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 Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher 12:00 am, 5th February 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent international initiatives have been sponsored by the United Kingdom concerning the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The United Kingdom is supporting the applications of states from the Commonwealth of Independent States to join the United Nations and the IMF. We are consulting closely our western partners and allies to ensure that the many economic and security questions arising from the dissolution of the former Soviet Union are tackled in an orderly fashion. We have invited all the members of the CIS to open full diplomatic relations. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has launched a new scheme to bring to Britain for work experience 1,000 secondees from the CIS. We supported the accession of the CIS states to the conference on security and co-operation in Europe.

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

My hon. and learned Friend has listed a series of initiatives taken by the Government in relation to the member states of the CIS. Is not it important, especially in the economic negotiations, that the leading role of the International Monetary Fund is stressed, but that we should be cautious about the way in which the IMF responds to the various questions raised by members of the CIS? The sums involved are potentially huge, and we are anxious that they are properly spent and that the reform programmes are in place.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's emphasis on the involvement of the IMF in the economic reconstruction of Russia and the other republics of the CIS. On the back of such IMF programmes, it will be possible to give yet further assistance to the republics of the CIS.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On security, is not the most urgent initiative to try to help the republics with the leaking trigger mechanisms of many of the nuclear devices on their territory? Should not we as a practical matter offer them the facilities of Burghfield and Dounreay to do something about the beryllium and other toxic compounds which are doubtless leaking from ill-maintained equipment? Even the manuals have been taken away by those who have found jobs in Iran and elsewhere.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

There are at least two priorities that we need to address. First, there is the question of making safe the many missiles and warheads that were spread throughout the CIS. Secondly, there is the question of scientists with particular knowledge. On the latter point, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it plain in his statement that we shall explore further with Russia and the other republics how best we can assist in the provision of employment for the scientists within the CIS to prevent them from going abroad.

There are also important questions about the handling, safeguarding and transport of missile systems. A team will go out to Russia from this country during the week beginning 10 February to see what part we can play in that process.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the recent Washington conference on aid for the republics of the former Soviet Union.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the conference and co-chaired the working group on food. The conference was a success and will help the west to translate its assistance into effective action on the ground. Active follow-up with the former Soviet republics is now well in hand.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Did the subject of the know-how fund and the question whether there might be Russian secondees to British financial, legal and insurance firms as part of the effort arise?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

Neither the know-how fund nor the announcement of the places for 1,000 secondees was part of the Washington conference. However, the know-how fund is doing extremely good work throughout the former Soviet republics, where we have been asked for that help, as it is in the rest of central and eastern Europe. The 1,000 places which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the week before last are already being found and offered by British industry and British institutions. We shall forward the work for the 1,000 secondees to come to this country as speedily as we can.

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells , Pontypridd

Does the Minister agree that one of the most positive actions that the Government could take would be to encourage the republics of the former Soviet Union to cut arms expenditure? Does she agree that we should build on the remarkable achievement of the Kazakhstani people who, before the break-up of the Soviet Union, succeeded in closing the main nuclear test site in Kazakhstan? Would not an extension and strengthening of the nuclear test ban treaty be a means of helping the Soviet people?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

The most important thing that Kazakhstan could do would be to sign the non-proliferation treaty. Of course, all the republics of the former Soviet Union would do well to turn their energies to creating growth in their economies. We shall do our best to help them, but the west cannot solve the problems of the CIS for it. We are involved in an exercise of partnership through sharing know-how with those republics in a wide variety of different areas, but any changes must necessarily be made by the republics themselves.