INSIDE PARLIAMENT / Hurd disdains role of `appeaser'

n Labour MPs find echoes of `Munich' in Bosnia Tory rebel votes with Labour over fishing policy
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Indy Politics
Not for the first time, Douglas Hurd was branded an appeaser yesterday as MPs voiced a strong suspicion that Lord Owen, the EU peace envoy, was spot on in his view that the Bosnian Serbs will secure such automony that it will look like independenc e.

Opening exchanges at Foreign Office Question Time on the war-ravaged corner of former Yugoslavia, Nigel Griffiths, Labour MP for Edinburgh, asked if Mr Hurd shared the Americans' concern that the Bosnian Serbs had rejected successive peace plans yet werestill to be appeased. "The stench of Munich is in the air here and in Bosnia," Mr Griffiths said.

"Appeaser" has traditionally ranked pretty high on the scale of political insults but is being devalued through over-use. Mr Hurd thought it a "ludicrous analogy". The United States was one of the authors of the contact group's peace plan and was workingfor its acceptance.

Answering Nick Raynsford, Labour MP for Greenwich, who thought Dr Owen's remark risked undermining the integrity of Bosnia, Mr Hurd said the principles of the peace plan were clear: the Bosnian Serbs had to withdraw from the 72 per cent of the land they held inside Bosnia to 49 per cent, and the integrity of Bosnia Herzogovina's frontiers retained. Once these principles had been met, talks could take place about "territorial swops" and constitutional relationships.

Mr Hurd sounded sympathetic to a summit of world leaders on Bosnia. Patrick Cormack, Tory MP for Staffordshire South, pressed him to talk urgently with the Prime Minister about a summit because of the gravity of the situation and the importance of "ensuring that UN authority and credibility is not damaged beyond repair".

The presidents of the United States, Russia and France should attended as well as Mr Major, he suggested. The Foreign Secretary said a summit would not be complete unless it also met the parties and at the moment he was not keen to give Radovan Karadzic a world platform. "But I certainly don't exclude Mr Cormack's idea," Mr Hurd said. "I don't exclude the possibility of a summit, either in order to avert a disaster, or indeed to consolidate a success."

Robin Cook, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, asked if anything was being done to make remaining safe areas in Bosnia safe and whether air power would be used. "If we are going to do none of those things, there must be a real risk we will be held responsible the next time one of the safe havens suffers the same fate as Bihac."

Mr Cook talked of possible reinforcements, but others were thinking of withdrawal of the 24,000 UN force. Employing a splendid euphemism for retreat, David Howell, Tory chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, welcomed the offer of US troops should a "reconfiguration of UN troops on the ground" become necessary.

Sir Anthony Grant, Tory MP for Cambridgeshire SW, was more explicit. "While appreciating the splendid humanitarian work by the British Army, will you tell our US allies that, from a military point of view, we shall heed the very sound maxim: Never reinforce a failure."

European troubles closer to home, but trivial by comparison, cropped up in both Houses and in the unglamorous committee that toils over the detail of legislation from Brussels.

Absences among the Tory membership allowed Labour to ambush an EC directive changing the way the "green pound" is calculated. Labour complained that not enough information had been provided.

The embarrassment forced the Government to bring the measure for a vote during last night's debate on EU fishing policy, an occasion for further complaints about more access by Spanish boats to British waters.

Spaniards and the European Commission also came under attack in the Lords. Peers feared a move to reduce the nitrate allowed in lettuces would seriously damage the UK glasshouse lettuce industry.

Nitrates are used to grow lettuce in Britain to compensate for low light in cloudy weather. Earl Howe, a junior agriculture minister, said it would be "impossible" for growers to meet the new limits proposed by the EC.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe complained that it would give Spanish growers a huge competitive advantage, but claimed that there had been an outbreak of dysentry caused by eating Spanish lettuce.