House Of Commons
Tuesday 25th March 1975
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
The Clerk at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence, through illness, of Mr. SPEAKER from this day's Sitting.
Whereupon, Mr. GEORGE THOMAS, the Chairman of Ways and Means, proceeded to the Table and, after Prayers, took the Chair, as DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.
British Waterways Bill
As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.
United Dominions Trust Bill Lords
Read a Second time and committed.
Eastbourne Harbour Bill Lords (By Order)
Order for consideration, as amended, read.
To be considered upon Tuesday 8th April.
British Railways (No 2) Bill(By Order)
London Transport Bill(By Order)
Orders for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time upon Tuesday 8th April.
Contingencies Fund 1973–74
That there be laid before this House Accounts of the Contingencies Fund 1973–74, showing
(1) the Receipts and Payments in connection with the Fund in the year ended 31st March 1974, and (2) the Distribution of the Capital of the Fund at the commencement and close of the year; with the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General thereon.—
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she will now prescribe emphysema as a scheduled industrial disease for miners, potters and foundrymen.
No, Sir. The available evidence does not enable me to accept that emphysema satisfies the conditions for prescription in respect of any occupational group.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that potters, foundrymen and mineworkers think that the available evidence is false and that there is a direct link between emphysema and the work they do? Will he give further consideration to this matter, as he has done to other matters to the great satisfaction of the people of North Staffordshire?
Coming as I do from a coalmining area, I understand the feelings of the mineworkers. However, the preferential benefits of the Industrial Injuries Scheme can be justified only if a disease or accident can be attributed to an occupation. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Pearson Royal Commission is considering all these matters. It is too soon to say when that report will be completed, but the Government are anxious—as I think my hon. Friend is anxious—that the report should be available as soon as possible so that all these matters can be considered in the light of it.
Is the Minister aware of the considerable suffering from lung diseases, not only in mining, foundry working and potting, but also in the slate quarrying areas? There is considerable feeling that compensation payments should be made to sufferers in the slate quarrying areas similar to those made to workers in the coal industry who suffer lung diseases. Will the Government look into this matter in advance of the conclusions of the Pearson Commission, which might not report for a year or 18 months?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the pneumoconiotic scheme in the coal industry is an industry-type scheme for which my Department has no responsibility. The Pearson Commission is considering all matters affecting industrial injuries and we await with keen interest the result of that inquiry.
Is my hon. Friend aware that from time to time over the years as progress and scientific advances have been made several loosely-termed diseases arising out of a process rather than a traumatic incident have been added to the list? Having regard to all the representations that have been made about emphysema in the categories described by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding), is it not high time that it was added to the list of industrial diseases? Will the Minister try to formulate his thoughts even more strongly—I know that they are strong at present—by organising a meeting with the heads of the unions concerned so as to get their views before the Pearson Commission reports?
I understand and sympathise with the views expressed by my hon. Friend, who also comes from a coalmining area. The difficulty is that in the present state of medical knowledge it is not possible to distinguish clinically cases which might be due to occupation and so satisfy the requirements for prescription. The best I can say to my hon. Friend, against the background of the considerable research on the whole subject which is going on, is that the Pearson Commission is considering all these matters and it is important that we should receive its report at the earliest possible date.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will now review the capacity of Crawley Hospital, in view of the expansion of the population now expected in the Horsham and Crawley region.
I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my reply to the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) on 25th February.—[Vol. 887, c. 281.]
Does the Minister recognise that when Crawley Hospital was built it was designed to serve a population of 50,000 and that it is now having to serve a population of 130,000 in my constituency alone? Does he appreciate that the projected increase of population by 1981 will mean that the hospital will have to serve a population of 180,000? What does he propose to do about enlarging the hospital to meet these requirements?
I recognise that there is a problem because of the population that is building up. Plans for the possible provision of a district general hospital to serve this foreseen population increase are being studied as part of the overall review of health care in the area.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many hospital maternity units are now inducing labour in confinements as an administrative convenience; what guidance is given to mothers in regard to the effects of this procedure on themselves or on their babies; and what provision is made in such units for mothers to decline induction if there is no medical need for it.
Induced births as a percentage of all hospital deliveries in England and Wales have risen from 13·7 per cent. in 1963 to 31·5 per cent. in 1972. The reasons for this increase are being investigated. I would expect the use of this procedure to be fully discussed and agreed with the woman herself, who would have the same right to refuse induction as she has to refuse any other form of treatment offered to her.
I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Will he consider issuing guidelines to hospitals on the advice and help they should give to mothers who are experiencing the procedure, in view of the great disquiet which is felt among women about this whole process? Will he also consider—I understand that he has a survey in hand—advising hospitals to go slow on the special induction procedure while the survey is being undertaken and until its results are known?
We are hoping to have the initial results from the survey in the middle of the summer. When I receive those results I shall give thought to the question of issuing guidelines and taking the advice of the professional and other advisory committees that are available to us.
As this is a widespread practice even when the condition of mother and baby does not seem to require it, should we not study the side effects even more carefully? Is it not possible that there may be some danger where the skills and facilities available are not necessarily of the very best?
The most important thing to do is to determine the facts. I share the concern of many hon. Members about a superficial trend, but there are many facts and many reasons behind this matter and we need to establish these before we make any definite policy changes.
Does the Minister realise that many people are worried by the rise in the figures he has given us—namely, from 13 per cent. in 1963 to 31·5 per cent. now? Is it not the case that in some hospitals the figure is high as 50 per cent? Does the Minister recognise that most women believe that the delivering of babies is not a nine-till-five, Monday-to-Friday business? Does he appreciate that pregnant women are worried that their well-being and the well-being of their children is being placed second to social convenience? Are there any statistics to disprove the view that is still held by many doctors that to interfere with the natural process of childbirth can be justified only where medical reasons make induction necessary?
That only reinforces the need for the facts. Women rightly regard childbirth as a natural process. They regard it as a process not without discomfort but as essentially a normal process. Before we intervene we have to judge carefully the grounds for intervention. There is an old physician's prayer which says "From inability to leave well alone, good Lord deliver us".
In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of his reply, does my hon. Friend accept that we must have an urgent inquiry into a situation in which women are being asked to have their babies only during office hours? We do, not know what detrimental effect this will have on the women or on the babies. Does my hon. Friend appreciate that serious concern is felt by many people on this issue? Will he give an assurance that the House will have an opportunity to debate the matter?
I do not know why my hon. Friend is dissatisfied. I have told her that I share the concern that is felt. In fact, I shared that concern even before the programme which aroused a great deal of public controversy appeared on our television screens. We have instigated inquiries and surveys to establish the facts. As my hon. Friend has said, we do not fully know all the facts. We want to examine the situation so that we do not reach conclusions on unsubstantiated foundations. There is justifiable concern about the possibility of induction taking place for administrative convenience. The facts are not yet fully established and it will take time to do this. I share my hon. Friend's concern.
National Insurance Fund
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what are the present financial reserves of the National Insurance Fund.
The combined market value of the National Insurance Fund and the National Insurance (Reserve) Fund is about £1,500 million. From next month these funds will be merged with the Industrial Injuries Fund, which has a market value of about £300 million, to form a single National Insurance Fund.
Is not that a substantial sum to have in reserve? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that some of it might be put to good use by relieving some of the iniquitous surcharge levied upon the self-employed?
The balance is not as large as the hon. Gentleman suggests. He might have examined the situation more closely before asking his Question. It represents only about three months' expenditure within the National Insurance Fund. Therefore, it is strictly a working balance.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House that these are not, and cannot be in any natural sense of the term, "reserves"? They can exist only as an account on paper.
Of course they are an account on paper, but they are more than that in that if at any time the National Insurance Fund runs into deficit, as it did in successive years during the 1960s, the reserve can be immediately mobilised.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the majority of employed people would greatly regret any suggestion that there should be even further subsidy to the self-employed? Is he aware that we congratulate him on the measures he has taken?
The House will be aware of the arrangement embodied in the Tory Social Security Act 1973 which brought in Class 4 contributions. Under that Act and now the self-employed remain in receipt of a substantial subsidy from the contributions of employers and employees. They also pay their money into the National Insurance Fund.
Does not the Minister accept that there is at present a substantial notional surplus in the fund and that the introduction of earnings-related contributions from April of this year will mean that the surplus is likely to increase in the foreseeable future given the present levels of wage inflation? In the light of that, does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that at least some temporary relief for the self-employed is justified by reducing their contributions until such time as he has completed his studies on the prospect of bringing in earnings-related benefits for them? Does he realise that we would interpret his refusal to do so as merely prejudice on his part which would not be supported by any factual problems of financing the National Insurance Scheme?
The hon. Gentleman should not seek cheap short-term popularity with the self-employed by that kind of question. The ratio between the contributions of Class 1 and Class 2 contributors is exactly as it was set down within the Social Security Act 1973. The hon. Gentleman knows that, and he should begin to behave in a more respon- sible manner than he has displayed so far. After all, he speaks from the Opposition Front Bench on this subject.Before he starts talking about running down the reserves in the National Insurance Fund, the hon. Gentleman should take into account the additional calls that will arise from the transfer from the present stamp system to a fully earnings-related system of contributions. That will cost the fund on a short-term basis at least £300 million. There will be additional expenditure arising from the second uprating of retirement pensions, which the Government have said they will bring into operation later this year, and for each additional 100,000 unemployed substantial additional sums are needed. The hon. Gentleman should have considered all those matters as a Front Bench spokesman before he started making that kind of comment to me.
Order. I hope we shall have shorter questions and shorter answers, otherwise we shall not get very far.
Countesthorpe Health Centre Project
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services on what grounds she has placed the Countesthorpe health centre project fifteenth in the list of health centre priorities for the Leicester area for 1976 and beyond, after the Leicester Area Health Authority had placed the project at the top of the list and whether she will explain the criteria she uses in determining such priorities.
Countesthorpe health centre was not among the list of priority schemes put forward by Trent Regional Health Authority for consideration for inclusion in the 1975–76 programme. Selection of health centre programmes is based upon the criteria which I will, with permission, circulate in the Official Report. The regional health authority has discussed priorities beyond 1975–76 as a basis for planning but no decisions have been taken about the order of starts.
Is the Minister aware that his answer is wholly inadequate? Although I shall wait with interest to see the list of criteria when they are circulated in the Official Report, may I ask whether the hon. Gentleman is also aware that the Department asked the Leicester Area Health Authority to assess priorities for Leicestershire, that it placed the Countesthorpe health centre at the top of the priority list but that this was rescinded, without any reason being given, by the Secretary of State for Social Services? Does the Minister appreciate that this will put the centre down to fifteenth place, despite the fact that the village concerned has a population of 6,000, which is rapidly increasing, and that there are a further 2,000 in the catchment area? Will he bear in mind that all these people are now being served by a surgery in a single room in the private home of the senior doctor of a panel of three? Is not this a disgraceful situation?
The hon. Gentleman speaks for a Government which in December 1973 cut the health service and health centre expenditure by 20 per cent. The present Government have increased expenditure, particularly on the health centre building programme. I repeat that the centre in question was not among the list of priority schemes put forward by Trent Regional Health Authority.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the answer, I beg—
Order. I have already called Mr. Janner.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Secretary of State for Social Services has already assured Leicester Members of Parliament that when the priorities in the National Health Service are being considered the tremendously underprivileged position of Leicester hospitals will be taken into account? Will my hon. Friend give some assurances on health centres and domiciliary services, especially in view of the cuts made in those services by the Conservative Government?
It is part of the present Government's policy to concentrate limited resources on areas of need. In the National Health Service we are trying to define areas of health deprivation. This is one of the most important criteria used in the allocation of health centres. Inasmuch as there are in the Trent Regional Health Authority a number of areas of hospital and health deprivation, the autho- rity can expect to see that situation reflected in allocation policies.
Is it not a fact that the Government are planning cuts in capital expenditure on hospital building between now and 1977? Does the Minister agree that public expenditure is a matter of priority and that some of us believe that the Government's priorities —the present level of food subsidies, nationalisation and municipalisation of land—do not represent the best use of available resources?
Is the hon. Gentleman challenging the priorities for health care and the building of health centres? If he is, perhaps he will give us different priorities. Will he explain how, despite the fact that we inherited considerable financial difficulties, we have still managed to lift the moratorium on the hospital building programme which otherwise would have resulted from the 20 per cent. cut and also how we have been able to restore part of the services which had been cut?
Does the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) now wish to give notice?
Yes, I do, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will do so in the customary form of words.
I am happy to do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am grateful to you for your courtesy. In view of the wholly unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply to my question a few moments ago I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
Following is the information:
Proposals for health centre developments should be based on the following criteria:
a. Proposed centre is situated in urban zone where the organisation of primary medical care has so far made little progress. b. General practitioners are committed to leave present premises and are dependent upon a health centre for new premises. c. Proposed centre is part of a larger development (including hospitals university teaching units) progress on which is dependent upon the health centre proceeding. d. Proposed centre is situated in a new town or other new community where delay in provision would seriously hamper the development of family practitioner service. e. General practitioners have strong desire to develop primary health care but are frustrated by lack of suitable accommodation. f. Present general practitioner premises are well below modern standards and other means of improvement are not feasible. g. Proposed centre is sited where there is at present inadequate accommodation for community based nursing staff or for preventive health activities. h. The proposed location is in a "health deprived" area [a health deprived area should for the time being be interpreted as a locality in which the level of primary health care services falls well below the average obtaining in the Region].
Residential Care (Cost)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the weekly cost of care, both running and capital, in acute hospitals, chronic hospitals, Part III accommodation, and within the person's own home, respectively.
In 1973–74 average costs per week were £110 in acute hospitals, £87 in long stay hospitals and £22 in Part III accommodation. Costs of care in the home are not available.I will, with permission, circulate further information in the Official Report.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he take it from me that evidence exists that caring for the chronically sick at home is much cheaper and is what the patient requires? Will he immediately shift some of the scarce resources away from hospital to local authorities in joint consultation with all concerned? Will he accept that this would result in a substantial number of people who are chronically sick being able to spend the rest of their lives comfortably with their loved ones at home?
The Government's policy is to enable the elderly, the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped to be cared for as far as possible in the community rather than in hospital and to improve the standard of hospital provision for those who must stay there. It is difficult to achieve this at a time of financial restraint. I agree that a great deal depends on joint planning between local authorities, particularly the social service departments and housing departments, and area health authorities.
In this time of financial restraint, would it not make much more sense to put greater emphasis on some of the domiciliary care allowances such as invalid care allowance, which has recently been introduced? Should not this be spread much more widely and be made available to more people to keep them out of hospital?
I agree that it would make more sense. We shall bear in mind any positive suggestions that are made. We are constantly looking at ways of improving domiciliary services and of keeping patients in their homes. This is an important matter on which hon. Members on all sides of the House are in agreement.
Following is the information:
For acute hospitals the costs per patient week are running costs excluding capital, as the capital costs of hospitals. many of which were constructed before the start of the National Health Service, are not identifiable for costing purposes. The classification "chronic" is not used for hospitals but a figure for long-stay hospitals is provided.
In 1973–74 costs in Part III accommodation per week per resident were £19 for running expenses and £3 for servicing capital loans, before deduction of the income from charges.
Care in the community is provided mainly by the Family Practitioner Services, the Community Health Services and Personal Social Services, but the cost of these services, insofar as they are provided in the home, cannot be expressed in terms of a weekly cost.
House Repairs (Grants)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will consider providing a house repairs grant for those people in receipt of supplementary benefit, invalidity pension or retirement pension.
No, Sir. Any extension of the house repairs provisions of the Housing Act 1974 would in any case be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.As my hon. Friend is aware, owner-occupiers receiving supplementary benefit have an allowance towards house repairs and insurance included in the calculation of their entitlement. If this does not meet the cost of necessary repairs, a lump sum payment may be made. For the more expensive repairs, a maturity loan be sought from the local council and the commission would normally meet the interest charges on that.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the assistance he has described is rarely if ever available and that many owner-occupiers, particularly those in older terraced property, find great difficulty at times when they need money to carry out essential maintenance and repairs? Will he given an assurance that he will circulate all local departmental offices with details of the grants he has outlined, with the requirement that they should be made available on a much wide basis than hitherto?
The Department has no evidence that these grants are not made available or that few people have knowledge of them, but I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion.
How many people are living on supplementary benefit and in sub-standard houses requiring urgent repair?
We have no estimate of that figure at present.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will take steps to promote the dental health of children, following the report by Professor Douglas Jackson on the results of water fluoridation in Anglesey.
This report provides further evidence of the efficacy of fluoridation of water supplies in protecting children against dental decay. I am sure that health authorities will bear it in mind when exercising their responsibility for deciding whether to introduce fluoridation in their areas.
As the Anglesey result shows a reduction in decay of over 80 per cent. in front teeth and 40 per cent. for other teeth, will the Minister go further than to say that the result shows efficacy and add that he regards it as proved that fluoridation of about one part per million reduces dental decay dramatically? Will he draw the results to the attention of all health authorities and ask them what action they intend to take?
I confirm that my feelings accord with those of the hon. Gentleman as to the efficacy of fluoridation. The Government have announced that they will produce later this year a consultative paper on preventive measures, including preventive dentistry. It is likely that the paper will deal with the effects of fluoridation. The information will be made available to health authorities and this House and we can then discuss the issues.
Does my hon. Friend agree that fluoride can occur naturally in water almost to the level suggested as a health preservative measure for teeth?
That is the case. That is why research on the safety of fluoridation is probably the most extensive to have been conducted into any public health measure and why health authorities should seriously consider exercising their responsibilities in this matter.
Does the Minister agree that ingestion of fluoride for the purposes of preventing dental decay is effective only for young children up to the age of about seven years and not for adults? Is there not a less wasteful method of helping to prevent dental decay than to introduce fluoride into the public water supply which everybody has to drink whether he needs fluoride or not?
Experts in numerous countries who have been considering this matter have concentrated on the school population and the under-five population. However, the advice that one consistently gets is that the most effective way of introducing this preventive health measure is by the fluoridation of all water supplies.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she has now completed her review of how many area health authorities have established vasectomy clinics for the provision of vasectomies under the National Health Service; and how many have not.
Not yet, Sir, but a preliminary assessment indicates that 38 area health authorities have vasectomy clinics. Those without have facilities for vasectomy in general surgery and other units in hospitals.
Will my hon. Friend undertake that this review will be carried out as quickly as possible, because the figures he has given suggest that some area health authorities are not yet honouring either the letter or the spirit of the 1972 legislation?
I shall let my hon. Friend know as soon as I can. These figures are only provisional, being based on oral inquiries. We have still to receive many of the returns for which we asked. As soon as they are available I shall let my hon. Friend have the breakdown.
What facilities are available for advising a patient who wishes to have a vasectomy about the serious nature of the operation and the alternative to having it?
Vasectomy would not be undertaken by other than a qualified medical practitioner. It would be up to him to make clear to the patient all the different factors behind making a decision.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she is satisfied that each NHS region is adequately staffed by consultants in each of the specialities.
No, Sir, I am not satisfied, and this is one reason why I have proposed to the medical profession a new system of career structure supplements to replace the present system of distinction awards, so as to improve staffing ratios in some parts of the country and some specialities and to reward consultants who accept a very heavy workload and make a major contribution to the health service.
Is not this at the heart of the present dispute with the consultants? A deplorable situation has arisen in which resources for the scarce expertise of consultants are badly distributed by specialities and regions because of the extent to which consultants have exercised discretion over merit awards. Will my right hon. Friend persist in ensuring that the community gets full value for money in this respect?
I certainly agree that a revision of the merit award system, which at present does not have the effect of encouraging people to move into areas and specialities where they are needed, is extremely important, and I am pursuing it.
Does the Secretary of State realise how welcome is her belated decision to reopen consultations with the hospital consultants? Does she agree that, to regain some of the medical profession's confidence in her, it is desirable that the discussions should be wide-ranging and comprehensive and should cover all the points on which the consultants feel that they are in discord with her?
I have made it clear all along that I am willing to resume full and detailed negotiations with the consultants as soon as their damaging sanctions are lifted. I have also made it clear that I am willing at any time for discussions to take place to clarify misunderstandings. Therefore, as soon as the BMA wrote and asked for a meeting to clarify certain interpretations of the existing contract—not a new one—I said at once that I should be happy for that meeting to take place.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage of average industrial earnings the retirement pension for a married couple represented on 1st March 1975; and what was the comparable percentage figure on 1st March 1974.
I regret that information about earnings in March 1975 is not yet available. In March 1974 the figure was 29·4 per cent. of average gross earnings and 39·4 per cent. of average net earnings.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a steadily increasing gap between earnings and the pension level? Is he satisfied that the proposed increases, which come into effect in April, will go a sufficient way to restoring the ratio between the average earnings of people at work and the pensions of those who have retired?
My hon. Friend will recognise that between July 1974 and April 1975 this Government will have put pensions up in money terms by almost 50 per cent. That clearly represents a significant increase in the value of pensions in April this year.
Will the Minister of State concede that the non-availability of the March 1975 figures has enabled him to obsure the fact that the percentage asked for is probably no greater and may even be less than it was in March 1974? Does he accept that the percentage is likely to get worse because the new uprating is based on out-of-date figures up to August last year which are far below the present level of the increase in earnings? Finally, does he accept that the failure of the social contract will mean that over the coming year the real position of pensioners will deteriorate vis-à-vis the friends of the Labour Party in the big unions in heavy industry?
I certainly do not accept the hon. Gentleman's general proposition. For the first time in legislation, the present administration have provided that pensioners will receive increases in their pensions by the level of the movement in wages or prices, whichever is the greater. In addition, we are providing two up-ratings this year. We are doing far better than anything that was done by the previous administration. Furthermore the pension, expressed as a percentage of national average earnings, is certainly higher under this administration, comparing October 1973 with July 1974, than anything done by the previous Government.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent orders she has placed for the supply of invalid tricycles, and for how many.
The last contracts, signed in August 1974, were for a total of 1,500 vehicles and tenders for necessary further supplies are currently being scrutinised.
I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that there is growing disquiet among those concerned with social and safety inadequacies of existing three-wheelers? Will he reassure the House that no further orders will be placed for these vehicles and that as soon as possible he will introduce four-wheeled vehicles for the disabled, thereby offering a choice of three- and four-wheeled vehicles and/or the mobility allowance?
I note the hon. Gentleman's points. The orders to which I have referred are for normal replacements and any necessary additions to the fleet. Without these orders, a large number of severely disabled people would have been immobilised. The hon. Gentleman and the House will appreciate that our decision was for cash, not vehicles. We want more freedom of choice for disabled people than they have had in the past.
Does my hon. Friend accept that instinctively many hon. Members on both sides of the House would say that they do not like the three-wheeler but that, looking at their mail, they find that a substantial number of people want to retain it? May I urge my hon. Friend to have an independently conducted survey carried out into those who want to retain the three-wheeler and those who do not, so that once and for all we may have clear guidance in this House about the views of the disabled on the three-wheeler?
There was an unofficial survey during 1974 which showed—this is the best estimate we have—that 20 per cent. of three-wheeler users would be unable in their view to manage a car. As my hon. Friend knows, I was recently in his constituency where I met a deputation of disabled drivers. I am mindful of the points they made about retaining the vehicles. There are many points of view. I am trying to put forward a policy which will give more freedom of choice to severely disabled people.
Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that every order which is placed has his personal blessing?
I said that the order was principally for normal replacement. For my part, I look very carefully at these matters. The hon. Gentleman knows that I do not take the question of safety complacently. I have given a great deal of information about modifications which are being carried through. I shall certainly do whatever I can to scrutinise closely every new order in this area.
Does my hon. Friend intend to introduce legislation this year to increase the mobility allowance?
It is our firm resolve, not merely this year but during this parliamentary Session, to legislate for the new mobility allowance. That allowance will benefit both disabled drivers and non-drivers. We expect that it will bring in 100,000 additional people who at present receive no mobility help.
Supplementary Benefit (Long-Term Addition)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what it would cost to reduce the waiting time for longterm addition to supplementary allowance from two years to one year for claimants with children.
As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) on 6th March—[Vol. 887, c. 503]—the estimated cost for all eligible families with children would be about £7 million.
Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that two years is a long time for a family with children to be on the poverty line in view of the requirements of children's growth and development? In view of the importance placed by his hon. Friend at an earlier stage this afternoon on the reports of commissions of inquiry into industrial diseases, may I remind my hon. Friend that the Finer Commission of Inquiry reported on this point and recommended reduction of the waiting time?
The hon. Lady is supplying information. The question was contained in the first part of her remarks.
I assure my hon. Friend that we take very much to heart the point she makes regarding the needs of this group of people. That is why we have already said that consideration will be given to reducing the qualifying period, along with other improvements in supplementary benefits suggested in the Finer Report, as soon as resources permit.
Rents And Rates Payments
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will take steps to ensure that all long-term recipients of supplementary benefit who request that rent and rates payments be paid direct to the owners of the property should have this facility made available to them.
Although direct payment will now be authorised more freely, it is not practicable to provide such a service to all who request it, irrespective of difficulty in paying their rent.
Since the Minister has obviously studied the point, can he say how many council and private tenants were evicted last year on grounds of nonpayment of rent? Is he aware of the views which have been expressed by housing departments and by social work departments that we could avoid an enormous amount of misery and distress, as well as cost to public funds, if every person on long-term supplementary benefit was given the right to have his rent paid direct if he so requested?
The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question would be for the local authority concerned and not for me. On the second part of the question, I cannot load the staff throughout the country, or even in the hon. Gentleman's locality, by undertaking in all circumstances to pay rent direct. There has been a change in the policy on the conditions recently laid down for the payment of rent by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find this helpful. I hope he will continue to examine the matter closely to see whether these improvements bring about an amelioration of the situation which he has described.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will set up a national survey of the circumstances of the elderly whose lives are at risk from exposure to conditions of cold in their own homes.
I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) on 13th March.—Vol. 888, c. 239]
I am at a loss to know what that reply was. Has the Under-Secretary read the excellent pamphlet issued by Help the Aged called "Death in Winter"? Is he aware of my series of Questions to the Secretary of State for the Environment, the answers to most of which amount to passing the buck to local authorities? There is a need for the Department to take the lead in this matter, to establish a national survey and to come forward with solutions which are mandatory on local authorities.
My Department and I have seen that report, which we are considering carefully. We should like to have time for its consideration before commenting on some of the facts and figures contained in it. My Department is very much aware of this problem. On 2nd December it issued a circular to all health authorities drawing their attention to the needs of these people, who may or may not be at risk.
Is not my hon. Friend aware that were he to undertake this research, which is badly needed, he would discover that the bills we pay for keeping people in hospital longer, and for taking them into hospital earlier when they become ill because their homes are inadequately heated, are enormous? There is an overwhelming case for some sort of free electricity allowance to enable this problem to be alleviated.
No one disputes the need to help these people. The suggestion regarding the survey may well not be the best way forward, since by the time the survey had been conducted and published it would be out of date and would not be of much help in identifying these people.
Housing (Prime Minister'speech)
asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech made in Islington on 8th March on housing.
asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on housing made in Islington on 8th March.
In the absence of my right hon. Friend in Belfast, I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend did so on 10th March, Sir.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, despite our inheriting a desperate housing situation, the improvement in the housing figures for the most recent quarter for the number of starts, and completions in the public and private sectors reflects a response to the constructive short-term measures which the Government have already applied? Does he further agree that the situation could be further improved if the Government rapidly implemented the section of the manifesto which advocated allowing local authorities to supply unified services for estate agency work, surveying, conveyancing and mortgages?
As regards the first part of my hon. Friend's question, the Prime Minister made that point in his speech. He pointed out that when the Labour Government came to office in March the indications were that housing starts would be about 200,000 in 1974. The past three months show that they are, until now, running at a rate of 225,000 for the year. There has, therefore, been a considerable improvement.As regards the last point, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will be sending a circular to local authorities tomorrow giving advice on a great many points but not, I think, on all the points included by my hon. Friend in his supplementary question.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that to the man on an average wage a generous mortgage would be something in the region of £7,500? Assuming that to be a 90 per cent. Mortgage, would the right hon. Gentleman care to place on the official record a list of areas, especially those around London, where the average price of property to be purchased for the first time by a young married couple is £8,350?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. This is the state of affairs which we inherited when we came to office. We made £500 million available to the building societies to keep their interest rates down, but interest rates are now generally falling.
asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to visit Brussels.
I have been asked to reply.I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) on 20th March.
Will the Lord President ask this of his right hon. Friend, whether or not he goes to Brussels to find the answer? It would be helpful if he could refer to Brussels the speech wade during the weekend by the Secretary of State for Industry in which he told workers in the Midlands that entry into the EEC under the negotiated terms would render the Government unable to protect jobs in British industry. Does he realise that the people of this country, in making up their minds about the referendum, are seeking hard, clear facts? Will the right hon. Gentleman say, therefore, whether that is a fact and, if so, whether it is the view of the Government? They are not, of course, the same.
Of course that is what the Government intend to provide—hard, clear facts. We shall do so in the White Paper on the renegotiated terms, which is a long and full document and which will be published on Thursday of this week.
Could my right hon. Friend advise the Prime Minister that, since it is a fact that among the absurd behaviour of the Common Market administrators has been the deliberate creation of mountains of butter and beef which are then sold to places outside the Community at knock-down prices, it might be possible, for example, for a place like Lundy Island to be taken out of the Common Market? The mountains of beef and butter could be sent there, purchased by the British Government and sold at knock-down prices to the lower income groups and British old-age pensioners.
Yes, Sir, but the terms which my right hon. Friend negotiated will ensure that that does not happen in future.
asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a transcript of his television broadcast of 3rd March on the social contract.
I have been asked to reply.I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) on 14th March.
While the Prime Minister and his right hon. Friends gaze in admiration at their social contract, has any of them noticed that the nation is sliding inexorably towards bankruptcy? When will the Government learn the lesson on inflation that they seem slowly but painfully to have learned over Europe—namely, that running away from difficult decisions does not solve them and that, on inflation as on Europe, the country is waiting for the moment when the Government will give priority to the national interest over the interests of the Labour Party?
In view of all that, I am sure that the hon. Member and his hon. Friends wish to help. Perhaps they will now tell us and the country what their policy is on incomes. Now that they have abolished the policy of statutory restraint and control of incomes, perhaps they will tell us what their policy is.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that part of the social contract includes a commitment to both municipalisation and improvement of housing? Is he aware that there is deep concern among Labour authorities throughout the country about the very serious cut-backs in resources being devoted to this purpose? Will he take steps to restore these cuts so that confidence in this aspect of the social contract can be maintained?
My hon. Friend, who has great interest in these matters, will know that the bids by local authorities far exceed the resources available. The Government are therefore concentrating on the worst stress areas in this part of their policy.
Is the engineers' settlement within the social contract?
The hon. Gentleman should examine the engineers' settlement very closely—[HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"] We do not know yet. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because there is no settlement yet; that is why. We do not know, but certainly the present indications are that it will be.
asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his speech on the social contract at Taunton on 8th March.
I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend did so on 10th March, Sir.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in that speech the Prime Minister singled out the railways and said that if the burden of their costs became unreasonable there would have to be a cut in services? In view of today's statement that British Rail is "bust and bankrupt" as never before, will he give the House an assurance that the Government will not bail out British Rail to satisfy the unreasonable demands of the railwaymen, even if that means a reduction in services?
I answered a question on this matter, I think, the week before last. My right hon. Friend was making exactly the same point as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment made in his constituency—that pressing the burden of costs beyond what the traffic could bear would inevitably lead to a cut in services.
Will my right hon. Friend think again about the Government's proposal of the calamitous cut in improvement grants referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mrs. Miller)? It is particularly in the worst areas like Islington that these cuts are being made. Is he aware, for instance, that unless this proposal is dropped many councils will be forced to keep old houses empty because they do not have the money to repair them—including houses which they were encouraged to buy and resell—and that many thousands of tenants will be forced to remain in houses without a bath, hot water or an inside lavatory?
As I was saying, government is a matter of priorities. As my hon. Friend knows, the bids put in by the local authorities far exceed the resources available for this. Therefore, it is a matter of priorities and the Government are giving priority to the very worst areas. But if my hon. Friend has any special point, I should be very glad to bring it to my right hon. Friend's attention.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is time to replace the social contract with a work contract, one that will recognise the need to increase productivity and put an end to stoppages like that of the dustcart drivers in Glasgow and the electricians at Glasgow Airport who have closed that airport for several weeks? Exactly what steps do the Government propose to take to end those disputes?
We very much regret those stoppages; my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a statement recently in the House. What we want to know, I repeat, is what is the policy of the Conservative Party—
You are the Government.
Yes, but the Conservative Party aspires to be the Government. It has abandoned its statutory incomes policy and the country is entitled to know what its policy is.
Would it be news to the right hon. Gentleman to hear that he is responsible now?
I should have thought that our present economic situation demanded the support of all parties in this House —[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] If hon. Members opposite are saying "No", meaning that it does not demand their support, the country knows where we stand.
asked the Prime Minister if he will make an official visit to Southend.
I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so, Sir
If the Prime Minister should go to Southend, would my right hon. Friend ask him to visit the headquarters of the VAT administration? In the conditions which Her Majesty's Government have negotiated, we are told that they will not place value added tax on essentials should we remain in the Common Market. Is my right hon. Friend aware, however, that five of the nine members of the EEC put VAT on food, fuel and travel? If, in the convergency of the economies, we are to avoid that, what extra and additional costs must we pay and how will my right hon. Friend guarantee that we shall not have to fall into line?
May I repeat what the Prime Minister said on 18th March? He said:
"The proposals now being discussed in the Community are concerned with agreeing a uniform assessment base for VAT. They provide for our system of zero rating. We will be able to resist any proposals which are unacceptable to us."—[Official Report, 18th March 1975; Vol. 888, c. 1464.]
Accepting the view of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) that we retain our own discretion in fixing the rates of VAT which is open to all the Nine, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are delighted that there is therefore no occasion for the Prime Minister to go to Southend on this matter? Is he also aware that since the Prime Minister is a busy man and has successfully renegotiated all the matters in the manifesto—at least, that was the collective view of the Cabinet at 3.30 last Tuesday—there is no need for him to go to Brussels either, so that we applaud both those decisions? Would the right hon. Gentleman suggest that, if a visit to Southend cannot be arranged, it would be instructive to the British people if the seven defecting Cabinet Ministers went to Brussels or Southend for a television con- frontation with those in Europe who know the facts?
That is a very good idea, although I hope that they do not go by hovercraft.
I hope they do.
While we all share the disappointment of the worthy citizens of Southend that the Prime Minister is not to visit them, may I ask my right hon. Friend to note that the Prime Minister is also being invited to Newcastle-under-Lyme, Glasgow, Hunterston, the Isle of Ely and St. Albans? If he visits all those places, who will look after the shop?
The shop is looked after quite effectively, I can assure my hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has a tremendous capacity for getting around the place, and I am sure that he will get to those places.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As the Prime Minister was invited to visit my constituency, may I put a supplementary question?
One likes to be fair. I call the hon. Gentleman.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he or the Prime Minister visit my constituency they will be very welcome? If, however, they are to visit the VAT offices, will the right hon. Gentleman give an absolute assurance that they will not take that opportunity to introduce multi-rate VAT, which would be extremely damaging to the shopkeepers and other business men in my constituency and elsewhere?
The hon. Gentleman knows that all we have done is to ask for study to be carried out on that.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As it will be impossible for the Prime Minister to visit Southend without passing through South-East Essex—
Order. We all know the delights of Southend, but there is urgent business awaiting us, and unless it is a very serious point of order—
Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that it is a point of order?
I am much obliged to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will know that anything touching upon South-East Essex and Southend is of the highest importance. It will be physically impossible for the Prime Minister to reach Southend unless—
Order. My suspicions were fully justified.
Mr. Secretary Foot, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Edward Short, Mr. Secretary Varley, Mrs. Secretary Castle, Mr. Secretary Benn, Mr. Secretary Ross, Mr. Secretary John Morris, and Mr. Albert Booth, presented a Bill to establish machinery for promoting the improvement of industrial relations; to amend the law relating to workers' rights and otherwise to amend the law relating to workers, employers, trade unions and employers' associations; to provide for the extension of the jurisdiction of industrial tribunals; to amend the law relating to unemployment benefit and supplementary benefit as respects persons affected by trade disputes; to amend the Employment Agencies Act 1973 as respects the exercise of licensing functions under that Act; to amend the Employment and Training Act 1973 as respects the status of bodies established under that Act; to amend the Health and Safety at Work &c. Act 1974 as respects the appointment of safety representatives, health and safety at work in agriculture and the disclosure of information obtained under that Act; to provide for the extension of employment legislation to certain areas outside Great Britain; and for connected purposes. And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed [Bill 119].
I beg to move,
I wish to draw attention to—[Interruption.]—That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to liquor licensing.
Order. Will hon. Members who wish to leave the Chamber please do so quietly?
I wish to draw attention to what is in danger of becoming a public scandal, the plight of 27 people of some eminence who between them gave up a total of 48 months, and the civil servants who assisted them, and all the bodies and individuals that took the time and made the effort to give evidence to produce the Erroll Report on Liquor Licensing for England and Wales and the Clayson Report on Scottish Licensing Law, two eminently sensible and moderate reports. The first was presented in December 1972 and the second in August 1973. I allow my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that since then we have had two General Elections, but now is the time to implement the modest proposals in those reports to reform the liquor licensing laws.I have not been encouraged by the almost pusillanimous and certainly inconclusive statements by Ministers on the topic since February last year. The time for implementation of the reports' recommendations is now. The object of my Bill, which has support from both sides of the House, is to give the Government an opportunity to implement the three main Erroll Committee recommendations for England and Wales. The first recommendation concerned access to licensed premises. The Bill would not reduce the age of access or the age at which one was allowed to drink, but it would allow publicans, with the approval of the justices, to set aside rooms for the use of families, and would facilitate the continental café-pub idea which has for so long been prevented by legal technicalities from being introduced into this country. The second of the major Erroll proposals was that the permitted hours should be from 10 a.m. to midnight. I can find no one who can provide an ordered and sensible justification of our present licensing hours. They are antediluvian. They have no basis in social practice, economic logic or just plain common sense. It is time we did something to put them straight. Erroll's third recommendation was that the licence for a pub should be separated from the licence for a publican. At present the two are interleaved. There is no logical reason, and it militates against the removal from the list of a publican who is not fit to be one, or the removal of a pub with inadequate facilities or hygiene. I am introducing the Bill because my main specialist interest in the House is in consumer affairs. For too long these matters have been decided by a conspiracy between the temperance lobby, the brewers and the publicans. I am concerned with the drinkers. Our licensing hours should be designed with at least their interests in mind. I have received many letters since I announced that I was to introduce the Bill. A large proportion of them were in favour of changing our outdated laws. Those against raised some points that I should like briefly to answer. On access, they said that pubs were unsuitable, and that parents want to get away from their kids when they go into a pub. My Bill would put no obligation on a publican to have a family room. He would be able to apply to the justices to have one if he wanted, but there would be no obligation on the justices to allow such a room. They would have to be satisfied that the premises, both the specific room and the pub itself, were suitable. As for parents getting away from their kids, there would be no obligation to have such a room as I have said, and I believe that if the Bill were passed children would not be allowed in the majority of rooms in almost every pub. Two points are raised on the question of hours. One concerns disturbance to those who live near public houses. The second is the question of the problems of the publicans. The Bill would give the justices power to order a pub to close at any time up to two hours before midnight if they felt that it would cause a disturb- ance if it were open later. Under the Bill there would be no possibility of brewers making publicans open at all the permitted hours. They would be able to open for the hours that they wished. I am trying to get away from the idea of one law for the rich and another for the poor. At 10.30 p.m. or 11 p.m. the rich can go to a night club or restaurant and have their drinks. I know of no fish and chip shop which has been licensed to serve drink after hours. I am glad to say that I have received no objections to the proposals on licence separation. I believe that the justices and the trade would welcome this reform. There are some who are opposed in principle to any change in the licensing laws. I believe that that is an irrational position, but there are some hon. Members who adopt it. I ask them to read the report by John Davies and Barrie Stacey for the Scottish Home and Health Department on teenagers and alcohol. They showed four simple things. First, the heavy drinkers tend to be those who are introduced to drink at a late age. Second, those with disapproving parents who give alcohol the image of forbidden fruit are likely to induce their children in practice to be heavy drinkers in later life. Third, parents who make their children think that alcohol is not only forbidden fruit but some thing associated with adulthood and "grown-upness" will tend to make their children heavy drinkers later in life. Fourth, the commonsense and real limitation on drinking heavily is simple economic restriction. It is the amount of money one has in one's pocket which in the end determines whether one becomes a heavy drinker if one wishes to do so. It is not access or hours, which have nothing to do with the case. I believe that the changes which would be introduced by my Bill would be beneficial and would preserve the social customs of this nation but at the same time would make modest and sensible changes which are in keeping with the times.
I wish to oppose the motion. During the last 15 years we have witnessed a lot of permissive legislation which has not been beneficial to the public as a whole. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas), I am concerned about the drinkers. What I am concerned about is that if this measure is passed I can visualise that in a few years' time we shall have a greater problem on our hands in respect of alcoholics than we have today—and Heaven knows, we have a number of alcoholics today.I believe that if the House this day allows this measure to proceed, we shall be opening the floodgates. It is not wanted in the general consensus of people to whom I have spoken, including people who drink. Like other hon. Members, I have received letters on the subject.
Division No. 159.]
|Aitken, Jonathan||George, Bruce||Oakes, Gordon|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Gourlay, Harry||Ovenden, John|
|Ashley, Jack||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Ashton, Joe||Griffiths, Eldon||Park, George|
|Bates, Alf||Grocott, Bruce||Pendry, Tom|
|Benyon, W.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Penhaligon, David|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harper, Joseph||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Hawkins, Paul||Prescott, John|
|Bradley, Tom||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Horam, John||Radice, Giles|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Huckfield, Les||Rathbone, Tim|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hunter, Adam||Reid, George|
|Budgen, Nick||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Kaufman, Gerald||Sillars, James|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Kelley, Richard||Silverman, Julius|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Kerr, Russell||Sims, Roger|
|Cohen, Stanley||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Skinner, Dennis|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Lamborn, Harry||Snape, Peter|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lawrence, Ivan||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Lawson, Nigel||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Corbett, Robin||Le Marchant, Spencer||Strang, Gavin|
|Cormack, Patrick||Lipton, Marcus||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Critchley, Julian||Loyden, Eddie||Tierney, Sydney|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Luard, Evan||Tinn, James|
|Dalyell, Tam||Luce, Richard||Tomlinson, John|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Dunnett, Jack||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||McElhone, Frank||Ward, Michael|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Watkinson, John|
|Ennals, David||Marquand, David||Weetch, Ken|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Faulds, Andrew||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Fell, Anthony||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Flannery, Martin||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Molloy, William||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Ford, Ben||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Forrester, John||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'wd)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Mr. Roger Stott and|
|Freud, Clement||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Mr. Neville Sandelson.|
|Beith, A. J.||Hardy, Peter||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Biffen, John||Hooley, Frank||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hooson, Emlyn||Stanley, John|
|Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||James, David||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Cryer, Bob||Kilfedder, James||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Doig, Peter||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Durant, Tony||Mudd, David||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|English, Michael||Neubert, Michael||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Newens, Stanley|
|Eyre, Reginald||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Ross, William (Londonderry)||Rt. Hon. E. Fernyhough and|
|Gray, Hamish||Spearing, Nigel||Mr. John Lee.|
Question accordingly agreed to
I believe that Parliament should exerise its authority and oppose the measure because, in my humble opinion, to allow children into a pub, even though a room for them is set aside, is wrong. I would not wish to take my young granddaughter into a pub.
This is the thin end of the wedge, and we ought to oppose it.
Question put, pursuant to Standing Order NO. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bill and nomination of Select Committtes at commencement of Public Business):—
The House divided: Ayes 122, Noes 35.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Mike Thomas, Mr. Roger Stott, Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mr. Patrick Cormack, Mr. Marcus Lipton, Mrs. Millie Miller, Mr. Stephen Ross, Mr. John Tomlinson. Mr. Ted Graham, Dr. J. Dickson Mabon and Mr. David Marquand.
Mr. Mike Thomas accordingly presented a Bill to amend the law relating to liquor licensing: and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 11th July and to be printed [Bill 122].
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. David Stoddart.]
It is the intention, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) to open the debate, but, if I may have the permission of the House for a moment, I should like to express the deep sense of shock and dismay which has greeted the tragic news of the assassination of His Majesty King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.We do not yet know the full details of this crime, nor can we yet foretell its consequences, but I am sure the House will join with me in expressing our profound sorrow at the passing of a great Arab and Muslim statesman and world leader. He presided over probably the most remarkable change of fortunes that any country has seen in his lifetime. In his attitude to such problems as oil prices and their impact both on his world and on the industrialised world, and the great issues of peace and war in the Middle East, his was a voice of moderation and statesmanship. The Arabs have lost one of their foremost sons at a time when moderate and wise counsels are badly needed. Britain has lost a good and valued friend. We extend our deepest sympathy and concern to all our Saudi Arabian friends at this time.
I associate this side of the House wholeheartedly with the tribute which has been paid to the late King Faisal and the expression of regret at this tragic assassination. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know King Faisal knew him as a man of great dignity, integrity and total devotion to the cause of his own people and to his own religion in which he so devoutly believed. He had been carrying his country through a time of almost incredible transition with strength, calmness and moderation.It is impossible to predict what will now happen. I think we all hope that the traditional loyalties of Saudi Arabia and respect for the revered memory of the assassinated king will help to carry that country through what is bound to be, for a short time at any rate, a difficult period. We all associate ourselves with the expression of regret at the tragedy and offer our condolences to our Saudi friends. This would in any event have been a sombre debate without this latest occurrence, because, wherever one looks across the world, through the pages of the newspapers one sees growing difficulties and tragedies. In our own European NATO area we have seen a certain crumbling at the edges. We have seen the very disturbing events of Portugal, about which I hope the Foreign Secretary will speak later. We see the continuation of the struggle between Greece and Turkey. In the Middle East we have seen the failure of Dr. Kissinger's valiant efforts to achieve some progress, and we see in more than one country, in Kurdistan and Vietnam, long columns of refugees moving tragically forward. All across the world we see these sad events. It is hard to find any common factor in this, save perhaps that mankind, which is making so much progress in the physical sciences' seems incapable of making comparable progress in the science of government. There is surely one common lesson to draw from this situation—that this is a world we in Britain should seek to find new friends rather than to desert old ones. I believe it adds a new dimension to the argument about our membership of the European Community. We have got to have string friends and partners of like mind and like tradition to ourselves if we are to weather the storms now facing us. Of coarse, there will be many debates on the European Community and our membership, but it would be wrong not to debate Europe today among the many other world problems. It seems that in everything we touch on, be it the Far East or the Middle East, our relations with the Community are of fundamental importance because our ability to influence events throughout the world will be conditioned by our relationship with the Community. Certain things must be made absolutely clear in the argument going on about the referendum. The first is that the question is not whether we go in but whether we come out. It is important that the public in making up their minds appreciate this distinction. To refuse to go into Europe might have been one thing but the consequences for Britain's standing in the world, the consequences for our future prosperity and security, will be far more grave if, having once committed ourselves as we have, we should decide to break that commitment and come out again. The issue is not "Do we go into Europe?" but "Do we come out of it?" Second, it is important that in testing the results of the renegotiation we should recognise as a touchstone not whether those results entirely line up with the Labour Party manifesto but whether they line up with the interests of the nation. It may not mean quite the same thing in every case. Third, it is equally clear that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, who were negotiating at all times in good faith with the other members of the Community, have throughout been recognised as being committed, subject to the success in their view of the renegotiations, to recommend wholeheartedly to Parliament and the people that we should remain within the Community. These are the fundamental points which should be borne in mind when deciding what course should be taken. The arguments for Community membership are both economic and political. I am not convinced that the economic argument is wholly capable of conclusive proof one way or the other. I believe that the weight of the argument in favour of remaining within the Community can be demonstrated. Experience has proved the falsity of some of the old arguments such as that food prices would rise drastically once we were inside the Community. Experience over two years is not sufficient upon which to base a solid judgment. It has been a basis for some pretty un-solid argument in the past two days. The a priori argument is that it must be good to be included in such a large market and must be bad to be excluded from such a centre of economic power. The evidence of those who direct and guide the fortunes and efforts of British industry is that they are overwhelmingly in favour of continuing our membership. The arguments against coming out are equally strong. There is the effect on unemployment, the loss of some of our access to that market, the inevitable effect on investment in this country, already historically low, because of the lessening of funds for investment from either domestic or external sources, and the effect on sterling, because, while we must not exaggerate, it is true that sterling as an international store of value as a reserve currency which will not be so attractive if we leave the Community. There are also the effects of world-wide competition from a single economic unit as large as the United States but with a basis of industrial costs more akin to ours. There is also the question of trading prospects in a world whose system of trade and payments and whose bilateral dealings will be increasingly dominated by the great economic groupings. To try to make our own way will be far more difficult than making our way forward as a leading member of one of the great Power groups of the world. Today, in a foreign affairs debate, it is more the political arguments that should weigh with us. The original concept of the Treaty of Rome was very much based on the need to bring Germany back into the European community, to get away from the struggles and wars in Western Europe that had cost so much in this century. The political basis was a sound one, and it remains true today that in a dangerous world it is better to have partners than to be alone and isolated. If there are partners there are costs. There cannot be a partnership unless there is respect between partners. Subject to that, it seems clear, and it is becoming increasingly clear as the dangers grow across the world, that our political strength and our chance of attaining our aims will be enhanced by continuing membership. What are those aims? Presumably, first of all, to maintain the security, integrity and prosperity of the United Kingdom. Second, to contribute as best we can to the maintenance of world peace, and, third, to help all those who have a claim on our sympathy and help, whether by reason of old friendship, oppression or deprivation. These, traditionally, have been the aims of British foreign policy. But they are being pursued now in a world which is totally different from 20 or even 10 years ago. These aims are being pursued in a world where our ability to defend ourselves alone, to contribute to world peace or to help our friends in Portugal, Vietnam or wherever is strictly limited by the facts of the modern world. We have faced the most incredible changes. We have seen this country within a generation pass from a State which governed a quarter of mankind to being a relatively small nation on an island in the North Sea. We have seen the growth of the super-Powers. We have seen the effect of modern weapons development, which has brought not a relative but an absolute change in the destructive powers of weapons so that now only great Powers armed with nuclear weapons can hope to win a war and only small Powers without nuclear weapons can dare to use force under the general umbrella of the counter-terror of the nuclear balance. As a result of this balance of terror we are seeing progressively a transference of the aggression between nations to an aggression within nations. We must recognise clearly that the latter form of aggression can, in the long run, be as subversive to our society and country as the old-fashioned form of warfare. We have seen increasing insecurity and complexity in the world system of trade and payments, with the exposure of our currency and trading patterns to swings and tides, ebbing and flowing on a scale which 20 years ago we could not have imagined. We have seen the new growth of a consciousness of monopoly power among the producers of oil and a growing consciousness of some such power among the producers of other commodities. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to say something about that today because it is difficult to understand precisely where this is moving. We have also seen a growing recognition of the need to redress the north-south balance between the industrial and the developing countries. All these profound changes seem to emphasise the need to work with partners. There was a time, perhaps in the 1950s, when we feared that joining closer with Europe would cost us our special relationship with the United States and our traditional relationship with the Commonwealth. Neither of these fears has any foundation today. The United States wishes profoundly to see us in Europe, continuing to add to the political and diplomatic strength of Europe. The Commonwealth leaders, I think without exception, have made it clear that they, too, want us to remain within the Community. When we look at the problems facing British diplomacy against this background, taking the European problem first, it is obvious that we have to maintain our defences, to work for détente and disarmament, and we have to be careful of the switch from external to internal aggression. Some people might say that strengthening NATO is inconsistent with going for détente and disarmament. I do not agree. It is the sheer strength of NATO that has made it possible to advance the distance we have succeeded in advancing. In this context I am disturbed at some of the implications in the defence White Paper. It does not seem to us to be a wise time to be reducing the defensive power of NATO. It clearly has sorely troubled and worried our NATO allies. This example at this moment will neither help with European defence nor help us to maintain the best posture in which to reach long-term agreement on détente and disarmament.
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to say when he thinks has been the right time for disarmament and for cutting back on defence since the war? Has there been suet-. a time? Does he envisage that there will be such a time?
It can be done by mutual agreement and assured performance. Those are the necessary conditions.When it comes to working for détente, I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be kind enough to tell us more about the progress of discussions in the European Security Conference. I find it difficult to see precisely what progress is being made in this field and it would be useful if we could be told. Certainly we welcome the visit of the Prime Minister with the Foreign Secretary to Moscow, and anything that can make understanding easier and more natural between us and the Soviet Union is greatly to be welcomed. In this context we on this side of the House regret the visit of Mr. Shelepin, which is planned for the near future. It is quite clear that there is widespread concern on both sides of the House and in the country about this visit. I hope very much that the Soviet Ambassador will be quite clear on this matter and will advise his Government that this widespread concern is not a stunt cooked up by the newspapers but demonstrates a genuine, deep feeling in this country Those of us who have these doubts do not believe that Mr. Shelepin's visit is likely to contribute to better understanding. There is a danger that it might damage the progress already made by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on their visit to Moscow. The other danger to watch is the switch from external to internal aggression.
If the right hon. Gentleman intends to pursue the question of Mr. Shelepin's visit he ought to make abundantly clear to the House exactly what he is saying. To come out with a vague statement of criticism without saying exactly what he would do, or what he thinks the Government ought to do, is doing the House less than justice.
I thought I had made it clear that I do not think it conceivable for the Government to refuse Mr. Shelepin entry, but the Government might use their influence with the Russian authorities, and with the trade union hosts, to point out that this will not be a very good thing for Anglo-Russian relations. That would seem to be a responsible and sensible attitude for the Government to take.I turn next in Europe to the problem of Portugal. Here again is an example of a friendly country which, after a long régime, is going through a period of dramatic and violent change and possibly of extreme reaction. It is always difficult to advocate anything that appears to be interference in the domestic affairs of a foreign country, and I know that the Foreign Secretary is aware of that. But it is, for example, asserted that very large sums of money are going from the Soviet Union to the Communist Party in Portugal. Is that so? If it is so, how can that be consistent with a general policy of détente between East and West? We would like to know a little more about that. Finally in Europe, we come back to the question of Cyprus, on which I hope the Foreign Secretary will give us some information. All of us have received a number of letters from wives of Cypriot citizens and British people resident there, and there can be no doubt at all that there is very great hardship indeed among Greek refugees in Cyprus. Equally, there can be no doubt about the economic situation of the island, with so much of its productive capacity concentrated in Turkish-held parts of Cyprus and severely threatened at the present time. Anything the Foreign Secretary can tell us about this, or can do to help to solve the problem of the danger and the hardship, we shall willingly and warmly support. I want to turn to the Middle East which, even before the assassination, faced a grave and dangerous situation with the failure of the Kissinger mission. I believe that in the Middle East there is a clear need for the deployment of a European presence and influence. I do not believe that a purely local settlement between Israel and the Arab countries is likely, and the rest of the world is too deeply involved in this grave situation to ignore it. At the same time, however, despite Dr. Kissinger's brave efforts, it is apparent that the participation of the two great Powers, Russia and the United States, has not been entirely successful. That is why I would argue that a European presence in future discussions and future negotiations could be of enormous value. We in the United Kingdom, with our traditional links with, and knowledge of, the Arab world, should be able to provide a European leadership in these matters. I have been a good deal in the Middle East in recent years on business matters and I recognise how deep is the feeling on both sides. The difficulty in these circumstances always is that if one appears to be the friend of one side, one is assumed to be the enemy of the other. That is, in fact, absolutely untrue. The policy of the Conservative Party has not changed since Sir Alec Douglas-Home was Foreign Secretary. It is based on Resolution 242 of the United Nations, which explicitly recognises the right of all States to live peaceably within their boundaries. We are neither pro-Israel nor pro-Arab. If anything, we are pro-British, and our sole objective is a settlement that will be both just and lasting —for if it is not just, it will not be lasting. In this stance we mirror the stance of the Government. I do not believe that either Government or Opposition in this country have any objective in the Middle East other than that of trying to achieve a just and lasting settlement between the warring opponents. The case on either side is both simple and understandable. Israel claims the right to survive as an independent State, to live an ordered life within her own secure frontiers, to he free of terrorism and the threat of terrorism and to have freedom of trade, movement and navigation. The Israelis point with pride to what they have demonstrated of their courage, determination and sacrifice. They fear that the threats to their very existence uttered in the past may still be intended. The Arabs, on the other hand, wish to regain lands taken from them in battle and to see the claims of the Palestinians met with justice. They believe that time is on their side. They have demonstrated the power of the oil weapon. Many of them genuinely fear that Israel, perhaps with allies, still harbours further aggressive intentions. These are the claims and beliefs of the two sides, and we have to grapple not only with the facts and claims but also with beliefs, which in some ways are harder to deal with than facts. I do not see how a settlement can be reached without strong international influence to assist agreement on what is fair and to guarantee security for all States within what is a fair settlement, once it is achieved. It was a tragedy that Dr. Kissinger was rebuffed. It seems that the only possible step one can now foresee is a return to Geneva. The policy of piecemeal progress, which had very much to commend it, and which we supported, seems to have run into a road block. The danger of a meeting in Geneva is that the speed of a convoy is the speed of its slowest ship. Anyone participating in that conference might have the power of veto, and I would see difficulty arising, for example, from the attitude adopted by the Syrians who, much as they may want to be independent of Russia, are very much dominated by the enormous amount of arms and fire power they have received from Russia. Obviously, the presence of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Yasha Arafat will cause great problems. But we make no progress by ignoring the facts. My noble Friend Lord Carrington was recently in the Middle East, and when Yasha Arafat asked to see him he agreed. I believe he was absolutely right, because while we all deplore acts of terrorism, we all recognise that Arafat and the PLO have been accepted by the whole of the Arab world as representing the people of Palestine. He is one of the major factors in the problem, and nothing is to be gained by ignoring that fact. No one can be sure what will come of Geneva. What is tragic is the failure to use the enormous potential in the Middle East of an alliance of Israeli knowledge and technology with Arab resources, which could produce a great leap forward in the living standards of the people in the Middle East—a leap forward to a degree that it is hard to imagine. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be kind enough to deal with the points I have raised. Of course there are many others. Perhaps he would say something about the situation in Southern Africa. Will he say a little about what is happening to the Kurds? While one welcomes a rapprochement between Iran and Iraq, which is important for Middle East development, it seems tragic that it should be taking place at the expense of so much suffering for the Kurdish people. What can the Foreign Secretary say about the situation in Vietnam and the prospects there? I finish on the theme on which I began —that more and more we are seeing that the great nuclear Powers, Russia and America, cannot alone solve these pressing and urgent problems. There is a great need for a European presence and European influence, and this can be effective only if we are still there in our rightful place as one of the leading countries of Europe.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Chipping Bar- net (Mr. Maudling) on his first speech from the Dispatch Box in his new capacity. It was a thoughtful speech, and it was right that in his first contribution he should set out his attitude in a broad and general way to a number of the problems we have to address ourselves to.The right hon. Gentleman's vision has never been limited to Europe. I have followed his utterances for many years—for 20 or more—and I am very glad that this afternoon he extended the discussion much wider than Europe because that was my objective in pressing, as I have been within the House and the Cabinet, for a debate. I must remind the Opposition that there is a certain dereliction of duty here on their part. They did not choose to discuss foreign affairs in the debates on the Queen's Speech, and I had literally to force myself into the debate in the middle of half a dozen domestic issues in order to get the opportunity of making a speech. Today's debate has been arranged on the Adjournment motion, and the Opposition must realise that there are times when we must not only get away from domestic affairs but even raise our eyes beyond Europe and discuss the other issues which concern the peace of the world and in which this country has a very great influence. Therefore, although the right hon. Gentleman spent about a third of his time discussing Europe he will forgive me, I hope, if for these reasons alone I do not discuss our membership of the Community in any detail this afternoon. [Interruption.] I thought that that might arouse a certain amount of derision, but that only goes to show that hon. Members opposite are falling below the level of other world events. There are other things in the world, believe it or not, than membership of the Community. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I wish to re-emphasise that point. I have made many speeches in the past and I have no doubt that I shall make many more on the subject in the next couple of months. We shall all be preoccupied by it, so why not lift our eyes to something different this afternoon? The Government's recommendation on this matter is quite clear; namely, that Britain's best interests will be in remaining a member of the Community. This morning the Cabinet approved a very detailed White Paper setting out the issues and saying why the Government have reached the conclusion they have. I hope that that will be published within the course of the next day or two, and, although it is not for me to anticipate the actions of the Lord President, I believe that we are likely to have a two-day debate, when, no doubt, all the guns will be fired. I therefore prefer to reserve my ammunition until then, since I have made the position quite clear. One of the fears which was expressed continually during the course of those long debates on the EEC was that membership would cause us to turn inwards and away from our historic links with the Commonwealth, the United States and other continents. The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet said that it had not caused us to do so, and the purpose of the debate is to ensure that it does not, so far as possible. However, there is little doubt that when Labour came to office our relations with the United States were languishing and our relations with the Commonwealth countries certainly needed considerable nourishment. There was a single-minded tunnel vision about Europe, and it put us into a false position. I am bound to say in fairness to the previous Conservative administration that, whether by inclination or by force of circumstance, they seemed to try to prove their European credentials, and, in addition, there were traces of a very uncooperative attitude on the part of at least one member of the Community to the United States. From the first I emphasised that Britain would not be a party to building Europe against the United States; nor should we leave that great country out of account or in the dark when members of the Community hold their continuing political and economic discussions. There is now a general acceptance of this view in the Community, and Europe's relations with the United States have improved materially during the 12 months in which I have had the opportunity of witnessing them. This has been helped by the fact that a new group of European leaders has come to power who recognise the necessity of a close Atlantic relationship. It must be our determination in the coming years to build a healthy Atlantic partnership between a European Community and North America, and it is on that that I take my stand in these debates. This community of interest is based on the fact that we share a common appreciation and a common assessment of many of the world problems, such as energy resources, foodstuffs, the need to establish a better relationship between the purchasing power of the developing countries and their raw materials and commodities, and the relationship between them and the prices of the manufactured goods of industrialised countries. Europe and the United States have a joint interest in a stable world monetary and trading system. We shall not always agree on how to handle these matters—I see many points of difference—nor do we have a strict identity of interests. However, the Government's policy is that Europe must work to find the maximum area of agreement and to build on that. If Europe and the United States disagree or decide to go their own way separately it will cause great ferment in the rest of the world and we shall do more damage to ourselves. This is bedrock policy. However, in spite of that and the emphasis I have put upon it, it is not only to the Atlantic that we should look. With increased economic and political co-operation among the States of Western Europe must go the development of co-operation between East and West in our Continent. These two things, as I think the right hon. Gentleman was saying, are not necessarily contradictory. I have tried to follow this path, and after months of intensive preparation and consultation with the authorities of the USSR the Prime Minister and I visited Moscow in February. I think that I can claim as a result of that visit and the preparatory work that went on beforehand that our relations with the Soviet Union have a greater depth and understanding and are on an improved and more businesslike footing. In the conversations neither side tried to hide the fact that our systems are different and that our outlook on a number of problems does not coincide. The USSR recognises that we are deeply rooted in the Atlantic alliance, just as we recognise its leadership of the countries which make up the Warsaw Pact in a system which is different from our own. My policy, as long as I have the support of the House and my party, is that in the dangerous world in which we exist, with its built-in capacity for self-destruction, it is neither prudent nor constructive to remain at a distance from each other or in ignorance of each other's thinking. One of the main results of our visit to the USSR, therefore, is an agreement to broaden and deepen political contacts at all levels in order that we should at all times, and especially at times of tension, know as much as possible of each other's thinking. We managed to agree on a new definition of the phrase "peaceful coexistence". It has been interpreted in one way, and a not very persuasive way as far as I was concerned, for many years. I invite hon. Members who are interested in the study and textual analysis of these documents to see what is said in the joint statement. Peaceful co-existence now has a new meaning. It is defined as meaning a mutual, beneficial co-operation between States irrespective of their political, economic and social systems, on the basis of full equality and mutual respect. That is a definition to which not even the most curmudgeonly Tory could object. Let me say that, of course, peaceful co-existence used to mean the ideological struggle of the proletariat, by all means short of war, against hon. Members like the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill)—and that may be the underlying view; but at least in terms of long-term, fruitful, mutually beneficial cooperation between States, is it not something which we all want, whatever may be the relations between parties? If we do not, we are falling behind with the things that the world demands.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, during his visit to Moscow, he was able to discuss with the Russian leaders the position in Vietnam, which I am sure lie will agree is causing very grave concern, and whether he was able to say to the Russians that he felt it was undesirable that they should go on pouring in their large military equipment, tanks, munitions and rifles, which can only lead to even greater troubles in that part of the world?
We did not discuss Vietnam in detail in the USSR. There were many other matters which took up our time, and it had not then reached the peak of crisis which it has reached at this moment. But I will perhaps say another word about Vietnam later. I hope that the hon. Member is not trying to destroy—perhaps he is—what must be in the interests of peace in the world: that is, the establishment of relations between the USSR and ourselves based on mutual respect and full understanding of each other's point of view.I come to the question of Mr. Shelepin. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to me to be getting into a slight difficulty. When he was referring to Portugal he admitted that there was a difficulty in interfering in the domestic affairs of a foreign country. I do not know whether he extends that difficulty to the point of saying that interference would mean that we should refuse admission to any particular citizen of that country. As far as we are concerned. Mr. Shelepin is free to come here. On the basis of our relations with the USSR, his position is fully understood. I hope that he will be received with politeness wherever he goes. That is, after all, something that we should at least try to show, whatever our feelings may be and whatever representations may be made.
Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the difference between the Government's putting pressure on the TUC to withdraw the invitation from Mr. Shelepin and the pressure he himself, as Home Secretary, put on the MCC to withdraw the invitation to the South African cricket team in 1970?
That was a domestic matter in which I was putting pressure upon one of our own institutions in this country.
Any Government are entitled to do that if they wish, but it is certainly not my task to put pressure upon the TUC to refuse to admit people to this country.
I must say that at the Foreign Office it is sometimes difficult, although one argues with oneself about it. to apply a universal standard. I do not know whether all hon. Gentlemen do apply a universal standard in all their relations, whether with Portugal, Chile, South Africa or whatever. Let us be honest: all of us at some stage in our lives seem to apply double standards. None of us should be proud of it, but let none of us be ashamed to admit it. But in the case of Mr. Shelepin—this is my own view—I do not believe that it would assist the cause of free trade unionism in the USSR to refuse to admit him.
I will not give way on this point. It is very incidental to my speech, and I have already given way three times. I answered the question as it was put to me as honestly as I could, and I repeat that I think that Mr. Shelepin should be free to come and that our views should be made known to him. I trust that he will he received with politeness even by the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles).
No, I will not give way.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows full well that if the right hon. Gentleman is not giving way he must resume his seat.
Will he then please give way?
It gives me particular pleasure to say to a former admiral, in my capacity as a former ordinary seaman, that, as this is the first time in my life an admiral has ever said "Please" to me, I will gladly give way.
I am very grateful indeed to the right hon. ordinary seaman. He is absolutely right. He and I have seen enough of it and we do not want to fight with the Russians or anyone else. We have seen it in the same regiment. But on this business of Mr. Shelepin's visit, my point is that he comes here as a guest of the TUC, but would the Foreign Secretary consider it mutually beneficial that he should receive official Government hospitality?
That is an issue I have not considered. It does not fall within my province and I will not attempt to answer it. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman puts his question down, I am sure that the hon. Home Secretary will give him a considered reply, but I do not know what the answer is.I was in the middle of discussing economic relations with the USSR, and the right hon. Gentleman can see that we have had a ten-minute diversion by his back benchers on this issue. In the matter of economic co-operation, our agreement gives the opportunity to British industry to win many worthwhile orders in the Soviet market. I emphasise that the credit agreement provides a basis for increased Anglo-Soviet trade, but the initiative, the drive, the salesmanship, must come from British industry itself. I know that some hon. Members opposite have shown a marked lack of enthusiasm and portray the credit agreement as some unique British "give-away" to the Russians. Let me say that their views are not shared by those who are commonly their supporters. I refer to those British industrialists who have welcomed the opportunity which this new agreement brings. In any case, hon. Gentlemen opposite who have criticised this agreement ought to have known, and should know now, that this new agreement is almost precisely similar to a number of agreements negotiated by other Western industrial countries. The main difference, frankly, is that countries such as France or Italy negotiated such agreements some years ago when the Conservative administration was in office. We lagged behind, and it is only now that British firms can compete in the Soviet market on equal terms with others of our Western competitors. We have also sought with some success to improve—
I have given way rather a lot over the last 10 minutes, and would rather not do so again. In any event, perhaps I could be allowed to pursue my speech for a short while after this.
The right hon. Gentleman was giving the impression that a number of other European countries concluded agreements on rather favourable terms with the Soviet Union and was implying that the Conservative Government had not done so. We opened a line of credit for £200 million at favourable terms, although little of it was taken up. What he said was not strictly accurate.
I am very glad to welcome the right hon. Gentleman as an ally and if I had known that he was going to be so helpful I would have given way gladly because the criticism has been that we have given something away to the USSR which we should not have given away. If he wishes to share the guilt, I welcome it, and I hope that we shall hear no more criticism of the sort made from the benches opposite when the Prime Minister announced this agreement on the day we returned from Moscow. Perhaps it is a sign of second thoughts.We have sought with some success to improve our bilateral relations on the same basis with other European countries. In the past 12 months there have been ministerial visits either to or from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, in some cases with beneficial results to our trade, and I hope to follow up a number of these visits in the summer. Bilateral relations with the German Democratic Republic are developing, and it goes without saying that we have continued, and shall continue, our close relationship with Yugoslavia. The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet asked me about the multilateral negotiations which have been going on since 1972 in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. Those negotiations have been between 32 European States plus the United States and Canada. In addition to members of both the Atlantic alliance and the Warsaw Pact, neutral countries and non-aligned countries have been taking part. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. At times discussions seemed to be almost at a standstill, but they have been moving recently and they have now reached a relatively advanced stage. There is little doubt that the conference could be brought to a successful conclusion during the summer months. The Soviet Government are aware of the areas where movement is still required to achieve final agreement. I spent one morning during my visit to Moscow discussing with Mr. Gromyko the issues on which there are still differences between us. Since then, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Dublin has joined his colleagues in the European Community in expressing the hope that all participants in the conference will make the necessary efforts to obtain balanced and satisfactory results on the subjects on the agenda that remain to be completed. In that event I would expect the Heads of Governments of all the member States to meet together later this year in a conclave that will reinforce political confidence in the future development of détente between East and West. I hope that that will be generally acceptable to the House. Another aspect of our problems to which the right hon. Gentleman referred is the question of Portugal.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves relations with Eastern Europe, will he comment on another aspect? Many of us have watched with some admiration the speed with which the Government have endeavoured to improve our relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern countries. At the same time, many of us have expressed concern that little seems to be done to ensure that we continue to have good relations with the People's Republic of China. As we have extremely good relations at present, and as our trading relations with that country are vital to us, will the Foreign Secretary say a word or two on that subject?
If I had been allowed to make my speech in the order I wished, I should have referred to that later, but I will take it now because I agree that we should not be exclusive in these matters. If we seek to improve our relations with the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe on a basis that is mutually understood between each side, I see no reason why improvement of relations with the People's Republic of China should be excluded. I have on several occasions conveyed that thought to the ambassador in London when we have met to discuss these matters. The hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle) will know that we hope to welcome here Ministers from the People's Republic of China during the coming year, and I hope to visit China early next year. The Chinese Government have said that they will welcome me there, and I shall certainly use all the opportunities I have to improve our relations with them. Perhaps I may leave the matter at that and miss out the appropriate section of my speech.
The CSCE is an extremely important conference which has hardly been aired in the House. Is the Foreign Secretary fully aware of the importance of persuading the Soviets to concede on the CBM—the advance notification of manoeuvres and military movements—without which the strategy of the West would become much more dependent upon warning?
The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) is right. This is an important issue. I cannot get anyone to focus on it in the course of debate. There are three other matters which I regard as equally important but I shall not detain the House this afternoon by going into them, otherwise my speech will become too long. Some of them are of great complexity.To those who do not follow these matters closely, CBM—confidence-building measures—relates to the exchange of information on military manoeuvres so that each side can have greater confidence in what the other side is doing. I discussed this in some detail with Mr. Gromyko, and I emphasised that whit is required is not military surveillance but a gesture of political confidence. Just before we left Moscow Pravda published an interesting report about proposed movements and manoeuvres that were about to take place in the USSR. If that type of notification can be institutionalised in the form of an agreement to exchange information within certain areas which still have to be defined it can only add to political confidence. This is not so much a military matter as a way of increasing political confidence. I will not go into the other issues—the peaceful change of frontiers, human relations and equality of principles. These matters have to be studied, and they are worthy of a day's debate in themselves. Perhaps I may return to Portugal by way of China. I said when I went to Lisbon recently that the events of last April had been received with particular joy in Britain, certainly by my party. We had had many connections with Dr. Soares in exile in the past, and since then the British Government and I have done all we can to provide practical help and assistance to the Portuguese, who, like any other people emerging from dictatorship, face many problems in their efforts to establish a democratic society and to control their own economic destiny. Portugal is no exception to the rule that there are adventurists who seek to exploit the situation which arises when a country is emerging from dictatorship. It appears that the abortive coup of 11th March was one such example, and violent demonstrations to intimidate recognised political parties are another. I make clear once again our view, as I expressed it in Lisbon, that violence and other restraints on legitimate political rights have no place in a democratic society. It is important for the Portuguese people that these things should not happen, so as to avoid any risk to the unfolding of détente in the rest of Europe. Therefore, it is important that the elections which will be held on 25th April should take place in a calm atmosphere, to enable the Portuguese to express their views without fear, and to enable the leaders of the country then to take account of the views expressed by the people in forming the new Government and in framing policy. It is for the Portuguese people themselves to decide how and how far they intend to transform their society politically, economically and socially. I recognise the commitment of many in Portugal—including the leaders of the Armed Forces Movement, who have such great responsibility and considerable power—to the achievement of this goal. I look especially to the Armed Forces movement to recognise fully that the democratic parties and their leaders should continue to play a full and active role both in formulating policy and in creating the necessary link between the Armed Forces Movement and the people they represent. If I may return to another aspect of détente, I must underline the importance the Government attach to the achievement of progress towards détente in the military field. The Prime Minister and Mr. Brezhnev agreed in Moscow that measures of political détente should be complemented by those of military détente. They registered the fact that the favourable changes in the international situation which have been brought about are not yet irreversible, nor do they extend to all areas of the world. Such changes can be assisted if we make some progress in the talks now going on in Vienna to negotiate a reduction in the size of the armed forces in Europe. With our allies we are working closely to achieve an agreement which might help to bring about a more stable relationship between the NATO alliance and the Warsaw Pact countries. We seek to do so through a reduction in forces on each side which would not diminish the security of any individual country. From my experience so far progress will be very difficult but not impossible. I hope that the next few months will see some speeding up and the successful conclusion of the CSCE. In my view, that would create a climate in which some further progress could be made. As was indicated in our Moscow joint statement, both the USSR and ourselves, together with the United States, intend to play a leading part at the forthcoming conference to review the present state of the Non-proliferation Treaty concerning the exchange of nuclear information. I am deliberately struggling to avoid making a Cook's tour of world problems. I well remember Ernie Bevin saying that he felt he had to make such a tour. Having drowsed through many of those speeches, although they were worthy speeches, I know how hon. Members feel. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do not touch upon every problem that has been raised. My right hon. Friend will seek to answer some of them. However, I must deal with one or two other issues, and particularly the Middle East. The House will share the disappointment with which the Government heard that Dr. Kissinger had not been successful in negotiating a further partial or step-by-step agreement during the visit to the Middle East which he has just concluded. Dr. Kissinger has nothing for which to reproach himself. I discussed these issues with him both before he went to the Middle East and after his return. I have also discussed them with other leaders in the Middle East. I wish to put on record that neither Dr. Kissinger nor anyone else could have done any more to bring the two sides together. I hope that the House will join with me in paying tribute to the immense personal effort that Dr. Kissinger has put into making the negotiations a success. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I was relieved to hear from Dr. Kissinger when we met on Sunday that his first reaction was that he and the United States Government must continue to play a most active rôle in the search for peace. The American contribution is absolutely indispensable. Doubtless there will now be a pause for reflection by the parties concerned, and by other countries, so that they can take stock of the situation at which we have now arrived. I do not think that that pause should, or need, be a long one. The search for a lasting settlement which is fair to all concerned must be pursued with some speed. We cannot afford to let the situation freeze. There is not all that time. It may be, as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, that the time will soon be ripe, if it is not ripe now, for the Geneva conference to resume its work. That would mean that for the time being the step-by-step approach had been superseded. However, I would not rule out a return to it following a return to the Geneva conference. We would have to see how the issues were displayed at such a conference. The form of the negotiations is less important than the will to achieve a general settlement. The Government's views on the nature of the settlement remain as I stated them before and as I repeat them now. The Government believe that Israel must be given satisfaction as regards her legitimate demands for peace, security and recognition. We believe that the Arab States must equally be given satisfaction as regards their demands for the withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces. Due recognition must also be given to the rights, both human and political, of the Palestinian people. The nature of the representation of those people will undoubtedly be a thorny problem before a return to Geneva is satisfactorily agreed, if, indeed, that turns out to be the general desire of all the participants. There is nothing in the situation itself, apart from the attitude with which people approach it, which need make a settlement impossible to achieve, and perhaps a settlement going even further than that which some of us had in mind on the basis of the step-by-step approach. There are great issues at stake and there is a great deal at stake. Therefore, I think it may be necessary to make a bold leap forward. We shall see whether or not that is necessary. We must call upon all the parties to the dispute—I believe the whole House would do so—to persevere in the search for peace and to reject all ideas of a recourse to violence, because in the long run that will not advance the interests of any one of them. The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet suggested that the United Kingdom and Europe should play a greater part in these matters. The Euro-Arab dialogue was intended as a means of establishing closer relations, but not on the political plane. We did not wish to cut across Dr. Kissinger's own work. The dialogue was intended to be more on an economic plane. I speak for the United Kingdom when I say that we are ready with other countries to consider any proposals that might be made by which we could assist in the search. However, we must be careful before we thrust ourselves forward. The rôle of a mediator—and I have had some experience of it—is not always a happy one. I know how Dr. Kissinger is feeling today. The British interest lies in a general settlement. We believe that such a settlement can best be achieved by the parties in the framework of the Geneva conference and with the continued good offices of the United States. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to comment on the position in Cyprus—
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, would not he agree that both in the context of the Euro-Arab dialogue and in the now inevitable and, in my view, long-overdue move to Geneva it really is time that Her Majesty's Government decided that it is only the PLO that can represent the interests of the Palestinian people? Does he agree that any nonsense about Jordan or Jordanian delegates representing the PLO, and pre- tending that it does not exist in the Euro-Arab dialogue, is not really the way in which we shall move towards a satisfactory conclusion in these matters?
I do not think that I am called upon to express a view upon who should recognise the Palestinian people. I have said what I think their interests demand. The subject of who should represent them seems to be basically a question for those who attended the Rabat conference to settle for themselves.
They have settled it.
I say that it is for them to settle it.
They have accepted the PLO.
As I say, it is for them to settle it. I do not see that it is a matter which the United Kingdom Government should pronounce upon in a very delicate situation. I do not know whether there is universal agreement amongst the countries which attended the Rabat conference. We shall see whether that is the position. I believe that it is unnecessary for the British Government to get embroiled in that dispute, especially if we are to be asked to take a greater part in settling the substantive issue of the conference. I do not know whether that will be so but we should not begin by taking sides on a matter of representation which is not our direct concern.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the first essential in the Arab-Israel situation is an extension of the United Nations mandate? I believe that the first mandate expires on 24th April.
I promised the House, although I am being very long, that this was to be a short speech. It was for that reason that I said in implied terms that we did not have too much time. I could go on to spell out the interruption of the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts). I assumed that the House was aware of the position. I can promise the hon. Gentleman that I was aware of it. Please let me finish.The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet asked about Cyprus. On 12th March the United Nations Security Council adopted the resolution of which I am sure the House is aware. That resolution followed three weeks' sustained effort in which our ambassador, Mr. Ivor Richard, who is known to hon. Members on both sides of the House, played a leading part. It was a sustained effort to find a way acceptable to both sides that would lead to meaningful negotiations between the communities. Neither the Greek Cypriots nor the Turkish Cypriots were completely satisfied with the outcome of the United Nations debate, but the resolution eventually adopted has created a new framework for talks, if the parties will take avantage of it. The situation gave the United Nations Secretary-General a chance to undertake a mission of good offices. The House will join me in wishing Dr. Waldheim success in his task. He has the full support of Her Majesty's Government in any effort which we can make on his behalf. While talks to settle the island's future hang fire, the position of the people on the island does not improve. The leaders of both communities now have a fresh background against which to negotiate. I had an opportunity of discussing these matters over the weekend with Mr. Ecevit. I trust that we helped to forward the situation a little. We stand ready to help. I now pass to Rhodesia. My visit to Africa at the beginning of the year enabled me to explain our standpoint to a number of countries. I believe that our point of view is better understood in Africa now than at any time previously. I admire and support the statesmanship of the African countries in using the opportunities they have, in the changed circumstances of today, to encourage the Rhodesians themselves—white and black —to come together to find just and peaceful settlement of their differences. Since I returned from Africa I have kept in close touch with the Governments of Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and also South Africa. Events this month, especially the detention of the Rev. Sithole and the death of Mr. Chitepo, show how easily progress can be set back. I cannot claim that there has been much forward movement since I was there in January. But there is little doubt that all the Governments in Southern Africa are impatient for a negotiated solution in Rhodesia. While I do not wish to go into details today, I wish to emphasise that it is those who hold the power in their hands who can make the first and greatest contribution to an agreed and acceptable settlement —because it is those who live in Southern Africa whose interests are vitally affected by what happens there. I wish to finish by mentioning one other matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred; namely, the economic problems of part of the world, if not the whole world.
I should be grateful if I could be allowed to complete my remarks. I am cutting into the time of other hon. Members.The world is facing an important challenge from the developing countries about what they believe to be a fundamental inequity of an international economic system regulated, as they say, by a small group of rich countries led by the United States. This feeling of dissatisfaction, which expressed itself very strongly at the special United Nations Assembly last spring and again at the United Nations in the autumn, is creating political tensions as well as economic divisions. It therefore falls to be discussed in a foreign affairs debate. These nations are increasingly conscious that the gap between them and the richer countries has been widening, not narrowing, and that the real political influence in major international decisions eludes them. This feeling, coupled with the power demonstrated by the oil producers, has encouraged the developing countries in their campaign for what they call a new international economic order. So far only the oil producers have been able to translate this potential power into economic reality. And what effects it has had! But there are special factors which are unique in terms of the trade in oil. Looking ahead, it will be foolish for us to sit back defensively in the face of this situation. The developing countries, which depend on their raw materials and commodities for their earnings, should receive an assurance from the industrialised nations—indeed, I now give that assurance on behalf of Her Majesty's Government —that we recognise that we cannot continue to be rich while keeping them poor and that we will seek with them ways and means of ending this situation. We shall need better machinery than now exists. Both developed and developing countries have an equal interest in success. We, the developed countries, need security; the industrialised countries such as ourselves need security of supplies at reasonable prices. The developing countries need security of earnings so that they are not at the mercy of the market. So far I do not think that the general polemical exchanges in the United Nations have carried us very much further. There seems to be a conflict mentality building up between developed and developing countries, and Britain will work to replace it by a policy of co-operation. The world is not neatly divided into industrialised consumers inhabiting the northern hemisphere and developing producers inhabiting the southern. Industrialised countries are among the main producers of raw materials, and we are all consumers. The reality of today is the interdependence of the international community. That is the lesson we need to emphasise time and again. It is against that background that we had discussions with Prime Minister Trudeau in Ottawa and with President Ford in Washington. We raised discussions on this matter and received encouragement to go ahead with our studies. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hopes to initiate at the forthcoming Prime Ministers' conference at Kingston at the end of the month a discussion of these problems from the standpoint which I have briefly outlined this afternoon. At Kingston will be representatives of many of the primary producing countries hardest hit by recent world developments. There will be major developed primary producers present, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Britain will be there both in its capacity as a major importer of primary products and as a member of the world's largest consumer of primary products—namely, the EEC. A member of OPEC will be there in the person of General Gowon, of Nigeria. If we in the Commonwealth, having discussed these matters, could achieve a broad measure of agreement on the way to handle these matters it would have an influence on the policies of the EEC, OPEC and the Group of 77 and the general attitude in the United Nations. This is an important way in which the Commonwealth is of value, and it is a way in which we can act as a beneficient instrument in world policy. Our close working relationship with the United States will mean that we shall he able to influence its thinking, too. The United States has already taken a lead both in establishing the International Energy Agency and in putting forward initiatives at the World Food Conference in Rome. We have machinery, which may or may not be adequate, to deal with energy policy and world foodstuffs. Let me turn to the problem of raw materials, to the third leg of the Prime Ministers' conference in Jamaica. We hope that we shall make substantial progress in a number of fields. It is necessary and right that consumers should consult and develop their policies in cooperation. But it is also necessary—and it has been my consistent aim—to promote a constructive discussion between consumers and producers of oil whose common interests are so much greater than the preoccupations which divide them. What will be valuable at Kingston—the House will see how many "pearls" it has missed—will be to have frank exchanges of view about each other's problems. We should look, for example, at the problems and advantages of price stabilisation schemes and at the relative benefits of earnings stabilisation and price stabilisation from the point of view both of direction of benefit and of overall cost and burden sharing. These proposals are not mutually exclusive, and we may end up by picking the best elements from several alternatives. I expect that at Kingston we shall get no further than to be in a position to discuss broad objectives and perhaps agree on some suitable procedural machinery. But this in itself will be a major step towards practical solutions to these problems and a step away from sterile confrontation. This is our aim and our hope in the important discussions at Kingston. The Commonwealth can demonstrate once again its value and vitality and can give a lead to the world. I apologise for taking so long, but the interruptions have made my task even longer than it would have been. The House will agree that the Government are pursuing an active foreign policy. We shall continue to do so both in Europe and outside it in co-operation with our friends and allies. We shall continue in our determination to reinforce peace and to secure measures of disarmanent, to strengthen the domestic economy, to redress grievances of the poorer developing nations, to remove the causes of injustice wherever they occur, to improve relations with all countries, and to strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations.
The debate today is not primarily on Europe. Yet, it is hardly possible not to touch on Europe in any discussion on foreign affairs because practically every aspect of British foreign policy is related to our position as a member of the European Community. Regrettably, over the past year our rôle as a positive initiator of European foreign policy initiatives has ceased and we have inevitably become a passenger. I hope this will change after June.Meanwhile, British foreign policy has suffered as has European policy, and perhaps nowhere is this so apparent as in European relations with the Middle East. As Dr. Kissinger's latest endeavour sadly collapses, the absence of Europe's influence is glaringly apparent and the need for a relevant European initiative is more obvious than usual, though some of us have been urging such action for a very long time. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) referred to this in his speech. Also like him and other hon. Members, I have had the privilege of meeting King Faisal. I should like to associate myself with the tribute paid by the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend. The assassination of King Faisal, one of the most distinguished and influential of Arab leaders, casts even more gloom on a sombre scene. The consequences, although as yet impossible to assess, are incalculable. A feeling of apprehension will run through the whole of the area, particularly down the Gulf. As it is, the Middle East could be close to war once again. If it comes, it will probably be more severe than any of the previous Arab-Israeli wars. It could well embroil the super-Powers and Europe. At the very least, it will mean the imposition of restrictions and perhaps a total embargo on oil supplies from the Middle East. The latest Kissinger initiative has collapsed because of the impossibility of finding a satisfactory formula which would enable the Israelis to make a further withdrawal in Sinai. There is, of course, an inherent absurdity in the pretence that a withdrawal to the Mitla Pass line involved some fantastic concession by Israel unless she received in exchange a pledge of non-belligerency by Egypt. Naturally, Israel is entitled to such a pledge and more besides—a peace settlement and massive guarantees which will satisfy any Israeli Government genuinely seeking an acceptable settlement, and the Arab Governments as well, but only when she has declared her intention of withdrawing from the Arab territories occupied in the 1967 war and a timetable has been agreed for the withdrawal. In fact, as reported in the Daily Telegraph on Friday, and as confirmed by Dr. Kissinger's statements after the breakdown, President Sadat went very far to prevent a breakdown of the negotiations. The one thing that he could not give was a written end to the state of war with Israel, for, as he has often said, such a pact would have to wait for the end of the full-scale Geneva peace conference. The method of negotiation adopted by Dr. Kissinger succeeded in the immediate aim of securing a disengagement of forces after October. That should have set the stage for a general peace conference at which a comprehensive settlement could be worked out and put to both sides. Instead, Dr. Kissinger decided to conduct his step-by-step diplomacy. Of course, he pursued it in the best of faith and, as the Foreign Secretary said, with both skill and determination. But the effect has been to give Israel time to forget the lessons of the October war and to tighten still further her grip on Arab lands occupied in 1967. Among the Arabs, these wasted months of private and partial bargaining have heightened suspicions of Israeli and, indeed, American intentions. Inevitably, they have strengthened the conviction that another war will be needed to convince Israel that she must give back the occupied territories and redress the wrong inflicted on the Palestinians. A negotiated peace settlement is still possible, and without doubt the speediest and most effective way of reaching it would be by really blunt and serious American pressure on Israel, since only the United States can extract from Israel the necessary concessions. This, incidentally, would be in the best interests of all, including Israel.
It is unlikely to happen, although some American political leaders are beginning to give public expression of resentment at Israel's intransigence—expressions which previously, with the notable exception of Senator Fulbright, had been voiced only in private by exasperated State Department officials. Such a sensible development of American policy, although not impossible, is unlikely.In the circumstances, is there now scope for a useful European initiative? Without expecting miraculous results, I believe there is. Indeed, some of the suggestions to which I shall now refer have been submitted by myself and some of my hon. Friends to the Foreign Secretary for his consideration. The Governments of the Nine should concentrate on bringing the search for peace back to the kind of negotiations for a comprehensive settlement envisaged in the United Nations cease-fire resolutions immediately after the October war. At that time the impact of war and the terrible dangers involved seemed at last to have opened the eyes of all concerned to the urgent need for a combined effort to settle once and for all. That mood of realism and urgency needs to be revived. Such a concerted European initiative should be based on Resolution 242 and the declaration of the Nine Governments in November 1973. But it must also take account of the recognition, now nearly unanimous, among the international community that there can be no lasting peace in the Middle East without satisfaction of the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people. This was the phrase used by the Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons on 30th October, and among those who have expressed a similar view is the Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, Mr. Nahum Goldmann. In a recent very significant interview in De Monde, Mr. Goldmann stated that negotiations between Israel and the PLO are possible. In the same interview, he said that it was obvious that there could be no durable peace in the area without an agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Recognition of Palestinian political rights, however is meaningless if it does not extend in practice to recognising the Palestinians' right to participate in negotiations for a settlement. Indeed, if there is ever to be a lasting peace, sooner or later Israelis and Palestinians must meet and negotiate the terms of their future co-existence.
In the view of the hon. Gentleman, do the same considerations apply to the Egyptians and the Syrians, so that they should now meet with the Israelis to try to work out a solution?
If there were a meeting in Geneva to discuss an overall peace settlement, the Syrians and Egyptians would meet the Israelis. Whom else would they meet?So far Israel has objected both to Palestinian participation in general and to PLO participation in particular. I do not think that the objections stand up to scrutiny. The argument that the PLO has no authority to represent the Palestinians is, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet said, unrealistic. The whole Arab world has now agreed that the PLO should speak for the Palestinians, and this decision has been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the international community. The objection that the PLO is disqualified as a negotiator because it is a terrorist organisation does not come well from the Israelis in view of the past history of Zionist terrorism in Palestine. In any case, there are plenty of Governments in the world today who grew out of what their enemies called at the time terrorist organisations while they called themselves resistance movements. In any event, they have gradually achieved international recognition.
The hon. Gentleman has reiterated the point that nearly all emergent nations have resorted to terrorist tactics. Would he agree that an ironical exception to that rule is that of the Kurds, who have scrupulously refrained from international terrorism but for whom no one gives a damn?
I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the problems faced by the Kurds, and, indeed, the appalling problems faced by other refugees. However, that is beside the argument I was trying to develop.There remains another argument, that it is unreasonable to expect Israel to negotiate with the PLO because its declared aim, which is the establishment of a democratic secular State both for Arabs and Jews in Palestine, would necessarily involve the destruction of the Zionist State. It is not unheard of for adversaries whose ultimate ideological aims are in conflict to sit down and negotiate a modus vivendi. If this were not so we would never speak to the Communist Powers. The argument depends on the presumption that the PLO is irrevocably committed to the destruction of Israel by force. There is in fact a growing body of opinion among the PLO which advocates acceptance of a Palestinian State established on the West Bank and Gaza and the adoption of a waiting policy in the belief that as time passes pressures will build up within Israel in favour of some accommodation with the Palestinians, not unlike the "State in partnership" vision. A primary aim of any European initiative should be to try to bring Israelis and Palestinians together at the conference table. To that end the European Governments should concentrate their efforts on certain essential points. They should make it clear to Israel that if ever there is to be peace in the Middle East Israeli and Palestinian representatives must meet to try to agree on the form of their coexistence. Israel might remember that the United Nations partition resolution of 1947, on which Israel based the legitimacy of its own State, also envisaged the establishment of an Arab State within the area of Palestine. The European Governments should further urge the PLO leadership to restate its ideas about the future coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians in terms which will take into account the overwhelming desire of the great majority of Israelis to preserve their own national identity and sovereignty, and which will recognise that the coalescence of the two peoples in a reunified Israel-Palestine can only come about gradually over a long period and by a voluntary and evolutionary process. However, the European Governments cannot expect to put this advice effectively to the PLO unless they are prepared to establish a positive working relationship with the PLO leaders involving some degree of formal recognition. This is a necessary first step if Europe is to exercise any influence at all on the Palestinian leadership. I suggest that it is desirable that Europe should exercise that influence, and should urge upon both the Israelis and the PLO that in any forthcoming peace negotiations they should agree to leave in abeyance discussions of ideological aims and ultimate solutions, and should concentrate on the immediate and practical step of trying to find a modus vivendi. Last, the European Governments should urge on all concerned, and especially on the Israelis and Palestinians, the vital importance of effective peacekeeping arrangements in any settlement. Machinery for this purpose would have to be set up on a long-term basis. Effective peacekeeping arrangements are a far more positive safeguard against future aggression by either side than any formal exchange of assurances. No peacekeeping machinery will ever be totally effective in preventing border conflict. However, the United Nations force stationed in Gaza and Sinai between 1957 and 1967 was on the whole remarkably successful. It would have been still more effective if Israel had not always refused to allow United Nations forces to operate on the Israeli side of the border. The setting up of effective peacekeeping machinery would be a significant test of sincerity on both sides. I believe that a European initiative putting forward proposals on those lines would be constructive and would go to the root of the Middle East problem. It would bring Europe back in a major political r ôle. Except for the parties directly concerned, Europe has most to lose by the renewal of further fighting or the outbreak of war in the Middle East. I believe that the best hope for achieving peace still lies in determined United States pressure on Israel. But if that does not materialise Europe should be ready to step in and, together with France, Britain should take the lead in formulating such a policy and in calling for action.
Without criticising the length of the speech of the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters), I remind the House that 24 hon. Members are anxious to take part in the debate. At the present rate, there will be three speakers an hour, but at that rate we shall need eight hours to accommodate those wishing to speak. I hope that hon. Members will be generous to each other.
I will do my best, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to obey your ruling—
Order. I cannot rule on this matter. Sometimes I wish that I had the power to do so, but I do not.