House Of Commons
Monday 10th November 1975
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
County Of South Glamorgan Bill Lords
That so much of the Lords Message [6th November] as relates to the County of South Glamorgan Bill [Lords] be now considered.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
So much of the Lords Message considered accordingly.
That this House doth concur with the Lords in their Resolution.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.
Oral Answers To Questions
North Sea Oil
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his present estimate of the yield of oil from the North Sea in 1976, 1977 and 1978; and how this compares with official estimates made two years previously.
The Government's estimates are indicated in the table on page 16 of the Brown Book. For the years mentioned, these represent a reduction as compared with the 1973 forecast because of the over-optimistic view then taken of the time necessary to bring fields into production.
Is the Secretary of State aware that, because of the Government's uncertainty over the terms of participation in the oilfields, development in the smaller oilfields is being held up and that this is resulting in a run-down in the fabrication yards, the net result of which is bound to mean even greater numbers of unemployed?
The problems to which the hon. Gentleman refers are real, but the truth is that the estimates made in 1973 did not take account of the difficulties facing the offshore operators and have nothing whatever to do with the other factors mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.
Is the Secretary of State aware that in the most recent World in Action poll it was shown that, based on that sample, two-thirds of the Scottish people wish all or most of Scottish oil resources to be used for the benefit of the Scottish people through the Scottish Assembly? Will the Secretary of State comment on the implications of that sample poll on energy policy, particularly in view of the fact that self-sufficiency in Scottish terms is likely to be achieved by the late spring? Does the right hon. Gentleman concede that his Department's policies will have to change to accord with that situation?
I am responsible for many things but not for World in Action public opinion polls or the assertions of the hon. Gentleman. I think that everybody recognises that what we want is to get control of our own resources, as far as possible. The policy that we are putting forward, which I hope both Houses of Parliament will pass this week, will help us in that intention. The benefits in Scotland, in terms of the number of jobs and opportunities, quite apart from the benefits that will flow from the oil to the people in Scotland, will be real.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that his recent agreement with the oil companies on a greater share of work being given to British companies has been well received throughout the country, and especially in Scotland? Will he confirm that if the Scottish National Party's disastrous policy of a low depletion rate for North Sea oil were to be followed the Government would have to tell the people of Scotland that it would mean a drastic loss of jobs? We want oil-assured jobs and prosperity for the whole country.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reference to the memorandum of understanding, although the main credit for that must go to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.On my hon. Friend's general point, it is not for me to interpret Scottish opinion, but from my Scots half-blood connection, and considerable knowledge, I should be surprised if the Scottish people wanted to separate themselves from the people of England. I think that both peoples would be the sufferers were that course to be urged.
Did not my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison) make a valid point, namely, that the uncertainty which the Government have created by their policy of participation and the setting up of the BNOC is leading directly to a loss of jobs in the fabrication yards in Scotland? Will the right hon. Gentleman have the grace to recognise that fact, even if he cannot do much about it?
The right hon. Gentleman has done his best to create uncertainty, and, because he says that there is uncertainty, he asks me to believe that what he says is correct. It is not correct. We are remedying the betrayal of the national interests by the Conservative Government when they had responsibility for oil matters.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what discussions he had with the Japanese Government about Japanese participation in the development of the North Sea oilfield.
In the course of a visit to Japan last month, I took the opportunity of meeting several members of the Japanese Government. My informal exchanges with them included North Sea oil, among other topics.
The Secretary of State has not disclosed very much. Did he make a deal with the Japanese that Japanese exploration could take some interest in the North Sea? Did he discuss arrangements under which the Japanese could import crude oil from the United Kingdom? Did he recruit Japanese capital from the banks of the chemical industry? Finally, what is the position of the National Iranian Oil Co. in all this?
I think the hon. Gentleman knows that the next round of licences which has been forecast has not yet been announced in detail. I made it clear to the Japanese that there would be no discrimination against foreign companies applying for licences in the next round. It would have been quite wrong for me to anticipate the discussions. But the Japanese are very interested in this matter, as the hon. Gentleman knows. If I remember the figures aright, 73 per cent. of all Japanese energy is oil, and 99·7 per cent. of the oil they use is imported. The Japanese estimate that they will need to double their consumption of oil over the next few years, so their interest in the North Sea is very strong. [Interruption.] I made it clear that we should be making available further blocks for licensing, and they expressed an interest in it. I told them that there would be no discrimination against them.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that what he is saying now about Japanese investment in United Kingdom oil is in marked contrast to what his predecessor said on 4th November last year, when he roundly condemned my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) because we had even so much as talked to the Japanese about investing? Will he disown his right hon. Friend, and confirm that there has been a change of Government policy in this matter?
No, certainly not. Indeed, if the right hon. Gentleman looks in Hansard he will find that when I was Opposition spokesman I made exactly the same criticism—that we believed that the previous Government, by linking Japanese investment in industry generally with a pledge to the North Sea, were making a wrong decision. Therefore, what my right hon. Friend my predecessor as Secretary of State for Energy said was right, and the approach that we are making on this is correct, too. When the licensing round is opened, there will be no discrimination against those who wish to apply for licences.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the estimated flow of oil from the Forties Field over the next 12 months at the latest date for which the figure is available.
BP estimates 1976 production from the Forties Field at a daily average of about 200,000 barrels. The precise quantities will depend on progress with development drilling on all four platforms, only one of which has so far been commissioned.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the start of oil flow from the Forties Field is a tribute to the public enterprise of British Petroleum, a company which is 70 per cent. in public ownership? But did my hon. Friend notice that at the opening ceremony last Monday there were representatives of the Tory Party and the Scottish National Party? Does he not think it strange that such Right-wing opportunists should jump on the bandwagon in view of the fact that certain Tory extremists tried to wreck the British National Oil Corporation, and certain Scottish nationalist extremists attempted to blow up the Forties pipeline?
I am sure that the whole House will agree that British Petroleum showed immense enterprise in bringing this field on to production. I am glad to say that I have no ministerial responsibility for those who were invited to the ceremony, since it was a matter for British Petroleum, nor have I ministerial responsibility for opportunism on the part of anybody.
Is the Under-Secretary aware that I was one of the Members who had the pleasure of seeing Scotland's oil come ashore a few days ago? Is he also aware, and can he point this out to his hon. Friends, for whom I am sure he has no ministerial responsibility, that within a few months the arrival of oil in Scotland from the Forties Field will make Scotland self-sufficient in oil products? Will he explain to us when we shall see the benefit to Scotland from this?
There are considerable benefits flowing from the exploitation of North Sea oil. The hon. Gentleman, some of whose constituents are involved in this, already knows that and ought to pay credit to it. It is not Scottish oil. It is British oil. It belongs to the whole of the United Kingdom and its benefits should accrue to the whole of the United Kingdom. What I find surprising is the definite and embarrassed silence of the Scottish National Party when the Shetlands put forward a claim that is as justified as that of Scotland.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what action he proposes to take in view of the difficulties merchants have in obtaining supplies of anthracite; and if he will make a statement.
Generally, the supply of anthracite, which is a matter for the NCB and the coal trade, should be adequate, but if shortages occur in certain parts of the country, alternative solid fuels should be available.Production of anthracite in the United Kingdom has declined as a result mainly of delays in bringing new opencast sites into production; also, less anthracite than usual is being imported this year by the trade. To meet demand in conjunction with the coal trade it has taken special steps to import supplies, and, in addition, the Board is taking all the measures it can to increase production.
Does the Minister understand that in the West Midlands there are not adequate supplies, and that, for instance, since July coal merchants in my constituency have never had more than 40 per cent. of the amount specied in their annual tonnage contracts? That figure refers to road-borne supplies. For rail-borne supplies, the figure is 25 per cent. How are the merchants to supply their customers? Will the Minister understand that they expect somebody in the Government to be responsible for this state of affairs? Will he further understand their natural indignation at being forced to pay a levy for a promotional campaign when they cannot even obtain supplies for their present customers?
I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety—it is an anxiety that is shared in Scotland and in the Midlands—but I hope that he will agree that, under special arrangements made by the NCB and the trade, anthracite is being imported from West Germany, South Africa and Vietnam. The tonnage is estimated to be sufficient to safeguard the home market. The figure is about 100,000 tons. I take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I take note also of his strictures, but this is the responsibility of the National Coal Board and the trade, and not of the Government.
Will the Minister assure us that he will now make representations to the Chairman of the National Coal Board to make sure that this promotional campaign makes clear to customers that alternative sources are available, and that they will be suitable for their uses? The Minister will know that at the moment there is a great deal of unease in the mining industry about the level of coal stocks. It cannot be a good thing to promote the use of solid fuel if the customer cannot get what he wants.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that matter. There are plenty of other types of coal, plenty of other types of smokeless fuel, and plenty of other types of bituminous coal. I am seized of the point made by the hon. Gentleman, that the situation could be misunderstood when we are talking about anthracite. Nevertheless, I shall draw to the attention of the Chairman of the National Coal Board the points that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
Harebrecks Estate, Watford (Ncb Heaters)
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what action he proposes to take over the deadlock between the National Coal Board and the Watford Borough Council relating to the 600 fires in the houses of the Harebrecks Estate, Watford, details of which have been given him by the honourable Member for Watford; and if he will make a statement.
The NCB informs me that it is still awaiting a response from the Watford Borough Council to the revised offer that the Board made at the meeting on 24th July that my hon. Friend chaired.
Does my hon. Friend appreciate that for the last two years the residents of about 800 homes in Watford have had not heat but noxious fumes pumped into their houses by the heaters which the National Coal Board has installed, and that 30 other areas are having similar difficulties with these heaters? Will he do his best to winkle Sir Derek Ezra out of his "hard-heading" to talk to the Watford Borough Council so that some sensible suggestions can be made? For the benefit of hon. Members, the term "hard-heading" means—
Order. This is not the time for statements.
I have every sympathy with the point that my hon. Friend is advancing, but I do not entirely accept the implications of his question. I hope he will concede that the Board's offer was to deal with extreme urgency with any cases in which health was shown to be at risk. I hope that he will take cognisance of what I said in my answer to his Question. The Board has made an offer to the town council and it is for the town council to respond to that offer. I think my hon. Friend will agree that there is a contractual relationship between the Board and the town council, and that contractual relationship should be pursued. I am sure that, through his good offices, my hon. Friend would want to be helpful as he has been in the past.
It is the same offer as was made two and a half years ago.
Waste Heat (Power Stations)
asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects his Department to complete its study on the utilisation of waste heat in power stations.
The utilisation of waste heat from power stations is one of the subjects being considered by a group under the chairmanship of my Chief Scientist, Dr. Marshall. The group's report is not expected for several months.
Have any discussions taken place between the Under-Secretary's Department and the CEGB on the question whether any of the 48 older power stations which are in town centres and which are due to be closed would be suitable for conversion to sell waste heat as well as electricity? Clearly, that would consume the fuel more efficiently than even in the most modern power stations today.
The Department of Energy is seized of the point of trying to get better thermal efficiency from power stations. Hence the reason for the reply that I gave to the hon. Member's Question. These power stations are, of course, old and unsuitable for conversion, because they are nearing the end of their lives. However, there is always the possibility of redeveloping the station sites for the new combined heat and power plants, and the electricity supply industry is actively considering this possibility. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept the answer in the spirit in which it is given.
Does my hon. Friend accept that it is a great condemnation of both sides of the House that, within a mile of these premises, a very large block of flats has been heated for 40 years by the waste heat from Battersea power station? Does he realise that this sort of utilisation could apply to a substantial number of coal-fired power stations today, and would prolong their lives and provide greater economic advantage to the country?
In the right circumstances, the combined production of heat and power can lead to substantial energy savings. Indeed, there are many good examples of this in industry, as my hon. Friend has suggested. However, the Government believe that schemes for combined heat and power should be economically viable. That is why we have the working party examining this proposition, and it will no doubt report to the House in due course.
High Temperature Reactor
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the Government's policy for the future of the high temperature reactor.
The high temperature reactor has no place at present in the forward programmes of our electricity boards. Nor do we have the resources to pursue its development, given the higher priority of the AGRs, the SGHWR and the fast reactor. I have discussed the future of the Dragon project with other EEC Energy Ministers and Monsieur Simonet.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this technique is a most valuable fall-back position should something go wrong—and it could easily go wrong yet—with the fast-breeder reactor and that the Dragon project has been a net currency earner for the country over a number of years? May I also urge upon my right hon. Friend that a decision now to abandon the high-temperature reactor is extremely short-sighted, and one which this country will greatly regret in the future?
I appreciate what my hon. Friend says. He is very knowledgeable. I believe that any country is bound to settle upon a particular reactor system. We have settled—I think that this is widely understood—on the SGHWR and the fast-breeder to follow the AGRs. Of course, the experimental operation being carried out on Dragon is of value. We have been paying very heavily for it ourselves, and I have made an offer to our partners abroad—I have discussed it with Commissioners Guido Brunner and Simonet, in Brussels—which would give an opportunity for this facility to continue if they wish it so to do. I am criticised for putting too much emphasis upon nuclear resources as compared with other non-conventional methods of energy generation. I think it would be wrong to pursue the Dragon project with the object that my hon. Friend has in mind—that it is a stand-by—as the only reason.
Before the Secretary of State takes the wrong decision on the high-temperature reactor, will he consider this matter from the angle of process heat and consult the British Steel Corporation and the chemical industry first? Will he also contact KWU of Western Germany, which has advanced ideas on this subject?
The point about process heat is one that had to be taken into account. I recognise its relevance, because it is clear that any successful system, as the HTR promises to be, would have those side effects. I discussed the matter very candidly with Herr Matthöfer when I was in Bonn, and it was as a result of representations made by the German Government that I was able to make a further offer to our partners, saying that if, by the end of November, they would agree that it should continue until the end of June, we would cancel the desecondment notices to the AEA staff. I think I have played quite fair by this, but the basic decision is one that the Government think is right.
Is it not the case that by giving that extremely short notice the Government have simply held a pistol to the head of their partners on the Dragon? Is not the real long-term danger that this country will simply not be trusted by our partners to be the host country for major technological projects of this kind? When one thinks of the future of the Joint European Torus project, will not this be extremely damaging for Britain's scientific future?
No, certainly not. If the hon. Gentleman knew the circumstances he would not make such a charge. We originally offered that it should continue until April, and we made it clear that our own view was that we could not justify it ourselves. Then, when we were told that this involved short notice, no one accused us of putting a pistol to anyone's head. It was said, rather, that it was rather short notice. We offered to extend it to June, which provides six or nine months' notice, provided that our partners were ready to agree to this by the end of November—that is, it was in their hands to determine the continuation of the programme. Therefore, I do not believe that the charge of putting a pistol to anyone's head could be laid against us. Moreover, among other Treasuries, the German Treasury is now extremely rigid in its control over research and development, and all the countries of the Community are anxious to get the maximum benefit from research that they commission.
As this concerns my constituency, may I be allowed one supplementary question, Mr. Speaker?
Is the Minister aware that there are already considerable economic difficulties in my constituency? Will he give an assurance that, whatever decision he may take in respect of this reactor, the future of Winfrith as a whole is in no way in danger?
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing the hon. Gentleman to ask his supplementary question. I had a meeting recently with the Atomic Energy Authority staff side and I discussed this matter with its members in some detail. They did not raise the staff question themselves, because the Authority was able to assure me that there would be no forced redundancies arising from this ending of secondment of staff. If the hon. Gentleman has anxieties beyond that, perhaps we may discuss them. I have no reason to believe that the matter impacts upon the future of Winfrith.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his estimate of the total volume of annual production of oil, natural gas and coal in the United Kingdom in 1975 and in 1980.
In 1975 the production of oil is estimated to be between 1 million and 2 million tons, and natural gas is expected to be approaching 4,000 million cu. ft. per day. Estimates of the future annual production of oil and natural gas are given in the Brown Book "Development of Oil and Gas Resources of the United Kingdom" published by the Department of Energy. The production of oil is estimated to rise to between 100 million and 130 million tons in 1980 and natural gas production is expected to rise to 5,000 million cu. ft. per day. In 1975, coal production is expected to be about 125 million tons. The future level of coal production is discussed in the "Coal Industry Examination" reports. It is expected that production will be about 135 million tons in 1980.
I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for that important answer. Will he confirm that there is a strong possibility, even if tight energy conservation policies are pursued, that the United Kingdom can export substantial quantities of offshore oil, even if this is merely on the basis of an exchange for less valuable oil of an inferior quality?
As our oil production builds up to self-sufficiency and beyond, it is envisaged that the different grades of oil that we shall need will permit us to enter into the world trade in oil. If that is the point that my hon. Friend has in mind, I can give him that assurance.
Oil Rigs (Divers' Safety)
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied with the training and safety requirements for divers employed on North Sea oil rigs.
The Training Services Agency of the Manpower Services Commission announced on 5th November that it has introduced a national training standard for basic air diving and underwater working. The Agency has already established the Underwater Training Centre at Loch Linnhe to provide basic, deep and specialist diving training. My Department has introduced the Offshore Installations (Diving Operations) Regulations 1974, which came into force on 1st January this year—the first offshore diving regulations in the world, which other countries are copying. We are monitoring the working of these Regualtions in the light of our knowledge and experience, and we think that they make a significant new step towards greater safety for offshore divers.
I welcome that reply, but does the Minister appreciate that, so far, about 24 divers have lost their lives in North Sea operations? That is an alarming proportion, considering that the total number of working divers is about 950. I welcome the moves that have been made, but does the Mnister accept that a great deal of concern is felt about the Government diving school which he mentioned, particularly because the salary for a diving instructor being offered by that school is about £5,000 a year, which is much less than can be earned by a diver on the North Sea oil rigs? Will he try to put matters right by having a higher salary level for people in those important jobs?
I should point out to the hon. Gentleman, that the figure of 24 deaths is for both British and Norwegian waters. The figure for British waters, for all accidents on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf, is 17. This figure is constantly misrepresented in the Press, and I am glad to have this opportunity to correct it.On the detailed point about salary, there are special arrangements for the administration of the diving school which are not the responsibility of my Department, but I shall pass the hon. Gentleman's observations on to those concerned.
Does my hon. Friend recollect the study prepared by the Scottish section of the British Medical Association, which pointed out the great dangers facing divers and other workers in the offshore oil business? The steps so far taken have been welcomed, but will he ensure that a statement is made in due course on all the suggestions made in that report?
I am glad to confirm that that study is under close consideration by my Department and by other Government Departments. If we think that something useful can be done as a result of those recommendations we shall certainly not hesitate to take action.I should point out to the House that there are already three emergency squads of doctors, one based in Aberdeen, one in Lerwick and the third in Great Yarmouth, which between them provide a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week coverage of diving emergencies. Under our offshore diving regulations we have a team of 70 Government-approved doctors available to sanction divers as being fit to dive. These doctors, most of whom are based in the United Kingdom, have all completed a Royal Naval course in diving medicine or have equivalent experience.
Is the Minister aware that the fee for the 12-weeks' course at the diving school near Fort William is in excess of £2,000 and that, although a trained diver can command a substantial salary, the services of many suitable young men may be lost initially, due to difficulty in financing their early training? Will the Minister consider a loan scheme on a short-term basis?
The administration of the diving school is not the direct responsibility of my Department. The Shenley Trust Ltd. is involved in that. I should like to look carefully at the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, as that might be a responsibility of diving companies in the first instance.
Would the Minister care to say what recent representations he has received from the diving companies about rescue and training facilities, and what outcome he might expect from any discussions that he has had with them?
I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. We have received representations from diving companies on a number of matters. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman has a particular medical point in mind. If so, I shall be glad if he will table a specific Question or write to me direct.
Atomic Energy Authority (Rossing Uranium Limited)
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement about the Government's present views on the agreement between the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and Rossing Uranium Limited signed in 1968, and subsequently amended.
I have nothing to add to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 9th December 1974.—[Vol. 883, c. 23.]
Does the Secretary of State now feel that the views he expressed in a letter on "Apartheid Lessons" in 1973 are no longer relevant?
It is true that in 1973 I said that the Labour Government would terminate that contract. That is on record.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his assessment of the potential yield of oil finds in the West Shetland, Celtic Sea and Channel areas, respectively.
Oil has not yet been discovered in any of these areas. Seismic survey work suggests that they are promising, but further drilling will be needed before we can make a worthwhile assessment of potential reserves, area by area.
Does the Minister accept that these are extremely high-risk areas and are hardly suitable for an inexperienced company, such as the British National Oil Corporation? Will he ensure that in such circumstances public funds are not put at unnecessary risk when private finance is available?
If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we should abandon our participation proposals, I confirm that we shall do no such thing. It is an essential part of the Government's policy that in the next round of licensing we shall have majority State participation. The great pity is that this was not done in 1971 by the Conservative Government. It is impossible to write down these areas as the hon. Gentleman is trying to do in advance. He should bear in mind that in 1969 a leading oil company said that there was no oil in the northern North Sea.
Will my hon. Friend say what exploration drilling has so far taken place in the Celtic Sea? If I am right in thinking that none has taken place, what action will be taken if the companies do not carry out their responsibilities to explore the blocks for which they have licences?
During the past year no drilling has taken place in the Celtic Sea, one reason being the high rate of success east of the Shetlands, where companies achieved a success ratio of one in two. Companies are under specific licence obligations to complete a drilling schedule or surrender their licence. Both the Government and the companies will be anxious to see that those obligations are fulfilled, and over the next year I expect to see activity in these areas.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy how many oil rigs are currently engaged in the exploration of United Kingdom oilfields: how many were so engaged at the end of October 1974; and how many he expects to be engaged at the end of October 1975
Twenty-six mobile drilling rigs were operating on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf at the end of October 1975. This compares with 25 at the end of October 1974.
Does the Minister consider that that is progress? Does he not feel that the need to explore for oil in the North Sea requires a great deal of urgency and incentive from the Government, rather than the arm-twisting over what is referred to as "voluntary" participation, which is contrary to public interest and is in danger of driving further exploration rigs away from this area?
That hardly squares with the fact that the present level of drilling activity is the highest there has ever been in the North Sea. Indeed, our prediction for this year was 30, and the average is likely to be 28, so it was a reasonably accurate prediction. I take this opportunity of challenging the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin), who, in recent articles, has suggested that the Government predicted an average rig year's activity of 40 for this year. That is quite untrue, and is a misinterpretation of the statistics.
Will my hon. Friend remember that no matter how many oil drilling rigs there are in the North Sea, there is a limit to the amount of oil there? Therefore, will he sound a warning to the Scots who are pinning all their faith on the policy of the Scottish National Party, which suggests that Scottish oil, as it calls it, will solve all Scotland's problems? In fact, the limit of this oil will be reached in, possibly, 30 years from now.
I think it is impossible to come to precise conclusions about the amount of oil there is, or how long it will last. I certainly agree with my hon Friend that it would be the height of folly to try to float off some sort of independent State upon a commodity which is finite and very much subject to price changes.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy how Great Britain's exports of coal in 1975 compare with exports in the last five years; and whether he is satisfied that Great Britain is sufficiently exploiting its coal resources.
Exports of coal and coal products in 1975 are expected to be well above the average for the previous five years. The industry's Plan for Coal, involving expenditure of about £1,400 million at 1974 prices over the next 10 years, represents the maximum development of the country's coal reserves that we think is feasible, but the NCB is continuing with an active programme of exploration.
I ask the Minister to give the actual figures for the increase in exports. It does not help very much if we do not get them. Does he agree that countries such as Poland and the United States are increasing their production and exports of coal quite dramatically but that we have not achieved the same improvement? Does he also agree that increased productivity in the coal industry could result in the industry's becoming a major exporter? What are the Government doing to achieve the kind of productivity increases that we were led to expect would result from the large pay increases of the past two years?
As the hon. Gentleman will probably have noticed, for the past three weekends I have been devoting some time to the question how we can build up an export market for the future. The economies of other countries are undergoing a depression. However, as the hon. Gentleman wanted figures, I can say that 90 per cent. of our coal trade is with the EEC. In 1974–75 it was valued at £60 million. Further, the EEC has predicted that in the next decade there should be an expansion in coal exports of about 20 million tons.
Does my hon. Friend realise that there is deep concern in the South Wales coalfields at the fact that large coal stocks are being built up there? When one hears that coal is being imported there is anxiety, which might well affect productivity in the mines. Will my hon. Friend consult the NCB with a view to there being a drive to export the coal being produced? It could make a major contribution to the balance of payments.
That is precisely what I have been doing over the past two or three weekends. My right hon. Friend and I are meeting the National Union of Mineworkers this week to discuss some of these problems. Imports of coal are on short-term contracts, and when those contracts expire it is unlikely that we shall import any more coal.
Is the Minister aware that the Opposition congratulate him on what he is doing to encourage exports but that in the EEC 30 per cent. of all the imported coal comes from behind the Iron Curtain? We, as members of that organisation, ought to start using our elbows to see whether we can sell more of our coal in Europe rather than rely on the Russians and the Poles.
I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman. That is the message I have been giving to the mining industry for a considerable time. I believe that there is capacity, not only in Europe but in the rest of the world, for exporting coal, and I hope that the mining industry and the National Coal Board see that potential, particularly when the world starts its upturn in economic activity.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what discussions he has had with the Electricity Council, social security and welfare organisations about the hardship faced by consumers this winter as a result of increased fuel bills.
I recently met the Electricity Council, when it described to me its plans for helping consumers who may be in difficulties during the coming winter. I have written to all hon. Members on this subject.
Has the right hon. Gentleman read the most recent report of the Price Commission—in particular, paragraph 2(9), which states that not only prices but, more significantly, costs in the nationalised industries are rising much faster than in the private industries? Is it not clear that, whatever steps he takes to relieve individual hardship, consumers are getting a much poorer deal from nationalised industries for their money?
The nationalised industries undoubtedly have got into difficulties because of the long period of restraint on prices imposed upon them. The Question, as I understood it, was about the problems of hardship that might follow from increasing tariffs over the winter. On that point, I am anxious to see that the matter is handled with the greatest possible sensitivity, and I have reason to believe that the fuel authorities will do so.
What part does my right hon. Friend expect the electricity, gas and coal industries to play in the discussions with the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection on the new price restraint package? What progress is being made in his departmental inquiry into tariff structures in the electricity and gas industries?
Discussions are in progress over a very wide range of issues, including the rôle of the Department of Health and Social Security and social benefits. In the discussions that we are holding about energy tariffs and the inquiries we have made into them, Ministers are very deeply involved, and I cannot say more at the moment.
If the initiative of the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection to restrain prices by 5 per cent. in the coming year is to be carried out, how is the coal industry to meet its target of earning a proper return on its sales and assets?
I do not want to ask the hon. Gentleman simply to await what the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection will be saying about that, but obviously the implication, for the energy industries, of proposals of the general character that she has mentioned has been the subject of discussion. We have in mind the move towards economic pricing, as has been made clear by the Government.
Will my right hon. Friend refute the suggestion that has been made in some quarters of the electricity supply organisation that gas prices should rise to the level charged by the electricity authorities in order to provide a common layer of charges?
There is a competitive element in fuel prices, and the argument has been put that gas is underpriced, but this is not a view that I have felt would justify an increase in prices beyond that authorised by the Price Commission.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his Department's most up-to-date estimate of fuel saving as a result of the "Save It" advertising campaign.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is satisfied with the progress of Her Majesty's Government's "Save It" campaign; and if he will make a statement.
It is obviously not possible to assess precisely the energy savings achieved by the "Save It" advertising campaign, which is only one of a number of factors affecting total energy consumption. However, I am satisfied that it is playing a valuable part in changing attitudes towards the use of energy and encouraging its more efficient and economic use.
Why has so little of the campaign been beamed at the motorist? As it is now nearly a year since the Minister introduced the package, can the hon. Gentleman say what effect the speed limits have had in reducing our imports of motor fuel?
I am pleased to give the hon. Gentleman information about this matter. It is one of a number of factors affecting energy consumption. It is impossible to isolate or quantify the effects. However, motor spirit deliveries in August fell by nearly 7 per cent. compared with the previous August, despite the good weather.
Does my hon. Friend accept that one of the major values of the "Save It" advertising campaign has been in giving practical advice on small ways in which consumers can save energy? Will he therefore consider a Christmas edition of that advertisement?
I have said repeatedly from the Dispatch Box that we are not proud concerning ideas for conservation and saving. We shall consider my hon. Friend's suggestion.
When will the Government follow their advertising campaign with a longer-term strategy, with a longer-term target and with a proper budget, and adopt some of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on energy conservation?
I fully understand the point made by the hon. Gentleman. We are giving consideration to the Committee's report. No doubt my right hon. Friend will announce to the House, in due time, his considered view.
In view of the effect of the "Save It" campaign on the demand for electricity and the levels of employment in the electricity supply industry, will the Government maintain close contact with representatives of the industry, to minimise any employment difficulties that may arise?
My hon. Friend has already made the employment position clear to people associated with the industry. We are aware of what can be described as short-term considerations, but, in general, energy conservation must be a long-term strategy and that is what the Government intend to pursue.
Is the Minister aware that the 50 mph limit on main roads is increasingly being ignored? What consultations is he having with his hon. Friends who are responsible for transport with a view to lifting this speed limit, which is now totally out of date?
We do not intend to abandon these measures. The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the law is being broken by drivers. I was able to inform his hon. Friend of the substantial savings and reduction in the consumption of motor spirit, which leads us to believe—I hope he will agree—that most drivers are law-abiding people.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his policy regarding the building of new power stations using oil, in the light of the increased costs of oil being imposed by OPEC.
The increased costs of oil will be fully taken into account when next we are considering the building of a fossil-fired power station.
Does the Minister agree that that does not get us very much further? Could we not have a more positive statement of policy? Would it not be better to say here and now that the cost of oil and the need to preserve it demand that no more oil-fired power stations be built?
I think that many hon. Members will have great sympathy with what the hon. Lady has said. She knows my views in relation to the ideas which she is putting forward. However, she must agree that in the past one of the great problems when the House was trying to wrestle with energy policy and forecasts was that hon. Members became ultra-dogmatic in their approach. Therefore, although there are many hon. Members who will agree with what she is saying, I think she must also agree that one must not be too dogmatic about the approach that one will take, bearing in mind the wide choice of indigenous energy resources in this country.
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied that coal stocks are sufficient to meet all winter demands.
Coal stocks, together with coal production at its current level, should be sufficient to meet winter demand. But in difficult winter conditions transport might present a problem.
Does not the Minister agree that this good position for stocks, on which we congratulate him, is more a result of falling demand than of increased productivity, which is now worryingly low and 3 per cent. down on what it was last year? What action do the Government and the board intend to take to try to get productivity increased?
I do not think that I should hide from the House the fact that there is a decreasing demand for coal in keeping with the downturn in worldwide economic activity. Nevertheless, as the hon. Genleman has suggesed, we are very glad that we have the stocks. The hon. Gentleman will also be glad that productivity has undergone a bit of a revival during the past week or two, and one hopes that this will continue. Lastly, the hon. Gentleman will be glad to hear me reaffirm that my right hon. Friend and I will be meeting the National Union of Mineworkers this week to discuss all problems attendant on the mining industry.
European Community Aid
asked the Minister for Overseas Development whether he will make a further statement on his discussions with his EEC colleagues on aid from the Community to Commonwealth countries in South Asia.
asked the Minister for Overseas Development what progress he has made in encouraging the European Economic Community to improve its financial aid to non-associated developing countries to assist in raising food output.
Since my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) on 15th October—[Vol. 897, c. 710–11.]—a modest 3·5 million units of account aid programme has been agreed to help promote the exports of the non-associated developing countries in 1976. The Council of Ministers, on 13th October, failed to reach agreement on a programme of financial aid to non-associated developing countries that would have assisted these countries in increasing their food production. Discussion is continuing about the possibility of a Community contribution to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Does the Minister recognise the connection between this and other Community matters? If the Foreign Secretary persists in dragging his feet on a Community approach to such matters as energy, the energy conference and direct elections, does it not make the right hon. Gentleman's position much weaker when he is trying to argue for a Community approach to this subject, where a Community approach happens to suit our national interest?
No, Sir. I see no logical connecton between the two. At the Council of Ministers on 13th October, the argument to which the hon. Member refers was not used against me or against the other countries which were supporting the Commission's proposal for aid to non-associates.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is a matter of deep regret that, 14 or 15 months after making the original general commitment, the Council of Ministers has still not found it possible to carry out this pledge of extra aid for the non-associated territories? I note the Secretary of State's pledge not to accept "Non" or "Nein" for an answer, but is my right hon. Friend able to say when he expects to get "Oui" or "Ja" out of the Council?
I certainly agree that it is a matter for regret, which was expressed on both sides of the House in the debate we had on Friday. I hope that the unanimity of parliamentary opinion here will be noted in other European countries. Certainly, I hope to return to this matter as early as possible, and I hope to see another meeting of the Council of Development Ministers as early as possible. Meanwhile, we shall use other methods to try to persuade them to a different point of view. As to whether I accept "Nein" for an answer, I am having a meeting with my German opposite number the week after next.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that those of us, on both sides of the House, who returned from India today from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference were once more forcibly reminded of the particular problems of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, following the increased energy costs. Will the right hon. Gentleman say a little more about what he is doing personally within the EEC context to try to bring a sharper focus to the EEC approach in these areas?
Yes, Sir. The main reason why Britain and some other European countries are pressing for a wider aid programme from the Community for the present non-associates is our concern with the situation in Southern Asia, and in India in particular. India is an under-aided country compared with other aid recipients throughout the world. More should be done for India, and, in particular, the Community should have an aid programme there.
Recalling that one of the arguments used for entering the European Community was that of giving greater aid to the Third World, does not my right hon. Friend think it possible that, because the general system of preferences of the EEC is now inferior to those which we gave to the South-East Asian nations, the continued refusal of the EEC to take action on its commitment could mean that they are now worse off vis-à-vis this country in terms of aid?
The system of preferences is a matter which is being pursued. As my hon. Friend knows, it is one for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.Regarding the aid programme for India and other countries, many hon. Members said in the debate on Friday that they had campaigned for continued British membership of the EEC on the assumption that it would be outward-looking in such matters as the one we are discussing, and this is regarded by many hon. Members as a test case.
European Community Development Ministers
asked the Minister for Overseas Development when he next expects to meet EEC Overseas Development Ministers.
asked the Minister for Overseas Development what consultations he has had with other EEC Overseas Development Ministers prior to the six-Power meetings to be held in France later this week.
No decision has yet been taken on the date of the next meeting of the Development Council, and there have been no consultations between EEC Development Ministers specifically to prepare for the economic summit meeting. But relations with developing countries are one of the items on the agenda for the summit, and many of the issues arising have at various times been discussed by EEC Development Ministers or Foreign Ministers.
Does the Minister agree, notwithstanding the Written Answer to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party by the Prime Minister on 13th October, welcoming the Kissinger proposals at the World Food Conference, that those proposals have been undermined by the USSR grain deal, which to many of us ran totally contrary to the ethos of the Rome Conference? Will he say what attitude to the follow-up to Rome he will recommend to his Community colleagues?
I think that the follow-up to the World Food Conference has been disappointing in many ways, although one of the most important initiatives was taken at the World Food Council in June, when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary announced a considerable extension of British fertiliser aid. That initiative gave a lead to other countries.I shall be attending the FAO conference later this week, and I hope to draw attention to the urgency of a much more comprehensive follow-up to the World Food Conference.
Is the Minister aware that many hon. Members will be concerned at his statement that there has not been a special meeting between himself and his colleagues prior to the meetings in France later this week? It seems to show a lack of awareness that at those meetings broad direction will be established over the attitude and direction for help to the developing world from the industrialised world.Therefore, can the Minister reassure the House on three specific points: first, that the United Kingdom will continue to press for better understanding of those aspirations; secondly, that the United Kingdom Government will press, in conjunction with European Community countries, to continue better efforts, activities and thrust to meet those aspirations; and, thirdly, that the United Kingdom will not jeopardise the co-operative ventures such as those to which we now aspire in the EEC through lack of cooperation on other fronts, particularly on energy policy?
I dealt earlier with the last point.Next week's summit meeting will be attended by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, together with their opposite numbers from the other five countries. That represents a wide range of policy interests. I cannot anticipate in detail what my right hon. Friends will be saying, but I can assure the House that a good deal of attention will be given to the problems of the developing world, to its trade problems, to the commodity issue and to the flow of development assistance as part of the civilised relationship between countries.
Will my right hon. Friend consider discussing with the EEC Development Ministers the possibility of disposing of some of the huge food surpluses which are building up in Europe? Is it not a tragedy, with world-wide poverty and people dying of starvation, that we should have dried milk mountains and that now mountains of apples are being ploughed into the fields in France?
This matter has been discussed. A Community food aid programme was discussed at the Council of Ministers on 13th October. The British Government and others were prepared to press for a larger programme but, unfortunately, that was not generally agreed.
International Monetary Fund Borrowings
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement about the further borrowing arrangements announced on Friday and about the conditions on which these sums have been made available.
I have informed the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund that the United Kingdom wishes to apply for a drawing of SDR 1,000 million—about £575 million—under the 1975 oil facility and for facilities up to and including the first credit tranche of normal IMF drawings, amounting effectively to a further SDR 700 million—about £400 million. Drawings are not expected until early next year.The decision has been taken at this time because, in relation to the 1975 oil facility, it was essential for the International Monetary Fund to know now what United Kingdom application would be made, in order to plan disposition of the remaining resources of the facility. The terms and conditions will be those normal for oil facility and first credit tranche drawings. Money drawn under the oil facility is repayable after between three and seven years and carries an average interest rate of about 7¾ per cent. Drawings on the first credit tranche are repayable after between three and five years, and the interest rate varies from 4 per cent. to 6 per cent. over time. The Fund will require to be satisfied that United Kingdom policies are likely to achieve medium-term recovery of the balance of payments. I am confident that our existing policies will do this. [Interruption.] And so they will. In addition, in respect of the oil facility, I shall be required to state United Kingdom policies in the field of conservation and new production of energy, and to undertake, in accordance with previous international agreements and pledges to avoid "beggar-my-neighbour" policies, to refrain from introducing any new, or intensifying any existing, restrictions on trade or payments without prior consultation with the Fund. We have seen a substantial recovery in our balance of payments between last year and this year, but a deficit must be expected to continue for some time. We have used a variety of channels to finance it so far and shall continue to do so. The IMF oil facility, which I take some pride in having helped to establish, was designed as a recycling mechanism which would assist countries with substantial deficits wholly or largely due to increased costs of their oil imports. The United Kingdom would be in substantial surplus this year were it not for the recent increase in oil prices, and we are also covering a significant part of the increased cost of our oil imports. I am sure that it will be widely recognised as appropriate that the United Kingdom should itself now call on this facility, which will be an important supplement to other financing available to us.
Does the Chancellor appreciate that the whole House will be understandably concerned about the implications for the Government's entire economic strategy of what he has had to say, since the sum being made available will meet only about six months' deficit on current trends? Does his statement mean that the Government have now given firm undertakings not to introduce import controls, either general or selective?Are we right to understand that any further borrowing by the Government from the IMF will require the delivery of a letter of intent? Has the Chancellor had to give to the IMF his estimate of the public sector borrowing requirement for the current year? If so, will he now tell the House exactly what estimate he has given? If the present "Rake's Progress "—to use the Chancellor's phrase from his Budget Statement—continues far beyond the limits set out in that Budget Statement, when does the right hon. Gentleman think there will be nothing else left to borrow?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman made some remarks about the size of our deficit. He will recall that before the oil price increase hit us the deficit was running at a rate of £4,000 million a year in the last three months when his party was in power. I should have thought that he, as an Englishman, would have taken some pride in the fact that not only have we wiped out the whole of that deficit on our non-oil trade but we have also, in the current year, covered a third of that part of the deficit resulting from the increase in oil prices.On the second point regarding import controls, this borrowing does not rule out any import controls, but it does require consultation with the Fund if such controls are proposed. On the right hon. and learned Gentleman's third question, it is, of course, the case that if the Government wished to withdraw further credit tranches they would be required to submit a letter of intent covering detailed quarterly targets for different aspects of economic performance, but such a letter is not required on this occasion and there is no monitoring of Her Majesty's Government's policies by the IMF as a consequence of this drawing. On the last question relating to the PSBR, I am satisfied, from the informal discussions that I have already had, that the expectations and intentions of the Government as to both PSBR and domestic credit expansion are consistent with medium-term balance of payments recovery, and that is the essential criterion for the proposed drawings. Incidentally, in case this question is of interest to the House, I propose to make available to the House in due course the letters of application and the memorandum which I shall be submitting to the Fund.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that most people regard this as a prudent alternative to further depression of economic activity, but does he not think that the IMF facility world-wide may now be too small for the demands upon it, particularly from the less developed countries? Does he think that the developed countries have done enough to reflate their economies, and thereby reduce their surpluses, to meet the critical situation of world liquidity?
On the first question, the IMF's facilities world-wide may, indeed, prove inadequate to meet all the requirements of some of the less developed countries. This is one reason why I asked for a drawing on the 1975 oil facility, which is substantially smaller than the United Kingdom would be entitled to under the rules governing drawings on this particular facility.On the second question, it is well known that the Government are concerned about the steps so far taken by those countries which are capable of reflating their economies, and this will, of course, be a matter for discussion at the forthcoming summit meeting.
Did the IMF share the right hon. Gentleman's confidence in the present policies of Her Majesty's Government? Can he say whether he indicated to the IMF that import controls were under consideration by the Government? If these loans are available without conditions at apparently lower rates of interest than borrowing elsewhere, why did the right hon. Gentleman not have recourse to these funds earlier?
On the first question, I have discussed the Government's policies informally with the managing director of the IMF and my officials have discussed them at lower levels. I, personally, believe that they will obtain the endorsement of the International Monetary Fund. I hope that if and when they do so we shall no longer have criticism of our policies from the Opposition benches.On the question of import controls, of course I drew the attention of those with whom I had informal discussions to statements in this area which had been made by my right hon. Friends and myself.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that these borrowings necessitate a corresponding deficit on this country's current account, and will he therefore refrain from referring to the deficit on current account as though it were somehow a reflection upon British industry and the British economy?
With great respect, I think it was the right hon. Gentleman's former right hon. and learned Friend, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, who made derogatory remarks about the performance of British industry in the balance of payments field. I myself drew attention to the fact that that performance has been remarkably good in the last 12 months and, as I say, we would now have a substantial surplus on our trade were it not for the increase in oil prices. We have already covered a substantial amount of the increase in oil prices. This is a startling contrast, if I may say so, with the record which the Conservative Government left us.
Since much of the country's present difficulties result from the inflationary policies of the previous Government, and since the adoption of those policies in relation to the money supply or deficits in the nationalised industries is incomprehensible save to speculators who made money out of them, will my right hon. Friend ask the consent of the Leader of the Opposition to reveal any personal dealings whereby, whether directly or indirectly, any member of the previous Cabinet made a capital gain under those policies?
I do not think that that is a matter for me.
Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking as an Englishman, state where the money will come from for repayment of these borrowings? Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman note the recent poll which showed that two-thirds of the Scottish people wanted most, if not all, of the oil revenues and, further, in terms of his own statement, will he give an assurance to the Scottish people that they will not be beggared by their English neighbours?
One the last question, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will draw the attention of the Scottish people to the fact that they are benefiting substantially from a higher level of public expenditure per head than the people of other parts of the United Kingdom, As I pointed out last Thursday, this is one reason why unemployment has not increased so much in Scotland as it has in other parts of the United Kingdom in recent months.I note what the hon. Gentleman said about polls, and I shall be interested to hear at some time whether, in view of his obvious attachment to polls, he would support a referendum in Scotland on the question of devolution.
Is the Chancellor aware that we note the lack of apparent interest by his friends in the Tribune Group, after their strong statement last week? Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he will not be making statements or revealing at party meetings information that he is not revealing here? Would he not agree that his borrowing from the IMF makes it all the more necessary that the priorities stated at Chequers should be the priorities of the Government and not those put forward in the Tribune Group's policy statement?
Tempting as it is to allow myself to be dragged into some sort of confrontation with some of my hon. Friends, I shall seek to resist the temptation. I give an assurance, of course, that I shall not reveal information outside this Chamber which I have not made available inside it. However, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would expect me not to make any statement outside this Chamber to another group of hon. Members or non-Members of the House which I do not make inside the House.
Will the Chancellor not be misled by the apparent silence in some quarters on the benches behind him in respect of the strong body of opinion in the Parliamentary Labour Party in favour of the imposition of some selective import controls? Will he assure the House that in his discussions he has made it clear to the IMF that he may well be operating the consultative process within the foreseeable future?
I have learned over the years to give as much attention to the silences of my hon. Friends as to their words.
For the sake of the record, may I follow up the Chancellor's reply to the first of my right hon. and learned Friend's supplementary questions? The right hon. Gentleman referred to the deficit we were incurring, as he said, before the oil war. Is he aware that the Treasury forecast in the month before the oil war was that we should be in balance by the end of 1974 or early 1975? As patriotic Englishmen we now rejoice in the fact that the deficit is down to £2 billion instead of £4 billion, but we are sorry that it has taken the present Government nine months to a year longer than the Treasury forecast.
I am not clear whether the right hon. Gentleman is asking me to comment on the accuracy of Treasury forecasts or on any other matter. I was referring in my remark to the public statement of the then Governor of the Bank of England in February, before the 1974 Election, to the effect that in the preceding few months our balance of payments deficit had been running at an annual rate of £4,000 million, and that this was before the increase in oil prices had had any significant effect on our current account.
Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention
I will, with permission, make a statement.The Report of the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention has now been transmitted to me by the Chairman. The Report will be published as soon as possible in the new Session of Parliament and will be laid in accordance with the requirements of the Northern Ireland Act. The House will recall that the Convention was set up under the Act of 1974 for the specific purpose of
This was the sole task of the Convention. It was not a Parliament or an Assembly and, as a Convention, had no advisory or other functions in the governmental field. It was in the discharge of its statutory task that it transmitted its Report to me. Under the provisions of the Act, the Convention is now dissolved, although there is a provision under which it may be recalled at any time within six months of the date on which the Report was submitted, which takes us to 7th May next year. In answer to a Question on 31st October by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) I announced that I had decided to exercise my discretion under the Act to continue to pay salaries to members of the Convention. Suitable allowances will also be paid. I regard it as essential that members of the Convention should continue to be available for further consultations on constitutional matters. I wish to make it clear again that the Convention is not—cannot be—an advisory body to me. No decision has been taken whether or not to recall it for its constitutional purposes. The House will not expect me at this time to make any substantive comment on the Report. As will be seen when the Report is published, it deals with a number of fundamental issues affecting the future government of Northern Ireland. These include, for example, the form of that Government, its powers and functions, its legal authority, questions of constitutional rights and its relationship with Parliament, financial assistance and taxation and responsibility for law and order and the use of the Army. Both the Government and this House will wish to consider these matters very carefully, and I also hope that the people of Northern Ireland will ponder upon them since they profoundly affect the future of Northern Ireland. It is important that Parliament should now have time to consider the Convention's Report so that when, at an appropriate moment, we come to debate these matters, we shall do so on the basis of considered views. Nevertheless, I should make it clear that the British Army is under the control of this Parliament only, and the sovereignty of the Queen in the Parliament of the United Kingdom rests also at Westminster. There is no quick and easy solution to the problems of Northern Ireland, and my strong view is that everything we say and do should acknowledge this. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland will continue to be governed by, and from, this Parliament. It is in accordance with this principle that the Northern Ireland Act 1974 provides for all functions of government to be exercised by me, with the help of other ministerial colleagues. That is the position until Parliament decides otherwise. I should finally wish to take the opportunity—and I am sure that the whole House will join with me in this—of paying a warm tribute to the Chairman of the Convention, Sir Robert Lowry, and his staff, for the way in which he has guided the work of the Convention."considering what provision for the Government of Northern Ireland is likely to command the most widespread acceptance throughout the community there".
Will the right hon. Gentleman take it that we should like to join in the tribute that he has paid to the Chairman of the Convention, Sir Robert Lowry, for the way in which he has guided the work of the Convention, and to his staff.We shall wish to study this Report when it becomes available to us, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his statement that the British Army is under the control of this Parliament only, and that sovereignty resides with the Queen in this Parliament, is undeniable and has the full support of the Opposition? Can he say when comments can be expected from the Government, when they will announce them on the Report, and in what form they will do so?
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support of my strongly felt view about the Army, which some people do not understand. Sovereignty for the United Kingdom Parliament rests at Westminster and nowhere else. It is most important that that should be realised. The best place for me to give the considered view of the Government on the Report will be in the House of Commons at an appropriate time when we have had time to consider it.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the question of the future structure of government for Northern Ireland, within the framework of the United Kingdom, cannot meaningfully be considered in isolation from the important forthcoming discussions on the problem of devolution within the United Kingdom as a whole?
I think it inevitable that, within the course of the next year, we shall be talking about devolution in a wider aspect, but I should like to make one point. I am well aware that Wales is different from Scotland, and that Scotland is different from Northern Ireland. When we talk about devolution, we are talking about it in different places. The philosophy may be the same, but I think the hon. Gentleman will fully accept that Northern Ireland has problems different from those of Scotland.
Will my right hon. Friend make the Report readily available to the House as soon as possible? Is he aware that there have been reports that included in the Convention Report is a detailed Bill with a lot of wide-ranging powers covering all aspects of future government for Northern Ireland? Are those reports true? If so, will he be presenting that Bill to this House, and when?
I have just received the Report. It is a matter now of printing it. I observe from the contents that a draft constitution Bill has been drawn up, and this will be available with the views of the Convention itself on a majority vote, plus the views of the other parties in the Convention. I confirm that there is a Bill, and it makes very interesting reading.
Does not the Secretary of State agree that the earliest possible printing of the text of the Convention's Report is desirable if there is not to be speculation based on incorrect or inadequate reports? Does not he further agree that he is right to make clear at this stage that anyone who supposes that, during the period when the Convention's Report is being considered, this House could be intimidated by violence against its Members or against the British public in general is sadly mistaken? That should be made absolutely clear now.
I think the message is getting through—it certainly has got through in Northern Ireland during the past five years—that the violence, the killing, the 1,500 dead, do not seem to have changed anybody's views and that they will not solve the problem of Northern Ireland. I readily support what the hon. Gentleman said. Bombing and killing, including the violence aimed at Members of this House, some of whom are present today, will have no effect at all—in fact, it will have the opposite effect on public opinion in this country.The Report has been sent for printing. As soon as it emerges, I will present it.
Can my right hon. Friend indicate when the House will have an opportunity to debate the Government's assessment of the Convention's Report? In the meantime, can he indicate to Convention members in Northern Ireland, many of whom were local parliamentarians under the old system, what opportunities will be afforded to them to continue to represent their constituents in so far as they are still regarded in Northern Ireland as being the elected representatives of the people?
It is not for me to say when the debate will be. Obviously, the Report must first be printed. It needs to be read carefully. I shall endeavour to talk to politicians in Northern Ireland and it would then be appropriate to have a debate in the House of Commons.I must make it clear that, although I am happy that Convention members should write to me or my colleagues on issues in Northern Ireland, they are not constituency members in Northern Ireland. The 12 Members of Parliament for Northern Ireland are the ones to bring matters to this House, where they can achieve a desirable result or otherwise. The Convention was formed for one sole purpose, and it is an important purpose. I want to see political discussions take place. For that reason, we are continuing to pay Convention members for the foreseeable future, but it would be wrong of me to derogate from the position of elected Members of Parliament to this House of Commons.
"Scottish Daily News"
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
The specific issue at stake is the likelihood of the total disappearance of this newspaper. Throughout the year various attempts have been made to ensure that the Scottish Daily News would continue. In April the Government gave £1·2 million to start a workers' co-operative, which has since then produced the Scottish Daily News. Despite difficulties, a circulation of 180,000 has been reached and advertising has trebled. At the moment the crisis lies in the fact that the liquidators have moved into the Scottish Daily News and have said that the edition of Saturday 8th November was the last edition. But the Scottish Daily News refuses to die, and today in the streets of Glasgow the workers were selling their own product, the Scottish Daily News emergency edition. The response given to the Scottish Daily News in Glasgow today is such that people were donating £5 for a copy. There is terrific public support in Scotland for the Scottish Daily News. The emergency situation is such that the workers are having to work in the Albion Street offices to ensure that no asset stripping occurs. The importance, Mr. Speaker, lies in the fact that there is support from all political parties, from all quarters of the House and from the public in Scotland. A petition of 20,000 signatures was collected last week. We wish to see the continuation of democratic expression in the Press in Scotland, and the Government would, I am sure, be interested to read the leading article in the Scottish Daily News today which shows connivance between the Government and Chrysler. Another important aspect of this matter is that 531 people—"the crisis facing the Scottish Daily News".
Order. The hon. Lady is going a little far. She must convince me that I ought to give permission for a debate on this matter tomorrow or the day after, and she must not go into the merits of the case too much.
Given that it is an emergency situation, Mr. Speaker, with 531 people being placed on the dole, with the virtual collapse of a newspaper which is important to the people of Scotland, it is important that the House should give a full debate to the subject in order that hon. Members from both sides of the House can put the case to the Government and the Government can then explain why they are unwilling to take immediate action to save this newspaper.
The hon. Lady was courteous enough to give me ample notice of her intention to make an application to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9, in order that the failure of the Scottish Daily News, a matter of vital interest to Scotland, could be debated.I want to make quite clear my rôle as Speaker in relation to such applications. I am not allowed by the Standing Order to give the reasons for my decision. Sometimes I should like to do so. My decision does not relate to the importance of the matter. It is simply a question of whether or not I think it appropriate to disrupt the business of the House already arranged. In this case, today there is a long-awaited foreign affairs debate and tomorrow there is what will be a very long day's work. In these circumstances I cannot, whatever the importance of the matter, agree to disrupt the business already arranged. I am afraid that I must reject the hon. Lady's application.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. John Ellis.]
It is right that Parliament should concentrate attention on domestic affairs, but not, I suggest, to the exclusion of foreign policy. Foreign policy, rightly directed and vigorously applied, can reinforce and aid our domestic policies. It is in that sense and in that way that I approach many of the problems that I have to deal with.In thinking about what I would say to the House today, my mind went back over the years I have sat here and took account of the difference in attitude of hon. Members and perhaps of the country to Britain's rôle in the world. Thirty years ago, when I first came to the House, we were admittedly the third of the super-Powers—the Soviet Union, the United States and ourselves. We were there and were supposed to be one of the arbiters of the world. Britain could reach out her arm in conjunction with those other two. Members of Parliament would demand action from the Treasury Bench—from the Foreign Secretary as he stood here—and would expect Britain's word to carry throughout the world—and it did. As the post-war years went on, however, our strength relative to that of others weakened in economic terms, but the myth lingered after the strength had evaporated. We learned by experience that what we had thought was the case was not so, but then the pendulum swung to the other extreme and, instead of regarding ourselves as being one of the arbiters of the world, we began to think—I noted this as I listened to hon. Members, and sometimes I may have fallen into the trap myself—that in a decade or so these same 50 million people had become a nation of little influence, that we were of small account, that we had no influence anywhere in the world and that we were disregarded. That is not so either. Neither of the two extremes—the one current when I first came into the House and that which is now so commonplace—"trendy", I think, is the word today— is true. I agree that the transformation of the Empire into a Commonwealth with much looser ties has clearly affected our economic position. I agree that our inability to match the economic successes of others has weakened our authority, and today we should be far stronger in our influence in the world if we overcame the problems of inflation and unemployment. I repeat, however, that I think it wrong for the House to concentrate its attention exclusively on domestic affairs. It seems to me that we have a job to do here, and it is one in which we should use our influence abroad and our position in the world to reinforce and support our domestic policy—and the other way round too. I believe, after 20 months of holding my present high office—one of the great offices—that we still retain a high place in the estimation of many other countries in the world. Our constitution is widely admired, as is the Monarch who heads it, and we are regarded as a nation that understands world problems and has a balanced judgment in finding solutions. Only last week the country heard President Sadat asking that Britain should play a larger part in the settlement of the affairs of the Middle East, that we should play a more prominent rôle. He is the latest among others who have said much the same to me in connection with other parts of the world, though perhaps more privately than he did. Should Britain ignore these calls to play such part as she can? Certainly not. It is our responsibility and our privilege to perform this rôle within the limits of our strength and the advantages which confer a greater responsibility on us. The fact that we are a permanent member of the Security Council confers great responsibilities and great power to influence the course of events. The fact that we are a senior member of the Commonwealth is in itself an important asset. We are also a new but important member of the European Community. It is in our national interest to play a rôle in world affairs. A vigorous and outward-looking foreign policy will, in my view, aid our domestic regeneration, and, because I believe that, I intend so far as I can to ensure that our policy should be outward-looking and vigorous. In so doing, I believe, we shall influence the way in which other nations regard us.
Naturally, we agree with the Foreign Secretary that Britain should play a part in helping to bring peace to the world, but surely our rôle is not that of arms supplier to the world, particularly to hot spots such as the Middle East. Some of us feel that the price for supplying arms to the Middle East, to either side, will be far higher than the slight income we may get from exporting a few arms.
I note what my hon. Friend says, but I should be grateful if hon. Members did not try to divert me from the theme that I am trying to develop. Although I understand a part of my hon. Friend's remarks, that does not enter into the essential point that I am trying to make.If we can exercise a vigorous and outward-looking foreign policy in conjunction with other nations through our membership of the Community and of the Commonwealth, and through our position as a permanent member of the Security Council, this in itself will aid our own domestic position. It can create an atmosphere of confidence, and in some ways it is the intangible things that are missing from our national life at present. Our policy can help to create that atmosphere if it is exercised in the interests not only of Britain but of the world as a whole. We must, of course, select the areas where we can be most effective. That includes Western Europe—the Community—but our influence must be wider than that of Europe. Clearly our position as a member of the Security Council means that we act on the world stage. There again, however, we must be selective, because we cannot be equally influential at all points. Our influence must include the Commonwealth, which is itself changing from those first heady days of independence, when to some—not to all; certainly not to me—the Commonwealth seemed a piece of sentimental history. Now there is a new recognition that the members form a unique grouping capable of exercising great influence, as they have done during the past few months. The Commonwealth Conference in Jamaica was perhaps one of the most successful and constructive that has been held for many years. Not only is the Commonwealth changing, but so also are power relationships throughout the world. The days when the United States was predominant have gone. That has been recognised, too, by the United States. Even that country recognises the limitations on its strength. Solutions today cannot be imposed by one Power, however mighty it may be. The problems of today, and the solutions for those problems, require the co-operation of many countries. Multilateral solutions on a regional and sometimes on a global basis are needed. This is an opportunity for Britain. Here we are, a medium-sized Power that can be of service to the world by means of the inner core of our relations, European and Atlantic. Alongside that is our unique relationship with the Commonwealth. These advantages, in the changing world situation in which the United States itself is recognising that it cannot impose solutions, give us unique information. They give us the powers of interpretation, persuasion and negotiation if we use them. I see Britain's rôle in the changing world as that of a bridge builder, a rôle which gives us the power of interpretation of the Commonwealth to the Community, of the United States to the Community, and through our unique relationships with at least one of the parties in the Middle East. In all these ways, with Britain firmly grounded in the European and the Atlantic alliances, I see us being able to interpret and, not in any arrogant sense, to influence other nations because of our fortunate inheritance of information and world-wide contacts. It is my objective to see that our foreign policy is directed not only to removing tensions in the world but also, as I have said, to reinforcing our domestic policy, so that foreign and domestic policies shall reinforce and interact on each other. If I apply that approach to our current problems, it is at this stage that the vision gets a little blurred. Nevertheless, I submit that we need a theme for our approach to the kind of problem that has to be dealt with today. It is a cliché to say that we are living in a dangerous and constantly changing world. I do not underrate the dangers and tensions, the fierce fighting that we have seen in the Lebanon, the civil war in Angola, the unrest in Portugal, the problems of Southern Africa and of Cyprus, still unresolved, and the position in the Sahara, where I hope for a negotiated settlement. There is the situation in Belize, on which I am glad to say that a debate has started in the Fourth Committee of the United Nations. Some 55 nations have now supported the resolution calling for independence for Belize. As I have said in the House before, it is my intention to resume negotiations with Guatemala when that principle is recognised, as it will be, by the United Nations, in order to ensure that Belize and Guatemala can live together in the future, as they must. Against all these anxieties there are grounds for hope. In my view, there is some encouragement for the belief that patient negotiation can eventually resolve some intractable disputes and may carry others forward. Let me give three illustrations. The CSCE at Helsinki is one. We debated that conference in March in our last major foreign affairs debate. Since then we have signed the Final Act. It was a historic moment. There is the Middle East dispute, which has been taken another step along the road to peace. The momentum there must be maintained. There is the change in tone of the dialogue between the developed and the developing countries. Any hon. Member who reads Hansard for last March will realise the anxieties that the House expressed at that time on those three issues, not all of which have been removed by any means. If we think back to last March, however, we will realise that progress has been made in all these respects. Take the CSCE as one example. Every nation that went to Helsinki signed an agreed code of behaviour. That in itself was significant and important. Of course, there is no overnight end to tensions. Both sides have great armaments. The Soviet Union is probably increasing the strength of its armaments at the present time. There are great ideological differences, and there is no armistice in the war of ideas. That war will go on between the Soviet Union and those who espouse the ideology of the Soviet Union and the rest of the free world. The Helsinki conference symbolised a determination to build up more normal relations based on respect. Undertakings were given, and it is for all of us to see that all of us who are participants fulfil those undertakings. I do not want to start so shortly after Helsinki by taking a carping attitude because historic attitudes by particular countries have not been reversed overnight. That would be foolish, unless we were still conducting the cold war in its sterile way. We must be clear where we stand. There must be no misunderstanding about that. But if changes are to be made, for example, in what has become known as Basket III, we cannot expect those changes to be made immediately. They will come gradually, if they come at all. They will come by patient persuasion, by private representation, not by loud huckstering, which, as far as I can see, is likely only to make people more defensive than they are now. The progress on arms reduction will be a test. I should like it to be made the major task for 1976. It will need a substantial effort to achieve any arms reduction that is mutually agreed, but it is to that task in Europe that we next have to turn our attention. I mentioned the Middle East. I think everyone will agree that great credit is due to the parties concerned—to Israel and to Egypt—as well as to the United States Government for the settlement that has been reached. The last time we debated that matter, we were lamenting that Dr. Kissinger's efforts had been thwarted. He returned, and they have now succeeded. On his recent visit to this country President Sadat paid generous tribute to our Prime Minister. I think we can claim that, by skilful use of the wide-ranging and varied international links and friendships that we enjoy, we have been able—perhaps not publicly, but privately—to exercise considerable influence on the nature of the settlement that was reached. I emphasise that the Sinai agreement is not an end in itself. The momentum must be maintained. The position on the Golan Heights is bound to lead to continuing tension. That is one problem that has to be solved and on which there should be a move soon. The representation of the Arab people, the Palestinians, at a peace conference is another issue that has to be resolved. There will be tension until the mandate for peacekeeping is renewed, and I express now the hope that Syria will do that soon. We are reaching the stage where, taking into account perhaps an early move on the Golan Heights, we need a global settlement based on Resolution 242, which still stands up to examination. This would involve a withdrawal from occupied territories, it would involve respect for the rights of every State in the area to live within secure and recognised boundaries and it would involve a recognition of the rights, both human and political, of the Palestinian people. These things we shall work for, and in doing this, our friendship with the United States, in this as in other fields, stands us and the Middle East in good stead. We indicated to President Sadat and to Mr. Fahmy, the Foreign Minister, when they were here that at an appropriate time—I do not know when that moment will arrive—we shall, of course, be ready to fulfil our responsibilities in the Middle East, if we are invited to do so, along lines that would have to be determined. Then there is the third illustration that I gave—the change in the tone of the dialogue of the developed and developing countries. Here is another area in which the momentum must be maintained. The confrontation at the Sixth Session of the United Nations which I reported to the House last March has evaporated, at any rate temporarily. I think it began to evaporate at the Commonwealth Conference, and in conjunction with the statements by the United States Secretary of State, Dr. Kissinger, together with statements by the European Community and by the OECD, the temperature was lowered before we ever went back to the Special Session of the United Nations in September. I believe again that the British Government can claim some credit for the proposals that we made in Jamaica, on which we had worked hard for many months. There was nothing that was just conjured out of the air. It had been a very careful period of preparation and consultation and a lot of work had been put in with other Governments. I believe that those proposals for stabilising earnings, as well as proposing various kinds of commodity agreements, themselves had an impact on the temperature and helped to create a better atmosphere. Of course, the developing countries' demands go wider than that and there are more methods of helping, for which this country is particularly well placed—for example, the transfer of technology and technical assistance through qualified manpower. This country is rich; this country is wealthy in skilled and qualified manpower and technical capacity. It would be more difficult to meet their demands for the establishment of new industries, especially in a world recession, and the admittance of their products. But there was at the end of the day in the United Nations debate about six weeks or two months ago a genuine consensus, and it is our task to see, in all the forums with which we are associated, that the momentum is not lost. We want to see that the UNCTAD conference in Nairobi next May, as well as the work in other areas, carries forward these demands of the developing nations. It is in all our interests that that should happen. We cannot be an island of relative wealth in a world of poverty. Having spoken of progress in three areas that we discussed last March, I now turn to some areas where there has been very little progress. The first of these is the Energy Conference, as it was originally called.
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the three areas that he has mentioned—he was speaking of the underdeveloped world—can he say whether he has had recent contacts with the OAU about the situation in Angola? I hope he will say something about his attitude towards the transfer of power, because this is a matter of vital and topical importance.
I have had contact with the OAU, and President Amin has sent a message to me about the Angola situation in which he has endeavoured to play a constructive part. I hope that my hon. Friend will be willing to wait until my right hon. Friend the Minister of State winds up the debate, because if I make a tour around the whole world I shall still be going at 10 o'clock. I am trying to limit myself to a certain number of subjects as my right hon. Friend will deal with the others. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will allow me to move on to some of these other matters.I want to say a few words about the Energy Conference. The preparations for it have taken a long time since the French Government took the initiative many months ago, and during the course of the preparations the scope has widened considerably. It is now called not the Energy Conference but a Conference on International Economic Co-operation and it will deal not only with problems of energy but with problems of raw material, development and related financial matters. The scope, therefore, is wide enough. It is expected to take at least 12 months, and we cannot say how it will develop. The membership of the conference has been fixed to eight industrial nations and 19 developing nations, though I do not know how those numbers were arrived at. What is our position here? The Community does not have detailed policies on the questions for discussion. In my judgment, it will not find a sufficiently detailed policy or a common interest. It is, therefore, appropriate that the United Kingdom should seek a place on its own merits and on its own account. With regard to energy, by 1980 the United Kingdom will be producing 90 per cent. of Europe's oil and 45 per cent. of the total production of energy in the European Community. No one knows what the Community's position will be on the details of the questions to be discussed. There is no agreement that there should be a minimum selling price. France is not a member of the International Energy Agency, where an agreement was entered into for a minimum selling price. There is no understanding about the rate of depletion—one of the most important issues, I should have thought, in a matter of this sort. There is no agreement on the price of energy inside the Community. We have invested, and will continue to invest, a greater proportion of our gross national product in energy production—running into many billions of pounds—than anyone else. Those are the simple facts. There is no common approach to those problems. I should be neglecting my responsibilities if I did not claim a seat at the conference on behalf of the United Kingdom. The method of deciding attendance is rather obscure. At present we are working with the Community on a mandate. We have done nothing so far to hinder the presence of the Community at a conference, but I warn now that if they go to the conference in the present unprepared state I see nothing but impotence and frustration for the members attending it. Problems will emerge day by day and week by week during the 12 months, and hurried meetings of the Nine will have to be called to try to find a patchwork formula that represents the highest common factor of agreement on issues on which there are substantial differences, I cannot believe that that is the right way in which to conduct a matter of such vital importance to this country. We hope that the conference will do useful work. There are pessimists, but I hope that their judgment will be proved wrong. If we are present, as I trust we shall be, we shall certainly do our best to make a success of it. But we cannot afford to fail to indicate to the Community, to the United States, to Japan and to the other nations that will be present that we have a most important interest in this matter. I hope that the Opposition share that view. I have listened to some stalwart speeches from some Opposition Members about it. I should be most interested to hear from the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) whether the Conservative Party believes that Britain should be represented on her own account at this conference. He owes it to us and to the country to tell us.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, and without prejudice to the decision that he has taken, will he confirm that this country agreed to the ratio of 19 to eight? If we did agree, was not that unwise?
No. The question of representation had been made utterly clear to the Community and it was not for me to instruct my representative that, if everybody else wanted to go ahead on the basis of 19 to eight, we should stand aside. I have expressed my personal view about those numbers, but I did not feel that it was right at that stage to hold up agreement on the issue merely on the question of numbers.
Was it not a fact that the figures of 19 and eight were the figures arrived at when the British were present and that which we agreed?
Yes, of course it was. I thought that was what I said. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman interrupted again. I agreed because I did not believe it necessary to hold up agreement. That is not to say that I altogether agree that it is wise. The right hon. Gentleman will frequently find, if he becomes a member of a Government one day, that in the Community we do not necessarily accept everything that happens, but we do not always feel that we must make a stand.The point was taken properly. The Community was aware for many months that Britain was claiming a seat, and that has never been departed from. The decision on the numbers was taken in the full light of that. I pass on to another problem on which we have met with little success so far. That is the issue of Cyprus. We took advantage of the visit of Prime Minister Karamanlis and the Foreign Minister, Mr. Bitsios, to discuss the problem of Cyprus with them, and also with the Turkish Foreign Minister. We are keeping in close contact with both the Greek and the Turkish Governments, as well as with the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to try to assist the talks that are proceeding between Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash. There has been a blockage in the talks, but the United States' arms embargo on Turkey has been lifted. I understand that attempts are being made to develop a national policy in Turkey and I very much hope that the efforts, and patience, of Dr. Waldheim will ensure some progress. There are three issues. The first is whether there is agreement that there should be a bi-zonal arrangement between Greeks and Turks. The second is what should be the powers, great or small, and the composition of a central Government. The third is what should be the amount of territory in which each community would have a predominant role. We have intimated privately to each side our view of what steps could best be taken to help towards a solution. So far we have had little success. As we are in the middle of private discussions with each side—the Community is also in contact with all parties—I prefer not to be pressed this afternoon to go into the details, because that would not be helpful in getting the parties together. I have outlined the problems that exist. We have given intimations of our view on these matters. Here again is an illustration of where we have to do good by stealth. I could, of course, make a tremendous declamation indicating exactly who we believe is right and who is wrong, and the degree of blame that should be attached to each side. If I did so we should entirely cut ourselves off from any influence we might have towards obtaining a better result. We are ready to help. We shall continue our private conversations, as will Dr. Waldheim, the United States of America and the Nine. I call attention once again to the problem of growing nuclear poliferation. I am glad to see that there are the beginnings of a debate on the great dangers that the world faces from the increasing use of nuclear power. I do my best to foster this debate because I am sure that it is right. The raw materials that produce nuclear power for peaceful purposes can be used for other purposes too if the technology is known and is present. I have illustrated this before—but not in the House—by pointing out that the bomb which destroyed Nagasaki contained the equivalent of about 10 kilogrammes of plutonium. By the middle 1980s, at present rates of progress, the world will dispose of 1 million kilogrammes of plutonium. Therefore the remedies, if they are to be effective by the 1980s, must be found now. Basically, I know no better way than to use the International Atomic Energy Agency. It should be used to safeguard enrichment and reprocessing plants and to control the use of nuclear materials throughout the whole of the fuel cycle. It is a very difficult thing to do. Britain again has played a major rôle in stimulating discussion and in putting forward positive proposals. There was, first, the Brezhnev-Wilson declaration of common intent at Moscow last February, when we began to see the outlines of the problem as it was to emerge. We have worked closely since then both with the Soviet Union and with the United States, and are in broad agreement about what it is necessary to do. We promoted the establishment of a special advisory group to consider the implications of peaceful nuclear explosions. That group is now working and has had a number of meetings. Thirdly, I made specific proposals at the United Nations Ordinary Assembly in September, and we are following up those proposals in the IAEA and by discussion with other nations. This is one of the most important topics for mankind. I hope that there will be growing public debate about it, for the sake of our children and our grandchildren. If we cannot control the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, if we cannot make the world see that we are running the most frightful risks mankind has ever run, we are going the right way to destroy our planet. At least, the possibilities will be there. Britain must not rest until we have exhausted all possible means of securing control, and we shall continue our efforts to that end. I should like to say a word now about the European Community. Looking back over the past few months since our last debate, it can be seen that we have done useful work in the Community on political co-operation. The referendum was a watershed which settled the issue. But political co-operation, for example, has demonstrated its value in Portugal in the financial aid proposed and accepted, and in the political support given to the struggle for democracy in that country. We have worked together in the Community to develop a common attitude to Spain. Let me say once again that the British people have no quarrel with the people of Spain. We hope that they will emerge into a new relationship both with their own Government and with the rest of Europe. It will certainly be our desire to help them achieve a democratic society in their own country. The Community is working out relations with Greece, which has made an application to join. At the moment we are waiting for the report of the Commission on that application. The Euro-Arab dialogue is going ahead, but too slowly, although a meeting of experts will take place next week in Abu Dhabi to discuss how co-operation can be carried forward. A common position was worked out prior to the CSCE and a common stand has been taken on Israel's position at the United Nations. All these are of value. Sometimes it has been very difficult to keep everyone in line, especially in relation to Israel. I do not know how long we shall go on succeeding but I do know that when the Community speaks with one voice—I think that what I am saying illustrates that I am ready to see Britain speaking with one voice for the Community wherever we can—Britain and the Community are stronger. Internally, the issue that has arisen is that of direct elections—that is, not having members of the Assembly who are nominated by this Parliament but having them directly elected from the constituencies. That is a treaty requirement and, of course, we shall honour it.
Not this decade.
I put it this way: not this Session.The Assembly has proposed a much larger Assembly than the existing one, giving a workmanlike basis for the proposals suggested. The Council of Foreign Ministers is now studying the proposals that have come from the Assembly. I should divide the discussion into two parts. First, there are the issues that must be settled by the Community as a whole, an obvious one being the size of the Assembly and the distribution between the Members. Second, there is the question whether one has one election day or a number of election days, or whether to make it coincide with the General Elections of each country. Those questions should be settled centrally either by the European Council or by the Council of Foreign Ministers. But I think that there are many other issues—indeed, most—that should be left to national Governments to settle. I refer, for example—we all know about such things because we go through it—to the preparation of the electoral roll, who is entitled to vote, the method of election, who has the right to be a candidate, and whether there is to be a dual mandate. Are Members of Parliament here to be free to stand for the Assembly, should they be debarred from standing, or must they be drawn only from this Parliament? I have my own views about that, and I dare say that all other hon. Members have too. Then there are the questions of constituency boundaries and of financing the elections. All these are quite intricate matters and will be difficult to work out. We shall also need a treaty amendment which will have to go through various Parliaments and through this Parliament. That is why I have taken a view, not out of any ideological dislike but merely out of a regard for the practicalities of the situation, slightly less rosy than that taken by some of my colleagues. Some of them seem to have more docile Parliaments than we have at Westminster, and they seem to be quite certain that they have only to present a Bill for it to go through. Having had the experience of trying to reform the House of Lords, I am no optimist. I am aware that if one puts a constitutional Bill before this House one is putting it in front of 630 experts. There are other illustrations, but I shall not tread on dangerous ground. As I have tried to point out to my colleagues, I am certainly not being obstructive, but with the best will in the world I think that it will take some time to get these matters through and prepare the legislation. The Government's responsibility is to enter into a discussion with the other parties. There will be need for considerable party debate about it, and we shall obviously need to discuss the matter in this House. Therefore, I think it will take some time to effect. We should not try to hold matters up, but we should begin the process of discussion after the European Community summit in December and, subject to what the Cabinet has to say, I should certainly hope that my right hon. Friend the Lord President would want to do so. But all that will take time. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members agree with me that I should not be over-optimistic about it. But I do not say that we should deliberately hold it up, and certainly I am not trying to do so. The European Community itself is still uncertain of its rôle and its direction. The basic problem is still not settled. One problem that is gradually being settled is that those who thought they saw the Commission as a form of European Government are now deserting that view. What is certainly not settled is how the Community will grow and whether it is to be a federal system or a series of nation States co-operating wherever possible. Some nations hold one view and some hold others. No final decision has been reached on that. Nor, I think, will there be a final decision reached on it for some time to come. My own view is that we must co-operate wherever we can and on all possible occasions. We must act independently when we must, but even when we act independently it is our responsibility to keep contact with one another within the membership of the Community. Apart from the Community itself, there has been a period of intense diplomatic activity. If I tell the House that during the past four weeks we have welcomed to this country the Prime Minister of Greece, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the Foreign Ministers of Canada, of Venezuela and of Brazil and the President of Egypt, hon. Members will realise the diplomatic activity that is going on. In addition we are looking forward to having President Nyerere with us, and before the end of the year the Swedish Foreign Minister and others. I hope to visit all the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, and my right hon. Friend will be visiting Iran and Iraq. I have spoken of the interaction of foreign policy and domestic policy, and I come now to my final word.
I have listened with great care to the Secretary of State's impressive speech, but he has made no reference—perhaps he is intending to do so in his last few minutes—to South-East Asia, where major developments have taken place in the past few months. Many of us have watched with anxiety the recent negotiations in Hong Kong, the last major British base in the area. I should be most grateful if the Secretary of State would touch on those matters before he finishes.
I had not intended to do so. I realise that there are omissions, and I apologise for them, but my speech is long enough now. If I were to mention such matters it would become intolerably long. Hong Kong recognises the financial difficulties. An article I saw written by Lord Chalfont from Singapore or Malaysia was not exactly up to date with the latest position. I am hopeful that a satisfactory agreement will be made between both sides about future expenditure on defence in Hong Kong. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will pick up more detailed questions when he replies.Finally, I want to say a word about the interaction of domestic and foreign policy in relation to trade. I expect the Foreign Office to take a continuously growing interest in overseas trade, in conjunction with the Department of Trade. The Diplomatic Service must play a key rôle in helping British business abroad to sell British goods. This is a view I keep expressing. I understand what is required. The House may be interested to know that, including local overseas staff, there are now 700 Foreign Service officers employed whole time on commercial work, and many others spend part of their time on it. These officers have made some 98,000 visits to local firms, commercial organisations and Government Departments in the countries to which they are accredited. During the past year they have received 42,000 personal visits from British business visitors whom they helped. Now and again I receive a complaint about them, though I get many more letters of congratulation for the help they give. I believe that the Foreign Service has really hoisted this in, and our officers understand that they have an important rôle to play not only in political matters but in advancing British trade. They are in the front line of the battle for national survival. I have made that absolutely clear. We are rebuilding a number of our old markets, such as the Latin-American market, the market in the Soviet Union and parts of Eastern Europe, markets that are politically oriented. The Middle East is another politically oriented market. It is my desire that we should strengthen our effort in all these places. We regard the conference that is to take place at Rambouillet next weekend—which the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and I will be attending, as well as the Presidents of the United States and of France, the Federal German Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of Japan and of Italy, with all their colleagues—as a most important conference to see whether the West can pull the world as rapidly as possible out of the present recession in which unemployment has been combined with inflation. In this country we are right to take inflation very seriously and to take the most Draconian steps to put an end to it. But we must not be too frightened of trying to get rid of unemployment in so doing, because we must tackle that problem too. The present unemployment ratio throughout the whole of the Western world has never been seen since the end of the Second World War. The conference will deal with trade and monetary policy, energy developments and relations between developed and developing countries. I do not think that we should expect major decisions. Other countries' interests are affected, and it would be wrong for major decisions to be taken. On the other hand, there will be a meeting of minds which, I believe, will influence the decisions of all of us when we return to our own countries afterwards. That in itself is important. I apologise to the House for having taken so long. I conclude as I began. It is our task to be active and vigorous in our foreign policy. It is our task to recognise the major themes—the relations between developing and developed countries, the proper exploitation and use of raw materials, how to get rid of the poverty of the world, how to overcome unemployment, and the nuclear threat. It is our job to isolate these themes, to work on them, constantly to prosecute them and not only to try to use foreign policy as a means of extending Britain's influence throughout the world—which is a beneficent influence—but also to advance our own interests and to help regenerate British industry here at home.
The Foreign Secretary has no need to apologise to the House, because we have all listened with the greatest attention to his extremely interesting views on the problems and policies of his great office. I agreed with much of what he said, not least with his basic theme that this House should not be totally absorbed in domestic problems and that there is a certain danger of people in this country saying that because we cannot do what we used to do when we ruled a quarter of mankind we cannot do anything at all.The change in our national situation in the last generation alone has been astonishing, in historical terms, and there is the grave danger that, somehow or other, we should say "What's the good of trying? What influence can Britain have?" The truth is that, as the Foreign Secretary made clear, we still have a very great influence, particularly when exercised through our membership of the European Community, and this, without doubt, is where our future lies in this realm of foreign affairs. I intend to take up a number of the topics dealt with by the Foreign Secretary, and my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Tugendhat), who hopes to catch your eye later in the debate, Mr. Speaker, will deal with the economic problems, to which he has given a great deal of study. May I add one item to the catalogue given by the Foreign Secretary? It concerns the Falkland Islands. I hope that the Minister of State will say a little about it. We gather that a mission, under Lord Shackleton, is soon to go to the Falkland Islands. We should like to know more about the background to this, and why it is taking place. In recent months certain anxieties have been aroused about this, and about the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. We should like the position to be made absolutely clear, if the Minister will be good enough to do that. We all agree with the impression made upon us of the rate of change and the extraordinary fluidity of the international situation. It is quite different from anything that we have known in earlier decades. Certainly there are grounds for being depressed by the failure of the world to take advantage of science and technology, by the growing discord in many areas, by the suspicions that linger, and by the double-talk in international relations becoming more and more prevalent. The fact is that science cursed us with the atomic bomb but blessed us with the nuclear stalemate. Yet what is growing up under the umbrella of the nuclear stalemate is not very attractive. There are no real signs, yet, of any progress in disarmament. As the Foreign Secretary said, the Soviets are continuing to build up their apparatus of war-making. SALT and the MBFR talks are not really making any progress. There was bad news again this morning, I saw, about SALT in particular. As the Foreign Secretary rightly stressed, the dangers of proliferation of atomic power are enormous and extremely urgent, and no one should be allowed to underestimate what they could lead to for the whole future of mankind. It is hard, too, to see much growth of confidence and understanding between the nations. Rather, we see jealousy and suspicion. We see violence within nations replacing violence between nations. I am afraid that, in some examples, we see intolerance and even violence itself being virtually canonised by certain countries. I do not know, but sometimes I feel that the meeting of minds is getting more remote rather than closer, with a sort of Humpty-Dumpty feeling—if that is who it was in Alice—that "Words mean what I say they mean; no more, no less". Obligations, if not actually broken, can always be reinterpreted in different words. This is the sort of world in which, when feeling pessimistic, we think that we are living. Yet there must always remain the other side of it. It would be folly to despair. As Winston Churchill once said, "Never weaken, never despair". The opportunities created by science and technology are as great as they ever were. They are still there to be grasped, and grasped they must be. The nature of man has not changed. In this swirling world that we face this above all remains. Therefore, in dealing with foreign affairs, I think it is very important to analyse international problems in terms of human motives. After all, nations are only individual men writ larger. Unless we study more closely than we have done why men and nations are doing things, we shall never make progress in solving the problems of what they are doing and how we can cope with them. What are the motives which impel nations in foreign policy? I think that the most powerful of all is simple fear. Often it is unreasoning fear. We have only to look at the problems in the Middle East between Arabs and Israelis, at the problems of Cyprus, and at the position of the Soviet Union. So much of what they do and so much of what they often appear to be doing aggressively springs from basic, genuine human fear, which must be exorcised if agreement is to be reached. Then there are ambition and the lust for power, which are less effective in the modern world. However, an extraordinary pride remains—an astonishing possessiveness—about the minutiae of individual frontiers. Is not it strange how often nations nowadays seem passionately determined to defend frontiers drawn decades ago by other people, because, somehow or other, their national pride is involved? We must not neglect the effect of sheer stupidity on foreign affairs, either. I believe that it was Schiller who said that with stupidity even the gods wrestle in vain. We must not underestimate this factor when it comes into international negotiation. But never must we lose sight of idealism. It takes so many forms, and it often walks hand in hand with violence and terrorism, oddly enough. However, idealism is still one of the basic human emotions and, I believe, still the strongest. These motives, in different mixes and combinations, run through every problem of foreign affairs, and I am sure that, in seeking solutions to the problems facing Britain, it will be wise always to try to think why other people are doing what they are doing and whether, in those same circumstances, we would not be doing precisely the same. If we can do that, I think that we shall have a better chance of understanding these situations, and from a better understanding will come a better chance of getting agreement. Therefore, the objectives of British foreign policy are to maintain the security and prosperity of the United Kingdom as part of the Western world. The threats to that security and prosperity are threefold—military, political and economic. We cannot have a complete foreign policy unless we have regard to all these threats. First, there is the military threat. I have referred to the continuing growth of Communist power and the expansion of naval dispositions of the Soviet Union throughout many new areas of the world. It is hard to see these as purely defensive, in terms of a great land mass. Whatever the intention behind them, they cannot fail to give concern, and they must be taken fully into account in determining our own policies, in both foreign affairs and defence. Secondly, there is the rebuff to the United States in South-East Asia, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle) referred. Thirdly, there is the weariness of democracy, the longing to get away from effort, the longing to believe that every thing will be all right, that this is a sensible and rational world, and that people will not do stupid things. Once we make that assumption—as we came very close to doing in the 1930s—we may be in great peril. Then there is the political threat. There is the continued pressure and advance, in many areas of the world, of antidemocratic ideas, especially the weakening, in political terms, of the southern flank of NATO, and the development which is continuing, within the Third World, of hostility to the West in general and, of course, to the United States in particular. There is the economic threat to our future, particularly illustrated in the development of the conscious power of the raw material producers. There is a consciousness of monopoly power, newly born, I think, in the experience of the oil producers, which might spread to other areas as well. It is right for us to recognise that there is a strong claim on the part of the developing countries, in particular, that their economies should be helped to grow. I do not accept the extreme point of view that we have robbed them of their oil and minerals. Where would their oil and minerals be if we had not gone there? They would still be under the ground. I do not accept that point of view, but I accept that a new balance between the consumers and the producers should be sought, recognising the just interests of both, because, unless we can do this, the general tension and conflict within world affairs is bound to continue. These factors seem to me to constitute the general background against which we should deal with the problems of foreign affairs. I should like now to come to some of those problems, and in one or two instances I shall criticise the Foreign Secretary for the attitude that he is taking. First, I want to consider the Iberian Peninsula and the question of Portugal. We are all deeply concerned about the situation in Portugal, and we all wish to see—be we Socialists, Conservatives or Liberals—a pluralist democracy there. That is a horrible phrase, but we know what it means. What is so frustrating is that it is extremely difficult to see what we can now do about Portugal. Sometimes, I am pressed by colleagues to make powerful speeches denouncing Communism in Portugal, but I doubt whether that would help the friends of democracy in Portugal. I doubt whether overt intervention in that country's domestic affairs would help anyone. What is clear is that we must help the course of democracy in practical ways. It is right for political parties, within their resources and in appropriate forms, to give aid to political parties of a democratic character in Portugal. It is certainly right—I am glad that the Foreign Secretary did this; I spoke to him earlier about it—to ensure that the EEC gives the maximum economic aid to the new Government in Portugal. Portugal's economic problems are very grave, and this alone could bring down democracy. I am positive of that. Those are the practical things that we can do, and I am sure that the House will support the Foreign Secretary in anything he does to help Portuguese democracy along those lines. Then there is the grave situation in Angola. I do not know what line the Government are taking on this, although I believe that the Minister of State will refer to it in his concluding speech. Perhaps I may ask him to deal with a particular point. Concern has been caused by a Press conference chaired by the right hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), who was the Minister for Overseas Development. Apparently, she said on 27th October that the Labour Party gave its sole support to the MPLA. The MPLA was often invited to Labour Party conferences, and the Labour Party Secretary, Mr. Ron Hayward, met its leader, Mr. Neto, last year. I hop that the right hon. Lady's statement is not correct, because the MPLA is the Communist-supported body in Angola, but in view of that statement I think it would be helpful if the Minister were to make the Government's stance quite clear. I turn now to Spain, and again I must criticise the Foreign Secretary's attitude, although he becomes rather testy when I do. I think that his attitude is important, first, because of the significance of Spain in Western Europe, and the grave consequences that would follow from a collapse of Spain and its defection from Western sympathies. Secondly, it is important because the prospects for the new régime seem to be good, and it is desirable that we support it. Spain seems to have done very well over the problems of Spanish Sahara, and, touching wood, I hope that the agreement will continue. Certainly a strong Spain is a very important part of Western Europe. I think that there is a charge of inconsistency and prejudice to be made against the Government, which undermines their credibility and the credibility of their stance generally. I am referring to the condemnation of the execution of those who were found guilty of murdering policemen, and I should like to make clear the Opposition's position on this matter. Although we have abolished the death penalty, I do not think that anyone in this country can honestly criticise other countries which retain it, and I would guess that the great majority of people would be in favour of retaining it. What we can fairly criticise is the fact that people are sometimes condemned and executed without a proper trial, but if we do it for one country we must do it for others. Spain is not the only country in which there are military courts. Nor is it the only country in which the processes of law fall short of those generally acceptable in this country, and we should not pick and choose in this matter. I ask the Minister to give us an assurance that whenever Her Majesty's Government have evidence of people being executed after an inadequate trial they will protest in the appropriate way with equal vigour, whichever country is concerned. There must be consistency. I am sure that the Minister recognises that. I come next to the problems of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. It is a matter of urgency to make progress here, not only because of the damage being done to the NATO Alliance, but, more important in many ways, because of the damage being done to the people of Cyprus. The Foreign Secretary certainly recognised that this afternoon. In the summer I was fortunate enough to visit Athens and Ankara, and to talk to leading statesmen in both countries. There was general recognition that there must be agreement and compromise. One leading Greek statesman said "We recognise that we must sign a cheque for the follies of the colonels, but it must not be too big", which seemed to me a highly realistic view to take. Clearly, the solution must involve some form of constitutional reform and change on the frontier. There must be some compromise in the constitution between the federal and confederal systems put forward and, on the frontier, between the present positions and the earlier line, in so far as it was a line, that used to exist. Progress has been held up by the attitude of the Turks to the American arms ban and because of their impending election. I sympathise with their point of view on the arms ban, which was maintained by Congress in the teeth of opposition by the American administration. I hope that people will learn that the Turks will never give way to threats. It is a good thing that Congress made a move here and also that these partial senatorial elections have been held. So far as I can see, the extreme nationalist party that was feared to be emerging has not emerged with any great strength. Surely the time has now come when the Turkish Government should make a move. Clearly, the ball is in their court. I believe that they have the will to do so. I hope that, in the course of the many things that he is doing with his American colleagues and his colleagues in the Nine, the Foreign Secretary will be able to bring to the Turks the concerted advice that it is up to them. If they wait much longer, the dangers are great. By acting now and showing their willingness to compromise and to make agreements, they can do great service to themselves and to the whole of Western Europe.
The two Front Benches seem to share a common line on this matter, which is all to the good. However, as Britain is one of the original guarantors of a free and independent Cyprus, does not my right hon. Friend think it would be appropriate if the Government were to make a louder protest against the settling of Turkish peasant communities in northern Cyprus at this time? Will not that underline the diplomatic activity, which we all strongly support?
That is a difficult question. I recognise what my hon. Friend says and I know of his interest in this matter. As the Foreign Secretary asked not to be pressed on this matter at the moment, I was not pressing him, but no doubt he will take note of the view of the House.The other point that arises is the Greek application for membership of the EEC, which I and my hon. Friends strongly support. Europe could not conceivably be Europe without the presence of Greece, which is the cradle of so much of European civilisation. I do not believe that Greek membership would militate against Turkey's interests. In principle, ultimate membership of the Community is already provided for in the Treaty of Association, which was signed a little while ago. It was made clear to me by Mr. Karamanlis and other leading Greek statesmen that Greece regarded membership of the Community as keeping it within Europe at a time of difficulty between itself and NATO. It is certainly not regarded in any way as making its conflict with the Turks more difficult. In fact, it says the opposite. Greece believes that, within a European Community which it joined and which will be open for the Turks to join when they are capable of qualifying and wish to do so, the chances of a solution to the problems of the Eastern Mediterranean will be greater than at present. I set no store by the argument that, if Greece were to join the Community, it would then be able to veto the admission of Turkey. I do not for one moment believe that Greece would do so. But I am certain that it would be made absolutely clear when Greece joined the Community that such a veto could not be used if the Community as a whole wished to have Turkey as a member. I come now to the Middle East. I have seen a good deal of the problems there. I have visited the Arab countries many times on business. In the summer I was for some time the guest of the Israeli Government and learned of its point of view as well. The trouble in the Middle East is one of conflicting antipathies. There is Arab versus Israeli, Left wing versus Right wing, and the United States versus Russia. These three differing conflicts tend to interact and to make more confused a situation that in itself is extremely difficult. Anyone visiting the Middle East comes back totally convinced of the need for agreement on this problem and the benefits that could flow from it. In sheer economic terms, the burden of defence on Israel, and, I think, Egypt as well, is colossal. I believe that it is over 30 per cent. of the gross national product. It is probably a larger percentage than this country spent at the height of the last world war. On the other hand, when one considers the technology of Israel in agriculture and the resources of the oil-producing States, one realises how a combination of those resources could make that part of the world fertile and flowering for the benefit and happiness of those who live there. Nothing could give greater benefit to the Middle East than an agreement between the Israelis and the Arabs. Yet, given genuine good will and the elimination of fear, which more than anything, I believe, underlies the Middle East problem, a solution is possible. The agreement between Egypt and Israel was a great advance, and all credit should go to the Israeli leaders, to President Sadat and to Dr. Kissinger for the work they did in achieving it. But, as the Foreign Secretary rightly said, we must maintain momentum. Unless the momentum is maintained, the situation might collapse again, and for no one is this more important than President Sadat himself, whose very courageous position in the face of much criticism from other Arab countries can be fully maintained only if the progress towards general agreement can also be maintained. Clearly, there must be another meeting at Geneva at some time, but, before then, there must be more bilateral progress, and there must be some solution—in view, at any rate—of the problem of Palestinian representation. These are still the two outstanding problems. The answer, I believe, is still to be found on the lines of Resolution 242, which both sides of the House have always adhered to and which remains the basic text for any lasting settlement in the Middle East. Certainly the Arabs are entitled to a return of the territories taken from them in war. The Israelis are equally entitled, without any shadow of doubt, to real safety and security. But when one considers the geographical factors in Israel and the narrowness of the territory, and when one realises that in military terms the Arabs are far nearer to the heart of Israel than any Israeli is near to the heart of an Arab country, one recognises that there must be a genuine, effective and lasting guarantee of security before the Israelis can be expected to enter the sort of agreement that we must seek. Finally, I think that everyone will now agree that the other condition of agreement must be that the Palestinians should have a country of their own. No good is served by those who advocate extreme causes. There is still a real fear in the Middle East—on the one hand, that the Arabs wish to eliminate the State of Israel and, on the other, that the Israelis plan a grand expansion across vast areas of the Middle East. These fears still exist in the minds of men there. They are utterly wrong. But, until those fears are exorcised, real peace will be very difficult to achieve. I was in Baghdad a short while ago talking to members of the Iraqui Government and I know that some Arab countries still will not recognise the continued existence of a State of Israel. Many Arab countries will, but some will not. This remains an obstacle to a settlement. Then there is the United Nations resolution, which I deplore, describing Zionism as racism. This can only do harm and make a settlement far more difficult. I do not understand it. If one can have an Islamic republic—a very good thing, too—why not have a Jewish State as well? What is racist about one and not the other? So long as individuals within those countries are guaranteed proper human rights, surely both can live side by side, one with the other. On the other hand, the Israelis must recognise that some of their activities in the occupied territories, particularly in the Golan Heights, seem to be designed not merely for strategic defence but for permanent occupation of the territory. Such activities do not help towards a solution of the problem and the more on either side who can be persuaded not to pursue those activities, the better the prospect for peace. The two urgent problems, as I have said, are the Golan Heights and who represents the Palestinians. I was standing, only a few weeks ago, on the Golan Heights. When one looks out over Lake Kinneret—as Lake Galilee is now called—from the position previously occupied by the Syrians, one can understand perfectly well why the Israelis would be loth to see that position reoccupied by a potentially hostile Power. Therefore, the answer must come down in the long run to a United Nations presence, to demilitarisation, or to some way in which the: territorial aspirations of the one country can be matched with the proper defence considerations of the other. But until one looks at it on the spot, it is hard fully to understand the practical facts involved. As for representation of the Palestinians, the time has come when it must be recognised that the PLO is, broadly speaking, the voice of Palestinians. Many people, of course, would like to see King Hussein speaking for them. But since the Rabat conference and the recent activities of the PLO, it has become a fact of international life that no one can ignore. Its association with terrorism is to be deplored, and no hon. Member would for one moment countenance any support of terrorism. But the history of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean shows many examples where righteous causes have been pursued by honest men while, at the same time, wicked men have been pursuing the same purpose. One must not refuse to talk to those who are of good will because of the existence of those who are of bad will. Without doubt, in the long run there must be a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians that will guarantee some appropriate Palestinian country of their own. The sooner it comes about, the better. I appreciate the difficulties as well as anyone, but I am absolutely convinced that the longer this is delayed and the longer effective consultation, talk and negotiation are postponed, the greater will be the dangers for all concerned in that part of the world. I come back to the main issue, the protection of the United Kingdom against aggression. What is absolutely clear, surely, is that our protection against all forms of aggression, military, political and economic, will depend for its success on consolidating Europe and maintaining the American alliance. The simple fact is that, without the strength of America, especially its nuclear strength, Europe could not defend herself against a possible threat. Even if it were possible to build up in Europe a defence of this calibre and size, to do so would take an immense amount of time and would be an appalling waste of human resources. Therefore, anyone who throws any doubt upon the United States' determination to defend Europe does no service to the cause of peace between West and East, because the nuclear umbrella is there. Anyone who puts holes in the nuclear umbrella does no good to the human race. It was, after all, the determination of the West to defend itself that made the Helsinki talks possible. I shall say a word or two about Helsinki in a moment. But one must never let people forget that it is because of our own apparent determination to defend ourselves that we have now reached the position where there is a growing chance of long-term concord between the Western and Eastern parts of the civilised world. Let me say a word now about the European Community—the Foreign Secretary referred to these matters—and the need for cohesion. The Opposition believe that this country is clearly committed to the principle of direct elections to the European Parliament, and, committed as we are, we cannot possibly delay the matter deliberately, as the Foreign Secretary rightly said. But there are considerable practical difficulties about constituencies, numbers and the method of election which must, I agree, be ironed out There is no point in rushing it. To have a farcical first election to the European Parliament would be disastrous for its reputation. We have to get it right. We are working, as are the Government, on ways in which the matter should be tackled. I hope that there will not be too much passion for bureaucratic tidiness, which is sometimes the fault of the Brussels administration. I do not see why, in the initial stages at any rate, countries should not decide for themselves to a large extent the methods and the details of how the elections are held in their own territories, so long as they produce by those methods and with those details representation of a proper democratic kind within the framework of the European Community. We have to go firmly forward to direct elections, to which we are committed, while at the same time making quite clear that we are concerned with the basic principle and not too much concerned with over-tidiness of mere detail. I turn next to representation at the energy conference, on which the Foreign Secretary laid a trap for me. He has been doing it for weeks—the same trap. We are concerned about and recognise the enormous importance of the United Kingdom in the energy field. I imagine that that principle might be applied to other European countries in other fields—I am not sure about that; I should like to look up the details. The question is whether it is right to press so strongly for separate representation at the conference when, by doing so, we may damage other equally important British interests, such as the cohesion of the Community and the success of the conference itself. What frightens me is that the Foreign Secretary, in being stalwart in protecting British interests—and no one must ever blame a Foreign Secretary for being stalwart in protecting British interests—may be endangering the whole conference and much of the future coherence of the Community. I hope profoundly that he recognises this and has somewhere in his mind, recondite as it may be, a solution that will enable him to reconcile these basic British interests. If he has, and produces it, we shall be delighted.
Does the right hon. Gentleman support him now?
The Foreign Secretary has not given sufficient attention to the contrary dangers of the stand he is taking and the way in which he is taking it.In conclusion, I turn to the broader picture outside Europe. The great world forces now are America and Europe, and Russia and China—not mentioned in the Foreign Secretary's speech, but he could not cover the whole world. It seems strange, indeed rather fortunate, that Russia and China do not seem to get on well together. It is most peculiar that these two great Communist Powers seem to have a considerable antipathy. From the Western point of view, this is perhaps fortunate, because a combination of Russia and China would be a formidable fact for the non-Communist world to face. We must avoid the temptation of assuming that because China is opposed to Russia, it is necessarily on our side. I think it is on its own side, as are the Russians. I believe our objective should be to be on good terms with both Russia and China, but never to be exploited, or used, by either of them to the detriment of the other. What are their purposes? Are the Russians and Chinese expansionist, aggressive people? Do they want, by military force, to take over and dominate the world? I do not believe that to be their purpose. From what I know of the Russian leaders, they are Russians before they are Communists and are deeply concerned with the development of the vast land mass of their country. But they feel that in order to maintain the security of their country, they must be in a position to destroy anyone outside their country who might threaten them. They will certainly never miss an opportunity to exploit any weakness in the West for the promotion of their own propaganda and the advancement of their own political point of view. As the Foreign Secretary rightly said, one of our greatest tasks is to explain and expand our own ideas throughout the world. The right hon. Gentleman said, "There is no armistice in the war of ideas". There must never be an armistice in the war of ideas because that, in some ways, is by far the most dangerous war of all at present. We must monitor in a positive spirit progress after the Helsinki agreement. We must try to find where we can agree and go forward together and not to carp and criticise, saying, "I told you so". We must not be starry-eyed or over-idealistic, but must look hopefully for signs of genuine achievement rather than for signs of genuine disappointment. We must press on with the SALT and MBFR talks and with the treatment of individuals under Basket III. These are immensely important tasks to be undertaken not only by this country but by our colleagues in the European Community. The fundamental truth, if I may restate it as a platitude, is that we must do this because the only alternative to what is called co-existence is co-destruction.
The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) will be conscious of the fact that over a good deal of the ground that he covered in his contribution to the debate this afternoon he will have carried with him not only the Treasury Bench but also large sections of the House. He reinforced the impression made by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, who this afternoon had his first opportunity to give a more detailed account of his stewardship of his office. I found it a very impressive account against the background of Britain being a major international power, but no longer the super-Power, or one of the two or three super-Powers. The Foreign Secretary can rest assured that the account that he gave today will stand up to examination and will make a lot of his fellow citizens feel that our foreign affairs are in good and safe hands.It was also important, beyond the politics of what my right hon. Friend said, that he stressed the economic side of the work of the Foreign Office. Those of us—a vast majority of the House of Commons—who have the opportunity to travel abroad know that the extension of the commercial and trade section of the Foreign Office, which started in a big way under the Foreign Secretaryship of the late Ernest Bevin, has had a great deal of success in recent years. I am far from satisfied with the amount of success that we are having, but some success can be seen. There are now in practically every country a number of people who know a great deal about trade and commerce, and who are very well informed. There are no better sources of information, and they are therefore in a position to back up our trade missions and our export drive. The late Ernest Bevin was also concerned with strengthening the trade union representation in our foreign embassies. I wonder whether, in rightly strengthening the commercial and trade sections, we might in future be in danger of overlooking the strengthening of trade union representation. I do not want to dwell on this in detail this afternoon, but I would regret it if that representation were not extended. During a visit to Portugal after the revolution of April last year, I found that some of our people there were extremely well informed politically, but I hope that as quickly as possible we can have permanently stationed at our embassy in that country some specialists in trade union affairs. I agree with the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet that no point is gained by a general denunciation of political parties in other countries with whose philosophies we do not agree. There is much more to be gained in quietly building up help and support for those whose philosophies we share. Effective trade union advice and representation in countries of that sort would make a useful contribution in that context. There is not enough of such advice in some countries where it would be most helpful. I believe that whilst it is right for the Foreign Secretary to have a tour d'horizon and cover a large number of subjects, that is not a privilege that I can claim for myself. I therefore must confine myself to a few subjects and then sit down. These debates are very useful to the House of Commons. I commend this idea to my right hon. Friend who is not only the Foreign Secretary but also a very influential member of the Cabinet and has something to do with the arrangement of business in this House. I know that if the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip were sitting next to him he would immediately point to those two gentlemen and say, "The arrangement of business is for them." None the less, he has some influence in the counsels of the Cabinet and with these two officers of the House, and I wish that sometimes we could have specially arranged foreign affairs debates on individual subjects in addition to these general debates, useful though they are. The first subject on which I want to touch is one which I regard as most important, and which the Foreign Secretary dealt with namely, the aftermath of the Helsinki conference and the talks on mutual force reductions. I share the Foreign Secretary's view about the way in which we ought to approach the aftermath of the Helsinki conference. I wish to add only one point to what he said. I am rather encouraged by the varying receptions given to the results of the conference in different countries in Eastern Europe. If one examines closely the way in which the Press in the Warsaw Pact countries treated the result of the conference, and the way in which the propaganda experts in those countries have used those results, one finds interesting differences. In the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic, in Moscow and East Berlin, for example, I find that the heaviest emphasis is on the two general principles that the Helsinki conference has concluded an important chapter in world history and finally ended any doubts about the results of the Second World War and, at the same time, has established the opportunity and possibility of moving towards further measures of detente and, in particular, force reductions and disarmament. But in some of the other capitals of the smaller Warsaw Pact countries I find equally heavy emphasis on points hardly mentioned in Moscow and East Berlin. These are, first, the independence of each European country, all 35 of them, East and West, and secondly, the opposition to interference in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries. Those points are extremely valuable and they are among the major reasons why I supported the idea of a Helsinki conference. They are also the reasons which guided the Foreign Office in supporting such a conference, and rightly so. It is of great importance, particularly to the smaller countries, that those principles, themselves of long-term historic significance, should be repeated by them with the respectability that the agreement reached at Helsinki has given to them. It has made it a little easier for them to repeat these principles, a fact which should not be underestimated. I do not think that any Member of the House does so—I do not wish to preach—but we must not always assume that everything can be said as easily in every political situation as it can be said in our debates here. I take some encouragement from the fact that these different interpretations do exist. It would be the height of folly to question the adherence of the members of the Warsaw Pact to their alliance, just as we do not question the adherence of its members to the North Atlantic Alliance, and it would be foolish to engage in any propaganda to try to separate them. But it is of great historic importance to note that the desire to produce changes in their own way of living together is to be found among people in all countries. In that connection, I have not forgotten, nor shall I ever forget, what was a watershed in my own political experience—namely, the attempt by some people in Czechoslovakia to put what they called a human face upon their Socialism. Clearly, for all those who hold high the principle of non-interference in a neighbouring country's affairs, the principles of Helsinki and non-interference are important elements in their propaganda, and in Belgrade, in Bucharest and in other countries these principles are now repeated in strength every day. As I have mentioned Czechoslovakia, in referring to what the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet said about Spain, I would say that it is quite wrong, although we have heard a great deal about it recently, to accuse my right hon. and hon. Friends of partiality and prejudice in relation to political injustice in Spain. We direct our criticism wherever there is such injustice. We do it in Opposition and in Government. When there was unfair political justice in Spain, the Labour Party officially protested. We all protested. We sent lawyers there to try to defend the people involved, and we asked for political amnesty. Today, I repeat my demands, frequently expressed in public, but wherever possible privately as well, that the remaining political prisoners in Czechoslovakia ought to be released. Whenever there has been contact with the representatives of those Governments, the Labour Party is on record as being instrumental in asking for and achieving the release of some political prisoners. The charge that we are selective is completely beside the point. It is simply not true, and it ought to be dropped. These matters are far too serious for a propaganda battle. I immediately agree that I am overcome with the hypocrisy of demands in a paper printed in East Berlin or in Prague calling for freedom in Santiago, 7,000 miles away, while those countries hold a lot of political prisoners of their own. That sounds a little hollow and does not add to the general international campaign. But it has nothing to do with the attitude of the Labour Party or with the attitude of my right hon. and hon. Friends who hold responsibility in the Foreign Office at present. The record of each and every one of them shows that they have fought all their lives against political injustice and the imprisonment of people for political reasons. I say that in passing, however, and turn to the second of only three points that I wish to examine. My second point concerns the situation in the Middle East. As the Foreign Secretary rightly said, it is a most difficult situation but one in which he thinks that there has recently been a little more hope. I share his opinion and his assessment on that, but I am a little more apprehensive than he sounded. There is no harm in that. We on the back benches have a little more freedom in expressing some of our anxieties, and I should not necessarily wish our Foreign Secretary always to express his anxieties as much as I sometimes wish to do. I found no quarrel in principle with my right hon. Friend's statement of the position, but in his summary and that given by the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet I found missing one rather important precondition that preoccupies the minds of many of the people of Israel—still 40 per cent. of their citizenship—who have been inmates of a concentration camp. Among those 40 per cent., in particular, I find a deep fear that the aim of the physical destruction of the State of Israel has not disappeared from the minds of a number of important politicians in the Middle East. The fear that the aim of the physical destruction of Israel is still present is an important factor in the equation. Obviously, in the steps at present being taken on the initiative of Dr. Kissinger, and in which, according to President Sadat, our diplomacy and our Prime Minister have had a useful hand, trust is an important matter. I must say, however, that, on reading a verbatim account of President Sadat's Press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, I found reason for concern. President Sadat made two references which I found unforgivable. First, he delivered himself of the statement that before 1952, which was the year of the General Neguib revolution, many of the economic interests in Egypt were controlled by Jews. That statement has nothing to do with diplomacy or even with Zionism, as I have always understood it. That was a plain, anti-Semetic statement, and it gives great cause for concern when we remember that President Sadat was a politician who had to be put under surveillance by British authorities at the outbreak of the war against Nazi Germany. I should not have wished to bring up that matter from the pages of history, but President Sadat's statement at the National Press Club in Washington, when he was the honoured guest of the President of the United States and of the American people, made me look up the record and made it necessary to bring up the question of that statement. It was an offensive remark. It was straight from the arsenal of Dr. Goebbels' Nazi propaganda, and it was completely out of place on a mission of peace. The second statement that also made me feel concerned was in respect of the technical advice which President Sadat gave to the Palestinians. I have always been a severe critic of Mrs. Golda Meir. On one of the only two occasions when I have ever had the honour of having a discussion with her—the Prime Minister knows her much better, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary knows her well—I pointed out to Mrs. Golda Meir that I had always been critical of her administration for ignoring the Palestinians over a number of years. I know that I carry with me many of my hon. Friends and colleagues. Time was wasted and it would have been better for everybody in the Middle East if contact had been attempted and successfully taken up—
Does my hon. Friend agree that Mrs. Golda Meir once said that the Arabs did not exist, that they were not people?
I am saying that I have always been criticial of Mrs. Meir's attitude, and I am critical now, looking back at the fact that for too long the Meir administration ignored the position of the Palestinians. As I did in the past, I still regard it as essential that bridges be built between the Israelis and the Palestinians, as one of the main preconditions of a successful solution of the Middle Eastern problem.However, when President Sadat was asked what advice he would have for the Palestinians in the Middle Eastern situation, he said in Washington, "I advise them to accept the setting up of a State within the suggested area as a first step." I regard that as a very dangerous statement. What does it mean? If the Palestinians accept the setting up of such a State as a first step, and not as a perament solution, it can mean only that President Sadat is encouraging them in, and approving of, their further stated aims of moving on towards destruction of the State of Israel. It casts grave doubts on the assumed position of the President of Egypt that the State of Israel should be permanently secured. We have nothing on record about any intention of concluding displomatic relations. When the President of Egypt was asked on British television on Saturday evening by a British interviewer what he thought about future diplomatic relations he said that that must be left for the next generation. That is another disturbing statement. If one wants to live in peace with a neighbour, one should contemplate the setting up of normal diplomatic relations, after occupied teritorries have been released, as they must be, and after secure and permament boundaries for Israel have been secured. Finally, I come to a matter which the Foreign Secretary chose not to deal with. He may think the time is too early, but President Sadat dealt with it. I would regard it as a most dangerous operation politically for Her Majesty's Government to agree to the sale of modern, offensive aircraft, such as the kind of warplanes that have been in the news recently, of which it is said that President Sadat wanted to order 200, to the Government of Egypt unless that Government undertake to establish full diplomatic relations with all their neighbours. We all know that the sale of arms is subject to Foreign Office control and Foreign Office confirmation, and that no one can sell arms without the approval of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I think it has always been our policy that if a country refuses to have diplomatic relations with a neighbour, and if there is therefore the danger of that country using these arms in military conflict with its neighbours, we do not sell arms to such a country. If these offensive weapons were to be sold to Egypt in the absence of an agreement to have diplomatic relations with Israel, as with all its other neighbours—the Government of Israel have stated that they are fully prepared, willing and, indeed, eager to have normal diplomatic relations with Egypt and Syria and to exchange ambassadors—I would oppose such a sale of arms and call upon as many of my colleagues who are prepared to do so to offer the strongest opposition to do so as well. My last point concerns Portugal. In Portugal we are facing one of the biggest and most serious problems that we have faced for a long time. Since the revolution took place there, our hopes have been high, and we have been very much concerned that the revolution should lead to a parliamentary democratic system. But, of course, it is a little unrealistic to expect that to happen within a short space of time. After the revolution, I was in Portugal as one of two members of the Political Committee of the Council of Europe. Our mission was to discuss with the Portuguese Government the possible entry of Portugal into the Council of Europe. As part of our duties, we met every member of the Cabinet. We met the President and the leaders of all the political parties. Also as part of our duties, we met the members of the Parliamentary Commission and the Electoral Commission, who were preparing the electoral system and the electoral register. These people were experts. They were preparing to visit a number of countries to inform themselves about other possible systems. But it was a far cry from people who were so specialised in these matters to those who were to organise the political parties. We had the honour of being received by the Cardinal-Primate of Portugal. I asked him about the formation of political parties of the Right. He gave me a very characteristic reply. He said, "People may be a little hesitant to call themselves political parties of the Right". I found that, historically, an interesting and illuminating reply. It shows some of the problems of having lived for 48 years under a police dictatorship of the Right. Many respectable people have been closely identified with that police dictatorship. Everybody knows that the police that they supported had been trained by no less a person than Heinrich Himmler himself. He went there in 1936 to train them. Quite naturally, a lot of people who might be in the political parties of the Right are a bit hesitant about forming new political parties. On the other hand, something that I regard as very important is the formation of independent and free trade unions. I went to see the only trade union centre then in existence and found that it did not deserve the name of trade union centre. It was a very small organisation, not the sort of organisation that we expect when we think of the TUC, and was very close ideologically to the trade unions in Eastern Europe. But alongside that, there are many other independent trade union organisations which have nothing to do with Eastern Europe. That goes to show that it is a very difficult and slow process to bring about what Members of this House and other Western democrats might desire—that is, the creation of a parliamentary democracy in Portugal. It is unrealistic to be deeply disappointed if that does not happen overnight. What I think we can expect is something quite different. It is such institutions and such makeshift agreements in government as hold the situation open and make it possible for democratic forces to organise and form themselves Here I am critical, both of our own Government and of other Governments in the EEC, that economic aid on a larger scale was not forthcoming much earlier. It ought to have been forthcoming many months ago. We ought to take some risks. We take many risks in international relations. We ought to be bringing a great deal of economic aid immediately to the help of the present Portuguese provisional Government and the President. That, of course, is what Dr. Mario Soares, the leader of the Socialist Party, and the leaders of the Democratic Party are demanding. I hope that, before the debate ends, my right hon. Friend will be able to say something concrete about immediate economic aid to be provided and not worry that if things go wrong some of these materials will be used by the wrong people. It is much more important that the present provisional Government should be able to show some economic successes, particularly in the aftermath of the return of the people from Angola, who have no work to go to because they have no institutions and no plants to work in. Economic aid should be provided immediately, and I hope that one of the practical results of this debate will be that my right hon. Friend will press the Foreign Secretary and the Cabinet, as the voice of the House of Commons that should go out from this debate, that economic aid should be stepped up and provided immediately. In that direction, we could make a useful contribution, which might not guarantee success but would be of some practical help to our friends in Portugal who need it most at the present time.
Before I call the next speaker, I remind the House that well over 20 right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak, and unless we have shorter speeches a lot of them will be disappointed.
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) to any great extent. However, I fully support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) had to say on the subject of Portugal. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will do everything to support democratic forces in Portugal and help Portugal to become a full member of the European family. I think that the Foreign Secretary has done everything in his power, notably by his very successful and timely visit to Portugal. I am sure that he will not accept all the gloss that the hon. Member put upon events in that country. We do not want to see a dictatorship of the Right replaced by a police State of the Left.Although I welcome what the Foreign Secretary has done about Portugal, I am rather disappointed by his recent conduct of our affairs, particularly in regard to the European Community. I feel that some of his actions are not quite in accord with the admirable objectives that he set out in his speech today. I am disappointed because it seemed to me that, up to the time of the referendum, he conducted the negotiations with skill and acted fully within the letter and the spirit of our Treaty of Accession. In consequence, the so-called renegotiations went forward with good will and understanding and resulted in a successful referendum vote, all without changing a word or a comma of the treaties and without breaching any of our rights or obligations under those treaties. That seems to me to prove that British interests, like those of other members of the Community, can be defended within the Community and within the treaties. In the past few months, much of the advantage of acting in the Community spirit seems to have been dissipated not so much by the context as by the manner in which the Government have conducted our policy. For example, I thought that we took an absolutely dismal attitude on the policy for the environment and pollution. That was an area in which we had taken the lead. We know our economic difficulties, but there was no need for the Government to be quite so discouraging. In these matters it is our good faith that is at stake. It is not automatically taken for granted and has not been since the previous Labour Government imposed the illegal charge on our EFTA partners, quite apart from their see-saws in opposition. Certainly the Foreign Secretary must defend British interests. President de Gaulle was never backward in the defence of French interests. He had a simple, direct philosophy from which he never departed and for which he won respect. He always honoured the word of France and he fought for French interests within the context of the treaty. Every country in the Community understands that Britain has a special problem as an oil producer and that she must protect her investment in North Sea oil, but I do not believe that we are advancing our interests by the ham-handed attitude which the Government have adopted towards the world conference on development. As the Foreign Secretary said, it is now much more than a world conference on energy; it embraces the whole range of development, raw materials and the consequent financial implications. As the Leader of the Liberal Party said, we might well have been a little more on the mark in the early stages in determining the numbers being represented at the conference. We might have sought the leadership of the Community delegation. Certainly we are entitled to take every action to secure a common position for the Community which adequately reflects our own interests. But we have no reason, and, I believe, no interest, in being quite so divisive as we continually appear to be in our attitude, and I hope that a satisfactory compromise will be sought. In seeking that compromise, we ought to remember three matters. The first is an old myth which I hope can now be dispelled. Our ownership and control over our oil and other natural resources is no more an issue than is French sovereignty over Paris. Secondly, however important we may think it to be at this moment in time to have a floor price, or a minimum safeguard price, for our oil, we should be unwise to go on relying unduly, as we appear to be now, on North Sea oil as a panacea for all our economic ills and debts. Thirdly—and this, above all, should be borne in mind—there are the wider interests to which the Foreign Secretary referred. There will be much more at stake at this conference than oil prices. It would be much better for us to make it clear that we were studying these problems in a much wider context, particularly in relation to developing countries. The current surplus of the OPEC nations is likely to be halved in 1975 compared with 1974, partly because of the economic recession but partly because of the enormous increase in OPEC imports from which we could benefit much more than we have already done if we deliver the right goods at the right price at the right time—for example, the car parts to Iran. The real losers—and we should be showing this in our attitude—are the developing countries whose raw material prices are falling, which need help and which more than us need floor prices. The developing nations do not want handouts—the sort we referred to on Friday—or capital-intensive projects. They want trade and, above all, a fair price for their products. The United Kingdom has world-wide trading interests, I therefore regret that the Government often give the impression that they are motivated by the narrowest, and ultimately the most self-defeating, of objectives. I hope that at the Summit Conference in Rome on 1st and 2nd December we shall see a much more statesmanlike and forward-looking view, because co-operation is as much a British as it is a Community interest. We have done well out of the Community so far. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said last week that we were a net beneficiary to the extent of £27 million last year. We did much better than the most optimistic forecast of even the most ardent pro-Europeans a few years ago. But we cannot hold ourselves out as a possible rich future member of OPEC and at the same time claim that we are so poor that we must have more and more out of the regional, social and other funds. I believe that less economic self-interest and a great deal more vision and leadership would be better for us all. I hope that in Rome our Foreign Secretary will make a positive response to the demands not only for direct elections but for a European passport union and for further advances in the light of Mr. Tindemans' forthcoming report on European union. I accept that there are many practical difficulties with regard to direct elections. They argue themselves. But it is depressing the way in which the Government concentrate on the practical difficulties and do not emphasise the fact that it was the last Labour Government that in 1969, in the Saragat declaration signed by the present Prime Minister—the Government of which the present Foreign Secretary was a prominent member—committed us to direct elections, and that commitment has been honoured by successive Governments. We should be emphasising that, and not the difficulties. There are many other areas where we could be more manifestly adopting a forward-looking position. Now that we are no longer obsessed with the question of enlarging the Community, we should be addressing ourselves positively to the widening of its horizons, the strengthening of its institutions, and the promotion of its further integration. We should be saying that step by step the political development of the Community should keep pace with its economic consolidation. It is Britain that should be saying that commercial economic policies cannot be implemented without taking account of the wider implications on external relations. It was Britain that said that the great contribution we would make, as the centre of the English-speaking peoples of the world, would be to bring in the Commonwealth and broaden the outlook. Unfortunately, that is not happening. I do not believe that a European foreign policy is any good unless it is related to, and compatible with, the efforts of other nations, and other groups of nations, to come to terms with global problems. For example, relations with developing countries cannot be confined indefinitely to a series of commercial arrangements if we are to make an adequate contribution in the various international organisations where the Community should be speaking with a common voice. European co-operation is the necessary basis, but it is not sufficient for action in many such spheres. The Foreign Secretary mentioned the most important—the control of nuclear power. There are others—the problem of food production and distribution, the exploitation and the conservation of the resources of the sea, and the safeguarding of the natural environment. These are the spheres in which Britain was a natural leader and ought to continue to be so. They are just as important as the problems of raw materials and energy. I do not suggest that we are neglecting them, but we are giving the impression in Europe, and elsewhere, that we are too motivated by narrow self-interest.
I wonder how the right hon. and learned Gentleman equates the picture he is now presenting with the rôle which my right hon. Friend explained, and which the House knows Her Majesty's Government took to the Commonwealth, to the EEC and to the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, on the question of economic relations between developing and developed countries, with special concentration on commodity agreements. Surely this was essentially outward-looking, and surely it was the unity of the Community in that Special Session of the General Assembly which did as much to bring about a general agreement.
Certainly we have taken a series of initiatives of a valuable kind, and they fit in with the Foreign Secretary's speech today. The fact is we are continually giving the impression, in Europe and elsewhere, that when it comes to the crunch our attitude is a narrow nationalistic one.The Minister has just referred to the progress which resulted from the common attitude of the Community. How important, therefore, to have a common attitude at the world conference which is to take place in Paris over the next 12 months, whether it is on energy, materials or development. Our purpose should be to give a new dimension to our European policy. I agree with the Foreign Secretary that we should not underestimate our potential influence in the world. It is Britain which should be warning our fellow members of the Community against adopting too introspective an attitude. We should be asking them to come along with us in the various initiatives we have taken. Equally, we must be responsive to their initiatives. We look as if we are sinking, time after time, into the same introspection ourselves. It is Britain which, within the Community, should be exercising our influence in all the organisations of which we are members—Western European Union, NATO, the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development and, above all, the Council of Europe, which embraces the associate members of the Community. As a former leading member of EFTA, we should recognise our special responsibility towards it. I rather regret that, at present, we concentrate in the House rather too much upon the affairs of the European Community and the policies of the Community without having regard to the nature and importance of the work taking place in the Council of Europe. Britain should be seeking every opportunity to identify every nation in Europe—including those behind the Iron Curtain—with every aspect of the work of the Community in which they can take part—industrial, environmental and regional. In moving towards a true European unity, the new European patriotism, we ought to be trying to develop is a new dimension of, and not a substitute for, our national identity. The Foreign Secretary spoke of our changing position in the world since 1945. Certainly, in the modern world greatness is not manifested by military power or territorial domination. We must be able to defend ourselves—that is a prerequisite of our position in the world. But our influence is going to be increasingly dependent upon our reputation for honest dealing, our economic stability and our technological progress. All that can be reinforced by the influence of our culture, our language and our common law, which is spread among all the English-speaking peoples and beyond. We can hardly export our concept of parliamentary democracy at the moment because all we have exported to India is the notion of how Parliament can be used to subvert the rule of law àla Clay Cross, or how to undermine the freedom of the Press. Certainly we have a great deal to contribute in these directions. There is a feeling that we are on the retreat in so many areas. It is sad that the President of Egypt should have to come to this country to urge us to take more interest in the affairs of the Middle East. I welcome what the Foreign Secretary had to say of the interest the Foreign Office is to take in the expansion of overseas trade. But I do not think that is compatible with, for example, the closing down of our consulates in Nice or Miami. I think that is the sort of useless and foolish economy that damages rather than reinforces our national interest. I hope the Foreign Secretary will be able to stand up against the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not have an absurd position where one applies the same sort of percentage cut to foreign or defence policy as one does to the enormous Vote of, say, a Department like the Department of the Environment, about which I know something. It is the sort of economy that is beloved by anonymous civil servants, like AB and CD, but it does not help promote British interests. Finally, I should like to emphasise something to those hon. Members opposite—and I am afraid there are far too many of them—who think that we can cut down on defence and our foreign policy and who, time and again, adopt a rather nationalistic view as they did in our debates on joining the European Community. It has been well said that it takes two men to make one brother, and internationalism really requires nations to interrelate. I should like the Foreign Secretary to emphasise far more than he appears to be doing at present in Europe our determination to interrelate our policies with our colleagues in Europe and our allies in the rest of the world.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in his wide-ranging and searching opening statement, mentioned the increasing need in the modern world to reach agreed multilateral solutions to many of the problems which we face today, such as those of world recession, inflation, energy problems and monetary affairs. My right hon. Friend spoke in particular of the forthcoming summit at Rambouillet and the conference in three weeks' time concerning energy problems and of producers and consumers generally.I wish to devote my speech to this question, which is of special importance in the world today, of establishing the right procedures for securing multilateral agreement of this kind, and to refer in particular to one special aspect. It has become a truism to say that, in the modern world, all nations have become interdependent. With the rapid growth in communications, the decline of distance, and the tremendous increase in trade and other contacts between nations, it is the case that there are a large number of problems today which can be solved only on a joint basis. For hundreds of years, until a decade or so ago, nations were in the habit of thinking in terms of solving their own economic and other problems, in almost total isolation and independence from each other. Today, that is no longer possible. Most of the great and difficult economic problems of the world are problems for all of us and to a large extent can be solved only by common action. It is, therefore, important to consider how we can improve the institutions and procedures for reaching joint agreement on such matters. There is no shortage of institutions today for considering questions of that kind. Indeed, there is a plethora of institutions, but unfortunately often not in close or tidy relationship with each other. For discussing specialised problems there are a number of very effective and well-recognised international institutions, mainly specialised agencies of the United Nations. If one wishes to discuss the problems of civil aviation, everybody knows that the place to discuss that is in ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, or if they are problems that concern the airlines in particular, in IATA. Everyone is aware that the place to discuss problems about shipping is in IMCO—the Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation, which is based here in London. If one wishes to discuss telecommunications problems, the place to do so is in the ITU and postal problems in the UPU, and so on. It is true that there are some specialised subjects which are not at present well covered by such organisations. An obvious example is the question of energy. There is only one specialised agency in the United Nations concerned with energy and that is the IAEA, which is concerned only with atomic energy, about which there are important problems, but this is not a suitable body to discuss energy problems in general. More recently, one or two partial bodies have been established, representing particular interests, such as OPEC, representing the oil producers, and the IEA representing the oil consumers. These are obviously not suitable bodies for general international discussion of energy matters, although in certain cases there may be negotiation between such bodies. At present, therefore we rely on ad hoc conferences such as the two which are shortly to take place, to discuss these matters. I think there is thus a good case for the establishment of a specialised agency of the United Nations devoted specifically to the discussion of energy problems. Another specialised area where there is an unsatisfactory division of labour is trade, where we have one organisation, GATT, responsible for the hard detailed negotiation of binding agreements among nations but which, unfortunately, still has only a limited membership of about 80 members. On the other hand, there is UNCTAD, which is a much more political body, much wider in its membership with over 140 members but where there are, on the contrary, rather disorganised debates and the mobilisation of pressure groups on behalf of one group of countries or another. There is a need for some kind of rationalisation or integration of these two bodies, or a more effective division of labour between them. But for the discussion of international economic problems outside trade there is an unsatisfactory situation. There is no body which has the specific task of discussion of questions of this kind. For monetary questions, there is the IMF, the authority of which is unquestioned in all parts of the world, and which has developed a tremendous degree of expertise in these affairs. For development, the obvious place for discussion is the World Bank, although here, too, there is considerable dispersion of activity, because in addition there is the United Nations Development Programme, UNCTAD, the regional economic commissions of the United Nations, and a number of other bodies concerned with development problems. But for the discussion of the central economic problems of the world, the kind of problems that will be discussed at the summit next weekend—problems of world recession, world inflation, energy prices and matters of this kind—there is a lack of any body whose specific task is to discuss such questions. I suggest that there is an urgent need for a more effective international institution for this than we have. Now many people will like to see the United Nations become the main body for discussing questions of this kind. The United Nations was intended to be not merely a body for discussing matters of peace and security but, as the Charter laid down, a centre for harmonising the actions of nations. All of us know and recognise, however, even those of us who are ardent supporters of the United Nations, that the United Nations is not at present well equipped for the discussion of many subjects of this kind. It has an enormously wide membership of 140 nations, taking part in almost every debate. There is generally not a very fair representation since it is based on one-nation-one-vote, regardless of a nation's size or importance. There is the tradition of diffuse debate and angry altercation. And there is the addiction to the passing of resolutions by a majority vote. For all these reasons, the United Nations, as it has been traditionally organised, is not very well equipped for the discussion of difficult economic issues. What is really required is hard negotiation rather than wide-ranging public debate and altercation. The United Nations itself has become conscious of these defects, and over the past year or so has been giving considerable consideration to the way in which it could be better equipped for the debating and discussion of matters of this kind. Just a year ago, at the end of the last regular session of the Assembly, at the same time as the United Nations decided to seek to promote discussion of a "new international economic order", it asked the Secretary-General to set up a committee to look at what was called a "restructioning" of the United Nations, to enable it to undertake more effective discussion of matters of the kind I have been talking about this afternoon. The Secretary-General appointed such a committee early this year, and I had the honour to be asked to serve on it. The committee met between February and May and we produced a report which, I am sorry to say, was totally ignored in the Press of the world. Personally, I think that the outcome of the committee's discussions was a very satisfactory one. It was certainly widely welcomed in the UN itself, if only for the reason that although we represented 25 nations of the world, although we had within our committee the United States and the Soviet Union, rich countries and poor countries, countries from Latin America and Africa, we did, in fact, come up with an agreed report. That in itself was rather remarkable, because although we were supposed to be so-called "experts" on the UN and, therefore, not specifically representing Governments, in practice many of the representatives—not including myself I should say, but many others—were either ambassadors or ex-ambassadors of their Governments and in very close contact with them. So when they put their hand to the report they were to a considerable extent committing their Governments. The fact that we were able to come up with an agreed report on a number of contentious matters affecting the UN was therefore itself a matter for—congratulation would be the wrong word—for satisfaction. The report is at present being considered by an inter-governmental committee within the UN. I shall not describe in any detail what the recommendations were, because it was a fairly lengthy report and we went into a lot of detail. I should like to recount briefly the five main recommendations, which personally I very much hope will be put into practice, and I should like to think that our Government will be giving support to the implementation of the recommendations. The first recommendation was specifically designed to overcome the problem that I mentioned earlier—that the UN at present is not well equipped for hard negotiation between Governments. Therefore, we suggested that where such negotiation was required, say, on commodities, energy prices and things of that kind, the UN should in some cases establish negotiating groups where there would be representative Governments representing a whole set of nations. Perhaps there would be nine Governments negotiating with one other, with a chairman, who would be a full-time chairman whose task it would be to knock their heads together and try to bring about an agreement. They would meet over a period of, say, a year, and come up with a recommended agreement or solution of the particular problem. It was hoped that the UN might then give its endorsement to such a proposal, and that this might then make possible a wide-ranging multilateral agreement on a subject of that kind. Secondly, we suggested a rationalisation of some of the existing work of the UN, by the merger of a number of separate programmes and funds which exist at the present time, some of them operating in very closely-related fields, and putting them together under a single international development authority. Such questions as the environment, for example, population, food programmes or questions of that kind, would be put together under this development authority. Thirdly, we suggested that there should be appointed a very high level director-general for development and international economic affairs, who would be second only to the Secretary-General and who would be of sufficient status to be able to promote agreement among Governments on matters of this kind and be able to deal on more than equal terms with the heads of the specialised agencies who, at present, for various reasons, are sometimes rather difficult for the UN to deal with. Fourthly, we wanted to see an improvement in the work of the ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council, so that it more often calls specialised conferences on particular matters at which the representatives would be not just general-purpose, UN-mission men, but, if possible, Ministers from Governments, or at least high-level officials who were experts in these particular areas. Finally, it called for a great improvement in the co-ordination of the work of the UN and its specialised agencies, which are at present inclined to go their own ways, barely knowing what other parts of the organisation are undertaking, even though they may be working on closely related matters. I do not know whether the report will be implemented exactly in the form in which we have suggested. I do not know whether that necessarily matters. But I do hope that a substantial part of our recommendations will be implemented, because I am sure that the result will be a great improvement in the efficiency of the UN's work, and may even make it possible for the UN to act, as I suggested, as the centre where some of the important economic and social questions which nations have in common may in future be resolved. Nobody can deny that one of the main trends of the modern world is that nations have become totally dependent on each other, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary pointed out, so that we badly need more effective institutions for the discussion of matters of this kind. I very much hope, therefore, that the Government will pursue this matter and that, if possible, they will seek to promote the implementation of this report, which will, I hope, at least make the work of the UN more effective than it is today.
I hope that the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard) will excuse me if I do not comment on his remarks, important as they were, but I wish to use the limited time available to me to deal with some questions that were opened up by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) in his admirable contribution to the debate. In particular, I should like to look at our rôle as a country in the new circumstances following the referendum.Dean Acheson's oft-quoted and misquoted remark—I am not sure which I am doing myself—about Britain having lost an empire and not found a rôle should not be thought to be true any longer, because after the referendum our rôle should be quite clear. However, it seems to me that we are steadfastly refusing to play it. The referendum was not only about staying in the Community as it is. It was about playing a full part in the development of the Community, and this we are not doing. Unless we alter course and pursue a less negative and hesitant approach, we are likely to place the whole concept of the Community in jeopardy. It is worth repeating endlessly that the basic concept of the Community is supranational. To place that concept in jeopardy would gravely imperil the prospects of each individual member of the Community, because, unless we can restrain the excessive nationalism which inhibits the Community, rather than contribute to it, which is what we are doing, we shall never be able to resist the external challenges that we face, nor reach for the prizes of economic stability, shared prosperity and political influence with which all our futures are bound up. There is a background of great political instability in southern Europe, in the Mediterranean. Much of it has been touched on already. There is the example of Portugal. We do not know what Spain is on the edge of doing, and Italy is much in need of a supporting arm, so to speak. Yugoslavia is waiting. Greece is newly returned to democracy and she is on the verge of applying for entry into the Community. I hope that the Government will accelerate that entry, because I agree with the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that it is of the most profound importance for the future of political stability in Greece that she should be able to come into the Community quickly. The problems of Cyprus are unresolved and the situation in the Middle East is still explosive, although now slightly more optimistic. In that kind of situation, which is arising against a background of declining American influence—Kissinger excepted—or certainly weakened American influence, the need for a coherent European Community approach is immense. Europe has a positive rôle to play as a mediator, and it is particularly depressing to see the Government's position as being mainly passive, and at worst negative. Reference has been made to the Energy Conference. The Foreign Secretary was quite bland about it. He is very good at being bland. Nevertheless, the fact is that a tremendous row is taking place now about Britain's attitude, because Britain is very much the individual country out of step. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham referred to lost opportunities to take initiatives. Six or seven months ago there was much talk about Britain's taking an initiative on a Community energy policy and trying to match the need for Britain to have a guaranteed floor price, the need for the Community in turn to have some guaranteed supply, and the need for further availability of funds for more North Sea development. Now the Foreign Secretary says that there is no common energy policy and he makes that the defence for his Gaullist approach—for that is what it is. What the expected differences between our country and the other members of the Community would be, or where there were likely to be frictions and tensions, was not made clear. But the repercussion effect is undeniable. As the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham said, it is not a question of doing things in isolation, believing that we can put them in a little box, shut the lid, turn the key and forget about them. They all interrelate, and if we are difficult in certain areas, other colleagues are less responsive in other matters. There is the question of direct elections. The Foreign Secretary, ably supported by the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, made great play about being practical. He said that we must be practical and not airy-fairy, that we must not run off with notions, that the thing must work: very good. The year 1978 was the target that was set down at the summit conference, and presumably the Prime Minister and the Heads of State set out a practical possibility, although from the beginning it was recognised that it might have to be done in two stages. As the report of the European Parliament recognised, there was a stage one in which there was an election according to individual national systems, regrettable as in some cases these may be, and a stage two whereby a common system was evolved. What is so worrying about the Foreign Secretary's approach to these questions is that he keeps saying, "I am not obstructing anything". But clearly he shows no enthusiasm for them, and that is what concerns me. The same applies to the Tindemans' report, which is expected in December or January. The Government have given no indication, not even in the most general terms, of how they see the institutional future of that. There is not even a clear indication that they see a political union as a positive future. I come now to the Regional Fund. By giving way to the Treasury, the Government are in grave danger of undermining the possibility of extending and enlarging the fund in the future. The Germans will not pay more if it is to be used as a substitute for other British expenditure. If it is not to be used as it is intended—as we are committed to use it—namely, as an addition to existing regional expenditure, its future is not very good. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham referred to what he called the dismal attitude on pollution. The Department of the Environment is the one department, of all the departments in nine countries, to say that safety glass is something that we will not accept because it affects certain vested interests within the United Kingdom. It does not matter about the effects of not using the glass on those involved in accidents. But we expect our colleagues to respond positively to our proposals on overseas aid, despite the fact, incidentally, that one of the notably disappointing aspects of the White Paper on aid—which in many respects was excellent—was the continued adherence to the 60 per cent. limit in the relationship between aid and the purchase of British goods. I come now to the Sadat visit, which I regard as an extremely significant and important event. The first political activity of significance in which I participated was the opposition to the adventure in Suez. To see, many years later, the President of Egypt coming to Britain is greatly to be welcomed. With respect to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), I regret the attack which he launched on the President of Egypt. He preceded that attack by remarking that denunciations of internal situations in other countries were often less than helpful. I think that was so in this case. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that we cannot expect instant action from the Soviet Union in connection with Basket III, or the Helsinki Agreement. It is a long and difficult process.
I never said that.