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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 19 February 1975

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Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Cyprus

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has been able to make of the position of British citizens resident in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus, following the visit to Cyprus of Mr. Peter Scott.

They have suffered hardship and are now experiencing some inconveniences. Some foods are scarce in Kyrenia but British residents can shop in Nicosia. Except in the Varosha district of Famagusta, the Turkish Cypriot authorities are encouraging British residents to return to their homes—which is the best way of looking after their property.

Will the Minister of State accept the political realities of the situation, as must the many British residents in the Turkish sector, especially in the taking out of identity cards, registration cards, and so on? In those circumstances, will he reconsider the view which he expressed in his letter of 16th January 1974 and open an office of the British High Commission in the Turkish sector to deal with these and other matters? Finally, will he take this opportunity of urging the British residents to make themselves known to the British High Commission so that their whereabouts can readily be ascertained in the event of further difficulties?

We have done our best to establish close relations with the British residents who live in the northern area of Cyprus. The realities of the situation are not simply political. I cannot think of—nor can anyone suggest to me—any positive advantages in establishing such an office. Although there would appear to be an advantage in that course, on examination no advantage has been found.

Will the Minister say a little more about the way in which the High Commission makes contact with the Turkish military authorities, since several hon. Members are still receiving reports of looting, irregular requisitioning, and so on? What are the means of communication?

There are a variety of means of communication. The High Commission is in touch with the de facto authorities. We have made constant representations to the Turkish Government in Ankara and to the Turkish Ambassador in London. On Friday I gave an assurance to the House that further representations were being made on that day.

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the latest developments in Cyprus.

The House will be aware that a meeting of the Security Council to discuss Cyprus is likely to take place. It may begin later today. Her Majesty's Government hope that the meeting will help stabilise the situation and enable the intercommunal talks to resume.

In view of the damage being done to NATO, the many interests involved, and the anxieties among the Cypriot community in London, is not it time the right hon. Gentleman treated this crisis as his highest priority and pulled out every stop of British diplomacy in the search for a constitutional settlement? How else does the right hon. Gentleman consider that Her Majesty's Government should interpret their rôle as a guarantor Power?

This is a very serious matter, in which we are involved in constant discussions with the principal parties concerned. I shall be happy to receive any specific suggestions from the hon. Gentleman or anyone else as to what should be done further.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have now reached the stage where the whole future of the United Nations is in balance, especially as a member nation—Turkey—has totally ignored Resolution 3212, which presumably is the basis of this afternoon's discussion in the Security Council? Does not the question now arise whether Britain should consider the possibility of the expulsion of Turkey from the United Nations, failing her acceptance of complete adherence to that United Nations Resolution? If not, it is obvious that sanctions will have to be applied if the United Nations is to be taken seriously in the future.

I do not believe that the future of the United Nations is in balance on this issue. It has suffered many shocks in its lifetime, and it will probably sustain others. As my hon. Friend says, it is true that the resolutions to which he referred have not been carried out, and I am certain that Mr. Clerides will refer to that if he addresses the Security Council later today. I do not believe that the expulsion of any member of the United Nations is likely to bring about a better result, either to this situation or to others.

Is not the lesson to be learned that whereas in the past we had obligations and great powers, in the future we should be much more careful in throwing about guarantees and offering to be a guarantor State, unless we are certain that we shall be able and willing to implement the guarantees?

It is not for me to attack, in the language which he chooses to employ, guarantees entered into by the hon. Member's own Government. But there is no doubt that we should relate our influence to our power to carry out our obligations. I do not accept the view that we have not carried out our obligations under the Treaty of Guarantee. It would be unfair to suggest that. The obligation upon us is to consult with respect to representations or measures necessary to ensure observance of the provisions. We have done our best in this matter. We might be said to have gone the second mile towards it. But if others will not join us, it is impossible to get agreement. This is an issue which concerns us every day, and we are trying to take action to help the situation.

Bearing in mind that it would be unfair to condemn the Republic of Turkey for responding to what was, after all, a coup by the Greek colonels supported by Fascist elements in Cyprus, if my right hon. Friend is looking for positive steps that the British Government could take, will he consider making representations to the United States Government in respect of aid to Turkey? Will he also accept the offer which I understand has been made to reopen the port of Famagusta for trade, to reopen Nicosia airport under the ægis of the United Nations, and accept the Turkish offer to take another 8,000 Greek Cypriot refugees back into the northern enclave of Cyprus?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for those suggestions. Alas, none of them is new. All these proposals have been canvassed before. That does not depreciate their validity, and I should be happy to see them accepted. But no one yet has shown me the way to get people to accept these recommendations.

Passports

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with existing arrangements for vetting applications for new passports at the Passport Office.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Miss Joan Lestor)

We would be more satisfied if the Passport Office had the facility to obtain irrefutable proof of identity, whilst still being able to issue over 1 million passports annually without unreasonable delay or inconvenience to the public. That is the objective of the present procedural review.

Since the Minister admitted to me in replies to questions that no effective system existed for vetting passport applications, to ensure that none were issued to dead people, will the Department look into this matter to see whether a vetting system can be set up? How can the Department be sure that no passports are being issued to dead people?

The hon. Gentleman has had extensive correspondence with me and with my right hon. Friend on this matter. The production of the death certificate or the birth certificate, be the person dead or alive, is irrelevant. The Passport Office relies for identity verification upon the signature of the professional person who testifies as to his personal knowledge that the details supplied are correct. I know that the hon. Gentleman is interested in this matter. One of the difficulties involved in checking people's deaths in relation to applications for passports is that there is no central record which includes details of all deaths in the United Kingdom and deaths of United Kingdom citizens which take place overseas.

Deaths in England and Wales are recorded in one place, deaths in Scotland in another place, and deaths in Northern Ireland in yet another place. It is an administratively impossible task to try to set up such a system, but we are doing our best.

Will my hon. Friend consider making it obligatory for those responsible for the estates of deceased persons to return the passports of those deceased persons to the Foreign Office? At present it seems as though there are thousands of passports lying about the country in the hands of people who have inherited them from dead people.

I shall consider that suggestion and write to my hon. and learned Friend about the possibility of doing this, because, on the face of it, it seems to provide one way, at least, of making some sort of check.

Hong Kong

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will appoint a commission to investigate the allegations made recently concerning corruption in the Hong Kong Police to which individuals could give evidence in camera if they so wished.

No, Sir. The Independent Commission Against Corruption set up by the governor has been in operation for just over a year, and has already achieved distinct success. It has received a large measure of support from the Hong Kong public and must be given a proper opportunity to fulfil its task.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that there is widespread disquiet about the allegations which are being bandied about regarding the standards of the Hong Kong Police, that the public and the police in Hong Kong need an assurance that those allegations will be properly investigated, and that in their opinion that can be done only by an inquiry set up by the right hon. Gentleman's office? Is it not also necessary to assure potential recruits from this country to the Hong Kong Police that they are entering a force which is as good as it should be?

I am aware of the widespread disquiet, which has existed for some time. It was because of that that an independent commission was set up. Nothing which I say or which anyone else says in this House should undermine the confidence of the people of Hong Kong in that commission, and the commission must be allowed to continue its work.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the many charges laid at the door of the Attorney-General's office by a Councillor Mrs. Elsie Eliot, who is well known to many hon. Members on both sides of the House? Will my right hon. Friend say how many prosecutions laid before it have been dropped by the Attorney-General's office, on instructions of that office? Would not it carry more conviction and give far more confidence to the people of Hong Kong if a Royal Commission were sent out there, based on and advised by officers of Scotland Yard itself?

On the specific allegations by the lady to whom my hon. Friend referred, I am afraid that I can give no information today, but I take note of what my hon. Friend says, and I shall try to answer his detailed question. As for a Royal Commission, I say again that the commission in Hong Kong must be allowed to carry out its work. Suggestions that it will not or cannot do so will not help it in doing so.

Is not speed of the utmost importance in this matter, and is not an objection to the appointment of any further commission, especially any further commission from the United Kingdom, that that would delay considerably the very necessary rooting out of corruption which the Cater Commission is doing so well?

Although I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman's point about the necessity for speed is a good one, the main point about alternative forms of investigation must be the implication that the present form is not working well. We have no evidence to suggest that that is the case.

Namibia (Ovamboland)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if, in view of the 50 per cent. turn-out in the Legislative Assembly poll in Ovamboland in South West Africa despite the total boycott recommendation by the South West Africa People's Organisation, Her Majesty's Government will cease to recognise that organisation as the sole representative of political opinion there; and if he will instruct Her Majesty's Government's representative at the United Nations to raise the matter in the Assembly.

Her Majesty's Government have never regarded SWAPO as the sole representative of the inhabitants of Namibia, and have made this clear at the United Nations. But SWAPO will have an important part to play in any negotiations for the self-determination and independence of Namibia.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that answer. Will she bear in mind that the people who voted in contradiction to the views of SWAPO amount to more than 50 per cent. of those who turned out on polling day? Does she realise that there is a large body of opinion in South West Africa in favour of working with and co-operating with South Africa to their mutual future benefit?

I said in my original reply that we did not regard SWAPO as the sole representative of the people of Namibia, but it would be foolish to imagine that it did not represent a very large portion of opinion there. However, if other groups care to contact us, we shall be prepared to talk to them.

Bearing in mind that Ovamboland is a long way from the centres of white population, as I know only too well, having been to South Africa, does my hon. Friend agree that it is very difficult for people in Windhoek, the capital, to know what is going on in Ovamboland and that it is almost impossible for them to get there? Therefore, it is not possible to say how accurate these election returns in Ovamboland were.

I do not have full details of the results of the elections and it would be difficult to hazard any conclusion at this stage. But my hon. and learned Friend's point should be borne in mind.

New Hebrides

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he intends to bring forward legislation relating to a representative assembly and local government bodies for the New Hebrides.

The need does not arise. Local legislation will be sufficient to provide for the establishment of a representative assembly, subject to any necessary amendment of the Anglo-French Protocol of 1914 concerning the New Hebrides.

Legislation providing for the establishment of local government bodies has already been enacted in the New Hebrides.

As I recently visited the New Hebrides, may I say how glad I am that the hon. Lady has been there herself. Will she confirm that the representative assembly will be elected this year and that the Lord President, in answer to a Question last Thursday, was incorrect when he said that it would be elected next year? Further, will she try to ensure that in any future projects the unity between the British and French administrations is emphasised, rather than their separation?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman enjoyed his visit to the New Hebrides as much as I enjoyed mine. I am grateful for his interest in this matter. First, I confirm that, arising from the visit of the French Minister and myself a short while ago, work on the elections is now in hand. It is hoped that the first local government bodies will be elected in May and that the representative assembly will be elected before the end of 1975. Part of the reason for our joint visit and the talks which took place here before our visit—and, hopefully, our visit later in the middle of this year—is to try to establish a framework which will erode the separations that have existed for so long and have been so damaging to the New Hebrides.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the title to land of many of the non-indigenous purported owners of land in the New Hebrides is very shaky? Before Britain finally relinquishes control of the New Hebrides, will my hon. Friend use her good offices to try to sort out the problem as quickly as possible?

I know something about the dispute over land tenure in the New Hebrides and I believe that it would take more than my good offices to sort out that difficult and complicated problem. However, while I was in the New Hebrides I had a great deal of discussion on the problem. In fact, discussions are still taking place. I assure my hon. Friend that we are hoping very much that we shall get somewhere in the future on that problem.

What measure of co-operation has the hon. Lady been receiving from the French on this matter?

I am pleased to assure the House that when the French Minister and I met in November of last year we had a broad base of agreement for the sort of situation that we wished to suggest to the people of the New Hebrides. That was appreciated by the people of the New Hebrides. We are hoping to meet again later this year to review progress. I hope to return again after the elections to see what is taking place in the New Hebrides.

South Africa (British Emigrants)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the amount paid out by his Department in the last year for which figures are available of repatriation of British citizens who emigrated to South Africa and who wished to return to this country; what amount of this was recovered; and if he will make a statement.

During the year ended 31st March 1974, £5,608·88 was expended on the repatriation of United Kingdom citizens who had emigrated to South Africa. Of this, £526·58 has been recovered.

If British citizens are to be tempted to a life of game reserves and black housemaids by the South African Government, why should the British taxpayer have to pay for them to come back if they do not like it? If British citizens are to be lured by the South African Government with free passages and false promises, should we not make it clear that they do so at their own risk?

First, we do not supply public funds to people solely because they do not like the country in which they have chosen to live. We take the view that people who are destitute in a foreign country, whether it be South Africa or anywhere else—for example, widows—have compassionate claims on the British Government to ensure that they return to this country. My hon. Friend is well aware that I share his view about people who emigrate to South Africa to bolster up the régime.

Let us put the matter into perspective cost-wise. Has the Minister any figures today—if not perhaps she will make them available to the House—to indicate what percentage of British people who leave this country each year express a wish to come back with or without the help of British funds?

I do not have that information available. If the hon. Gentleman cares to table a specific Question I shall find the information for him.

Portugal

9.

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.

European Co-Operation And Security

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the Conference on Co-operation and Security in Europe.

The conference continues to make steady progress. Useful agreement was recorded before the Christmas break on the principles of human rights and self-determination, on family reunification and on marriage. Since then we have been trying, with our partners and allies, to push matters forward on some of the central issues which remain outstanding, and my right hon. Friend and I had useful discussions in Moscow on these matters.

In view of what the Prime Minister said yesterday about the possibility of a summit conference arising out of the CSCE, will the right hon. Gentleman now state specifically what provisions and guarantees the United Kingdom and its allies still require and which they have not obtained from the Soviet Union regarding, first, prior notice of troop manoeuvres and, secondly, the freer flow of people and information, before they will agree to a summit conference?

These are the issues—two of which the hon. Gentleman outlined—which are at present holding up the summit conference. They are confidence-building measures, such as the prior notification of manoeuvres and the areas in which the manoeuvres should be notified. I was interested to read that, unusually, the Soviet Union made a public announcement of manoeuvres only on Monday last. On the hon. Gentleman's second point, about human contacts, the principle has still to be worked out. It is not yet in a condition which is final. There is a third problem to which the hon. Gentleman did not refer—the question of how frontiers can be changed peacefully. That is particularly important not only to Germany but to other countries.

Has my right hon. Friend noted that included in the joint statement issued with the Russian Government was a phrase about the need to translate political détente into a military détente? Does this mean that there is any hope of successful progress and that the security conference can be used to break the deadlock in the mutual and balanced force reductions talks, which show every sign of being about to grind to a halt?

I do not think that they are about to grind to a halt. I think that that conference has been very slow but this will continue until the CSCE, to which the question is addressed, come to a conclusion. My hope is that, when the CSCE is coming to a conclusion, we will then find more movement in the mutual and balanced force reductions talks in Vienna.

Did the right hon. Gentleman discuss with Russian Ministers while he was in Moscow the question of broadcasts in the English language by the Soviet Government? Is he aware that there are regular morning broadcasts in English appealing to the British people to vote "No" in any referendum on our membership of the EEC?

No. I was not aware of that, but on the whole I think that outside propaganda is likely to be counterproductive. I would not think it necessary to make representations on that issue.

West Germany (Foreign Minister)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next proposes to meet the Foreign Minister of the Federal German Republic.

I expect to see Herr Genscher next at the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Community on 3rd and 4th March.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take that opportunity to discuss with the Foreign Minister the recent speech in which he pointed to his fears and forebodings about the future—not only for this country, the EEC and the whole of Europe, but for the rest of the world—if we were to withdraw from the Community? Does he share in whole or in part the views expressed in that speech?

I often discuss this matter with Herr Genscher and I do not suppose that the talks on 3rd and 4th March will be any exception. It is true that Herr Schmidt and Herr Genscher have both expressed a desire that Britain should remain a member of the Community, because they believe that that would strengthen Europe's position in the world and that this is a necessary step. The British people themselves will express their decision on that in due course.

In view of the strength of the German economy and its favourable balance of trade, when the Foreign Secretary meets his German counterpart will he discuss with him the shortfall, over the years, in the offset agreement? Does he not agree that if that agreement were examined in terms of the past 20 years it would prove that the Germans had fallen behind by hundreds of millions of pounds? In view of their strength now and our relative weakness, would this not be a good opportunity for them to clear that moral debt?

I do not know that it would be accepted as a moral debt, because it is presumably to our advantage as well as theirs that we are there. I realise that my right hon. Friend has asked questions on this matter of the Secretary of State for Defence. When I was Chancellor I took some steps to get a better balance in this situation, and I am sure that the present Chancellor will continue to do the same.

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the US Government concerning the recent talks on strategic arms limitation between Warsaw Pact countries and NATO countries.

Consultations take place at regular intervals with the United States about the US-Soviet strategic arms limitation talks. The talks between NATO and Warsaw Pact countries in Vienna are concerned with mutual and balanced force reductions in Central Europe and do not cover strategic arms.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the basis of the SALT, which provide for a considerable increase in strategic arms over their present levels? If he is so satisfied, how does he reconcile it with the Government's repeated statement that they hope for a successful outcome to the review conference on the non-proliferation treaty, when the main stumbling block will be the failure of the nuclear Powers to achieve genuine nuclear disarmament?

We welcome the Soviet-American agreement at Vladivostock—it was an agreement—and we look forward to further limitation of strategic offensive weapons and to reductions in their numbers. I realise that there is some arithmetical and statistical dispute about this, but there can be no doubt in my judgment that, as a result of Vladivostock, there is a growing understanding and confidence between the two super-Powers who hold these weapons. I believe that agreement there can lead to limitations in their use and to reduction in their numbers.

Rhodesia

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement with regard to the replies he has had from Rhodesian authorities to British representations concerning the release from restriction of Mr. Garfield Todd, former Prime Minister of Rhodesia.

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave the hon. Member on 29th January, when I said:

"We are urging all concerned to carry out the terms of the agreements reached in Lusaka last month which provide for the release of all detainees and restrictees. That would, of course, include Mr. Todd, whose continued restriction I deplore."—[Vol. 885, c. 157.]

I am grateful to the hon. Lady. Does she appreciate that it appears now that Mr. Garfield Todd has been specifically excluded from the terms of the Lusaka agreement and that he is one of the few Europeans in Rhodesia who has the almost complete trust of the African population? Will she renew the Government's efforts to persuade the Rhodesian Government to realise that the success of the forthcoming conference may at least partly depend on the release of Mr. Todd?

First, I repeat that I deplore the continued restriction of Mr. Garfield Todd, just as I do that of many Africans in detention whose names will not be so well known to hon. Members. I do not want to lay down preconditions, but we continue to press for their release. We regard it as part and parcel of the outcome of some of the discussions held recently. If people are to be true to what they have said about their hopes for settling the problems over Rhodesia, they will take heed of the agreements which were reached in Lusaka.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the remarks of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) are highly commendable? Will she also bear in mind that as time goes on the bargaining power of the Smith régime will be diminished and our ability to put the heat on it to bring about the release of the detainees—Mr. Garfield Todd among them—will increase accordingly?

The situation in Southern Africa has moved very fast. Without going into detail, I agree that time is not on the side of Mr. Ian Smith in this situation.

Vietnam

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had in Washington about the situation in Vietnam; and if he will make a statement.

Did my right hon. Friend draw to the attention of the people with whom he had these confidential discussions the concern felt by many people all over the world about the continuation of the fighting two years after the signing of the Paris Agreement? Did he draw to their attention the concern felt at the continuing supply of American war materials to the Saigon Government and the imprisonment of about 200,000 political prisoners in Saigon's gaols? If not, why not?

It is public knowledge, irrespective of any representations or discussions I had, that the British Government have been in touch with both the North and the South Vietnamese Governments to express our grave concern about the fighting which is going on. The United States itself, as is also public knowledge, has made it clear that the way to tackle this problem is for the talks provided for in the agreement to be resumed between the parties. As for arms supply, that is going on on both sides and is not contrary to the agreement signed in Paris. Indeed, it is specifically provided for, in the matter of replacements. Clearly, however, the right thing here is for the fighting to stop and for the two parties to engage in the talks which both agreed in Paris to undertake.

Meanwhile, will the right hon. Gentleman admit, in common fairness, that the fighting which is going on is by North Vietnamese or North Vietnamese-sponsored troops against positions in the South, and that there are no South Vietnamese or South Vietnamese-sponsored troops engaging in hostilities in the North?

It is true that hostilities are not being engaged in in the North. I think it is the PRG which is conducting much of the fighting going on in the South at present.

Multi-Rôle Combat Aircraft

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will discuss with his counterparts in WEU the implications of Article II and Annex III of the Brussels Treaty, as amended in 1954, which precludes the Federal Republic of Germany from the manufacture in its territory of certain types of armaments including bomber aircraft for strategic purposes, for the construction of the multi-rôle combat aircraft jointly with German and Italian firms.

The MRCA is not intended for strategic purposes and there- fore does not fall within the provisions of the Revised Brussels Treaty to which my hon. Friend has referred.

That is an amazing answer. How can it be said that the MRCA is not banned by the treaty when two of the aircraft which we are told it is to replace are the Vulcan and the Buccaneer bomber? Secondly, is he aware that when, recently, 34 Socialist deputies in Bonn voted against the aircraft, they did so not merely because of its colossal cost but—greatly to their credit—because they were opposed to their country's making strategic bombers in conflict with the treaty?

Both my hon. Friend and the Bonn deputies to whom he referred have to face two simple semantic facts. First, the Vulcan was originally employed in a strategic rôle but was then regraded and used for a different purpose. It is the non-strategic rôle which the Vulcan recently occupied for which the MRCA is equipped, and it is fulfilling that rôle—[interruption.] That is what "strategic" means, and my hon. Friend must realise it.

Secondly, there is a standard definition of "strategic". It refers to definite operations designed to effect the progressive destruction and disintegration of an enemy's war-making capacity. That is not a capability to which the aircraft he mentioned applies, and therefore my answer is right in every particular.

Renegotiation

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will list the outstanding items in the United Kingdom's renegotiation of membership of the EEC.

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are now the main problems still unresolved in the EEC renegotiations.

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what items of the renegotiation which he outlined on 1st April 1974 remain outstanding.

The principal matters still to be settled are those listed in my right hon. Friend's reply of 29th January to the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), but we have made further progress in dealing with them in the last three weeks.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that whenever or however renegotiations are completed, there are some Members on both sides of the House who do not want the negotiations to succeed? Will he reaffirm his commitment to the Labour Party manifesto, namely, that the objective of renegotiation is to stay in the Common Market? Will he also assure the House that when renegotiations are completed there will be a free vote not only among members of the Cabinet but on the Floor of the House?

My hon. Friend is too old a bird to expect me to comment on the subject of free votes, certainly when my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip is not present. As regards the first part of his supplementary question, having been given that task by the Labour Party through our election manifesto, it was my job to try to carry out that task, and I shall negotiate for success, not for failure. That has been my object the whole way through. I am sorry if any degree of success I may achieve causes other people pain, but it seems to me that that is the only way in which to go into negotiations.

The negotiations are not yet complete. There are still some important subjects on which agreement must be secured. I shall do my best to secure agreement on them on the conditions laid down in the Labour Party manifesto.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that since the original Six in the Common Market had no fisheries policy until the British application for entry was received, and since they then rapidly got together to "cobble" one up, the moratorium until 1982 is one of the vital issues that must be renegotiated, otherwise Common Market vessels will have the same rights in our fisheries as do our fishermen, and if they employ their methods of fishing here our waters will be as clear of fish as are the waters around other Common Market countries?

The question of fisheries is an important matter for the whole of the United Kingdom and, indeed, for some other members of the Community. I should not like to give the hon. Gentleman a detailed answer, but I undertake to send him a written reply when I have considered the matter.

As the present Prime Minister's chief objection to the terms of entry into the Common Market was the absence of any provision for long-term free access for New Zealand produce, may we assume that the present Government are pressing for long-term free access for New Zealand produce? If so what success has there been so far?

There have been conversations between the New Zealand Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself. We are making substantial progress on the question of access for New Zealand produce. I believe that it will not be impossible to secure a reasonable solution to the problem.

Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that there should be a debate at the conclusion of the Government's negotiations when the terms are known and before the House discusses the Bill on the referendum?

That is not a matter for me, but if I may be allowed to advance an opinion as one member of the House, it is surely inconceivable that the House would not want to debate the result of the renegotiations.

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he can now give a firm date for the conclusion of the negotiations with the EEC.

My aim is to complete renegotiation by Easter and we are continuing to make reasonable progress, but I cannot yet give a firm date.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we cannot afford to waste any more time on these rather trivial exchanges that are constantly putting up prices, and that we should get down to some real negotiations, which have not been evident so far? Has my right hon. Friend seen, for instance, the trade deficit figures for the last quarter of 1974, which show a minus of £614 million? Is it not time we stopped this external bleeding? Soon we shall not have enough money even to buy the bandages.

The deficits that we are running are extremely serious. They show that British industry is not taking advantage of the opportunities available to export. I am not ascribing blame. I am describing a simple situation that exists. But I do not believe that membership of the Community has affected one way or the other British industry's capacity to export.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people will feel that the remarks he has just made are the correct assessment of the figures bandied about on both sides of the argument? As renegotiation is about terms and not principle, will he, when the renegotiations are complete to the Government's satisfaction, emphasise to the country that the original aims of the Community include an underlying European political unity?

That was one of the original aims, but I think that the passage of years has altered the way in which many people thought that it would be approached. The kind of political unity that is achieved now is achieved through meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers, at which, attending as sovereign members, each carrying our own Parliament behind us—at least, we hope we are—we reach common agreements on issues of common importance.

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the retention of parliamentary control over fiscal, regional and industrial policies is one of the objects of renegotiations with the EEC.

Yes, Sir. It is the aim of renegotiation to ensure that the effective policies which the Government and Parliament adopt in these matters are not frustrated by the operation of the treaties.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Question and the election manifesto on which it is based specified parliamentary as distinct from ministerial control? Does he not agree that Parliament can reassert such control only if the constitutional relationship between the House and the law makers in Brussels is changed?

I do not accept that. The concept of Government control and ministerial control clearly implies parliamentary control. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I stand at this Box only because I have the support of my hon. Friends. [Interruption.] If I did not have it, I would not be here. It is on that basic that our control will continue to be exercised. I remain answerable to the House, as does every other Minister.

In order to save the right hon. Gentleman from having to answer such questions, so that he may devote his time to other matters, will he refer his hon. Friend, and everyone else who asks similar questions, to all the excellent speeches made by the Prime Minister before 1969, in which he dealt specifically with the point of sovereignty, assuring the House and the country that there was no question of Britain's giving up her sovereignty and that we would remain an independent sovereign country? Will he see that those excellent speeches by the Prime Minister are made available to his colleagues?

I always regard my right hon. Friend's speeches as excellent, whatever they are about, but I am becoming increasingly aware that even if I bring back a crock of gold from Brussels it will not satisfy some people. Because that is so, and because I wish to adhere to the contents of the Labour Party manifesto and to conference decisions, I shall continue to take that stand. It is the only safe ground for me to rely upon.

Is it the object of the renegotiations or is it the right hon. Gentleman's view that he already possesses the authority to implement import controls, as has been suggested by the Cambridge Group of Economists?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his answer to this Question and to earlier questions demonstrates clearly both the farce and the dishonesty of the original application to join the Community, in the sense that the whole case was based upon our trading position improving as a result of joining a much enlarged home market? Yet the existence of a home market depends entirely upon monetary union. As Government policy is now to move away from monetary union, does not that give the lie to the original intention that we could talk in terms of an enlarged home market?

I see part of the point made by my hon. Friend, and it has considerable relevance as long as we do not move to economic and monetary union. As the House knows, it is not only my view but the view of the Community that we shall not move there. On the other hand, there has been a substantial and continuing reduction of tariffs between the members of the Community and, I hope, under the multilateral trade negotiations, between the Community and countries outside. To that extent the market is growing. However, I have never believed that the creation of this larger market would of itself improve our trading conditions. That remedy lies here, at home. The National Enterprise Board and other measures being taken by the Government are steps in that direction.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in the two years that we have been members the Community has never interfered in our fiscal, regional or industrial policies on any material matter?

Offhand, I should think that is broadly true. There are areas where it has got close to it. I think that if we remain members of the Community—we must face all these facts, so let us face them fairly—there will always be areas where the Commission will try to extend its authority and where individual national governments will resist that extension. There will be this continuing tension between the two. If I had to make a summary at this stage, I should say that on my experience so far, broadly speaking, I am satisfied that the United Kingdom Government and Ministers, if they have the will, can look after us in Brussels.

Can my right hon. Friend deny that whether or not such powers have been used in the past two years the Commission has power to intervene in our industrial policy? For example, yesterday we gave a Second Reading to the Industry Bill, which is of great importance. If the Commission decides that that will distort competition, it can overrule the intentions of this House and of the Government.

That is a pretty general question, but I think that my answer must be "No". My hon. Friend's appreciation of the situation is not correct. I do not think for a moment—

I am giving the answer. It may be that my hon. Friend has a different view. I do not think for a moment that the Commission will put itself into the position that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise) thinks it might take. That is my view about the situation. Others will no doubt have different views. But let us not destroy ourselves with hobgoblins. Let us look at the reality of the situation.

In the renegotiations, will the right hon. Gentleman insist on his right to apply our regional policies within the United Kingdom? May we have a clear answer on that matter?

Yes. I hope that the House will very soon debate the co-ordination of regional aids. Indeed, I should like the opportunity of joining in such a debate if I manage to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. The co-ordination of regional aids is an issue to which I attach great importance because, like the hon. Lady, I represent a development area. Therefore, I am not anxious to be put into a position in which our attempts to deal with unemployment or structural problems can be overridden by people outside this country. There is a difference between that proposition and the other proposition, that competition between countries in their regional aids can be self-destroying if they run to excess. If the Commission's proposals are based on trying to co-ordinate the extent of regional aid, they could turn out to be of advantage to this country, as to others.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm, in the context of his last answer, that in almost any international economic agreement, whether in EFTA, in the free trade agreement between Sweden and Austria and the Community, or in the European Economic Community, there are inevitable restrictions on some national policies to prevent that kind of wasteful competition?

Yes. That is true, for example, in the sphere of giving credit and of what can be done in the matter of supporting exports. If it is a bargain that is worth this country's while making, let us make it. If not, let us say so and come to a clear conclusion on the issue.

Budget

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had at the Council of Ministers on 10th and 11th February about the United Kingdom's contribution to the EEC budget; and if he will make a statement.

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress he has made in his negotiations with the other member States of the EEC relative to Great Britain's contribution to the Community budget since the EEC Summit of 9th-10th December 1974.

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he is now able to make a statement on Great Britain's contribution to the EEC budget.

We had a useful discussion in the Council on 10th February. We examined the Commission's proposals for the budget-correcting mechanism, which follow the lines laid down by Heads of Government in December. It was agreed that work should continue at official level to prepare for the Council or 3rd and 4th March, when I would like to see the matter settled.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we achieve what it looks likely we shall achieve on this front, it will meet our objectives in the renegotiations, and that some of my hon. Friends cannot say, on the one hand, that our contribution as negotiated by the Conservatives was crippling, and, on the other, when we have negotiated a solution, that it was of no account at all?

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reminds me that they can say that, but it is up to us to judge whether they are reasonable or unreasonable in taking that view. As for the proposals made by the Commission, they are the basis for successful renegotiation of that item on the agenda. I hope and believe that certain improvements could be made in the coming weeks. I hope that those improvements will be concluded by the first week in March. If adjustments of an important nature are obtained on that date, I hope that the renegotiations will end successfully.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the accusation that the Commission is "faceless" is correct, and whether the Commission has taken a useful and constructive rôle in the negotiations?

The Commission is to be thanked and congratulated on the way it has assisted in the renegotiations. Its officials were given the task by Heads of Government and they carried out that work with a great deal of success. If the renegotiations succeed part of the credit must go to the Commission.

Beside our budgetary contributions, does my right hon. Friend feel that we should go on indefinitely subsidising inefficient French farmers to produce surpluses which are then sold to Russia? Does he not feel that the point of these renegotiations should be the final disposal of the common agricultural policy?

There is a certain ambivalence in my answer to this question. I think it unjustifiable for us to go on subsidising inefficient farmers, but I want to go on enjoying the comparatively cheap foodstuffs from Europe.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in the context of the Government's renegotiations they are committed to the view that both the taxes and the budgets are unacceptable, and also the purposes on which most of the money is spent?

The right hon. Gentleman is quoting from a manifesto which he and I supported in the recent elections. I promise him that we are doing our best to carry it out.

Political Union

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards political union in the Common Market before the referendum is held.

I would refer to what I said in answer to the hon. Gentleman on 18th December 1974.—[Vol. 883, c. 439.]

But, with the passage of years, is not political union now moving to political unity, as the Foreign Secretary has just said? If that is so, will not the Government and my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench make a clear declaration—that would satisfy the people before the referendum—that this country is totally opposed to any move towards a federal Europe?

Yes, Sir. I have no difficulty in stating that. The hon. Gentleman knows that I have said on many occasions that I do not believe that we are in sight of moving to a federal Europe by 1980 or by any later date. But it would be absurd for the hon. Gentleman or any of the rest of us not to commit ourselves to some form of unity in the future, if it can be achieved. There is nothing wrong with unity, as such. It would be an absurd proposition for anyone to say otherwise. It is the conditions under which it is achieved, and it is whether people desire it—

I appeal for your protection, Mr. Speaker.

As far as I know, no Community Government regard themselves as committed to political union in this way. We are certainly not committed to it. It would be for the House to decide, if and when it wanted to take steps in that direction.

Reverting to the supplementary question asked by the Leader of the Scottish National Party—the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart)—may I ask whether my right hon. Friend agrees that just as important as the common agricultural policy is the common fisheries policy? Is he aware that it must be settled before we get near a referendum? Having fished out their waters off Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France, Common Market inshore fishermen are now fishing in waters off our coasts. The matter must be settled before we decide, by vote or otherwise, whether our future is in the EEC.

I do not believe that political union is concerned with this issue. I do not believe that it affects it one way or the other. I have already said that I shall look into the question of the fisheries policy again. There is a derogation until 1982. We can consider the matter on another occasion at greater leisure. It is not related to political union.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to rule out full union, as not being on the agenda, but when the Government make their recommendation on the question of remaining in the EEC or leaving it, will they make clear their intention about political and democratic involvement in Europe through the European Parliament?

I do not know whether that would come at the end of the renegotiation period. Obviously, if the country decided to leave the Community the question would not arise, but if it took a decision to remain a member, the subject would come up for immediate decision.

Council Of Ministers

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will state any changes in the provisional agenda of the Council of Ministers which he announced on 29th January last.

The agendas of the meetings of the Council during February have closely followed my forecast. The main additions were the budgetary powers of the European Assembly and the Regional Policy Committee discussed by the Foreign Affairs Council. The main items which now seem unlikely to be discussed are the "stocktaking" report on the CAP and the draft Regulation on European Monetary Co-operation.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that information. Is he aware that of the 13 items discussed only three were discussed in the House before those meetings? In pursuance of our manifesto, which stated that the powers of the House would be protected, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the method of reporting the outcome of these discussions is such that the House can be fully acquainted of what happened and call Ministers to account for their performance at the Council?

As my hon. Friend knows, a Select Committee is examining the procedures. He will recall, from his close study of the subject, that the Government are observing to the letter the assurance we gave about the Scrutiny Committee, its examination, recommendations from it, and debates on those recommendations on the Floor of the House. That has applied during February 1975, as during previous months.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he does not expect that at the meetings any issues will be raised in connection with our renegotiations other than those that have already been discussed, and that in particular the general question of sovereignty is not one of the items for renegotiation in them?

My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has made clear since his 1st April speech that we had a list of renegotiation objectives, that we could withdraw none of them, but that we did not intend to add to that list. Sovereignty is involved in many of those items. Our intention to obtain assurances about the ability to have the regional policy of our choice is concerned with sovereignty. Where sovereignty is related to our legitimate aims, we shall of course pursue its ensurance, but only in those terms.