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Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 19 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the state of Anglo-Portuguese relations.

During my visit to Portugal on 6th and 7th February I had talks with Dr. Soares and a meeting with the President and Prime Minister. I expressed our support and understanding for the forces in Portugal working for democracy. Relations between Britain and Portugal are excellent.

I have placed in the Library a copy of the joint communiqué issued at the end of the visit.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's expression of support for the democratic element in Portugal, but how does he now assess the prospects for democracy there? How does he propose to implement his intention of bringing Portugal closer to the EEC? In view of his promise to help the African territories, did he receive assurances about our facilities in Cabo Verde?

As to the prospects for democracy, the elections for the constitutional assembly have now been announced for 12th April. In so far as my judgment is worth anything, I judge that the elections will be held and that the people of Portugal will be able to express their opinion through the ballot box. As regards the EEC, when the Foreign Ministers met in Dublin on 13th February—my right hon. Friend was present—they reiterated their interest and the importance that they attach to close relations with Portugal. I know from my conversation with Dr. Soares that that feeling is reciprocated. I am afraid that I had no conversation with Dr. Soares about the Cape Verde Islands.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether, as a result of the return towards a more democratic situation in Portugal, the British Government are supporting, or will support, Portugal's membership of the Council of Europe?

I think they will want to go, as a matter of fact. As far as the Council of Europe is concerned—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) should listen.

I am referring to the Council of Europe, to which I hope my hon. Friend, among others, is dedicated. He should not get so cross about these matters. If Portugal wishes to make an application to join the Council of Europe, that application will have the support of Her Majesty's Government.