Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4 April 1990.

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Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Glasgow Govan 12:00, 4 April 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent consideration the British Government have given to their relations with Lithuania and the Soviet Union.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

We support the right of the Baltic peoples to decide their own future, and have welcomed the considerable progress made in the past two years.

In view of recent developments in Lithuania, we think it vital that restraint should be shown on all sides and that progress should be made through dialogue between the Soviet authorities and the Lithuanians. We attach particular importance to the repeated statements by the Soviet leadership that there is no question of the use of force. We have made clear our concerns to the Soviet authorities.

Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Glasgow Govan

Is the Minister aware that, given the increasing bullying and harassment of the Lithuanians by the Kremlin, his statement, which appears even-handed, is unacceptable to a growing number of people in this country? Will he now make a slight but significant change of policy and tell President Gorbachev boldly that the right of self-determination of the people of Lithuania was not extinguished by the secret protocol of 1939, and that President Gorbachev should be ashamed of claiming to be a beneficiary of that fact? That right of self-determination is enshrined in the Helsinki accord; and no one can trust that there has been a fundamental change in the Soviet Union until it adheres to those accords, particularly in relation to Lithuania.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

The Helsinki accord, however, also recognised de facto the boundaries of the Soviet Union as they are. They also recognised that changes in boundaries should be conducted by negotiation. The sheer truth of the matter is that peaceful transition to the independent Lithuania to which the Lithuanians have a right must be achieved through negotiation.

I can inform the House of one optimistic development, which is that a Lithuanian delegation is now having discussions with a senior member of the Politburo Mr. Yakovlev. We hope that those talks will lead to progress.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

Is my right hon. Friend aware of reports that the Soviet Union is intimating that it would be prepared to be more reasonable towards Lithuania if the west were to make concessions on German unification? Presumably, that means that the west should agree that Germany should not remain a member of NATO. Will my right hon. Friend dissociate himself from any such thoughts? Would not the right course be for the Russians to stop bullying Lithuania and to agree that Germany should remain a member of NATO if it so wishes?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

My right hon. Friend is right to suggest that no such deal should be contemplated and, indeed, it would not be possible. I agree with him and with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) that sabre rattling and threats by the Soviet Union are not the way to conduct the negotiations that should be carried through to a conclusion.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Soviet Union, under Stalin, took over Lithuania, Latvia and other countries, and that that was an act of aggression against their peoples? However, is it not clear that Lithuania would not even be in a position to talk about independence had it not been for President Gorbachev's stand on perestroika? Although the Lithuanians have an absolute right to complete freedom from the Soviet Union, should not we endeavour to support sensible discussions and negotiations rather than military action by either side?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

The hon. Gentleman talks a great deal of sense. It is inconceivable that any Soviet leader during the past 40 years would have walked into the crowds at Vilnius to argue with the people about these matters. He would have sent a tank, and that would have been the end of it. We are anxious about the sabre rattling, but the hon. Gentleman is right to say that steps have been taken in the right direction, and that that would not have happened without the general progress in the Soviet Union during the past few years.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

In the circumstances, should the Government appoint a diplomatic representative to Lithuania?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

That would not be right at the present time. As the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) said, the Lithuanian people are entitled to independence, and when that is achieved we shall recognise the state. To intervene now might arouse further tension, which would not be sensible. We know from past events that if the worst came to the worst and force were used—we urge that it should not—there is nothing that we could do to stop it. It would be foolish to raise expectations that we could.