Commonwealth of Independent States

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1992.

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Photo of Mrs Teresa Gorman Mrs Teresa Gorman , Billericay 12:00 am, 5th February 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent visit to the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on his recent visit to Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Photo of Mrs Irene Adams Mrs Irene Adams , Paisley North

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had with the leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States during his recent visit on United Kingdom relations with the members of the CIS.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I visited Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia from 16 to 18 January. I held useful talks with the three Presidents Nazarbaev, Kravchuk and Yeltsin as well as with Ministers of their Governments. In each country my talks centred on the serious economic situation and military issues including proliferation. I also had a good talk on international topics with Mr. Kozyrev, the Russian Foreign Minister.

Photo of Mrs Teresa Gorman Mrs Teresa Gorman , Billericay

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I welcome the reports that I have read in the newspapers of the latest version of the guns-for-butter strategy, whereby the republics give us their old guns or nuclear weapons in exchange for our Common Market surpluses. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House, however, that, before large amounts of financial aid are made available, he will make it clear to the Russian people and Government that it is not Governments but people who create wealth? For that reason, the Russians will need to have a community in which there is private property, freedom from regulation and low taxation, with the opportunity for people to accumulate wealth and invest it. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Government make that clear to the Russian people before advancing large sums?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I think that President Yeltsin is already making that clear. These are lessons that the Russian people are learning fast and hard; it is not at all easy for them. We believe that the macro-economic major help to which my hon. Friend refers should come through the International Monetary Fund and should be the result of a reform process with which the IMF is associated. That is why we are pressing so hard for Russia, Ukraine and other republics to be admitted to the IMF as soon as possible.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes:

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the immediate and generous sending of food aid, particularly to Moscow and St. Petersburg, is enormously welcome? Does he further agree, however, that there are many cities, towns and villages in the former Soviet Union with less famous names which also need urgent food aid? Will my right hon. Friend do what he can to ensure that they receive that food aid from the United Kingdom?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Yes. It was a point that President Yeltsin made strongly to us. In parallel with the American emergency air lift recently announced, we are offering a supply of badly needed aid to Ekaterinburg, formerly Sverdlovsk—the kind of city of which my hon. Friend is thinking—and details of that British aid are now being worked out.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Will the Government reciprocate President Yeltsin's announcement last week and declare that British nuclear missiles will no longer be targeted on Russian cities or any cities in the former Soviet republics, including Moscow? That may be only a symbol, but it is an important one.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed our nuclear deterrent with President Yeltsin in London on Thursday. The hon. Gentleman will have seen what President Yeltsin said as a result. 1 believe that he understands more clearly than before the minimum nature of our deterrent—and that we intend to keep it.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Regarding that point, when the right hon. Gentleman saw President Yeltsin did he explain to him why until very recently this Government have said that a minimum effective deterrent is 512 nuclear warheads and why they are now saying that an effective deterrent could be fewer than 192 nuclear warheads?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The right hon. Gentleman is confused between boats and warheads. We have always said that four boats are the minimum. That is now the difference between us and the Labour party. The difference used to be much wider—before the right hon. Gentleman changed his tune. Formerly, he was in favour of the abolition of Trident, but he is now in favour of three boats. We believe that four boats are the minimum, but have always said that on those four boats the maximum would be 128 warheads per boat. That is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said again yesterday.