisfaction as she looks back on the twilight days of her premiership—[Interruption.]

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Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that hon. Members will direct their questions to the substance of the statement and not to anything else.

Mr. Ashdown

As the Prime Minister turns her attention to the next important meeting on Europe, the intergovernmental conference in three weeks' time, will she reflect on the thought that it cannot be good for our country to be represented at that meeting by a Prime Minister who has lost her authority and a Government who have lost their way?

The Prime Minister

First, the position of the Baltic states will be dealt with in respect of minorities and possible conflicts. We are very much aware that in the new Europe many minorities will be feeling their nationalities once again. The old Helsinki accords still exist and they provide that there can be no change in borders without agreement. That is why the Baltic states and President Gorbachev and his Government are negotiating. We hope that those negotiations will end satisfactorily. We are well aware of the sensitivity of this matter not only from President Gorbachev 's viewpoint but because of the origins of those Baltic states, which were transferred to Stalin at the beginning of the last war. The old Helsinki agreements and the new one deal with that.

On the intergovernmental conference, I seem to remember the Liberals supporting a socialist Government long after that Government had lost authority in the House and keeping it there for years. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman speaking in that way. The first eleven and a half years have not been so bad—and with regard to a twilight, please remember that there are 24 hours in a day.

Mr. William Powell (Corby)

Does not my right hon. Friend deserve the wholehearted congratulations of the House and the country for her massive and sustained contribution over a long period which enabled this historic treaty to be signed yesterday?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend. I also thank my right hon. Friend Douglas Hurdthe Foreign Secretary and Defence Ministers. Our staunchness in defence and our resoluteness have brought this about—a staunchness in defence in which we were not supported by the Opposition. I do not believe that the agreements could have come about had we not been in power and had we not taken that view.

Mr. A.E.P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

The creation of a CSCE mechanism is undoubtedly a historic step in the pursuit of European stability and security. But does the Prime Minister agree not only that its capacity to provide true European security lies in the far distance and that, as she said, NATO as a proven instrument will continue to be needed, but that the NATO of the 1990s will need to widen its focus and be more responsive to regional responsibilities?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We must continue to have NATO. It spans the Atlantic and brings United States and Canadian interests into Europe. It is vital that our defence is dealt with under NATO. It is also vital that the alliance should think about out-of-area problems of the kind that we face in Iraq and Kuwait following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The hon. Gentleman will recall that I mentioned that at a NATO summit in Scotland earlier this year. [column 296]

I do not think that the CSCE can deal with defence matters in the same way as NATO does. It can discuss the political aspects and I think that its great significance is that it involves the 34 nations and is the only forum in which the United States, western Europe, eastern Europe and the Soviet Union meet to discuss together. We can have a great deal of influence on one another through the discussions that will take place regularly among Foreign Ministers, probably once a year among Heads of Government and among officials. The activities of NATO and the CSCE are complementary.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

I, too, welcome the historic agreement in Paris—especially that aspect of it which made clear the primacy of the market economy as the best means of creating pluralist societies in former communist countries. But does my right hon. Friend accept that if she and her colleagues in the Community are to help the eastern Europeans successfully and effectively, it is most important that they should follow a policy of constructive engagement and assistance to the Soviet Union, as it is upon the Soviet market that so many of the other countries depend for their export trade and hard currency?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I thank my hon. Friend. The market economy is the essential economic underpinning of political freedom. Political freedom would not last long if it were not underpinned by a market economy. On east Europe, we follow a policy of very constructive engagement. We have know-how funds and support those countries through the European Community. We have recently announced a new know-how fund for the Soviet Union. We are in great demand when it comes to trying to teach those countries about privatisation. They know that we have succeeded. This is again something in which we have led the world and they are anxious to come and learn from us and to learn more about management, so we shall keep closely in touch.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

As the Helsinki process would never have achieved as much success without the values of the western democracies, will the Prime Minister now carefully reflect on how best to safeguard the essential need for a large European Community—democratic and market orientated—that respects the nationhood of the countries that are members?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. In some ways, the declaration of Paris was a declaration of fundamental values to which we should all put our name in terms of not only description but enforcement. I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is important that we do not regard the Community as an exclusive club but go on to widen it. We must therefore consider the strong nationalist feelings of the countries of eastern Europe that would like to join. The EC was never meant to be an exclusive club; it was meant to provide an example of liberty and the free market economy in practice so that its borders could be extended and so that we could take into the Community the countries of eastern Europe when they wished to join.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

May I express my warm appreciation to my right hon. Friend and for the work of all her Secretaries of State for Defence and Foreign Secretaries who contributed to the happy event yesterday—the signing of the treaty? Will my right hon. [column 297]Friend comment on the statement of the Hungarians in Paris about the demise of the Warsaw pact as a military institution? Does she welcome Hungary's wish to join the Western European Union as an associate nation?

The Prime Minister

Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It was a very impressive meeting and clearly the newly free countries of eastern Europe feel that they will get a great deal of support from this new organisation and its regular meetings. With regard to the Warsaw pact, the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian people feel that it has outlasted its military usefulness. They were saying that it should be turned into an organisation that should discuss more political things. Some, I think, would wish to be associated with the Western European Union, but I think it advisable further to consult the WEU and those east European countries before we make any undertakings about it.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

In trying to take to herself the credit for this historic agreement, has the Prime Minister forgotten that when Harold Wilson signed the Helsinki Final Act in August 1975, the right hon. Lady, who was Leader of the Opposition at the time, took that opportunity to attack the Helsinki Final Act in the most scathing terms and denounced Harold Wilson and the Labour Government for having agreed to it? Does she now regret that?

The Prime Minister

I believe that, at that time——

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker


The Prime Minister

—the scepticism was justified. I must place in the Library or send to the hon. Member a copy of the speech that I made on that point. We seemed to have agreed with the division of Europe including the de facto position of the Balkans, the Baltic states, as part of the Soviet Union in return for commitments that were unlikely to be carried out. The hon. Gentleman will recall that for a very long time after Helsinki people remained in prison or psychiatric hospitals simply for the crime of claiming their basic human rights. There was no significant increase in travel. The Brezhnev doctrine continued to apply, and so on. It was not until President Gorbachev came to power that the Helsinki accords really began to have possibilities. It is also because some countries, especially the United States and ourselves, always, but always raised fundamental human rights cases whenever we met the Soviet Union. For a very long time, it looked as though the Helsinki accords would not be carried into practice. With regard to the long-term effect, I am the first to admit it and say that that was very good indeed.

Mr. Michael Morris (Northampton, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us who serve on the Council of Europe and therefore have contact with eastern and central Europe are perhaps more aware than many of the drive and commitment that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has put into ensuring this successful conclusion? Will she recognise that although the know-how fund and EC aid are important, countries like Bulgaria and Poland face a very difficult winter? Did anything come out of the charter agreement in Paris to provide particular help in the short term to those countries?

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The Prime Minister

Not especially from the charter. I think that Hungary has already applied to join the Council of Europe and a number of others would wish to do so, to give them more contact with people who espouse western ideas, the ideals of democracy, human rights and the market economy. They are anxious to have far more contacts. With regard to aid, we are doing that through the EC. I saw the President of Bulgaria, which is urgently in need of practical advice and help on how to turn from a communist regime to a market economy, and I promised him that we would consider extending the know-how fund to Bulgaria.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Is the Prime Minister aware that one of the most welcome passages in her statement is the commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes and to conciliation and that that is in marked contrast with the attitude that she and the President take towards the dispute in the middle east? Even during the cold war, when President Reagan spoke of an “evil empire” , there were summit meetings, Foreign Ministers' meetings, hot lines, negotiations and discussions, but, in the case of Iraq, none of that is permitted. There are no negotiations, no discussions and no diplomacy, although the view that there should be is widely shared in the world by, among others, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), Nelson Mandela, Willy Brandt and a range of world statesmen. Is the Prime Minister aware that the latest indications from the United States suggest that nearly three quarters of the American people do not want force to be used against Iraq? Is she aware also that the United Nations resolutions on Israel have been totally disregarded and not implemented at all and that this matter should also be handled by peaceful negotiation and conciliation?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman seems to forget that there was a brutal invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and that brutality and horrors continue. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that there is any parallel between the invasion of Kuwait and the terrible brutalities that are taking place there, Grenada—the United States came out when democracy was restored—and Panama? It is totally, utterly and palpably wrong. Fear stalks the streets in Kuwait. There is murder and brutality. Force has taken place. There was a military invasion. It is sheer appeasement and total thoughtlessness for the plight of those people that lead the right hon. Gentleman to say what he does. The situation must be reversed. The suffering of those people must be ended. We must release Kuwait and end the suffering of those people who are in hiding and who are waiting day by day to be brought back to freedom once again.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

Does my right hon. Friend recollect the clear statement that she made a few moments ago about the state of the Helsinki accord and respect for it in the late 1970s and early 1980s? Mr. Vaclav Havel, now President of the Czech and Slovak Republic, was thrown into prison for telling the truth—that President Husak of Czechoslovakia dishonoured his signature of the Helsinki accord. Czechoslovakia at that time had one of the worst human rights records in Europe. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right.

The Prime Minister

Yes. Not only President Havel but people in those organisations that were set up to monitor [column 299]the Helsinki accords to see that they were applied were thrown into prison and we had to plead for them time and again to get them out from those countries so that they may once again enjoy freedom. Indeed, in 1980 the Soviet Union went into Afghanistan, totally and utterly against the spirit of the Helsinki accord.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

I, too, was in Paris yesterday at the CSCE conference. We welcome the establishment of machinery to resolve and to deal with border disputes. I noticed that the Spanish Government raised the Gibraltar issue at the conference and I wonder whether the Prime Minister will indicate how she was able to respond to it.

Articles 2 and 3 of the constitution of the Irish Republic contain a territorial claim against the United Kingdom as a claim of purported legal right. It is now the only constitutional territorial claim in Europe and it is clearly contrary to the Helsinki and other agreements. What steps will the Prime Minister take, through the CSCE process, to have that claim withdrawn?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been in continued negotiation with regard to Spain and Gibraltar, but the Government of Gibraltar are self-governing and we have not been able to resolve the problem satisfactorily. We shall continue to try to do so.

The matter of the Irish Republic has been raised, but not in this forum, and it is not thought that that infringes the Helsinki accords.

I hope that people in the Irish Republic and others in the EC will realise that Northern Ireland has full democracy and that everyone there has full rights to vote for representatives in this House and in local authorities. The problem there is different from some of the problems in other parts of the world.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

As the representative of a separate political party, I congratulate the Prime Minister on her gallant efforts which have contributed to the ending of the cold war. I doubt whether there are many in this House or outside who would have believed that the cold war would have been ended in 1990. She confirms her position as the most eminent Prime Minister of this century.

Did the Prime Minister discuss with the other representatives at the Paris summit the latest offer from President Saddam Hussein, who is trying to play a cat-and-mouse game with human lives?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I think that it was the staunchness of countries such as Britain and the United States, our belief in the values of fundamental human rights, democracy and the rule of law, our knowledge that socialist economics did not produce prosperity, but only central control which denies liberty and prosperity, and our willingness to fight the battle of ideas which eventually led to the crumbling of communism in the Soviet Union and in eastern Europe.

Saddam Hussein 's offer gradually to release hostages between Christmas and March was utterly rejected as yet another example of playing games with human lives. We called for the release of all hostages immediately. No civilised Government should take hostages at all.

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Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan)

The Prime Minister is aware that she and I are ideologically and politically poles apart, but it would be churlish not to recognise that she has played a role in the rapprochement between west and eastern Europe, particularly as she was one of the first to spot that the west could do business with Mr. Gorbachev as he emerged to effective power in the Soviet Union. But why is it that, at the end of the cold war, when all over Europe people are rejoicing at the reduction in conventional and nuclear weapons, on the Clyde in Scotland there is to be an increase in nuclear capability, with a “Thatcher” , a “Hurd” , a “Major” or a “Heseltine” Government putting four Trident submarines on the Clyde or a Kinnock Government putting three Trident submarines on the Clyde? Where is the logic in that now? Who will those submarines target—those poor people in the Soviet Union queuing for a loaf of bread who threaten no one in western Europe or Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I know that we are politically different. I did not know that we were theologically different, but one always learns something in this place. It is a fundamental part of NATO strategy that we keep the nuclear deterrent in submarines and in short-range nuclear weapons and we shall continue to do that. We do not know what may happen in the future and what changes may come about. If we had not maintained our defences we should not have been able to respond to the needs in the middle east, and if we do not retain our nuclear deterrent, there may come a time when we need it and it would be too late then to obtain it. It is vital always in defence of liberty and justice to keep one's defences strong, including nuclear.

Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that she deserves much more praise than the Leader of the Opposition afforded her today for the part that she and her ideas have played in the liberalisation and freeing of eastern Europe? Will she confirm that at the Paris conference it was agreed that the CSCE secretariat would be located in Prague? If that is so, does she recognise that that would greatly help to bring the east European democracies into the new architecture and the new order of Europe?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Every country in eastern Europe and the people of the Soviet Union know the part that Britain has played. They are aware of our staunchness in defence and they are grateful to us for what we have done to help them to achieve their liberty. The CSCE secretariat will be in Prague. It will be very welcome in that great city. Once again, it will involve eastern European countries much more actively in the whole conciliation process.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

Given the agreement to withdraw Soviet forces from East Germany, upon whom are the short-range nuclear weapons now targeted? As they were originally intended to hit East German or possibly Polish targets, are not they now wholly meaningless and irrelevant?

The Prime Minister

That must have been the language of the early 1930s. We do not know what will happen in the future. The weapons will be targeted on any invader or aggressor. We do not know what may happen. If an [column 301]invader or aggressor appeared or a great change took place but we had let the weapons go, we should be defenceless instead of having a strong nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her statement and the leading role that she has played in the negotiations? On that form will my right hon. Friend continue to bat for Britain with all the energy, vigour and determination at her command?

The Prime Minister

Yes. It requires great strength and great resolve. I believe that this Government have and will continue to have both.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

Does the Prime Minister agree that one of the greatest problems in converting eastern European economies from controlled, centrally managed economies to market economies is the non-convertibility of those countries' currencies? When will something be done about that issue? Until something is done there will be precious little movement in the conversion programme.

On the institutionalisation of the CSCE, does the Prime Minister agree that we should give the matter further thought and discussion? Existing institutions in Europe, notably the Council of Europe, have facilities for including the Commonwealth countries and the United States in debates on OECD reports. There is absolutely no reason why the Council of Europe could not operate on behalf of the CSCE. Is the Prime Minister aware that if it does not, Europe will be littered with parliamentary institutions, such as the Western European Union, the Council of Europe, the EEC, the parliamentary body for the European Free Trade Association, the North Atlantic Assembly and now the CSCE? We really must have another think about it.

The Prime Minister

On the first question, convertibility of the currency is not the most difficult matter in eastern European countries. It is the fundamental change of attitude among people who have always been instructed to do things, have never been allowed to take any responsibility and are now being asked to change their whole approach. It is very difficult, even when talking to them, to put over the idea that they must find out what they can market, make it and then go out and sell in a way in which they have never done before. The change of attitude is the single most difficult matter.

The CSCE is the only institution which goes right across from the western coast of the United States to the eastern coast of the Pacific. I hope that the Council of Europe will take in the countries of eastern Europe. It will certainly do so before the European Community can do so. I doubt whether it will absorb the Soviet Union because that would make it so large, but I hope that the eastern European countries will join in. The importance of the CSCE is that it spans the United States, western Europe and the Soviet Union. Therefore, it gives us a greater debating and discussion role than any other forum.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated. After many years of hard work we have achieved an extremely good agreement which has a tremendous impact on Europe. Perhaps I may ask about a possible parliamentary assembly for the CSCE. I agree with the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) that too many institutions are growing in Europe. Sometimes their work overlaps and sometimes [column 302]they are extremely wasteful and costly. Would it be possible in future to centre on the CSCE, perhaps giving roles in it to the WEU and the Council of Europe? At all times we must bear in mind the need for a credible parliamentary assembly outside the European Parliament to speak for the rest of Europe.

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend. None of the remarkable events that have taken place would have come about if Mr. Gorbachev had not become General Secretary of the Soviet Union. He came with a completely different approach and saw that communism denied both dignity and prosperity. He realised that fundamental changes had to be made and he had the courage to make them and persist with them. Time and again we all repeated that that could not have come about without him. We played quite an important role by giving him platform in the western world and saying that we could do business with him.

I agree that we have rather a lot of parliamentary institutions. It would probably be more appropriate to say that there should be meetings of parliamentarians, perhaps once a year, rather than another institution. It was felt that if we had meetings at Head of Government level and regular meetings at Foreign Ministry level, parliamentarians could perform a role in teaching others. That is precisely how our Parliament works and it is, after all, by far the oldest Parliament and has the most fundamental parliamentary and democratic institutions of all Parliaments.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

The Prime Minister rightly condemns brutality by occupation forces. May I appeal to her not to forget the suffering of the people of the Punjab and Kashmir at the hands of Indian security forces? In that respect what agreement did the conference reach on safeguarding and enhancing the rights of those seeking political asylum?

The Prime Minister

I am very well aware of the problems in the Punjab and in Kashmir. We must earnestly hope that they will be solved peacefully. They have been trying for a long time in Kashmir, which has great problems. What was the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question?

Mr. Madden

Political asylum.

The Prime Minister

We did not raise political asylum as such, although new problems arise because, whereas there used to be perhaps a few thousand people a year seeking political asylum, now there are many tens of thousands and the process is not really meant for such numbers. Perhaps many of them are not genuine refugees and we have to sort them, one from the other. There was considerable concern about enormous movements of peoples, enormous waves of immigration, from either north Africa or eastern Europe straight into western Europe in numbers with which we could not cope. That matter was discussed, but it is easier to discuss the problem than to deal with it. We shall continue to discuss the problem there and in the European Community. It is therefore also relevant to border controls in the Community.

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the cohesion of NATO has been fundamental to the achievement of the signing of the [column 303]conventional arms reduction treaty and that that treaty is a milestone in the history of the 20th century of which my right hon. Friend and other leaders can be proud? Does she also agree that the time may have arrived for us to start discussing the reduction of naval forces, particularly those of the Soviet Union and, in return, of NATO countries?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the cohesion of NATO has been absolutely vital. It has been the most successful defensive alliance in history and must therefore continue. That staunchness in defence, including the nuclear deterrent and the insistence of President Reagan on the strategic defence initiative, made the Soviet Union realise that, technologically, we would always stay ahead. It made the Soviet Union realise that it could not expect to achieve its objectives militarily and must turn round and start to negotiate in a totally different way.

We are not negotiating on naval forces. There would be considerable dangers if we did so, because, after all, the sea is our highway. We would have to bring reserves across the sea, whereas the Soviet Union could quickly bring materials up to the front from behind the Urals. We are realising now the immense difficulty of removing armour from West Germany to the middle east and the length of time it takes.

We should remember that we are in a different position from the Soviet Union with regard to our maritime fleets. We have a far greater need of them for reinforcement purposes than does the Soviet Union.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Môn)

The Prime Minister has very eloquently and rightly talked about the new-found freedoms and democracy of eastern and central European countries. We all welcome those developments. By the same token, does not she also recognise the desire for self-determination by the historic nations of these islands, including Wales and Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I think that Wales and Scotland have done very well economically and in terms of their freedoms as part of the United Kingdom. I believe that the majority of the Welsh and Scottish wish to stay that way.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in effect, this week's treaty marks the end of the ideological division of Europe that has existed since the war? The end of that division also represents the triumph of the western values of freedom and liberal social market economics. Dose she agree that that is a tribute to the European Community and NATO, which the Conservative party has supported steadfastly and consistently? Would she also issue a warning to many of the socialist parties on the continent——

Mr. Speaker

Briefly, please.

Mr. Taylor

—that are already investing in the CSCE process as some form of alternative to NATO for the resolution of disputes in the future? That can never be the case, as the League of Nations proved. We must keep NATO and continue to be its staunch defender as there are still risks ahead.

The Prime Minister

I agree that we must keep NATO. Given its tremendous success since the war in defending peace with freedom and justice, it would be quite absurd if [column 304]it were to be disbanded. It also has the purpose of keeping American and Canadian forces in Europe, which is absolutely vital to keeping the peace in Europe. We are extending NATO's purposes to political ones, but it is our main defence organisation and main contact with the other side of the Atlantic.

We must recognise that it is easier in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to give and to get political freedom than it is to achieve economic liberty. Political freedom can be conferred in response to demand, but economic freedom cannot. One must learn how to practise it. Therefore, it means that those in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe must learn habits that many of them have never known. There is no history of smallholding land ownership in many parts of the Soviet Union and no history of private property. It will take quite a long time to achieve economic freedom and people will require a good deal of help and tuition before they are able to do so.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Is the Prime Minister aware that many of us are totally unconvinced by the role that the Prime Minister is ascribing to NATO in the new Europe? Given that NATO was created to defend western Europe against the threat from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact, and acknowledging some of the comments that the Prime Minister made about the Warsaw pact in reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, would not it be prudent to take on board the possibility that the CSCE might develop some responsibilities for collective defence?

The Prime Minister

No, I still think that it is best to do defence through NATO and that it should continue to be done that way. The CSCE consists of 34 nations and NATO and the Warsaw pact represent 22. It is much better to achieve defence through a well-tried and familiar structure that has a proven record of success. I believe that most people would follow that course of action.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that support for what she is doing, on the CSCE and generally, was, at my constituency executive committee last night, warm, strong and positive and that they very much want her to carry on?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend; I think that he will fight for those things as fiercely as he fought to keep the military band in his constituency. I want exactly what he wants.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Is the policy of constructive engagement—in the form of lessons on privatisation, moneys from the know-how funds and other moneys from the European development bank—sufficient to deal with the problems of a former eastern Europe that might, in certain conditions, revert? Should not we look to what is happening in Germany, where the links between east and west give east Germany an inbuilt advantage? Should not we consider developing direct links between western and eastern European countries at every level—local government, national Government, business and professional—to drag the eastern European countries through the hoop before they have the chance to revert, given the difficult political conditions that exist there?

The Prime Minister

One could go on proposing many more things that we would like to do. There has never been a period when so many demands have been made on the [column 305]west for help and finance; however, we cannot meet them all. In addition to privatisation and know-how, there are a number of joint ventures, but it is not always easy for those to operate between a free economy in Britain and the controlled economies that remain in some of those countries. Such countries cannot easily obtain the supplies that they are accustomed to obtain by simply ordering them from this country.

We are trying to arrange association agreements between the countries of eastern Europe and the European Community which will start to be negotiated next year. Beyond that, a good deal will come from companies in this country tying up with some companies in those countries. East Germany was very fortunate to be able to plug straight into a banking system, a legal system and a law of contract and tort—all the structures of democracy and the market economy. Those things are not yet in place in Czechoslovakia, Poland or Hungary.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Paris charter effectively announced the end of not only the cold war but the second world war? Does she accept that the resolution of and co-operation between the United States and the United Kingdom were crucial to the achievement of that goal and that it is likely to remain vital to the achievement of peace in the years ahead—especially in the countries outside the NATO area? Does she also accept that many millions of people think that her personal role was and remains vital to that achievement and hope that she will remain at the helm? They feel that, if she does not, the likes of Saddam Hussein—and other enemies of the United Kingdom—will heave a huge sigh of relief.

The Prime Minister

This year we have seen two fundamental developments. First, with the negotiations between Germany and the other countries involved in the last war, we have seen treaties and agreements that ended that war and the occupation of Berlin and East Germany after so many years. In a way, that was the post-war settlement for Germany.

In the CSCE talks, we saw the conditions that have come about as a result of the attitude that the communist countries took from the time of the Berlin airlift—an expansionist ideology, which they wanted to extend all over the world. Instead of coming out of the war into a disarmament period, we had to keep our armaments, set up NATO and keep our defences very strong. The lesson that we learnt is that we must always keep our defences strong, because we do not know what changes may come about—either in Europe or elsewhere in the world—which will be vital to our commerce and supply lines. My hon. Friend is right: this year, with President Gorbachev 's new Soviet Union, we have seen Germany's post-war settlement and the end of the cold war.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

During the discussions on the Gulf was there any mention of remarks by the Defence Secretary that British troops in the Gulf would not understand the leadership challenge to the Prime Minister? Will the Prime Minister confirm that British troops in the Gulf are there to resist criminal aggression and to try to ensure that Kuwait is liberated and that they are not, in any circumstances, there to support one particular faction inside the Tory party?

[column 306]

The Prime Minister

During the CSCE process we did not in fact have much discussion on the Gulf. Those discussions occurred mostly during the bilateral talks when we all agreed that United Nations resolutions must be upheld and Iraq must leave Kuwait. I am proud that our forces in the Gulf will play a part in that, should the military option be used, and are already doing a superb job, as we would expect from the professionalism of British forces anywhere and everywhere.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

I warmly congratulate the Prime Minister on her magnificent contribution to those important agreements. What would be the contribution of the declaration on human rights in the event of deadlock between the Soviet Union and countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia if, in establishing their legitimate claims to sovereignty, those countries could not agree with the Soviet Union? What are the mechanisms, through the CSCE, for resolving and monitoring the inter-ethnic and inter-racial disputes that are becoming increasingly endemic throughout eastern Europe?

The Prime Minister

The differences between the Baltic states and the Soviet Union would already be part of the original Helsinki accords, when we said that no borders could be changed without agreement. My hon. Friend knows the specific position of those Governments and countries, which are quite different from the rest of those in the Soviet Union. The differences are covered by the original Helsinki accords, which will also cover conflicts that may arise. Some such conflicts do not involve separate countries or countries that, like the Baltic states at present, are part of another country de facto, but not de jure. It is to resolve those differences that we wish to set up the conciliation and assessment of conflicts centre to see precisely what can be done about those problems so that we genuinely keep negotiations going until the conflicts are resolved.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is the Prime Minister aware that while she was attempting to sign away the cold war in Paris, an Exocet missile was ripping its way through Committee Room 12?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask questions about what went on in Paris.

Mr. Skinner

I am keeping the Prime Minister informed.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that the Prime Minister needs that.

Mr. Skinner

Is she aware that Ministers were coming out with guilty eyes? Is she also——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This does the hon. Gentleman no credit. He must as a question about the substance of the statement.

Mr. Skinner

When she was speaking to the people over there, did she establish enough contacts to enable an ex-Prime Minister to travel the world? Is she prepared to accept the governorship of the central bank?

The Prime Minister

I note what the hon. Gentleman said. I also noticed that he seems to be training as a pollster—perhaps he thinks that he will lose his seat at the next Tory election, which we shall win.

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Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

We are pleased to have the Prime Minister back in triumph from Paris and to have her running the shop again, but I have to report that one or two people have been tampering with the stock in her absence. Is the Prime Minister absolutely satisfied with the verification of arms? Are our military advisers and yourself, Prime Minister, satisfied with the verification arrangements?

The Prime Minister

First, we are satisfied with the verification arrangements, which are detailed and some of them much more intrusive than ever before. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that stock control is vital to the running of any successful business.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

What did the Prime Minister mean when, during the Paris conference, she said that more British service personnel were to be sent to the Gulf—when and how many? Does the Prime Minister realise that, given the latest estimates of a full-scale war meaning 400 British dead each day, drafting a political epitaph pales into insignificance compared with the real epitaphs now looming on the horizoin for tens of thousands of young men and women on all sides in the Gulf?

The Prime Minister

We are considering sending more troops to the Gulf. The United States is sending a great many more and it is entitled to expect that Europe will send some more. We should not leave it all to the United States. It is in all our interests to uphold international law in the Gulf. We have not yet decided how many troops to send, nor their composition. My right hon. Friend will make a statement as soon as we have decided precisely how many.

One can never make an assessment of the sort that the hon. Gentleman has given, entirely of his own accord. When the forces went down to the Falklands, we were very worried, as were all right hon. and hon. Members, but this country recovered the Falklands from invasion with the sad loss of 257 troops. We could not have foretold that number before our forces went down there. The hon. Gentleman should remember that if an aggressor gets away with this terrible invasion and brutality, he will do it again and far more lives will be lost than if he is stopped now.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

While this historic agreement should be seen as a living memorial to those who perished while fleeing from political and religious tyranny to freedom in the west, will my right hon. Friend comment on reports in the press today that the number of artillery pieces reported by the Soviet Union was greeted with scepticism?

The Prime Minister

We have a problem with the data that must be verified if the agreements are to be carried out. As my hon. Friend knows, quite a lot of equipment has already gone behind the Urals—more than 65,000 pieces. There is a subsidiary agreement under which we should be able to see that a considerable number of them are destroyed, although they may be allocated to the Asian part of the Soviet Union. We have to watch the database very carefully and we shall do so.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Is not the Prime Minister guilty of double standards when she comes here talking about a treaty signing away the cold war, with its [column 308]emphasis on the retention of fundamental human rights, while resolutely turning her face against the fundamental human right not to be threatened with mass extermination by nuclear weapons which are pointing at a country that is yet to be determined and announced by the Prime Minister? Are we safe in assuming that our nuclear weapons are not pointing at the Soviet Union? If the Prime Minister is so proud of having nuclear weapons, what does she say to the 139 non-nuclear nations which signed the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty and which refuse to manufacture and deploy such weapons? Does she believe that she should honour and obey the treaty, which she says she supports, or does she recommend that those nations, too, should have nuclear weapons?

The Prime Minister

It is a question not of signing away the cold war but of recognising the end of the cold war, which I should have thought even the hon. Gentleman would welcome.

Nuclear weapons are the world's strongest deterrent. As Winston Churchill said, we should not give them up until we have a stronger one. Most people would agree that terrible though the dropping of both nuclear weapons on Japan was, the loss of life if they had not been dropped would have been infinitely greater.

Five countries already have nuclear weapons, besides possibly one or two more. We accept the nuclear non-proliferation agreement; the countries that have these weapons keep them under considerable restraint. They are a deterrent and I believe that they have been successful. They have made NATO successful and we should never have achieved the agreements that we have now unless NATO had been staunch, and that includes keeping nuclear weapons.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of the citizens of this country who despaired during the decades of the cold war owe much to her and to President Reagan and Bush and that they also remember how her policies and integrity were continually attacked by those who did not agree with the policies? Now that we see the Soviet Union holding out the hand of friendship and attempting to follow the road that we have travelled, should not we remember that the world still has lots of nuclear weapons and that——

Mr. Speaker

Briefly, please.

Mr. Walker

—although the agreement is very welcome, while there is instability we must keep up our guard?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. It was strength and resolve, particularly during the last decade, which led to the agreement that we so successfully brought to a conclusion this week.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

What was wrong with the Prime Minister's statement was its ideological tinge. Does not she realise that market economies do not have to be capitalist economies? One can have socialist market economies and mixed economies. Capitalism is compatible with monopoly capitalism and dictatorship. If we are to build up unity in Europe, should not democrats be concerned about building up pluralism in economic as well as political affairs?

[column 309]

The Prime Minister

Capitalism is a necessary condition of a market economy and of liberty. It is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of liberty.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

May I thank my right hon. Friend for her longstanding interest in human rights in the Soviet Union which has secured the freedom of many refuseniks? Does she agree that the present exodus from the Soviet Union would not be taking place without her determined pressure since she first met Mr. Gorbachev in 1984?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend. As he knows, we have managed to get a lot of people out of the Soviet Union by raising cases. Both he and I know that a considerable number of people are still held in the Soviet Union who are unable to take advantage of the human rights clauses. We continue constantly to raise those cases.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

Without overlooking blemishes, does the Prime Minister agree that during the cold war Turkey was a loyal and front-line ally and that she remains a loyal and front-line ally? What encouragement was the Prime Minister able to give to the Turkish Prime Minister about Turkey's admission to the European Community, subject to the very important question of human rights? Does she agree that it is important, as a matter of substance and of symbolism, that the European Community should accommodate Muslim as well as Christian countries?

The Prime Minister

I agree that Turkey has been a very staunch and absolutely vital member of NATO. As for the European Community, we have an association agreement with Turkey. It was one of the original association agreements that carried with it the right to membership. Turkey has applied for membership, but the hon. Gentleman knows that all the applications have been put on one side. We are prepared to operate the full association agreement, including the financial protocol. It is Greece which blocks the financial protocol. It has therefore deprived Turkey of a good deal of the help that would otherwise have been very beneficial to her.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations on the signing of the historic treaty in Paris which effectively brought to an end 40 years of cold war? Did my right hon. Friend discuss with President Gorbachev the possibility of Russian troop movements near the Iraq border and the impact that that would have on the thinking of President Saddam Hussein?

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The Prime Minister

We did not discuss that matter, but I did discuss the United Nations resolutions with President Gorbachev. He supports fully the position adopted by the United Nations that Iraq must leave Kuwait.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

May I say that the whole House will admire the Prime Minister's guts, although I am not sure that they will look so pretty when they are spread out all over the floor. In view of the nice and welcome things that she said about President Gorbachev, is she aware—she certainly must be—that his political future is probably as uncertain as her own? With the coming of the Russian winter, which will create great food distribution and supply problems in the Soviet Union, can the Prime Minister tell us what talks took place in Paris about providing the Soviet Union with the aid that it so desperately needs if President Gorbachev is to stay at the head of the Soviet Union and maintain the momentum for peace in Europe?

The Prime Minister

We have taken the view that instead of just giving loans to the Soviet Union for the purchase of more consumer goods, we should concentrate any help that we give on such things as oil exploration, in which we have a good deal of expertise, and food distribution. That is one of the matters that will be considered when we have the IMF report.