Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th May 1990.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell , Gedling 12:00 am, 9th May 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made towards free and fair elections in Romania.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

There has been some progress. The interim authorities have passed an electoral law and welcomed outside observers. But we remain concerned at the continuing allegations by some opposition parties that they are being unfairly treated during the election campaign.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell , Gedling

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the concern expressed, not least by the Church, which, after all, fired the revolution in Romania, about the unfairnesses to opposition parties? Will he make it absolutely clear to the Romanian authorities that continuation of reconstruction funds, and in particular know-how funds, will be dependent upon the election being seen as fully free and fair?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I confirm that we have received a number of allegations, from both representatives of the Churches and from a wide variety of opposition groups. I am also delighted to reaffirm that not only Britain's support but the support of the European Community and the Group of 24 is clearly conditional upon progress and upon the legitimacy of the next Government in Romania. That depends on the fairness of the election. We have not released know-how funds to Romania. We do not yet believe that we should do so. We have given some humanitarian aid. We will watch the election carefully to see whether the conditions which we have all laid down are truly met.

Mr. John D. Taylor:

In connection with travel between Romania and the United Kingdom, what progress has been made towards the abolition of the requirement for visas?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

These matters are discussed jointly with our European partners, because it is obviously sensible to try to move in step. So far, we have made a move in relation to the German Democratic Republic because that is a special case.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Castle Point

Surely my right hon. Friend is now aware that the situation in Romania is deteriorating fast and that the prospect of the election later this month being either fair or free is fast disappearing. Is he aware that there is widespread intimidation, including physical harassment, of democratic parties and their leaders by the Communist provisional Government, and a refusal to provide them with the normal facilities of newspaper publicity and a share in broadcasts? Is he further aware that there will be no independent scrutiny of the voting or counting procedures in the election itself, and that the army will be taking the ballot boxes away for six days before the announcement is made? [Interruption.]

In those circumstances, will my right hon. Friend persuade our European partners—

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Send an observer from the Lords to discuss abortion.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) should not barrack the Father of the House.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Castle Point

In these disgraceful circumstances, will my right hon. Friend ensure that our European partners make it crystal clear that, unless the position changes quickly, there can be no aid or support after a fraudulent Government are returned?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I wholly sympathise with the vehemence of my right hon. Friend's concern. No one in the House has done more than he has to support dissident minorities in eastern Europe. I am aware of many of the allegations that my right hon. Friend has repeated today, not least because he has brought them to my attention. That means that they have been brought clearly to my attention.

Because of the very concerns that my right hon. Friend expresses, we are paying for 12 additional observers from local government in Britain to go and observe the election, and the formidable duo of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) and my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) is going from the House. I calculate that there will be about 100 other western observers, from a variety of countries and organisations. All this will help us to warn the Romanian authorities of the importance of having a free election, and will enable us to judge whether that election has been free.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

Does the Minister accept that it is an unfortunate corollary of the development of free and democratic procedures in eastern Europe, including Romania, that views which are in themselves highly distasteful and highly dangerous are nevertheless tolerated lest it be felt that here is some impingement on the new freedoms? In exactly that context, we are seeing a new wave of anti-Semitism in Romania and throughout eastern Europe. What representations has the Minister made to combat the spread of this poisonous creed?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I accept the implication at the start of the hon. Gentleman's question. It is perhaps inevitable that growing freedoms bring some of the unpleasant aspects of freedom. The only way to put down these unpleasant aspects is through true democratic parties fighting and winning the elections. We have been closely in touch in the Soviet Union and in other eastern European countries with groups that are trying to monitor anti-Semitism and the resurgence of fringe fascist group of one kind or another. The best guardians against all that are free and fair elections.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Romsey and Waterside

My right hon. Friend is right when he say that the Government are correct to offer encouragement and help to Romania and to other countries as they move towards what we hope will be free and fair elections. The news media also have a role to play. What are till Government doing to improve the quality and quantity of the broadcasts to eastern Europe by the world service of the BBC, as the countries in that area move towards the democracy that we all want to see?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

We have recently somewhat increased broadcasting on the world service to eastern European countries. However, there is in addition an important roll for what we might call the more ordinary media of the west to spotlight through television and newspapers what going on in those countries. I hope that representatives no only from this House and from other democratic Parliaments but many journalists will be observing those elections.