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European Security And Co-Operation

Volume 892: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1975

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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?

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.