House Of Commons
Wednesday 12th March 1975
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
EASTBOURNE HARBOUR BILL [ Lords]
( By Order)
Order for consideration, as amended, read.
To be considered upon Tuesday next.
Oral Answers Toquestions
Foreign Andcommonwealth Affairs
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps the Government have taken to secure an abatement of the Middle East arms race ; and if he will make a statement on the Government's own policy on sales of armaments to States regarding themselves to be in a state of belligerence.
We believe that the best way to secure an abatement of the arms race in the Middle East is by rapid progress towards a peaceful settlement, and we are accordingly giving our full support to Dr. Kissinger's negotiations. We are willing to consider requests from Middle East countries for arms the supply of which in our view would not endanger the achievement of a just and lasting settlement.
Bearing in mind that, thanks to Soviet munificence, Syria alone today disposes of very nearly twice as many modern fighter aircraft and over twice as many tanks as does Great Britain, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that it is difficult to imagine that peace can long survive this volume of arms flow? Is it not high time that the West sought actively to engage the Soviet Union in the quest for Middle East peace and put the good faith of the Soviet Union to the test by seeking to make the Middle East the proving ground of détente?
My right hon. Friend is very much aware of the dangers of the arms build-up in the Middle East as well as the conflict which exists there. Certainly, in supporting Dr. Kissinger's initiative we also support his anxiety to get the Soviet Union involved and to ensure that there is consultation between the two Governments concerned.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Resolution 242, which, in the words of the Prime Minister, should be taken as the framework for a settlement in the Middle East, remains 'the policy of the present Government?
I certainly confirm that we are committed to Security Council Resolution 242, which, as my hon. Friend knows, sets out the two principles of Israeli withdrawal and Arab acceptance of Israel within secure and recognised boundaries. We also recognise that any settlement in the Middle East must also satisfy Palestinian demands for a recognition of their legitimate political rights as well as the rights of the refugees referred to in Resolution 242.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the overwhelming supply of arms to the Middle East comes from the United States and the Soviet Union and that, therefore, any great reduction by Britain would have no influence at all on events except to damage British industry?
It is certainly true, as the hon. Gentleman says, that the great bulk of weapons in the Middle East come from the United States and the Soviet Union. In replying to a Question on another occasion I made it clear that unilateral action by Her Majesty's Government would make little difference to the conflict, but we are watching very carefully the arms which are supplied to a very tense area.
Has my right hon. Friend offered any comment to the American and Russian Governments on the supply of Lance missiles to the Israeli Government and Scud missiles to the Egyptian Government, both of which are manufactured primarily to carry nuclear warheads?
It is not the custom, and I am not prepared, to make comments on particular proposals.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will report on the Minister of State's recent visit to the Gulf.
I visited Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait from 4th to 18th February. My aim was to see for myself the great developments which are taking place in that region. I had wide-ranging talks with the Heads of State and with senior Ministers in each country.
In view of the strong and historical ties between Great Britain and the Gulf States, may I welcome the fact that the Minister of State undertook to visit that area? Will he say a little more about his achievements during his visit? Did he, for example, encourage the Arab States to invest some of their surplus funds in productive rather than unproductive sectors in Great Britain?
The answer to the last part of that supplementary question is "Yes ". I did that. I discussed a wide range of issues, of which questions of investment. including investment in productive industry in Great Britain, were an important part. We also discussed other economic questions and commercial relations. There is a tremendous opportunity for an even greater expansion of British commerce and sale of technology in the area. These matters played an important part in our discussions, in addition to political questions.
In view of the recent deaths of British soldiers in this area, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the British Government will cease to give military support to what one can only describe as a dirty little réegime and a dirty little war in that area?
I cannot give an assurance in anything like the way in which my hon. Friend refers to it. I greatly regret— I am sure the House will share this expression of sympathy— the loss of lives in a recent helicopter accident in Oman. In Oman I was very impressed with the tremendous changes which have taken place in the last three or four years and the rapid economic and social advance. I cannot call it a dirty little State at all.
During his visit to the United Arab Emirates did the Minister of State become aware of the very real economic problems that that country is facing as a result of the massive cutbacks in oil production by the two predominantly British oil consortia? Was he able to reassure the UAE Government that these cut-backs are in no way a political conspiracy, as has been suggested, but are due entirely to commercial factors?
I had discussions on precisely this question and I assured the Petroleum Minister of the UAE that one principal reason for the substantial cutback was precisely the price levels for oil in the UAE, and I said it would be helpful if there were a reduction. Happily, subsequently to that the UAE announced a reduction in the sulphur premium.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any conveniently available figures showing how many members of the Diplomatic Service were born in Scotland.
In selecting members of the Diplomatic Service we are not influenced by where they were born, provided that they meet the usual nationality requirements. Figures showing their place of birth are not, I am afraid, readily available.
Although the Scottish National Party is absent from foreign affairs Questions, may we be told what the effect would be of their talk of a separate Scottish diplomatic service?
I think that such talk is sheer nonsense, and of course the consequence of such a move would be greatly to diminish the influence of Scots within the Diplomatic Corps. It is interesting to note that the proportion of recent recruits to the Diplomatic Service born in Scotland is about equal to Scotland's share of United Kingdom population, and the same applies to graduate entrants from Scottish universities over the past five years. If my hon. Friend looks at the Diplomatic List he will see that there are 10 pages of names beginning with "Mac ", and I think that even the Scottish Nationalists would be unhappy to see all those valuable Scots withdrawn from the Diplomatic Service.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to maintain and improve relations between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the People's Republic of China.
Her Majesty's Government attach the highest importance to maintaining and improving our relations with China. The Chinese Government have welcomed a proposal that I should go there next year and my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade will do so this month. We have made it clear that China's leaders will be welcome here and the Ministers for Foreign Trade and Public Health have accepted invitations in principle.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for that encouraging answer, which helps to dispel some of the unfortunate Press reports which have been circulating recently. Does he agree, however. that our relations with China are inevitably determined, in part, by the emphasis which the Chinese Government feel we put on our relations with the USSR? Will the Foreign Secretary ensure that he does not lose sight of the fact that almost the entire defence budget of the United Kingdom is now devoted towards NATO, against an ostensible threat of attack from the USSR? Wil he bear in mind our relations with the USSR when considering our relations with China?
I do not think that the fact that we are improving our rela- tions with the USSR should adversely affect our relations with China. That would be a foolish way for us to conduct our foreign affairs. Our trade, cultural exchanges and other relationships in connection with air matters with China are proceeding very satisfactorily, and it will be my endeavour to push them.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that our improved relationships with both China and the USSR can only advance the cause of people throughout the world? This applies particularly on the question of trade. At a time of economic stringency, should not every possible effort be made to deepen and intensify our trade with both those great countries?
I hope that on the question of aircraft sales with China, for example, the preliminary purchasing order for Concordes will certainly go ahead. We have also discussed the VC10 with the Chinese, although so far there is not very much interest in it. There are other matters in which our trade relations are improving and recent British missions to China have included groups interested in electrical, postal and telecommunications equipment. The Chinese have likewise sent here groups interested in other matters.
I very much welcome the prospect of the visit to China by both the Under-Secretary for Trade and the right hon. Gentleman. May I particularly urge them to press the case for British aircraft sales in that very large country, and, in particular, will the Foreign Secretary be willing to encourage joint venture manufacturing of aircraft with the Chinese in the People's Republic?
I can certainly give an undertaking in response to the first part of the supplementary question. I do not feel technically competent to reply to the second part. Perhaps the hon. Member will put down a Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.
South Africa (British Citizenship)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many inquiries about acquiring British citizenship were made at the offices of his Department in the Republic of South Africa in each of the years 1972, 1973 and 1974.
I am circulating in the Official Report details of the recorded figures for written inquiries. No records are maintained of the numbers of casual oral inquiries received.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that South African residents were given a very long time to choose whether they wanted to assume British nationality when South Africa left the Commonwealth? Will he ask his departmental staff in South Africa to undertake an investigation into the number of South Africans who are ultimately admitted into this country as visiting aliens, then get jobs, and then become British citizens? If black South Africans, Indians or Pakistanis tried to do it, they would very soon be found out.
I understand and take note of my hon. Friend's point. These applications must be considered on their individual merits, and we must continue to do that.
The following are the details :
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Gibraltar.
My right hon. Friend has no plans to do so at present.
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman's travel schedule is very full, but will the Minister of State assure the House that there is no wavering in the support of Her Majesty's Government for the people of Gibraltar? What progress, if any, is being made in negotiations with the Spanish Government about both the constitutional position of Gibraltar and the reopening of the land frontier with Spain?
Our views on all these matters have not changed. We established what I hope is a definitive statement of attitude on Gibraltar in the preamble to the 1969 Constitution Order, a statement established by the Labour Government at the time, endorsed by the Government which followed it, and maintained since then by us. That has been our policy since 1969 and it will continue to be so.
Does that mean that there can be no question of any change in the status of Gibraltar without the consent of the people of Gibraltar?
It means exactly what it says, which is that Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.
United Nations Resolution (Compensation For Expropriation)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the amendment on the question of compensation for expropriation introduced in the Second Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on 3rd December 1974 and co-sponsored by the United Kingdom still represents the position of Her Majesty's Government.
May we assume that that applies to North Sea oil licences?
Terms for Government participation are being negotiated with the companies concerned with North Sea oil, and we intend to proceed with that by agreement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the relations between the United Kingdom and Iran.
Our relations with this rapidly developing country are close and friendly, and are expanding considerably in all fields. We are allied to Iran in the Central Treaty Organisation.
The considerable increase in the export trade over the past year has been very gratifying, but is the Minister satisfied that his Department is doing everything it can to see that we get a proper share of this growing market. particularly since both the Americans and the French have recently signed very much larger commercial agreements? What plans has the Foreign Secretary for visiting Teheran in the near future? Will the Minister make a comment on the recent agreement between Iran and Iraq?
Responsibility for trade is basically a matter for the Secretary of State for Trade, although we co-operate very closely. When he was in Iran earlier in the year for meetings of the Joint Ministerial Economic Commission my right hon. Friend announced agreements involving future business for Britain worth about £500 million. That was a substantial amount. The figures for January this year— the last month for which figures are available— show that United Kingdom exports to Iran are at more than twice the level of just 12 months ago. As for future visits, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is certainly planning to visit Iran in April to attend a finance conference.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that although it is gratifying that we have improved economic and other relations with this important country, grave charges have been made in recent times about the observance of human rights in Iran? If it is the case that we have a much better relationship with Iran, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity on some appropriate occasion of expressing the concern of many people in this country about the protection of rights in Iran?
I have seen a report recently, which I think was published in the Sunday Times. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that report. We are not in a position to intercede on behalf of individuals, although there is no doubt that the Government of Iran and other Governments will know the attitude of Her Majesty's Government on the question of torture. We were active on this issue in promoting a resolution which went through the General Assembly at its last session.
In view of the good relations which the Minister says that this country so happily has with Iran, to what effect will he put those good relations in improving Iran's relations with Iraq and easing the suffering of the Kurds in the light of the way that the war seems to be moving with the great increase in the number of refugees and the human suffering? What will he be doing in a humanitarian respect as regards that problem?
It is difficult to know precisely what will be the consequences of the agreement which has been reached between Iraq and Iran. Her Majesty's Government welcome that agreement. I think that it is likely to improve relations in a number of spheres in that area. It is not for me to prophesy what its effect will be on the Kurds.
Uganda (British Assets)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he has taken to get transferred to the United Kingdom the assets in Uganda of the United Kingdom passport holders expelled in 1972.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest position regarding the provision of compensation for British properties expropriated in Uganda.
We have continued to press the Ugandan Government for compensation for British-owned assets which have been expropriated. President Amin has very recently said that Uganda is now prepared to discuss with us compensation for British Asians. We welcome this statement and have offered to send a delegation to Kampala for the purpose.
That is encouraging, but is it not outrageous that two and a half years after their expulsion thousands of these refugees are still struggling to make a new life in this country without the help of a penny of their assets in Uganda? Will the Government intensify their efforts and put every possible pressure on the Ugandan Government in these talks until a satisfactory solution is reached?
I accept the hon. Gentleman's judgment about the nature of the Ugandan Government's decision. I promise him that we shall continue to do all that we can to bring this matter to a speedy and happy solution, particularly on behalf of those people who came to Britain in virtual destitution, some of whom I am privileged to represent in my constituency.
Does my right hon. Friend have any plans to invite General Amin over here to discuss these matters with him and to confirm any new decorations which the General has conferred upon himself?
The Government have no plans to invite General Amin, nor, as I understand it, has General Amin any plans to invite himself.
Will the Minister make it perfectly clear that in terms of compensation the Government will tolerate no discrimination between Asians and whites expelled from Uganda? Is it likely that the Ugandan Government will be in a position to pay the considerable sums of compensation which are now being talked about?
On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the answer is a clear and obvious "Yes ". On the second part, President Amin has said on many occasions that his Government can pay the compensation when adequate terms are arrived at. I hope that his judgment on the economic viability of his nation is right. We shall continue to negotiate on the basis that they are able to pay when they are wining to do so.
Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is now considering in connection with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries ; and if he will make a statement on the effect of his Moscow consultations on this question.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on what preparations he is making for the forthcoming review conference on the non-proliferation treaty.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what preparations he is making for the forthcoming review conference on the non-proliferation treaty ; and if he will make a statement.
We are examining in depth the various ways in which the treaty might be implemented more effectively. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on 18th February, we hope that the Anglo-Soviet joint declaration on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons will give a constructive lead to the review conference.
Whilst supporting those proposals, will Britain give a lead and set an example by ending further nuclear tests and seeking the removal of the United States' Polaris bases from Britain?
The Government's position on this matter has been made clear. We want a multilateral nuclear disarmament as part of a general disarmament. We look forward to the total abolition of nuclear weapons. We are not in favour of taking unilateral action. As regards Polaris, we shall maintain its effectiveness. There is no conflict between that and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We have no intention of moving into a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons.
Is the Minister satisfied that the Soviet Union's concern to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is as sincere as Britain's concern? Will he give the House an indication of the steps that the Soviet Union is taking to ensure that we move towards a system of general multilateral disarmament?
This issue was fully discussed by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on their visit to Moscow. One of the most important declarations that came out of that visit was the declaration on this matter. We hope that it will lead to fruitful discussions between now and the NPT Conference. I have no reason to question the integrity of either of those who signed the agreement.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the major weakness of the NPT is that there are no safeguards against the nuclear supply to non-parties? Does it not defeat the whole object of the treaty if countries which have not renounced nuclear weapons have freer access to nuclear technology and materials than those countries which have renounced them? Is it not absurd that America can supply Egypt and Israel with nuclear reactors which are not subject to the safeguards contained in the NPT?
We believe that constraints on the spread of nuclear weapons would be enhanced if all nuclear supplying countries were to require safeguards on the export of nuclear materials and all equipment to non-nuclear States as stringent as those designed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. We have made many proposals with the International Atomic Energy Agency, designed to promote discussions. I hope that those discussions will lead to a greater effectiveness.
What representations did the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Prime Minister make to their Soviet hosts on Britain's concern at the Soviet Union's continuing escalation of the nuclear arms race and the fact that it is currently producing 5,000 tanks a year, approximately 10 times as many as the United States— all under the cloak of détente?
I think that the House will know from statements that have been made on the discussions that my right hon. Friends had on nuclear weapons, on MBFR and on the European Security Conference, that every attempt is being made that can be made by agreement to reduce the level of armaments.
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that this country has not fulfilled its obligations under Article 6 of the non-proliferation treaty, and that it would be better to go to the review conference in May with some kind of commitment?
I do not accept that we have not fulfilled our obligations. I think that we shall go before the review conference having been extremely active in this field, and strengthened by the deliberations that took place in Moscow. There is still some time before the review conference starts, but we shall certainly go into it in a positive mood.
The Minister, if I heard him aright, made a surprising unqualified statement. He appeared to me to say that the Government have no intention of moving to another generation of nuclear weapons irrespective of whether or not there is multilateral nuclear disarmament. Did I understand him aright? If so, is not this a new statement of policy with very dangerous implications?
I did not make any new statement of policy this afternoon.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his official visit to Portugal.
I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my replies to the hon. Members for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) and Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on 17th and 19th February respectively.— [Vol. 886, c. 309 and c. 1319.]
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said. In view of the serious events of the last two days, will he say whether any British lives or property have been affected by the recent outbreak of fighting? In the attempt to secure democratic elections in Portugal, was the advice of the Council of Europe sought? That, I understood was the right hon. Gentleman's objective a few weeks ago in advising the Portuguese interim Government on how a democratic election should be held.
In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, although information is not complete, I have no reports that any British subjects have been injured or even directly endangered as a result of what has happened. As to the Council of Europe's role, I am not up to date with that, but, if I may venture an opinion without intruding on Portuguese internal affairs, in view of my recent visit, I would utter the obvious remark that violence has no part in the proper democratic process. In view of my detailed discussions with some of the leaders of the Armed Forces movement who have such great influence in the country, I hope that they will use that influence to hold the ring, so that the democratic parties may conduct without interference the election which is due to take place on 12th April.
Did my right hon. Friend make clear that in no circumstances would the British Government be prepared to approve intervention by the American CIA to subvert and destabilise any progressive democratic regime in Portugal, as the CIA has done in Chile and numerous other countries? Will he also make that clear to Mr. Henry Kissinger, whose association with what happened in Chile is well known?
I do not think that there is much point in extending what happened in one country to what might happen in another without any evidence. I know that allegations have been made, but I am not aware of any evidence in that direction. My understanding of American policy is that it would not be directed to the ends suggested by my hon. Friend.
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there is great concern on the Opposition benches— I am sure he shares that concern— about the present situation in Portugal and the threats of violence to democratic movements and parties? Is he also aware that any contribution which he, as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, can properly make towards solving or helping to solve this problem will have the support of the entire House?
Yes, Sir. I am in touch with Dr. Mario Soares, the Foreign Minister of Portugal, and, although every country must conduct its own affairs, he knows that he has the support of the British Government in endeavouring to ensure that the elections to be held on 12th April are carried out fully and without fear.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on developments in Southern Africa since his visit to the Republic of South Africa.
I reported to the House on 14th January on my return from Africa. As regards Rhodesia, I regret to say that the recent detention of the Reverend Sithole has resulted in the discussions that had begun between the ANC and Mr. Smith's representatives being broken off. I am keeping in touch with the various Governments concerned about this and other issues.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the detention of the Reverend Sithole demonstrates either the superficiality or the ineffectuality of South African pressure on the Rhodesian régime, and that neither of these apartheid régimes understands the language of diplomacy? Should not my right hon. Friend be speaking to them in harsher tones if he expects them to come into accord with the rest of the democratic world?
There is contact between all the Governments of Southern Africa with each other and with the United Kingdom Government, and I am satisfied that there is a common view that the Reverend Sithole, having been detained, should be brought to trial. Indeed, the South African Government said that there should be an open trial in this case. We support that view.
Will the Foreign Secretary confirm recent reports that South African troops have been withdrawn from the front line in Rhodesia, and will he say to what extent South African troops are still present in Rhodesia?
My understanding, from a number of sources, is that South African police have been withdrawn from the frontier and are now concentrated in camps in Rhodesia. They are in a position of self-defence, but they are not going on so-called hunting expeditions, which is what was complained of at the time by African representatives.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if South Africa withdrew support from Rhodesia tomorrow the illegal régime would collapse? Will he bring pressure to bear on South Africa to ensure that the constitutional talks move forward to majority government in Rhodesia at an early stage?
I believe that the South African Government are fully aware of the consequences of the intransigence being shown by the Rhodesian régime. They must conduct their own affairs as they think best in this matter, but there is no doubt that Mr. Vorster has a strong desire to secure better relations with his neighbours in Southern Africa, and he knows that this will imply a number of changes in policy.
I agree entirely with what the Foreign Secretary has just said, but does he not agree that the impending independence of Mozambique creates a new situation with regard to Rhodesia's trading position and that Rhodesia will, from the moment of Mozambique's independence, be totally dependent on South Africa for its links with the outside world? Therefore what-evil- Mr. Vorster may do with regard to direct negotiations, the trading position of Rhodesia is something on which he will have to make a decision, and that is a matter which should surely be of concern to the United Kingdom?
Yes, Sir. If the hon. Gentleman is right, clearly the conclusions follow. We are not yet aware of the extent to which trading will still be permitted through Mozambique, however.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is still the policy of Her Majesty's Government to promote the international application of sanctions against the illegal Rhodesian régime.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Committee of the European Coal and Steel Community recently approved the grant of financial aid to a research project in which the Rhodesian Iron and Steel Corporation would participate? Will he ensure, when this matter is further discussed tomorrow in Brussels by the research project sub-committee, that the British policy of sanctions is properly represented and adhered to?
I understand that the International Pig Iron Secretariat has drawn up a revised proposal in which Rhodesia is not involved. I hope that that is true, because I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that there should be no en-encouragement of EEC countries to trade with Rhodesia. At my instigation the European Community set up a committee of experts six months ago to try to block the loopholes.
Which countries in the Common Market are concerned in sanctions-busting in relation to Rhodesia, and what action is being taken against them. apart from the committee which is considering it?
The Customs experts of the Nine, again at my suggestion, met at the end of last year to pool their experience, and a number of countries are co-operating effectively in investigating a number of suspected breaches of sanctions. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not carry his opposition to the EEC to the point of suggesting that it is ineffective for us to use our weight in the EEC to make sanctions effective. That is what we are doing at the moment, and we are doing it much more effectively than we did previously.
At my suggestion.
Very good. That is co-operation.
New Zealand (Foreign Minister)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will seek to have a meeting with the New Zealand Foreign Minister.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Rowling here in London.
Will the Secretary of State confirm the glad tidings which were reported this morning about the future of New Zealand and its relations with the Community? Will he say whether there were any discussions on the position as it affects New Zealand after 1980, or whether it will be subject to review in 1980?
It will be subject to review again before 1980. I have no doubt from the nature of the discussions yesterday that satisfactory arrangements will continue to be made.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further steps he is taking to assist bringing about a peaceful solution to the Turkish/Cypriot situation ; and if he will make a statement.
The situation in Cyprus continues to cause much concern. We are playing an active part in the Security Council's deliberations in New York, which I hope will result in the renewal of the intercommunal talks. A statement on Cyprus was made yesterday by the European Community meeting in Dublin, and last week I had conversations with the American Secretary of State, who is undertaking discussions on Cyprus also during his present Middle East visit.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for that reply. I think he will agree that there is a danger of further military engagements so long as the present situation continues. What is the risk to Nicosia Airport at present, and what is the Government's intention in regard to the base at Dhekelia?
The assurance of the future of Nicosia Airport is one of the issues which we have pressed Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash to undertake. If we can get the intercommunal talks resumed, we have asked them to give the matter a high priority. As regards Dhekelia, our position has been made clear a number of times. It is not part.of the Republic of Cyprus. It is a sovereign base.
We are glad that there is the prospect of further progress for discussions. However, will the right hon. Gentleman do all he can to help British residents and British wives of Greek Cypriot citizens, who are suffering considerable hardship?
I feel that the position of former British residents is extremely unsatisfactory in many ways. We have tried to find a number of openings to pursue, but so far we have not been very successful. I am open to any suggestion from any hon. Member or others as to how we can follow up the matter.
New Zealand And Australia
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia about Great Britain's future within the EEC.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia about Great Britain's future within the EEC.
During their visits to this country, in December 1974 and February 1975 respectively, the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand were given a full account of our renegotiation aims.
Does my right hon. Friend feel that the Prime Ministers will share the satisfaction of most of us at the considerable success achieved in the renegotiation of the treaty? Will he comment on the prospects for New Zealand in the 1980s, and may we have some sort of reassurance on that issue?
Both Prime Ministers have properly made it clear that the renegotiation of our terms of entry is a matter for the British Government, Parliament and the people of this country. Although there have been references in the Press about their view, I must point out that they have not given me any official indication of their view on these matters.
No— preserving the constitutional position. As regards the situation of New Zealand after 1980, I refer my hon. Friend to my remarks a few moments ago. That matter will come up again for discussion. When he reads the terms of the declaration issued yesterday, he will see that there is the intention that New Zealand, while continuing to diversify her trade, should be able to maintain close links with this country.
In view of Mr. Trudeau's recent remarks, are not the Prime Ministers of the three old Commonwealth nations now unanimous in the view that they would prefer to see Britain remain a full member of the Community? Did the Foreign Secretary give to the Prime Ministers an undertaking that he and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will campaign to ensure that a result is achieved which those old Commonwealth countries want to see.
The hon. Gentleman can interpret their views as he thinks fit, but it is for them and not for me to give their views on this subject. He will no doubt put on them his own interpretation. As for the second part of the question, they would have regarded it as counterproductive to have made such a request and would not have had any kind of reply.
Am I not right in believing that, internationally, almost the only opposition to our entry comes from Russian and the Communist bloc?
I do not know about those countries, but I seem to have heard complaints nearer at home.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that exports last year from Britain to the old Commonwealth were higher per head of population? Will he do what he can to see that they remain our best customers?
I hope that is true. If so, it would show that, whatever the merits or demerits of the EEC, our membership has not prevented that kind of expansion.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the renegotiations of the terms of United Kingdom membership of the EEC.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the EEC renegotiation objectives outlined in his statement to the Council of Ministers on 1st April 1974 have yet been achieved.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the renegotiations on the EEC.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the summit meeting of EEC member countries in Dublin in March.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further progress report on the negotiations which he is conducting on British membership of the EEC.
Outstanding renegotiation matters were discussed at the Council of Ministers meeting on 3rd-4th March and at the Heads of Government meeting in Dublin on 10th-11th March. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making a statement on the outcome of the Dublin meeting later this afternoon.
In the meantime, may 1 remind the right hon. Gentleman of the passage in Labour's manifesto and the White Paper that the taxes which form the so-called own resources" of the Community are unacceptable to the Government? Will he assist us by measuring the terms in the manifesto against the terms agreed by saying whether the taxes arising from, say, imported foodstuffs into Britain will belong to Britain or to the Common Market?
They will belong to the Common Market.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that perhaps the most important single aspect of the objectives set out in his speech to the Council of Ministers, which were the objectives set out in the Labour Party manifesto, refer to this country's right to plan our internal affairs in a Socialist direction? Will he take this opportunity of scotching the rumour that there is anything whatever in the membership of the Common Market to prevent a Labour Government carrying out the sort of measures included in the Industry Bill which is now before a Standing Committee?
I have no intimation at all from the Commission of any difficulties in carrying out the proposals included in the Labour Party's manifesto on the National Enterprise Board or the Bill which is now before the House.
Will the Foreign Secretary say a little more about the Community's attitude towards regional policies? Does he feel that the Commission, in light of the renegotiation, is striking a reasonable balance between the encouragement of national policies and restraining the auction in regional aids which would be damaging to everybody?
Subject to the view of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, this matter will be debated. I hope that we shall have a full debate in order to remove a number of misapprehensions which are being spread. Having taken a very active part in the discussions which led up to the issue of the Commission document, I believe that it preserves a proper balance between the right of individual nations to take action to avoid unemployment in development areas and any overbidding which can result from an auction, perhaps, by the better-off nations to secure industries in regions where we would not wish them to go.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that now the charade of renegotiation is over and we are about to enter a referendum campaign, he should recommend that his civil servants be given paid leave of absence similar to that which has been given to Sir Christopher Soames and Mr. George Thomson, who are now propagandising on behalf of the EEC? Will he assure the House that a reply will be forthcoming fairly soon to the letter written by my hon. Friends and myself on the subject of the relationship between the EEC and the Industry Bill?
On the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I know that we shall see a number of strange bedfellows, but I am surprised that he should associate himself with editorials in the Daily Mail. The answer to the second part of the supplementary question is that I hope that there will be a reply fairly soon.
Will the Foreign Secretary remind his colleagues that "Scotch" and "Welsh" are words which have a different significance for many of us? I do not know whether there is a word for Ulster. Will he accept that in Scotland there is deep disappointment that he has done nothing to change the common fisheries policy which will apply in 1982? What hope does he hold out for our fishermen to retain control of the right to fish in their own waters, when EEC fleets are allowed to mop them dry, as has happened around their own coasts?
On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I am always careful, if ever I use the word, to put in the letter "c ", mak- ing it "welch "— and I would not dream of using the word "scotch" with a "ch" or an "s ". I only drink it.As regards the fisheries dispute, I have written to the hon. Gentleman's colleague about it, and I shall be glad to discuss it further at any time.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what would be the consequences for our trading position if, in spite of what appear to have been successful negotiations, we ever left the Community? Should we not have to embark on a series of fresh negotiations with a large number of countries— not only the EEC and EFTA but the Lomé countries, and others? Might not those negotiations take a considerable time, during which British industry would remain in a state of uncertainty?
In answer to a supplementary question I would not wish to embark on the thorny path which the hon. Gentleman has invited me to tread. As I said earlier, clearly it would be a traumatic experience if we had to de-negotiate our way out, having renegotiated our way in.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that no decisions were taken in Brussels on Commission documents concerning the stocktaking of the common agricultural policy and, therefore, that the renegotiation of the CAP has been omitted from these renegotiations?
In answer to the first part of my right hon. Friend's question, Yes, Sir ". In answer to the second part, "No, Sir ". There has been a substantial change in the agricultural policy which most people, except my right hon. Friend, recognise.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the renegotiation of the terms on which the United Kingdom entered the EEC has now been completed.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what matters now remain to be renegotiated with the European Community.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what issues are still outstanding in the renegotiation of the terms of entry to the EEC.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he hopes to complete the renegotiations with the EEC.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on which matters of importance remain outstanding in the EEC negotiations.
As a result of the meeting of Heads of Government in Dublin which concluded yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I are satisfied that we have now taken the issues which have been under negotiation since last April as far as possible, and there are no other issues that we intend to raise in advance of the referendum.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House will want an early opportunity to congratulate him and his colleagues on their achievement and success?
That was so surprising that I could not believe that my right hon. Friend had reached the end of his supplementary question. I am grateful to him.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that if Britain withdraws from the Common Market it will be likely to lead to rising and heavy unemployment in Scotland?
These are issues which are better for debate than for answers to supplementary questions. They are all complicated matters, and I am trying to approach them in a manner which will satisfy Britain's interests and not the interests of those who have particular views one way or the other.
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on reaching agreement yesterday with our partners in Dublin? Is not some tribute also due to our Community partners for showing such a cooperative attitude— especially our Socialist comrades, the Federal German Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands and Denmark, for showing us such solidarity?
It seems as though the electioneering season has started rather early. As regards the attitude of our Community partners, there was no doubt that there was a very strong desire on their part to ensure that, so far as they were able, the United Kingdom should remain a part of the Community. There is no doubt that this actuated their replies to the requests that we have made during the past 12 months— and that should weigh with disinterested people when they are making up their minds on this issue.
As one of the objectives of the Government's renegotiation, as set out in the Labour Party manifesto, was to ensure the retention by Parliament of the powers that we need to pursue effective regional, industrial and fiscal policies, and as the power of decision over State aids is subject to the provisions of the treaties of Rome and Paris, if the negotiations have succeeded will those treaties be amended accordingly?
No, Sir. I am satisfied that the practice of the British Government in regard to industrial policies and the curing of unemployment will not be jeopardised by the agreements that we have made.
In spite of what my right hon. Friend said about fiscal and employment policies, will he confirm that if this country remains a member of the Community we shall be comitted to economic and monetary union? If so, how can he guarantee what he said to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten)?
There are a number of matters to which we are committed, such as universal disarmament, but I do not expect it to arrive tomorrow. The same is true of economic and monetary union—
It is no use some of my right hon. and hon. Friends fighting these old battles over and over again. I hope that we shall not get excited about it. Those who do not want to accept it will not accept it—[AN HON. MEMBER : "he Tories will."] I do not care who does and who does not. I am only giving my best judgment to the House. That judgment, whether or not it is accepted, is that economic and monetary union is unlikely to come for many years, and that when it comes it will only be when all the members of the Community are ready to adopt it.
The right hon. Gentleman was careful to say that there were no new matters which the Government propose to raise before the referendum. Does not this underline the fact that renegotiation is not a process with a certain begin ning date and a certain ending date but a continuing factor in our membership? Have not the Govenrment given notice that they propose thereafter to pursue the question of the steel policy of the EEC?
That is partly true and partly not. In the Labour Party manifesto, which was voted on by the country, we set out a number of issues on which we wished to have some satisfaction and some changes. Those changes have been carried as far as we think it is possible and proper to carry them. After the British people have taken the decision, if we are out, that is the end of it— certainly the end of any further negotiations — but, if we are in, there will be a number of matters on which we shall continue to try to fight for and support British interests as against everyone else's, but looking at the situation in the light of the general interests of Europe as a whole.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that on 7th December the Prime Minister said that the question of steel would be included in the renegotiations? What progress was made on this matter?
At the Council of Ministers, I intimated that if the referendum were decided in such a way that Britain remained a member we should wish to pursue the problems concerning steel investment and to review other problems. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reinforced what I said at the Council of Foreign Ministers.
Does not all that the right hon. Gentleman has said with great robustness today demonstrate the essential flexibility and stability of the Community to the needs of its members? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that he has succeeded— we are glad about it — in obtaining the accommodation of the Community to the needs of Britain, as we on the Opposition benches always expected and felt confident that we would?
There is no doubt that during the course of the past 12 months a number of changes have been made in the policies of the Community, as a result of our presence there and of the activities of a number of Ministers. I believe that it has become a more outward-looking body than it was before. In relation to the developing countries, for example, it is embarking upon new policies which are bound to help the developing world.
My right hon. Friend has confirmed that the renegotiations are now complete. Will he give us his personal view on the question whether the terms of the manifesto on which Government supporters fought the General Election have been met?
I certainly hope to join the Prime Minister in expressing a view to the Cabinet. That is the first place in which it should be put.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that nothing in what he has negotiated about in recent months will have the slightest effect on the extent to which we are governed and our policies are controlled from Brussels?
I do not think that it will have much effect, but I think it is quite clear that the United Kingdom Government will be able to maintain control over their own basic affairs.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster indicated to you that he wishes to answer Question No. 60?
Eec (European Council Meeting)
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the meeting of the European Council of the Heads of Government of the European Community held in Dublin on 10th and 11th March at the invitation of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.The Council dealt with six main questions : the outstanding renegotiation issues of a correcting mechanism for the Community budget and access after 1977 for New Zealand dairy products ; the economic situation in the Community ; energy ; the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe ; Cyprus ; and the British Government's proposals on the subject of raw material and food supplies, which we shall, of course, also be discussing at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Jamaica. The Council agreed statements on the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe ; energy ; Cyprus ; and imports of New Zealand dairy products ; and, after the meeting, Mr. Cosgrave made a statement on the budget correcting mechanism. Copies of these documents have been placed in the Library and will. with permission, be published in the Official Report as an annex to this statement. I also supplemented what my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary had said at the Foreign Ministers' Council in Brussels on 3rd March on the subject of steel. The Council had a long discussion about the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. We welcomed the progress that had already been made in Geneva and the hopes for sufficient further progress to be made from now on to enable the conference to be concluded by a meeting to be held at an early date at Heads of Government level. On energy the Council decided that preparatory work for the forthcoming International Energy Conference of Consumers and Producers should be carried out by a new high-level Community committee reporting to the Council of Ministers, and that the European Council itself should meet again at the appro- priate moment to prepare for this conference. In the discussion on the supply of raw materials and food I outlined to the Council the Government's general approach to the need for further cooperation between developed and developing countries in respect of supplies and prices of raw materials and primary commodities. Our proposals carry further the ideas which my right hon. Friend and I discussed with President Ford and Secretary Kissinger and will build on both the World Food Council decisions and the stabilisation proposals of the Lome convention. I made clear to the other Heads of Government that we hope to develop further the initiative we have taken when we attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting. On renegotiation, we reached agreement on the budget correcting mechanism and on access and pricing provision for New Zealand dairy produce. Our agreement on the correcting mechanism for the budget was based on the proposals made by the Commission. I do not need to take the time of the House with a description of the Commission's proposals, since they were the subject of a debate in this House on 27th February. Certain suggestions made this week for modifying those proposals— suggestions which would have had the effect of making them less favourable to us— were not accepted. On the other hand, we got them improved. The House will be able to study the changes in the documents which are being circulated in the Official Report. The two main changes were on the operation of the balance of payments criterion and on the proposed limits on refunds, two issues which were strongly urged on the Government in the debate by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Under the balance of payments criterion proposed by the Commission, a member State would have ceased to be eligible for a budget refund if it had run a balance of payments surplus on average for three years. This criterion was modified so that even if a country has a balance of payments surplus on average over three years it can continue to qualify for a refund related to its VAT contribution, provided that it meets the other criteria. On the limits on refund, the Council agreed to drop the Commission's proposal that refunds should be limited to two-thirds of the amount by which a country's share of the budgetary contribution exceeded its share of the Community's GNP. We got rid of the two-thirds limitation. Instead, the Council agreed upon a ceiling of 250 million units of account on the amount of a refund to any qualifying country in any single year. This would give a refund at current exchange rates of up to about £125 million in any year to a member State that qualifies. It was also agreed that if and when the total Community budget came to exceed 8,000 million units of account, the ceiling from then on should be 3 per cent. of the budget total. The arrangements which the Community has now agreed would, if Britain remains a member of the EEC, give us an assurance of a repayment of hard cash if we found ourselves in the future paying an unfair share of the Community budget. On New Zealand dairy products, the Heads of Government were concerned not with the detailed arrangements for access after 1977 but with laying down the political guidelines on which the decisions on these matters are to be prepared. These represent a substantial improvement on the existing protocol. First, it was agreed that annual imports of butter for the first three years after 1977— from 1978 to 1980 — may remain close to deliveries in 1974 and 1975. The Heads of Government accepted what had been strongly urged upon us by the New Zealand Government— the need for periodic review of the prices received by New Zealand— and provided for these to be adjusted as necessary to take account, among other things, of future developments in the levels of Community intervention prices. In the existing protocol signed in 1972 the special arrangements for cheese expire altogether after 1977, but it is now accepted that this creates problems which, in the words of our agreement yesterday, will be examined by the Community with due urgency. In other words, we have now kept open the option for some continuing imports of New Zealand cheese after 1977 when they were due to cease under the 1971 terms. The Commission has been invited to bring forward its report for the review of the protocol together with the necessary proposals. I would expect this to be done during the summer. I made clear to the other members of the Council that, with these agreements on the budget and on New Zealand, we had now taken our discussions within the Community on renegotiation as far as they could go. The Cabinet will shortly be reviewing what has been achieved over the last year in the renegotiation as a whole on the basis of the objectives set out in our party manifestos of February and October last year. I expect to announce the Government's decision to Parliament before the Easter Recess.
The Prime Minister has made a long and complicated statement and we shall need to look at the documents involved and consider them.I should like to put two points to the right hon. Gentleman. First, will he confirm that he received maximum cooperation and good will from all the other Heads of Government at Dublin, indicating their capacity to be flexible within the treaty and their desire to help him and Britain in tackling the problems involved? Secondly, will he now use his personal authority to recommend that we stay in Europe?
I agree with the right hon. Lady that the House will need to study these somewhat complicated documents before forming a view of the provisions that I have briefly summarised this afternoon.The right hon. Lady asked whether I could confirm that we received the maximum co-operation and good will. I can certainly confirm that. It was an extremely friendly and constructive conference. Despite forecasts or headlines there was no confrontation. There was a real desire to solve these problems. But these problems would never have been brought forward for decision if we had not insisted on renegotiation a year ago. Certainly the Heads of Government showed every desire to help. On the right hon. Lady's second question, the Government's decision will be made before Easter. The recommendation on which the Cabinet decides, whether to stay in or to come out of the Community—
What is the Prime Minister's view?
— will be announced to Parliament, I expect, before Easter.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is on this side of the House a great deal of support for what he and my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary have achieved?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I should like to make it clear, in case of any misunderstanding, that in the renegotiations, apart from the other major issues which we discussed, we were dealing in the main with only two questions. I have said that I enlarged on my right hon. Friend's statement on steel. The other items had been taken as far as they could go—for good or ill, which is for every hon. Member and the country to decide—in meetings before the Dublin meeting as a result of the patient and constructive negotiations of my right hon. Friend.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us are delighted that after a period of high drama and calculated suspense the right hon. Gentleman has brought back exactly what we always expected, namely, terms that he could enthusiastically recommend to his Cabinet colleagues? May we wish him well in trying to convert even those of his colleagues who, whatever the terms, are anti-European? May we await the moment when he will recommend to the British people their acceptance of our stay in Europe? But may we just remind him that if we have to pay a bill of £8 million every time the Government cannot have a collective Cabinet view it will get rather expensive.
The right hon. Gentleman has shown over the years that his desire was to be in Europe regardless of the terms. He just dismissed the terms. He opposed what we said in our two manifestos about the need to renegotiate the terms, which we regarded as profoundly unsatisfactory and on which we have made considerable progress.I thought that I heard the right hon. Gentleman say in the October election, though it may have been in February, that if the Labour Government won the election he would give co-operation and support in the referendum. I shall be looking at last night's Division lists a little later.
Has the EEC Council yet agreed to a fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy?
I think that my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary dealt with that this afternoon.
There seem to be two views about that.The stocktaking and the fundamental review called for by the Federal German Chancellor at the December Summit in Paris, and strongly supported by me, is taking place. Already, as a result of our renegotiation over the past year, fundamental changes have taken place. As a result of our saying that we could not go on with such things as the beef mountain, there have been big changes. I cannot, and shall not, say that the fundamental review has been completed, because that is not so.
Will the Prime Minister clarify whether within the corrective mechanism any compensation becoming due would be limited to the extent of the VAT contribution?
I thought that I had explained that. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, with his expert knowledge of the subject, will want to study the documents. There is a limit of 250 million units of account in respect of a country if certain qualifications are fulfilled. I said in my statement that we have had the Commission proposals for the balance of payment deficit requirements changed so that if, after three years, there has been a surplus on a moving average, there will be a limit to the refund.
My right hon. Friend referred to world aid. Will he confirm that the negotiations on aid and the signing of the convention at Lome represent a substantial advance in principle towards helping the hungry nations, and in that respect is greater than anything done by the Soviet Union or the United States of America?
Before I answer that question, may I make it clear, in case I did not make it clear to the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies), that duties and levies, as well as VAT, are taken into account in the computation of what is due for refund.Both in the House and elsewhere I have paid tribute to what was achieved in the Lome Convention, not only on aid but on the beginning of a significant scheme for stabilisation of the prices of primary commodities, as an incentive to help primary producers all over the world to maintain production and avoid boom and bust, both for world food and for essential raw materials, feeding stuffs and fertilisers. Her Majesty's Government have taken an initative in Washington to build on the World Food Council and on other actions which we and others have taken. The matter will be pursued in Jamaica.
In spite of the Wilson fan club which is building up on this side of the House, will the Prime Minister set a good example by referring to the Common Market and not to Europe? Like so many distinguished people on this side of the House, he seems to confuse the two.Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to re-read the Labour Party election manifesto, which I have here, and then to state clearly where the renegotiations fall short of the objectives set out in the manifesto, so that the electorate may know how far they can rely on the pledges given by the Labour Party at a General Election?
I hope that I always use the correct phraseology here. I do not use the word "Europe" to cover the area of the Nine. Europe goes much further, to the north, south and east of the Nine. I think that today I have used the phrase "the European Community ". I hope that that is all right.I am glad that the hon. Gentleman carries the Labour Party manifesto around with him, as I do. I welcome his ambition to join me as the custodian of the manifesto. Not only do I know it, I am sure, as well as he does, but my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has at all times stressed in the negotiations the exact wording. It is now for all of us and for the country to decide how far the manifesto terms have been achieved. As to 100 per cent., they obviously have not. I have referred to the CAP. But we must all form our own views as to how far the terms have been achieved. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will quarrel with my statement that but for the renegotiation and the terms I have announced we should still be stuck with the totally inadequate terms that the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition and her colleagues fell over themselves to accept. As far as I know, she has not dissociated herself in this respect from the actions of the Government of which she was a member at the time.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the kernel of the common agricultural policy problem was stated in the manifesto specifically to be the removal of food taxes and those matters which impeded trade with the Third World? Has the failure on that front been a failure in the renegotiations, or was there no attempt to remove the various levies and taxes?
We have tried to make the maximum progress on this matter. The manifesto criticised the way in which the CAP had been constructed. It went on to refer to the need for continuing access of food from outside sources. My hon. Friend will be delighted with the fact, although some people in this country seem to get rather bored by the matter, that we made such an issue of the entry of New Zealand products into this country, which had been thrown away by the previous Government.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the Dublin meeting had all the reality of wrestling on television, and that the contestants, despite the grunts and cries of pain, did not intend to do any real damage to each other, and that, in fact, the real fight is the contestants versus the spectators? Does he accept that a great deal of regret will be felt in Scotland at the fact that nothing has apparently been achieved on such matters as fishing, energy and steel? Will he accept that whatever his partners in the Common Market are, the very last thing they are are Socialist comrades?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his concern on the latter point. If his idea of negotiations is that they should be a slogging match on television, with grunts, groans, black eyes and so on, that is not my idea of negotiation. The hon. Gentleman had every opportunity for seeing a very succesful exhibition of real, hard athletic struggle when Scotland won their recent match against Wales.
Can my right hon. Friend say at this juncture whether all our Commonwealth partners agree with what has so far been achieved? Will he say whether he is satisfied that the Industry Bill which is before the House can be implemented within the terms so far renegotiated? Will he further say what the exact timetable is now? May we be assured that there will be a debate on the Government's recommendation before the legislation on the referendum is introduced, since if the House agrees to that there will be no need for the referendum?
Knowing that my hon. Friend, as always, is trying to be utterly helpful in all these matters, I know that he will be glad to know that there has been this morning— I heard on the radio— a warm welcome to the agreement by the Prime Minister of New Zealand. He is rightly reserving the right to study the exact details, particularly so far as the matters to which he attaches importance are concerned— the question of the price adjustments and the periodic reviews of prices.Concerning the Industry Bill— and here I would also include anxieties about steel and the regions, because these are very much manifesto points— we have been into these matters very thoroughly. I did this, indeed, myself last night, with the President of the Commission, and my right hon. Friend was with me. My hon. Friend will be aware— whether or not it excites him I do not know— that there is nothing in the Community whatsoever to limit the ability of a national Government to take industries into public ownership. I cannot find any evidence that what is intended, by at any rate a majority in the House, in the Industry Bill would be impeded at all by the Community. Whether in private or in public industry, there is always the question of international competition and taking unfair advantage, but that is a matter on which we had very strict regulation in EFTA, and we have also strict regulation of the matter in GATT. Concerning the timetable, I thought I had indicated that we hope to make a statement before Easter on the Government's recommendation to the country when the Cabinet has so decided. I know that my hon. Friend will co-operate to the full in helping to get the Referendum Bill through so that the issue on which the Government fought the election— a free decision by the British people— can take place as quickly as possible.
Did the Prime Minister raise in Dublin the question of the representation of Wales and Scotland in the institutions of the EEC?
That was not discussed in these discussions.
Does the Prime Minister recall that one of the fundamental objectives of the renegotiation was the retention by Parliament of policy and power over the British economy? Will he tell the House in what particular regard these have now been improved on in the terms negotiated by the right hon Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath)?
There will certainly be opportunity to go into these matters in detail when the Cabinet makes its recommendation. But I would remind my hon. Friend that in that particular section of the manifesto there was reference particularly to the test case and fiscal matters. So far as this is concerned, we have not needed to improve things very much, except, concerning fiscal matters, that I do not believe that the harmonisation of VAT, about which many of us were anxious, is now a real threat to us, Parliament or anyone else.The other issues were regional, on which we have now got a very significant advance on what was negotiated by the Conservative Party, specifically and in terms. The third matter was industrial questions. I gave notice many months ago that I was particularly interested in steel here, because the result of the previous Conservative Government's repeal of Section 15 of the Iron and Steel Act is capable of creating a total shambles in the steel industry. That is why my right hon. Friend raised this matter last week, and I gave him full and detailed support yesterday.
As for the time being collective responsibility has been suspended as a feature of our system of Government, does the Prime Minister feel free to tell the House whether or not he supports our continued membership of the EEC?
So far the Cabinet has not taken a decision. Therefore, there is nothing on this question. It is the usual thing for the Cabinet to decide these things and then to inform the House. It is true that there is very serious concern about collective responsibility, and the Conservative Party is now throwing over everything it did when in office, and no one at the time had the guts to dissociate himself from the policy the Conservatives now condemn.
These are obviously matters for debate.
Following are the statements :
The Heads of Government reaffirmed the determination of the Nine to pursue and develop their policy of detente and cooperation in Europe.
They expressed the hope that this policy will encourage ever-increasing understanding and trust among peoples, which is the basis for a genuine improvement of the political climate on the continent. This objective will find particular expression in the development of relations between states and peoples in which an important part should be played by the individual.
In this context, the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe, and the implementation of its decisions, are destined to play an important part.
The Heads of Government expressed their satisfaction with the constructive rôle which, due to their concerted diplomacy and the common positions they have adopted, the Nine have been able to play in the course of this conference, which is closely related to the interests of the European Community.
The Heads of Government reviewed the development of the work which is currently under way in Geneva: they noted that substantial progress had already been made, but also that some important points remained to be settled.
They pronounced themselves in favour of as rapid a conclusion as possible to this work. To this end, they intend to continue and intensify their efforts to seek, in an open and constructive spirit, positive solutions to the problems which are still under discussion or outstanding.
The Heads of Government hope that all participating states will as they have decided to do themselves, make every effort necessary to obtain balanced and satisfactory results on all the subjects on the agenda. This would make it possible to envisage the conclusion of the conference at an early date and at the highest level.
The Heads of Government, meeting in Council in Dublin, examined the problems connected with the International Energy Conference. They agreed that the Community should undertake intensive preparation for this conference without delay. Preparation will involve listing the various problems, concerning both matters specifically relating to energy and directly connected questions concerning economics, finance and the developing countries. to be dealt with at the conference and the preparatory meeting for it. Preparatory work will also attempt to define the joint responses to be made depending on the positions adopted by the other participants at the conference.
The preparatory work will be carried out under the authority of the Council (Foreign Affairs) by a high-level ad hoc committee composed of representatives of the member States and the Commission. It will be based on the inventory, to be drawn up by the Commission, of problems to be dealt with at the conference and the preparatory meeting, any proposals which the Commission submits to the Council on these problems and suggestions and requests made by the member States.
The Council will take the appropriate decisions on this basis and in particular will determine the content of and arrangements for the dialogue to be conducted with the other consumer and producer countries.
The Council has agreed to meet at the level of Heads of Government in good time to prepare for the conference.
The Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers, recalling the statement issued by the Foreign Ministers following their meeting in Dublin on 13th February, hope that in the context of the discussions currently being held at the United Nations in New York, there will be an early resumption of negotiations on the question of Cyprus. The Nine will of course continue to keep in close touch with developments as regards the situation in Cyprus.
D. New Zealand dairy product imports
The Heads of Government, meeting in Council at Dublin the 10th March, underline the importance which they attach to Protocol 18 of the Act of Accession, as regards the relations of the Community with New Zealand, a traditional supplier of dairy products to a substantial part of the enlarged Community.
They invite the Commission to present a report in order to prepare the review provided for in Article 5 of the Protocol and to submit as soon as practicable a proposal for the maintenance after 31st December 1977 of special import arrangements as referred to in that Article. They observe that the institutions of the Community have already carried out certain price adjustments in the framework of the Protocol. In the same spirit, the Community, which remains attached to a fair implementation of the Protocol is ready to review periodically and as necessary to adjust the prices having regard to the supply and demand developments in the major producing and consuming countries of the world, and also to the level and evolution of prices in the Community— including intervention prices — and in New Zealand, taking moreover into account cost developments in New Zealand and trends in freight charges.
As regards the annual quantities to be established by the Community institutions in the framework of the special arrangements after 1977. these should not deprive New Zealand of outlets which are essential for it. Thus for the period up to 1980, these annual quantities depending upon future market developments, could remain close to effective deliveries under Protocol 18 in 1974 and the quantities currently envisaged by New Zealand for 1975.
They note that Protocol 18 provides that the exceptional arrangements for the import of cheese cannot be maintained after 31st December 1977. and that this situation and the problems which may arise from it will be given due attention with appropriate urgency, taking into account also the considerations in the following paragraphs.
The Heads of Government note, moreover, that New Zealand and the Community together provide the major part of world exports of dairy products. They, therefore, express the wish that, in the same spirit with which the Community approaches the application of Protocol 18, an ever closer co-operation be developed between the institutions of the Community and the New Zealand authorities with the objective of promoting in their mutual interest an orderly operation of world markets. Such a co-operation, apart from its intrinsic value, should provide a basis from which to achieve, in a wider framework, the conclusion of an effective world agreement such as is envisaged in Protocol 18.
E. Budget Correcting Mechanism
The Council agrees on the correcting mechanism outlined by the Commission in its communication entitled "The Unacceptable Situation and the Correcting Mechanism "with the following modifications :
Post Office Giro
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the Post Office Giro.When my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General announced on 31st July last that the trustee savings banks were to be empowered to develop comprehensive personal banking services along the lines recommended by the Page Committee, he also referred to the importance which the Government attach to the growth of the National Giro and said that we were ready in principle to see a comparable extension in Giro's banking facilities. I can now inform the House that, after considering proposals put forward by the Post Office at my invitation, the Government have agreed to a number of measures which are designed to set Giro on a surer foundation by enabling it to provide a more complete banking service for its personal and corporate customers, by seeing that there is fair competition for Government business, and by restructuring its capital to accord with its needs. Giro will therefore be authorised to offer facilities for personal loans and overdrafts, overdrafts for business customers, local authorities and nationalised industries, and certain other related services. These new facilities will be introduced on a phased basis. Their precise timing and scope will be decided by the Post Office in consultation with the Government and will be subject to the normal controls exercised by the monetary authorities. The Government are also taking steps to ensure that there is fair treatment for Goverment money transfer business as between Giro and the services offered by the Paymaster-General's Office and the banks. Departments should use the service which meets their needs most efficiently and economically, but in making their choice they must take account of all available facilities and their associated costs and assess competing bids on a footing of full equality. The Government have further agreed to provide Giro with a capital structure better suited to its present and future needs and earning capacity. They will accordingly seek powers to effect a capital reconstruction involving a partial write-off of the debt incurred by the Post Office to finance past Giro deficits and the conversion of part of the remaining Giro debt into public dividend capital, a form of equity that will give the service greater flexibility and align its capital more closely with that of its competitors in the private sector. The Government will require an adequate return on this investment and will at the appropriate time agree with the Post Office a new financial objective for Giro. It is intended that the necessary legislation will be brought forward early in the next Session, preceded by a White Paper setting out the agreed plans for Giro's future in more detail.
Ten years ago the right hon. Member told the House that his calculations for Giro indicated an 8 per cent. return in the long run with as few as 1¼ million accounts and an average balance of £100 to £150. He went on to describe these figures as very cautious. I am sure that the whole House will understand that this afternoon he has at least maintained intact his reputation for crass financial misjudgment. In today's statement we have had no forecasts, no quantifications of capital write-off and an unlimited extension of services for which no known demand exists. All that we do know is that last year—
Order. It is not in accordance with the custom of the House that a statement should be followed by a counter-statement. The hon. Gentleman must ask questions.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that all we do know is that the losses on Giro in the current year total £4 million and that the estimated loss next year is a further £4 million? Is this really the time to inject further competition into the openings which have recently been made available to the trustee savings banks and other joint stock banks which already have great pressure on them? Can the Secretary of State tell us, first, what is the amount of the capital write-off? Secondly, will the adequate return to which the statement refers be expected to be comparable with that earned by the joint stock banks? Third, where does he see evidence within the activities of the Post Office that sufficient expertise exists to monitor overdrafts and personal loans to people and companies?
I shall try to answer some of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. He will have noticed that I said that a White Paper will be published. Perhaps he could await that before he rushes to his conclusions. During the period from 1968 the Giro has lost £28 million on which £6 million in interest payments is required. In my judgment this is mainly due to the attempt by the Conservative Party to kill it off, which did enormous damage to it. If the interest payments are lifted by a reconstruction, the Post Office believes that viability will be possible relatively soon.We believe that there is a case for Giro. It was introduced much later than it should have been because of the opposition of the Government pre-1964, although it was strongly urged by the then Postmaster-General as I understand it. It has been in operation successfully for many years in European countries. If it had not been for the strong advocacy of Giro by the Post Office unions and Mr. Paul Thompson and others the Giro might never have come to this country. In our judgment, to provide a service through 21,000 post offices six days a week is a valuable public function which we wish to maintain and develop.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will be welcome to those of us who have been faithful supporters of Giro? Will he discount the Jeremiahs on the Tory benches who since the beginning of Giro have done irreparable harm to it? May I ask, on behalf of my constituents and the people of Merseyside who need Giro in many ways, whether my right hon. Friend can tell us whether this good news will bring any further employment to the region?
I cannot answer the latter point without notice. It will be open to the Giro to proceed immediately with the developments I have described, but the legislative provisions will be for the capital reconstruction. To that extent the Giro will be able to move into this new phase of development. I strongly support what my hon. Friend says about the role of Giro both for customers and for that part of the country in which its headquarters are situated.
Without intending to prejudice this extension of the Giro service, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman about the procedure he has announced? Why have the Government agreed already to the Post Office undertaking a fundamental extension of authorised services before they have come to the House with the proposed legislative provision for altering the capital structure?
The hon. Gentleman will know enough about the Government to know that a departmental Minister making such a statement would not do so without advice about the legal and statutory position. I am advised that, subject to the approval of the Treasury—which controls everything— the Post Office may designate facilities—I am talking now about loans and overdrafts— as appropriate assets for the purpose of Schedule 2 of the Post Office Act 1969 for which there is statutory backing. It will be for the House to consider in due course and reach a judgment as to the legislation that will be needed to provide for the capital reconstruction.
May I declare my interest as an unpaid director of the London and South-Eastern Trustee Savings Bank and ask the Secretary of State whether he will bear in mind that it might he somewhat unfair to the nonprofit-making trustee savings banks if he were to give these powers to G;ro before the trustee savings banks were enabled to carry out these functions?
I am advised that the legislation for the Giro and tin trustee savings banks would be produced at the same time. I assure the hon. Gentleman that in harnessing the Giro expansion to the trustee savings banks expansion it was intended that there should be no undue advantage given against the trustee savings banks, although that is a matter directly for the Treasury.
Can my right hon. Friend say how the losses of Giro have decreased and its business has grown over the past two years? Can he say whether the changes he is proposing will completely remove the unfair disadvantage under which Giro has laboured since its inception?
My hon. Friend will obviously want to await the White Paper for fuller details. It is true that the losses have been diminishing, as one would expect with a developing service. It is also true that the Giro has been at a grave disadvantage vis-à-vis the commercial banks and the Paymaster-General's Department in the handling of Government business. I would certainly aim to see that the proposals for fair treatment, or what is sometimes rather curiously called fair competition, between the Giro and the Paymaster-General are not to the disadvantage of Giro.
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he cannot now give the House the factual financial information which it should have if it is to make a proper judgment of the quality of his statement? For example, can he confirm that it is still the Government's intention that Giro should break even by 1977? What prospects does he see of this being achieved as a result of the proposals he has brought to the House?
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot answer all the questions put to me after making a statement. I will furnish the right hon. Gentleman with all the information available to me, subject to the fact that he would need to await the White Paper because the capital reconstruction we have in mind affects the date on which the Giro would be able to meet the new financial objectives set for it. The first financial objective, set when the right hon. Gentleman was at the Post Office, has been met on time. The Giro is now moving towards meeting the second five-year target.
I will, with permission, make a statement.Since the cease-fire resumed on 10th February, there have been no major incidents between the security forces and the Provisional IRA. The Government incident centres set up to communicate about possible misunderstandings which might threaten the cease-fire have been of practical value. A beginning has been made in changing the rôle of the Army. For example, there has been a considerable reduction in the size and frequency of Army patrols and in the scale of searching and questioning. Some road blocks and some road humps have been removed. The House will know that, despite the Provisional cease-fire, violence has not ceased. There have been feuds between various groups such as the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the Official IRA. There have been inter- and intra-sectarian killings and woundings. The number of deaths since 10th February has beeen 14, and 124 people have been injured. None had been a member of the security forces. In the same period, 16 people have been charged with murder and attempted murder, and another 53 charged with other serious security-type offences. With regard to detention, the House should know that I have signed no interim custody orders since the cease-fire resumed On 24th February, I announced a programme for the release of a further 80 detainees over the coming weeks. Forty have so far been released. Depending on the security situation, I hope to complete this programme by Easter. At the moment, a total of 122 detainees have been released since the original ceasefire on 22nd December 1974. If all goes well, the total should reach about 160 by Easter. After that I intend that a further release programme should follow, but again related to a genuine and sustained cessation of violence. I am convinced that now is the time to look at some of the wider implications of the problems that six years of violence have created in Northern Ireland. These problem are a tangled skein I want to make a start on unravelling them. The cease-fire has high-lighted the need for action. I am especially concerned about young adult offenders, and I believe this view is widely shared throughout the community in Northern Ireland. I have asked Lord Donaldson, one of my Under-Secretaries of State, to take charge of a special inquiry into the problem of young offenders and to report to me as a matter of urgency. He will look at the question of accommodation, including the extent to which it may be possible to use the new and improved prison accommodation which will start to become available later this year for young adult offenders. He will also look at educational facilities and vocational training and examine the question whether a special parole or licensing scheme should be introduced for young offenders. In the same spirit, I hope soon to bring the House a parole scheme for convicted prisoners along the lines of that which already operates in Great Britain. With regard to the particular question of special category prisoners, the House will wish to discuss this matter further in the context of considering the Gardiner Report. Policing is vital to the future of Northern Ireland. There can only be one police service. The Government want to achieve a situation where the RUC, accepted and sustained by a law-abiding community, becomes the major organisation for law and order. This is not a role for the Army. This is not going to be achieved overnight. It does not involve trying to flood the difficult areas with policemen. The plain fact is that the Army will have to carry out some ordinary policing functions in some places for some time to come. With regard to the control of the police, there is a delicate balance of functions to be achieved between Government— the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Scotland in Great Britain and myself in Northern Ireland— and local government in the shape of a police authority and the chief constable, who is operationally autonomous. The achievement and maintenance of this relationship is of fundamental importance to the liberty of the citizen. On this basis it may be that the Constitutional Convention will have ideas to contribute to this very difficult question of policing. But it must be made clear, as with the work of the convention as a whole, that a final decision on this will be for this House to make. There is, too, the question of complaints against the police. Let me say that I believe the existing complaints procedure is being carried out well, but I intend in due course, as is intended in Great Britain, to add in Northern Ireland an independent element into the procedure. As I said in the House on 14th January, the Government seek a lasting peace, and I also said that a permanent cessation of violence would enable the Army to make a planned, orderly and progressive reduction in its present commitments. This is still my aim. If the security situation permits, further reductions will be made in Army force levels. I also want to see further relaxations in security so that people can move about more easily. Again, if the situation permits, I would like to bring to an end the searching of pedestrians entering the city centres in Londonderry and Belfast and, before taking such a decision, I would, of course, take into account the views of the people and the traders there. It is not possible to see the future clearly, but it is my strong personal view that it is wrong to look at the many problems in Northern Ireland as if there were some ready-made textbook solution. What the Government will do is to respond positively to a developing situation. This statement is made on that basis. It is the hope of the Government that those elected to the Constitutional Convention will respond in a similarly positive manner, taking fully into account the views of all the people in Northern Ireland.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while there may be no textbook solutions to the problem in Northern Ireland, his statement on policing is by far the most important part of what he has just said? We agree with him that policing is vital to the future of Northern Ireland. Can he say what steps he proposes to take to secure support for the RUC, which we congratulate on its fine, record, from the more responsible leaders? Does he agree that this is not a matter of political bargaining? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a more public role for the police authority would be helpful to emphasise that it is being administered by an independent body? What progress has been made in setting up police liaison committees?
May I first welcome the hon. Gentleman to his Shadow post?Policing is one of the most important issues in Northern Ireland— some people regard it as the major problem— and there is no doubt that over the past five years the Army has taken the lead in well nigh everything. It is our job to get the position reversed so that the police take the lead. I do not believe that I can do anything to get support from leaders for the police. It is something that emerges and evolves. It is interesting that in the cease fire the subject of the police and support for the police as a whole becomes a subject of discussion, and I hope that in the convention we shall see it come to fruition. The police authority is a subtle subject. There are those in Northern Ireland who believe that the police authority runs the police. People in this country know that that is not the case, but it is important to get the relationship right. I do not believe that we have got it right with regard to the police authority, but I have no immediate plans for dealing with that. If anybody in Northern Ireland has any ideas about liaison committees, I know that the chief constable will be prepared to listen to what he has to say.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we appreciate his coming to the House today against medical advice?May we assure him that there will be widespread support for his clear reiteration of the concept of the RUC as the only police force in the Province? Does he agree that this reassurance is essential if the RUC is to be in a position to assume the functions presently performed by the Army? Finally, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there will be support for his intention to tackle urgently the grave problem of young adult offenders?
With regard to the last point about young adult offenders, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, with his knowledge of Northern Ireland, has raised the matter. The degree to which young people are involved in violence is quite incredible, and the problem will remain with us for generations to come. It is not just a matter of education. This is why I have asked my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State in the other place to look into the matter. I believe that we have too many young people in prison. We must deal with the problem as quickly as possible because they are attending the university of violence where they learn how to carry on in the future.I do not want to repeat what I said in my statement about the police. I want to make it clear that the problem of the past five years, whatever its origins, did not just happen. Policing was part of it, and if we all think carefully and use our heads to secure the acceptability of the police over the months and years ahead we shall achieve what is necessary— acceptability by the community as a whole.
What progress is being made in dealing with the admittedly difficult matter of the aftercare