East-West Relations

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1984.

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Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West 12:00 am, 25th July 1984

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on East-West relations.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We and our allies and partners will continue to look for opportunities to make progress on arms control and on a whole range of other international issues with the Soviet Union and countries of eastern Europe. We continue to believe that openness and willingness to do business based on firmness and care for our security is the right approach.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

While supporting the right to free trade unionism in this country as well as in Poland, may I ask the Minister whether he accepts that the recent amnesty in that country represents a step forward in reconciliation, nationally and internationally? Does it remove impediments to normal diplomatic and trading relations? Will Her Majesty's Government respond positivly to those actions and encourage the United States to do likewise?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

When martial law was first introduced in Poland, Western countries said that one condition which would make progress with our relations possible would be the release of political prisoners. If the amnesty which has been announced leads to the release of all political prisoners, that will undoubtedly help the normalisation of relations between the West and Poland. European Community heads of foreign ministries yesterday issued a statement welcoming the amnesty, and we look forward to all the Polish prisoners being released.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

As the Helsinki agreement between East and West linked human rights with peace, should we not go on reminding those countries behind the iron curtain with which we have diplomatic relations that the way in which they are treating human rights—by saying that the matter is not only none of our business but is none of their own people's business — is an impediment to peace far greater than the question of armaments on either side?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My hon. Friend is correct. Perhaps one of the most objectionable practices has been the incarceration in the Soviet Union of those who were seeking to monitor the observance by the Soviet authorities of the undertakings into which they had entered.