Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs
Non-Proliferation Treaty (Review Conference)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the Review Conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The conference has completed its general debate and the two main committees are now conducting a detailed review of the operation of the treaty. Their recommendations are unlikely to be known before next week. A copy of the speech I made to the conference on 6th May has been placed in the Library.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that many hon. Members will welcome and support the statement he made in his speech at the Review Conference that nuclear proliferation is one of the main dangers facing the international community? Will he indicate to the House why it is that Britain is reported as resisting the proposal by Mexico and Sweden that the nuclear weapon States should agree to a fixed timetable for a reduction in nuclear arms that will fulfil the commitment under Article 6?
I thank my hon. Friend for his comment about my speech. I said that this was the most important single problem.The reason why a number of Governments, particularly the nuclear weapon States, have felt it difficult to be tied to a timetable is that nuclear disarmament can be achieved only by agreement. That agreement cannot be set by a timetable because each side has to get concessions from the others. The purpose of the Review Conference will be partly achieved because a new sense of urgency will be pressed upon the nuclear weapons States, and particularly the super-Powers.
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the determination of Powers which are already in possession of nuclear weapons, including the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and now Britain, to maintain and develop their nuclear weapons, represents a real threat to the Non-Proliferation Treaty? Is it not desirable that Britain should make it clear that it does not intend to go ahead? Is it not regrettable that we said last week that we are prepared to have further nuclear tests?
I cannot add much to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 6th May about Britain's position. We have made it clear—I repeated it in my speech to the conference—that Britain has no intention of moving towards a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons. I believe that both the United. States and the Soviet Union are genuine in their attempts to achieve an agreement through SALT.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Libya about the illegal entry of arms, explosives and ammunition into Northern Ireland.
As I told the House on 18th December, we have made it very clear to the Libyan Government that we regard any support for the IRA as interference in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom.
What evidence do the Government have that arms and ammunition are coming into Ulster from Libya?
There are indications that the IRA has received some aid and training from Libya, but it represents only a small proportion of all the aid that it receives from external sources. Most of the arms supplied come from countries other than Libya—probably mostly illegally smuggled from the United States. In the past two years we have ensured that no arms which could be of use to the IRA are sold to Libya.
Have Her Majesty's Government made the same representation to the Governments of the other countries from which these arms are coming?
Certainly we have made it absolutely clear that any support for the IRA, from whatever source and in whatever way, is interference in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom. I was encouraged recently to read a report of a speech made by the Libyan Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in which he said that Libya does not wish to interfere in Irish affairs. I hope that this means the end of Libyan support for the IRA.
Were not the views expressed in Libya by representatives of the Irish Parliament helpful in this respect?
That is absolutely right. It was a useful visit and did a great deal to bring to the attention of the Libyan leaders the true situation in Ireland. It did a lot to dispel a number of misapprehensions which some of the Libyan leaders clearly had.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the present situation in Cyprus and the security of the sovereign base areas.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on recent negotiations over the future of Cyprus.
The first round of the resumed talks between the communities in Vienna was held in a constructive atmosphere, and made some progress. I am urging both Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash to participate fully in the second round, which starts on 5th June. There have been no significant security problems affecting our bases recently.
I am sure that the whole House will hope that these talks will go well. Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that there is some danger of Her Majesty's Government becoming too closely identified with the interests of Archbishop Makarios? Is it not fair to suggest that his support in Greek Cyprus is now coming overwhelmingly from Akel, the Communist Party, and from no other particular quarter? Now that we—at least, in my opinion—are so unwise as to be withdrawing, is there not a real danger that the Archbishop may decide to invite the Russians in, with incalculable consequences in NATO?
On the first part of that question, we recognise the Government of Cyprus. The President of the Government of Cyprus is Archbishop Makarios, and therefore we continue to recognise him as the President of Cyprus. It would not be proper to depart from that position. As regards the policy of the Government of Cyprus, I have no indication of any intention to invite the Soviet Union into the Greek-occupied part or the Turkish-occupied part.
Has my right hon. Friend seen the reply to a Written Question yesterday by his right hon. Friend the Minister of State, saying that it was not the policy of the British Government to support the United States Congressional embargo on arms supplies to Turkey? That being so, does he not recognise that the impression created by that answer is that Britain does not now support the policy of the withdrawal of troops from Cyprus and also is not against the partitioning of the island, which the Turkish Government have made a precondition of any continuing talks?
I hope that my hon. Friend will not give any countenance to the deductions which he draws from a refusal by the British Government to follow the actions of the United States Congress. It would be extremely mischievous if he gave any countenance to any such thing. We have made it clear that what we expect, in accordance with the United Nations decision, is respect for the sovereignty and integrity of Cyprus and the withdrawal of those troops which are there in defiance of that resolution. That has been our position, and I know of no reason at all to suggest anything to the contrary.
As a guarantor of the treaty establishing a free and independent Cyprus, what action are the Government taking to persuade our NATO ally, Turkey, specifically to do something conciliatory with its force in this matter?
We are engaged in intensive diplomatic activity and in encouraging the talks to which I have referred between Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash. We believe that in a difficult situation this is the most helpful way forward. We shall pursue that end.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has in mind, in consultation with the Turkish Government, to ensure that British residents in Cyprus have unrestricted freedom of movement throughout the island; what arrangements he has now made to ensure that British residents' property is fully protected not only as to their personal effects but as to their rights of land tenure; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the latest situation in Cyprus, so far as British interests are concerned.
I regret to say that the position of British residents in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus is not satisfactory. Despite frequent representations both to the local authorities in Cyprus and to the Turkish Government, satisfaction has not been received for damage or loss of the homes and possessions of British residents.Arrangements to ensure protection of land tenure are the responsibility of the local authorities, with whom the high commission is co-operating over registration of title. I have asked my right hon. Friend the Minister of State to inform the Turkish Government of my dissatisfaction over these matters during his visit to Ankara, where he arrives today, and to discuss remedies with them.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that fairly detailed answer, which he will be the first to recognise is very unsatisfactory. Does he agree that an embargo on the supply of arms to the Turks is probably the only weapon we have as a bargaining factor in securing the fair compensation and freedom of movement of British residents? Will he consider sending out, with the acceptance of the Turkish Government, a delegation from this House to Cyprus to observe the situation and perhaps to make recommendations which may help to secure a solution?
I hope that cutting off the supply of arms is not our only weapon. If so, it will not be very effective. It has not been effective in the case of the US Congress and, frankly, the amount of arms that we supply to the Turks is so infinitesimal that it will make very little difference. What is in prospect is the obtaining of some substantial orders for delivery, which would take some time and would create considerable employment here. I think that the Government would have to consider that question very seriously, in view of employment prospects. On the second part of the question, it has been said before that I would welcome a delegation going from this House, but, alas, I have no funds to send one. If someone could provide some funds, I would welcome an all-party delegation to look at conditions in the island. That would do a lot of good.
Is it not a paramount British interest to repair as soon as possible the damage to the strength of NATO in the Mediterranean—damage which has been caused by this situation and was referred to in answer to an earlier Question? Although we all welcome the talks which are going on at various levels between Greece and Turkey, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that at the NATO summit at the end of this month the Government will be ready to take fresh initiatives to cover many of the areas of concern which have come up in questions today?
I hone that, in addition to Mr. Karamanlis and Mr. Demirel, the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey will also be present at the NATO summit. It is my hope that we shall have bilateral discussions on these matters—or trilateral or even quadrilateral discussions. I am not sure that full discussion in the full council would be helpful, but certainly private conversations will go on.
I appreciate my right hon. Friend's difficulties, but I cannot help wondering whether he has given full consideration to the views of the trade union movement and the Labour movement in considering whether jobs are more important than the immorality of supplying arms to Turkey so that Turkey can invade, bomb and loot a Commonwealth country. Will he consider whether he is representing the views of the trade union and Labour movements in this connection?
I always like to think so, but I am at the moment representing the views of Her Majesty's Government. As for the supply of arms, if there were any prospect of Turkey's repeating the invasion that she undertook a year ago, clearly we should need to consider the situation afresh, but my hon. Friend should not get this out of proportion. I believe that details of arms supplies are regarded as confidential, and Ministers do not give details of them, but the amount of arms which are going is insignificant. That is why I say that it would not be a particular weapon to cut it off. I trust that, within the period in which there may be considerable supply of armaments, this problem will at least have been settled between Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash.
The right hon. Gentleman thinks that it would be a good idea if a delegation from this House went to Cyprus, but he has no money. Will he not consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer? This is one increase in public expenditure that we should not oppose.
I am sure that that is true of every item of public expenditure, but I think that it is for the House itself, if it wishes to take this matter up, to do so.
European Security And Co-Operation
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest progress of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he is satisfied with progress at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe; and when he expects the conference to conclude its business.
There has been encouraging progress on some of the difficult points outstanding. With a real effort it will be possible to get balanced and satisfactory results, and hold the third and final stage of the conference in the summer.
Yes, but will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Soviet Union is still being obstinately obstructive about, first, military confidence-building measures and, secondly, the freer flow of people and ideas? Will he accept that while we all wish to see a successful conclusion to the conference, and genuine debate, the Soviet Union will have to be much more forthcoming? Will he make it crystal clear to the Soviet Union that we are simply not prepared to agree to a summer summit on the totally inadequate basis so far achieved?
The answer to all those questions is, "No, Sir."
Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to assure the public that our membership of the Common Market has nothing to do with European security and co-operation, and to condemn his more extreme pro-Market colleagues, who seem to be so devoid of rational arguments in favour of this case that they are trying to terrify the British electorate into voting "Yes" by raising scare stories about a possible European or world conflict if we leave the Common Market?
What is true, although it is rather a long way from the Question, is that membership of the Community has enabled France and Germany to bury the hatchet of conflict of many centuries. I do not see how that can be gainsaid, and I regard it as an important issue. As for terrifying the British electorate into voting on 5th June, I have the feeling that it will go willingly to the polls and will return a large majority in favour of remaining in the Community.
I agree on that point. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take note that while we on the Conservative side share his desire to improve relations with the Soviet Union, and to reach agreement, we are not yet at all satisfied that an adequate basis for this exists? Does he not agree that there must be proper reciprocity on these matters and that the evidence so far available does not show that this exists? What evidence can the right hon. Gentleman give us about the Soviet Union which is calculated to make his optimism justified?
I would not want to give details, because confidential discussions are still going on. However, I can give illustrations of the progress so far. Provisional agreement has been reached on nine out of the 10 principles in the Declaration of Principles. We are still looking for clear and non-discriminatory agreement on military confidence-building measures but it is my judgment, in the light of current discussions, that progress may at last be possible. As for the area of human contacts and relations, such as facilitating family reunification, there is still work to be done. It would be untrue to suggest that the Soviet Union has been obstinately obstructive. That is not the way in which we will get agreement. I believe it will be possible to come to some agreement provided we are firm, but not if we keep throwing challenges at the Soviet Union.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he now intends to allow Chile to receive two submarines at present docked at Greenock; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he still intends to allow the two submarines lying at Greenock to depart for Chile.
The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." No new export licences for arms to Chile are being granted with the exception of spares and equipment relating to existing contracts.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is some regret that these submarines are now to be released to Chile? Does he also accept that we should now try to establish throughout the world an understanding about the basis on which arms should be supplied by the great Powers to lesser countries? Does he further agree that there is a degree of international morality in this matter and that where a nation has offended against the moral code throughout the world it should not be supplied with arms? Is it not now time for the United Kingdom to try to raise the moral standing and to give a lead in such affairs by saying that we are not prepared to supply arms in such circumstances?
My hon. Friend is right. I do feel some regret about this. We had this discussion a year ago. I am quite clear that as the ownership of the warships had already then passed to the Chilean Government we would be wrong to interfere. I took that view then and have maintained it steadily since. I am concerned, as I think everyone must be, about the question of the supply of arms. We have at the moment about £200 million-worth of arms orders for ships in Latin-American countries. This is a considerable benefit to us in many ways. I have heard it argued—although I think this is more for the Secretary of State for Defence than for me—that we could not maintain an independent arms industry unless we were prepared to engage in this trade. It does present difficult problems for those who have to take these decisions. I ask for understanding from my hon. Friend.
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that what he has said will receive widespread support in all parts of the House? Does he not also agree that when we talk of morality it is important that this country should not give the impression that it maintains double standards? Does he not further agree that this is something which affects not just the Government and Secretaries of State but other organisations within the country?
I have pleaded guilty before to double standards. I do try to avoid them. There are times when someone standing at this Dispatch BOY, alas, cannot evade the trap. But I give careful consideration, as does the Cabinet, to this kind of question and—if it is possible—to trying to work out principles that will reconcile with the considerations put by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson).
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response he has received from other Commonwealth Governments at the Commonwealth Conference in Jamaica to his initiatives on Southern Africa; and if he will make a statement.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 13th May.There was a general welcome from the Heads of Commonwealth countries to Her Majesty's Government's new policy in respect of the position of Namibia, the ending of the Simonstown Agreement, our embargo on supply of arms, Britain's financial assistance to Namibians, and our willingness to contribute to an international fund to assist Mozambique after independence. I hope to make a further statement on Rhodesia in the near future.
Will my right hon. Friend say what consideration was given to bringing Namibia into the Commonwealth and to requesting South Africa to end its illegal administration in that country? On the Rhodesian issue, may I ask what action was considered to assist Mozambique during efforts to bring the illegal régime to an end? Did my right hon. Friend find among the representatives of a quarter of the world's population, spanning five continents, any support for the illegal régimes in Rhodesia and Namibia?
There was in the communiqué a general invitation from the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth to the people of Namibia to the effect that if, at independence, they wished to become members of the Commonwealth, their application would receive a favourable response. There was no support for the present position in Rhodesia, indeed there was condemnation of it. As for the future of Rhodesia, I wonder whether my hon. Friend would wait for a short while, because there are other Questions about Rhodesia and Mozambique to which I would prefer to give substantive answers.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned advancing a subsidy to Mozambique to help in respect of the imposition of sanctions. Since we have a substantial deficit on our foreign exchange, will the Foreign Secretary say where we shall get the money? From which country shall we borrow to lend to Mozambique?
It will come out of the overseas aid Vote.
Singapore (Prime Minister)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about his discussions with Lee Kuan Yew at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.
Both the Prime Minister and I had wide-ranging discussions with the Singapore Prime Minister covering the political and economic situation in the world generally and in South-East Asia in particular. Such discussions between Heads of Government are confidential.
Was my right hon. Friend present in the House last Tuesday when the Prime Minister agreed with me that Lee Kuan Yew would enormously raise his prestige if he were to let out of gaol those people whom Her Majesty's Government put in there 13 years ago and who have been in gaol without trial ever since? Does he agree with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and, if so, will he, in the politest possible way, make representations about this matter to Lee Kuan Yew?
I read my right hon. Friend's reply. As is well known, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I are always in complete agreement—as are all members of this Government, on all occasions. [Interruption.] There is a problem here, as my hon. Friend knows. He has followed this question for some time and knows that Singapore is a sovereign independent State. It became so in 1965. The subject of our representations has to be handled with delicacy. I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.
Leaving aside the internal affairs of Singapore, may I ask the Foreign Secretary, in the light of the changed strategic situation in South-East Asia following the end of the Vietnam war and the British defence review, what residual obligations lie upon this country in respect of helping to sustain the security of Singapore? Will the right hon. Gentleman say in what way we are now able to carry those out?
The hon. Gentleman would help me if he tabled a Question to the Secretary of State for Defence. To the best of my knowledge, our forces intend to continue to visit the area and to exercise there. We shall honour the consultative commitment of the five-power defence arrangements under which we leave a small residual commitment of men to an integrated defence system.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make a statement on the Minister of State's forthcoming visit to Brazil.
I leave tonight for visits to Brazil and Venezuela. Her Majesty's Government wish to strengthen our relations with both these leading countries of Latin America which are remarkable for their vitality and growth. I shall be having discussions with the Brazilian and Venezuelan Foreign Ministers and other Ministers, in Brasilia and Caracas, respectively.
As a member of the recent IPU delegation, may I publicly express the delegation's thanks to its Brazilian hosts and to the ambassador, consuls-general and their staff? Is there not enormous scope, politically, technically and trade-wise, for expanding contacts with that country?
I have heard very good reports of the result of the visit of the Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation which was led by my hon. Friend. It was of great value that the members of the delegation were able to see so much of the country and so many leading figures in politics and government. I agree with my hon. Friend that there is an enormous opportunity for expansion of our trading interests and exchange of technology, and we want also to improve and expand our political relations. Brazil is our principal trading partner in Latin America.
Whilst he is in Brazil, will the Minister take the opportunity to see how successful the introduction of indexation has been in that country?
While I am in Brazil I shall, of course, look as carefully as I can at a whole range of economic and political questions.
When my right hon. Friend visits Brazil, will he take the opportunity to see what prospects there are for trade expansion outside the EEC? Will he express the concern that many people feel about statements that have been made concerning internal repression in Brazil, the treatment of critics of the present régime, the stories of torture we read and hear so much about, and the repression of religious and other bodies? Perhaps he will say that if we are to trade with that country we should like to know that the country observes a certain decency in its internal affairs.
In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, I have no doubt that one question that the Brazilian Government will wish to take up with me is that of their own economic relationship with the EEC. I have had their assurance that they look to the significant opportunities and value of their own economic relationship both with the Community and with Britain. As to the second part of the supplementary question, I shall not go around making comments on the country's internal affairs. Neither do I expect Ministers from other countries who come here to discuss political and trade relations to do so.
While the Minister is in Venezuela, will he make inquiries about the nature of the Venezuelan Government's recent discussions with the Shah of Iran, making clear to Venezuela, as an important member of OPEC, how seriously the United Kingdom regards the Shah's recent suggestion that the price of oil should be increased in September? Will he also make clear that the United Kingdom and our allies in the Community and the TEA wish to see a continuation of the present price freeze on crude oil?
I shall not communicate precisely what I shall say when I go to Venezuela, but there is no doubt that economic questions and Venezuela's rôle in OPEC are very important. We shall discuss a range of economic issues that affect our country and Venezuela, but I shall certainly not breach the confidentiality of the discussions.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is yet able to make a statement regarding recognition of the new Government of South Vietnam.
Her Majesty's Government recognised the new Government of South Vietnam on 12th May.
Is my right Hon. Friend aware that he will have the support of the Government benches for that action? Will he confirm that the takeover by the new Government was effected peaceably, in contrast to the stories circulated by the media and Opposition Members? Will he also confirm that the best action for many refugees—in contrast to the squalid actions of certain commercial interests, such as the Daily Mail—is to return to Vietnam? Will he assure the House that he will give assistance to those people, if so requested?
As to the takeover, I understand that Saigon was not—as had been expected—subjected to shelling by the North Vietnamese regular troops who were on the outskirts of the city. There was no killing of the civilian population. The return of refugees is a matter that must be left to them. They will know whether they are likely to be able to satisfy the requirements of the new régime and to live there peacefully. We have a large number of refugees in Hong Kong, some of whom would wish to return but most of whom would not. This will present us with a problem.
Is it not plain that all the important decisions about the future of South Vietnam are taken in Hanoi? Why should we recognise two Governments in what is, in effect, one country? What decision has been made about the Vietnamese refugees who want to come to this country?
It is not at all plain that all decisions are being taken in Hanoi. We shall have to wait to see how the situation develops. At present, we are one of the 68 nations which have recognised the Government in Saigon and at this moment I think that that is the right thing to do. I believe that the Home Secretary has made a statement on the admission of refugees to this country. I do not think that any quota has been fixed and I understand that all cases are considered on their merits.
Will my hon. Friend give the names of the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of the Provisional Revolutionary Government?
Why does my hon. Friend ask me such awkward questions?
Will the right hon. Gentleman at last express his concern at the way in which South Vietnam was taken by the Communists? Will he at last condemn the actions of the North and the Russians, and will he beyond peradventure make plain that the refugees from the South who wish to have asylum here and the children who are already here will be either safely received or allowed to remain?
I understand from all the hon. Gentleman's previous questions that he is much more concerned to dig back into the past and to follow up those matters than he is to try to create stable conditions in South Vietnam in the future. Throughout the whole of my experience, I have been in no doubt that there was a large body of people—perhaps the largest body of people—who did not support the Thieu Government, the Communist Government or the PRG, but the PRG is the administrative authority and it is upon that that we base our recognition. As to the future of refugees, the hon. Gentleman should put down Questions about that to the Home Secretary.
The Foreign Secretary said that the guns threatening Saigon were North Vietnamese army guns. Does he wish to comment on that?
There is no need to; it is well known.
Peace And Security (Un Charter)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps Her Majesty's Govern-are taking to uphold the principles outlined in Article 1.1 of the Charter of the United Nations.
We continue to work with other like-minded countries for the maintenance of international peace and security in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
Bearing in mind that Article 1.1 of the Charter of the United Nations declares that the central purpose of the United Nations is
and recognising what the Foreign Secretary has just said about the invasion of South Vietnam by regular forces of the North Vietnamese Army, why have the British Government not so far condemned this agression or sought to raise the matter in the United Nations? Are the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State not concerned that the machinery for keeping the peace seems to be breaking down in the same way as it did before the last war?"to take effective collective measures for the suppression of acts of aggression",
The hon. Gentleman is seeking to fall into the same trap as is his hon. Friend. I agree with my right hon. Friend—as I always do—that the important thing now is to foster a spirit of reconciliation in Vietnam. The interests of the Vietnamese people are not helped by attempts to allocate a percentage of blame to one side or the other. Throughout the whole history of Vietnam the United Nations has never been involved in the problem except from a humanitarian point of view. Neither the Government of the North nor the Government of the South are members of the United Nations, so it would not have been easy for the United Nations to have been involved.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the massacres which were forecast by Opposition Members never took place, that for the first time there is a genuine peace in Vietnam, and that the people have the opportunity to rebuild their country in a spirit of genuine reconciliation? Will my right hon. Friend make clear that the British Government will take a cordial view of that situation and give full support to the new authorities in South Vietnam and North Vietnam which are seeking to achieve it?
I think that we have to recognise that over the years terrible acts of violence have been committed by both sides. That is why I think it was with a sense of great relief that when the end came it was found that not many lives were lost. It is the wish of the British Government to assist in restoration, rebuilding and humanitarian assistance.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about his latest discussions with the Foreign Ministers of the EEC countries.
I met three of my EEC colleagues yesterday at the Ministerial Meeting of the Western European Union but the last Council of Ministers Meeting I attended was on 14th-15th April. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State attended a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 5th May.
As Foreign Office Ministers have no doubt been following with interest the debate about British membership that is now going on in this country, will the Foreign Secretary say what his view is on the debate that is taking place on the trade deficiency which we have with the EEC? Does the right hon. Gentleman recall telling the House, in answer to a Question from me in December, that he believes that membership of the EEC has not made much difference to our trading balance with the Community one way or the other? Is that still his opinion?
I was very relieved to see my opinion confirmed almost in terms this morning by the report of the National Institute of Economic Research, which is an independent-minded body. It is always a little comforting to know that one has not gone too far out on a limb. It is still my considered opinion. Taking into account the fact that we have been able to buy food much more cheaply from the EEC during the last year and have therefore moved a number of our food purchases from outside to inside, it was inevitable that the deficit should go up. It has gone up by a large extent but, as I understand it, no more, in terms of proportion, than our deficit has gone up in other parts of the world.
Has my right hon. Friend noted the growing threats of interference by the EEC in political matters, foreign policy and military matters, with distinct cold war undertones? Secondly, might this not lead to the joint nuclear bombing force advocated by Lord Carrington and the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), which would end our hopes of détente and peace in Europe?
For the life of me I do not see any signs of that. Certainly in the EEC they never discuss these matters. The issues that my hon. Friend refers to are spoken about in the process of what is called political co-operation. As my hon. Friend knows, that is entirely different from the EEC. It comprises a meeting of nine Ministers of the countries that make up the EEC. That is part of the treaty. My hon. Friend may be a little scornful, but I remember the occasion when Sir Alec Douglas-Home had to fly from Paris to Copenhagen because the French refused to allow a discussion on political co-operation to take place physically at the same place as the discussion of the EEC. I must say to my hon. Friend that I see no atmosphere among my Foreign Minister colleagues to suggest that they are trying to create a return to the cold war. Indeed, I would say that the situation is rather the reverse.
While recognising that the Belgian Prime Minister is undertaking a survey, may I ask whether it would not be true to say that the Government must now have some ideas of what they mean by political union? Will the Foreign Secretary give us just a peep behind that curtain and tell us what the Government are thinking, and also tell us whether his Conservative allies, who agree with him about the Common Market, share the same view of political union?
I am glad to say that I am responsible only for the Government and not for anyone else. If the hon. Gentleman re-reads my speech of 19th December 1974, he will find not only that the curtain was raised a little but that the whole scenario was completely exposed. I think that after 5th June we shall have some very interesting discussions on that. I do not expect my view to change on 5th June from what it is now.
During his visits to the EEC countries has my right hon. Friend observed that countless millions of trade unionists and Socialists have found the EEC an instrument of peace and prosperity? Has he also observed that not one meaningful, responsible Socialist, trade unionist or Communist in the original Six countries is advocating withdrawal of his country from the EEC?
I have noticed that. I have also noticed that Sir Christopher Soames says that it will be the last refuge and bastion of capitalism, while "Communists For Europe" in this country says that it is the only way to build Socialism. The synthesis of these two views brings me back to the view that I have always held, namely, that we should be able to make of the EEC anything that the Governments in the EEC want to make of it.
While accepting that primary responsibility for achieving an acceptable settlement in the Middle East lies inevitably with the United States and the Soviet Union, may I ask whether the Foreign Secretary agrees that Europe has a very important contribution to make, and that such a contribution is expected by countries in that area? Therefore, did he discuss this matter with his colleagues when he met them recently?
Yes, Sir. The question of the Middle East is one that constantly comes up in terms of political co-operation, but not in the Community discussions. We have had a number of talks about the ways in which the countries of Europe could be of assistance as regards a settlement in the Middle East, but I have no details that I can give the hon. Gentleman this afternoon.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next proposes to meet the other Foreign Ministers of EEC countries.
My right hon. Friend will meet the Foreign Ministers of EEC countries at meetings of the International Energy Agency Governing Board and of the OECD Council of Ministers in Paris on 27th and 28th May, respectively. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State will also be meeting them at a ministerial meeting on political co-operation in Dublin on 26th May.
I thank the Minister for that comprehensive answer. Will he seek to have placed on the agenda the matter of a common EEC policy towards the Middle Eastern oil-producing States, in view of the recent statements by the Government of Iran covering price increases, especially in view of certain muttered threats by the United States in regard to military intervention?
I do not want to comment on the words used by the hon. Gentleman, but the subject which he raised will be taken up in the International Energy Governing Board meeting.
Will my hon. Friend say whether it remains the Government's view that the proceedings of these ministerial meetings should be kept secret? This will have a considerable impact on the views of people about our future conduct within the Common Market.
As my hon. Friend knows, there are many ministerial meetings not only in the EEC but at other levels and in other forums. It is not the usual practice to give a detailed and full verbatim record of these discussions. But in regard to discussions within the EEC and elsewhere, my right hon. Friend is always willing to answer questions in this House, in correspondence, and in discussions. I believe that a great deal of information is made available to the House on discussions which take place.
When next he meets his colleagues will the Foreign Secretary give an assurance that they will have consultations on the recent discussions which Sir Christopher Soames has had with China, Mexico, Canada and other countries? Will her further assure the House that he will give Government support to strengthening those ties?
I am certain that my right hon. Friend and the Minister of State, who have taken part in the discussions, will note the point raised by the hon. Gentleman. The agenda for the meeting on 26th May has not yet been decided but it gives an opportunity for Ministers from each of the Nine to raise any subjects they wish which are of importance to the whole of the Community.
Will the Minister make a point of discussing with other Ministers the problem of migrant workers within the Common Market, particularly those from non-Market countries, who often have to work for very low wages and suffer deplorable housing and other social conditions? Do not these despicable practices prove that the Common Market is based on international exploitation rather than on international co-operation?
On the general conditions of the workers in the Community, most hon. Members will recognise that in some countries there are considerably higher standards of wages, conditions and benefits than exist in this country. That is a factor to be recognised. However, we must be careful about seeking to interfere in the internal affairs and sovereignty of other Community countries.
When the Foreign Sectary next meets his EEC colleagues, does he plan to raise with them the alleged loss of 500,000 British jobs as a result of two years of British membership of the EEC—or do the Government not accept the figure put forward by the Secretary of State for Industry?
The hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a statement on this matter in answer to questions raised.
In regard to the Minister's reply to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), did the Minister say that Her Majesty's Government are considering how they can best disclose the proceedings in the Council of Ministers?
No, Sir. I did not say that.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will now make an announcement of policy about direct elections to the European Assembly.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement of Her Majesty's Government's policy towards direct elections to the European Assembly.
I refer the hon. Members to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) on 18th March.—[Vol. 888, c. 1477–8.]
Do the Labour Party and the Labour Government agree with the resolution passed at the Common Market Assembly on 10th January, which referred to the integration of the countries in the Common Market and to direct elections to what will be called the European Parliament? Do the Labour Party and the Labour Government agree with direct elections? If so, may we know about this before the referendum, as it is a very important point?
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the Prime Minister reserved the British Government's position on the occasion of the communiqué. The issue which we have to decide, and which the country will decide on 5th June, is whether we shall be in or out. If the decision is, as I believe it will be overwhelmingly, that Britain should stay in, I think that we shall all have to consider what sort of future we want to see for the European Assembly. However, all these decisions will depend on the decisions of hon. Members. The first decision will be taken by the people in the referendum.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that many of his hon. Friends very much favour the concept of a directly-elected European Parliament as a means of putting into the EEC the kind of democratic element that we, as pro-Europeans, realise is not there at the moment? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that if, as he thinks and I think, the result is an overwhelming "Yes" on 5th June, the Government will work to expedite the provisions of a directly-elected European Parliament?
No, I do not want to give that assurance. I believe that when the decision of the referendum is known, and if it should be, as I believe it will be, that Britain should stay within the EEC, we shall find within all parties a good deal of disagreement about what change, if any, should be made in the pattern of the European Parliament. There are hon. Members on both sides of the House who believe in democratic election. There are others who think that it would be better to leave the system as it is now. I think that the time for resolving those differences is after the referendum.
Is it not the case that direct elections depend wholly on the assumption that there will be a substantial increase in the supranational legislative powers of a European Parliament? If it is to retain its present powers, does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that there is no case for changing the basis of the election of members? Is it not grossly unsatisfactory for the Government simply to reserve their position on this vitally important matter? Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the British people, too, can reserve their position on this matter on 5th June?
It would be absurd for the British Government to take decisions or to indicate a conclusion about issues such as these before the British people have decided whether we stay in the EEC. After the decision has been taken by the British people, that will be the time for hon. Members to make any determination on the question whether there should be any changes in the European Parliament.
Will the Minister say why the Government are being so secretive? The other Minister of State at the Department said that the questionnaire on political union would be answered but that the Government would not publish the answer. What is the reason for the secrecy? Is the Minister frightened of letting people know whether the Labour Government favour direct elections, or a two-Chamber legislature? Why the secrecy?
My hon. Friend wants to have it both ways. He wants us to take a position which we have not taken, so that he can attack that position. The Government have not taken that view. They have not reached a conclusion—[Interruption.] I do not think my hon. Friends want us to reach a conclusion until the British people have spoken. My hon. Friend and many others who take his view about the Common Market will wish to be consulted if the decision is taken to remain within the Community.
Is it not the plain and simple fact that under the treaty it is obligatory, at some time, to have direct elections to the European Parliament? Is not the only question, assuming continuity of membership, when?
I think there is nothing plain and simple about the issue at all.
United Kingdom Membership
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether any representative of any Commonwealth Government at the recent Commonwealth Conference expressed a wish for the United Kingdom to leave the EEC.
No, Sir. The Commonwealth Heads of Government unanimously placed on record their firm opinion that Commonwealth interests were in no way prejudiced by Britain's continued membership of the Community.
I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on a spell-binding performance this morning on "Referendum Call". Will he take the opportunity to dissociate himself totally from the reprehensible attempts being made by certain hon. Members to incite Commonwealth leaders into expressions of qualified disapproval of British membership of the Community?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said. As regards inciting Commonwealth leaders to express their disapproval, my experience is that any such course is totally counter-productive. Because of this factor, a clear statement was made and their interests were not prejudiced.
Is not my right hon. Friend astonished by the amount of attention now paid to the views of Commonwealth leaders, compared with the little regard that we paid to their views before we went into the Market?
It is true that because the then Conservative Government negotiated in haste they did not take into sufficient account the position of New Zealand or of other Commonwealth countries. Because we have now got a satisfactory solution to the situation of New Zealand, the developing countries and the Commonwealth sugar-producing countries, I think that we can claim that this is the result of our renegotiation which, in turn, has led many Commonwealth countries to display an active wish for us to remain full members. They see the advantage to them of our staying in.
Why does the Foreign Secretary spoil it all by talking such nonsense about "our renegotiations"?
I was not trying to please the right hon. Gentleman; I was merely telling the truth. It is a great pity that the Conservative Government did not spend longer in settling some of these questions, for we would not then have needed to embark on some difficult renegotiations.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Parliamentary Questions on EEC matters have been transferred from the Department to which they were originally addressed in order to comply with the Government's guidelines on official Government policy.
Following the Prime Minister's directive, why has the House continued to receive misleading and evasive answers on EEC matters from the Secretary of State for Industry?
There is nothing misleading in the answers given; it is only in the reception they receive.
Heads Of Government Meeting
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are the principal matters which will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of Heads of Government of the EEC at Brussels in July.
It is too early so say. A number of possible subjects are under consideration, but the agenda has not yet been agreed.
Despite that answer, in view of some of the odd things which are being said by some of the Foreign Secretary's colleagues, will he confirm that there is no question of the Government's being obliged to accept any scheme of Community action or integration which has not previously been fully discussed and accepted by this country?
I am willing to repeat that assurance, although sometimes it falls on deaf ears. There is no doubt that the degree of integration is dependent on the votes of the Nine member countries acting unanimously. One vote can block any advance in that direction.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that the only way in which that will work properly is for the British people and the House to be aware of the draft proposals? Is he aware that even the head office of Her Majesty's Stationery Office does not have copies of the draft EEC instruments, and that even the EEC office in London does not have them available for the general public? In that case, how does he think that either the House or the public will be able to understand the draft documents which must be discussed by the Council?
I do not accept anything that my hon. Friend said. This House now has more opportunity of debating proposals made by the Commission than it has ever had. The process of consultation is complete. Indeed, many more statutory instruments issued by the Commission are discussed in this House than those issued by the Government. I do not object to that. It is right that Parliament should take a continuing interest in the matter. I hope that that will continue, and that the procedures will be improved. However, it should not be allowed to be believed that it is impossible to discover what the Commission or the Council of Ministers is doing, or that it is impossible to debate those matters before decisions are taken. I have taken the most stringent precautions to ensure that that is not so.
I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said on this and the preceding Question, but does he recognise that the House is in some difficulty when Ministers in the same Government give different advice on the EEC matter? Can he now say, in terms, for the benefit of hon. Members on both sides, whether Questions about the effect of the Common Market—for example, on unemployment—are now to be addressed to himself as the responsible Minister who negotiated this matter, to the Secretary of State for Industry, who said one thing, to the Prime Minister, who said something different, or to the Chief Whip, who said that the Secretary of State for Industry was not telling the complete truth? To whom should these Questions be directed? The House is in some difficulty when different Front Bench Members say different things about this important matter.
I did not think that the Opposition were in any difficulty. I thought that they were rather enjoying it.The hon. Gentleman will probably recognise that Questions put down today will be answered after 5th June, when, as a result of the resounding "Yes" that I believe is likely to be given, we shall have a united, harmonious, active and determined Government, which will sweep all before them.