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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 927: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1977

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Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs



asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Rhodesia.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent proposals he has received from the Government of South Africa concerning possible solutions to the Rhodesian constitutional crisis.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement about the situation in Rhodesia.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on Rhodesia.

As the situation in Rhodesia deteriorates, the need for a negotiated settlement becomes more urgent. We are consulting closely with the new United States Administration. We are also keeping in touch with the other interested parties to see whether it is possible to find a basis for resumed negotiations. Meanwhile the Geneva Conference, which was adjourned in mid-December, remains in recess.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, but will he bear in mind that it is important not to allow events to drift too much and not to wait too much upon an initiative from the new Administration in the United States? Will he consider, for instance, introducing a new initiative from the British side, perhaps by arranging for a sub-committee of senior Commonwealth Ministers to investigate the Problems of Rhodesia with a view to bringing about a formula whereby an orderly achievement of majority rule within a two-year period can be achieved?

We still feel that the proposals put forward by my predecessor represent a realistic basis for bringing about a peaceful settlement. As the House knows, we are in close touch with the United States. Discussion is taking place at official level. I expect to have discussions with the new Administration when I am in Washington next week.

I wish the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues well in getting negotiations going again. What does the right hon. Gentleman think the South African attitude would be to joint United Kingdom-United States chairmanship of resumed negotiations? Is not the key to the South African attitude, as well as the general attitude, the bringing into the negotiations of moderates from all races—for example, the liberals in Rhodesia, the moderate black members of the Rhodesian Assembly and all the others— so that there is a much broader range of negotiating parties?

I think that a pretty broad range of negotiating parties is already represented at the Geneva Conference. However, I shall consider any proposals. On the central issue, which is that the United States and the United Kingdom should remain in close contact, that is certainly central to my objectives for the future. The question of co-chairmanship is something that we can consider, but it presents obvious difficulties.

I should like to put to my right hon. Friend a question I put to the late Anthony Crosland before the Geneva talks collapsed. What contacts are we maintaining with sections of the white community in Rhodesia that are not represented and would not wish to be represented by Mr. Smith and the Rhodesia Front Party?

This presents obvious difficulties. I have always adopted an open door policy, discussing many difficult issues with a variety of different people, and not always those who are the elected or declared representatives of the people. I think that we have to keep in touch. We must also try to ensure that all views in Rhodesia recognise the essential reasonableness of the proposals put forward by the British Government.

May we infer from the Secretary of State's remarks that he does not accept the recent decision by the front-line Presidents, subsequently endorsed by the OAU, that the Patriotic Front should be the sole representative of black African Rhodesians in the forthcoming negotiations? If so, will he advocate a referendum inside Rhodesia to determine the leadership of the African people in any forthcoming negotiations?

I do not believe that they have actually said that the Patriotic Front should be the sole representatives. I remain solidly of the view that we should have a wide representation, and this was represented at the Geneva Conference. That is the formulation with which I should like to remain. The Geneva Conference is only in recess.

Has my right hon. Friend yet received a report from the International Red Cross on the alleged abduction of children from Rhodesia into Botswana, which was the subject of an emergency debate a couple of weeks ago?

Unfortunately, we have not yet received a report from the Red Cross. It would obviously be helpful to have it, but we have been keeping in the closest touch with developments, and I have seen reports of the situation.

Is it a fact that the British proposals turned down by Mr. Smith were, as we were told by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, different only in detail from the Kissinger proposals that were turned down by the nationalists? If this is so, why do the Government continue to blame Mr. Smith and help the nationalists?

If the right hon. Gentleman is to be fair—and he is fair on these matters—he will agree that the manner in which Mr. Smith turned these proposals down seemed to foreclose the option of using them as the basis for negotiation. The proposals put forward by the British Government were a genuine attempt to try to bring the parties together into negotiations, difficulties having arisen over the five main Kissinger principles. It was the rejection of even the chance of discussion which presented the central problem.

When the right hon. Gentleman has talks with the American Government, will he be in a position to assume that Mr. Smith still favours accepting African majority rule in two years?

I am told that this is the case, and it is extremely significant and important that it should remain so. That was the single most significant achievement of Dr. Kissinger. It was a considerable achievement to get Mr. Smith publicly committed to eventual majority rule on a time scale. I hope that there will be no shift from that position. If we can build on that as the basis for progress over the next few months, at least we shall have something concrete with which to work.

Is there not a danger that Mr. Smith may be repudiated by people even further to the Right than himself since he appears to be in danger of repudiating his own belated attempts to remove offensive racial legislation within his own domain?

There is that danger, and there have been occasions when Mr. Smith has taken a stance which he has had difficulty with some of his more extreme followers in carrying. But the history of the negotiations shows that it is usually Mr. Smith who is able to keep his own caucus in line, and it is most important that he should be the person to whom we should pin the commitment to majority rule.

Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to reconsider his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler)? Surely the truth is that the front-line Presidents made a clear statement of the need to prefer the Patriotic Front to the exclusion of all others in the ongoing negotiations. Was that not a primary factor in Mr. Smith's rejection of the Government's counter-proposals? If the Foreign Secretary has a real new initiative to take, it is to set aside that consideration and to make it very clear that he wishes all parties to be deeply involved in the selection of any majority Government.

I want to make it clear that we want all parties to be deeply involved. As I understand it, the front-line Presidents did not go quite so far as the right hon. Gentleman infers as to use the word "sole". The statement went further than I think was desirable—and I have made this clear—in giving a primacy in the discussions. But I do not think that the statement went so far as totally to exclude other involvement in the negotiations.

Suppression Of Terrorism (Convention)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the bringing into effect of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that my right hon. Friend gave the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on 4th February. Her Majesty's Government will ratify the convention as soon as the necessary legislation has been passed by Parliament.

In view of the difficulties presented by both the Irish constitution and the French Government, what consideration has been given to the Irish Government's idea that the principle of the parallel criminal jurisdiction legislation passed here and in Dublin should be extended to Europe so that terrorists can either be extradited or tried locally?

I have nothing to add to the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the House on 10th February. Reciprocal extra-territorial legislation is in force between Northern Ireland and the Republic. As for discussions in France and Ireland, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this stage.

May I ask the Government to give no countenance to the suggestion of extending the inherently objectionable principle of extra-territorial jurisdiction?

As the Common Market countries agreed some months ago to do all they can to suppress terrorism, what have they done about Abu Daoud? Have they avoided the matter because it was inconvenient, or are they doing something about it?

This is not a matter for me to comment upon. It is essentially a matter for the French Government. In that connection it should be noted that the convention is not yet in force, and when it enters into force it will be binding only on those States which ratify it.

Arms Trade


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will initiate discussions with the United States Government on the issue of international restraint on the arms trade, in the light of recent suggestions by President Carter.

Her Majesty's Government are in touch with the new United States Administration on this question. As my right hon. and noble friend said in another place on 17th February, we await with interest further details of President Carter's proposals.

In the meantime, will my hon. Friend clearly inform the House what response the Government made to Vice-President Mondale's invitation to co-operate with the United States Government in achieving multilateral talks on the restriction of arms sales? In particular, does my hon. Friend accept President Carter's view that the Middle East is an area that particularly requires restriction on the volume of arms sales to it?

We have noted with interest Vice-President Mondale's remarks in the conversation he had with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister two or three weeks ago. I agree with my hon. Friend that any action on this subject must be on a multilateral basis and involve commitments by a large number of Governments. I agree that the Middle East is one of those areas where we would most like to consider restrictions of this kind. We restrain our own sales of arms to the area so as not to upset the military balance.

Will my hon. Friend consider going a little further and recognising that there is no future either in terms of employment here or for our foreign policy if we continue with this vile trade in arms? Does he agree that we should be trying to set an example to other countries, including the United States, by being much more restrictive in terms of those to whom we sell these offensive weapons?

We exercise considerable restraint on the sale of arms. We consider each case on its merits. We do not sell arms to South Africa or Chile, other than those which we have an absolute legal obligation to provide. It would not be sensible for us unilaterally to cease sales of arms, however, if the only result of that was that similar arms were supplied by another country.

If the hon. Gentleman enters discussions with the United States Government on this matter, will he also call to their attention the illegal supply of arms to terrorists in Northern Ireland? In view of the United States Government's recent declaration in this respect, will the hon. Gentleman supply them with all the material aid that they need?

We have repeatedly drawn the attention of the United States authorities to the support that appears to be given to the IRA and others in Northern Ireland from certain sections in the United States. The authorities there are giving us the maximum possible co-operation on that.

Rhodesia (Sanctions)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied that no major British companies have been involved in the breaking of sanctions against Rhodesia.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what evidence he has received about the breaking of Rhodesian sanctions.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the operation of sanctions against Rhodesia by British companies.

I am generally satisfied with the observance of sanctions against Rhodesia by United Kingdom firms, but where we have evidence suggesting breaches of sanctions we certainly investigate these. Our record in this respect is second to none.

Has my hon. Friend seen the documents "The Oil Conspiracy" produced by an American church group and "Shell and BP in South Africa" produced by the Anti-Apartheid Movement? If he has, does he agree that they contain allegations and evidence that British oil companies have been involved in breaking sanctions, which allegations and evidence warrant a full and independent inquiry? Does he agree that this is particularly important in the case of BP, since the Government have a majority shareholding in that company?

As the reports to which my hon. Friend refers were published only yesterday, I have not had a chance to look at the evidence collected in them. I shall certainly look at it very seriously indeed and if there is evidence relating to sanctions-busting by British companies we shall take appropriate action.

While appreciating that it is only yesterday that the reports were published, may I ask whether it is not a fact that the Rhodesian régime can exist only for so long as oil is delivered to it in large quantities? Since the only companies that can deliver that oil are Mobil, Shell and BP, there is a strong circumstantial case that they are breaking sanctions. Will my hon. Friend refuse to allow parent companies in London to say that these are subsidiary companies over which they have no control, in view of the large ownership that the companies in this country have in Southern Oil, for example?

I do not think it would be right and proper for me to comment on what my hon. Friend has rightly described as circumstantial evidence. There have been occasions in the past when evidence that has been brought forward on this score has not been proved sound enough to take action. Any additional evidence will, of course, be looked at extremely seriously.

When my hon. Friend considers the reports that have already been mentioned, will he bear in mind that BP Southern Oil is 100 per cent. a British-owned company and that one of the managing directors of BP is also a director of Southern Oil? In view of this fact, will my hon. Friend seriously investigate the claims made by the parent companies and the claims made against them by the anti-apartheid group?

We shall certainly look seriously at any new evidence that is brought forward relating to sanctions-busting by any British company, irrespective of its ownership.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that sanctions were introduced long before terrorism began, with the idea of exerting peaceful economic pressure on the Smith Government? Is he further aware that terrorism has increased to a large extent since then and that to maintain or even tighten sanctions at present means that we are becoming accomplices of the terrorist war against Rhodesia? Does the hon. Gentleman think that this is an acceptable position for the British Government to be in?

The right hon. Gentleman referred to our being accomplices of the terrorists. But if we lifted sanctions at this stage we would be accomplices of the Smith regime. Only a couple of months ago this House debated sanctions and approved the order, which it has done for the past 11 years. We would be willing to lift sanctions if we could establish an interim Government who were acceptable to all.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that sanctions have totally failed, particularly as the only people they have hurt are the black Rhodesians? Does he also agree that the time has now come for the Government to go to the United Nations and say that it is right for sanctions to be lifted?

Of course, sanctions have not been effective as they ought to have been. Nevertheless, they are a clear demonstration by this country that we stand by what we said—that the Smith regime is illegal and that we do not intend to condone it in any way.

Does my hon. Friend agree that if sanctions had been applied vigorously and efficiently, the Rhodesian economy would have collapsed years ago? Will he conduct an independent inquiry into the allegations that were made yesterday?

There are well-known and established procedures for dealing with evidence in relation to any cases of sanctions-breaking. Those procedures should be followed in this case as, indeed, they have been in previous cases.

Middle East


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to have consultations with the United States Administration and Great Britain's partners in Europe regarding the prospects for a peace settlement in the Middle East.

We are in constant touch with our partners in the Nine, and with the United States Administration, on this subject.

Will the Secretary, of State encourage a joint American-Community policy that encourages the Palestinians to recognise Israel's right to exist and also urges the Israelis to dismantle the 80 settlements in Arab-occupied territory, which in itself is highly provocative? Is it not essential to get concessions from both sides before any progress can be made?

It is probably true that we shall not get a peace settlement without a change in the present position of both the main parties to the dispute. With regard to a joint position with the United States Administration, there is great value in having as strong consultation and co-operation between the Community and the United States Administration as is possible and feasible. But they are both independent decision-making bodies. The political co-operation machinery in the Community is used to the full, but the Community is sovereign and will make decisions in its own right. Similarly, so will the United States Administration. What we wish to do is try to encourage both to keep in step and keep each other as fully informed as possible of the views of the member States of the Community and the United States.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is no good trying to leave out the Soviet Union, because that country has a vital part to play in any peace settlement in the Middle East? Does he not further agree that it is now an urgent need to reconvene the Geneva Conference with a distinct Palestinian entity at that conference?

I agree that the Soviet Union, as part of the Geneva Conference, will have to be involved. There may be a case for going to Geneva, but there is no case for going to Geneva until there is a sensible basis for a negotiated settlement. One of the issues that still have to be resolved—it is perhaps central to whether we can go to Geneva—is the present attitude over representation, about which there are strongly held views on both sides. As a result of the efforts of Dr. Waldheim and Secretary of State Vance, it should be possible to get around this real difficulty.

The Secretary of State said yesterday that he himself would be going to the Middle East before long. Will he do so, at least in part, in his capacity as President of the Council of Ministers? How does the right hon. Gentleman see European interests in a settlement being brought effectively to bear on the situation?

I said that I was going to visit Egypt in a few weeks' time and that I would also be going to visit Israel. When I visit Egypt I shall still be holding the presidency of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Already the French and German Foreign Ministers have been to the area, and I believe that the Com- munity will fairly soon discuss their reports and impressions. It is impossible to go without holding the presidency, but whether one would act in the capacity of the President depends on the decisions of the other eight member States.

Will the Secretary of State press for a joint initiative with our allies to protect European business men from improper pressures from the Arab boycott office? Does he realise that the initiative already taken by the American Secretary of State has led to subsequent concessions by the Arab boycott office with regard to American exporters? Will the right hon. Gentleman now take similar action to protect British exporters?

I am firmly opposed to the boycott. I have made that categorically clear and I do so again at this time in my capacity as Foreign Secretary. I should welcome discussions with the new American Administration about their new measures.

United States Secretary Of State


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to meet the United States Secretary of State.

President Carter has invited my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to visit Washington from 10th to 12th March. I shall accompany my right hon. Friend and I also look forward to holding discussions with Mr. Vance in the course of the visit.

During that visit will my right hon. Friend consider talking to Mr. Vance to see what help Britain, as a second-rate nuclear Power, can give to the fulfilment of President Carter's inauguration pledge to rid this planet of the scourge of nuclear weapons? Will my right hon. Friend also discuss with Mr. Vance what specific joint Anglo-American initiative can be taken to make some real progress in the SALT talks, as one vital way of helping to cure the economic problems of this country?

The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks are between the United States and the USSR, although Britain has a vital interest in them. I have already made it clear to the House that I consider a successful conclusion to these talks is very strongly in the interests of everyone in the world. I have never made any secret about the fact that I believe in nuclear disarmament. What we need are sensible and realistically negotiated settlements. I think that is the clear intention of the new American Administration, and it was highlighted by President Carter in his inaugural speech.

Will the Secretary of State appreciate that the United States Government are very much concerned about the Soviet Union's nuclear supersonic strike bomber, the Backfire, and that they are particularly concerned by the fact that, at the encouragement of Her Majesty's Government, certain British firms, principally Lucas Aerospace and Plessey, are providing very high technology indeed for improving the engine of the TU 144, which happens to be the same engine that powers the Backfire, and that this might give this nuclear strike bomber a two-way capability of crossing the Atlantic from Soviet bases to the United States?

The question of the transfer of high technology is a matter of concern and is usually discussed on a confidential basis between us and the United States Administration. If there is concern about this matter, no doubt they will raise it with me when I am in Washington.

When my right hon. Friend sees Mr. Vance, will he express appreciation for the support given by the United States to Britain's proposal to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations that there be an independent inquiry into the deaths of Archbishop Luwum and the two Ministers? Meanwhile, is it not disgraceful that this proposal was rejected? Will my right hon. Friend tell the House which of our Commonwealth colleagues saw fit to vote against it or to abstain?

I welcome the United States' position on the whole vexed and deeply disturbing problem of Uganda. I am deeply disappointed that our proposal, made under the confidential procedure, for an investigation of the human rights situation in Uganda, was narrowly defeated in Geneva yesterday. I regard the resolution that was adopted as insufficiently firm, far-reaching or effective. This leaves us with no alternative but to press for an investigation in the open debate that is due to take place shortly. Our proposal would accord with but be rather wider than the United Nations Secretary-General's call for an impartial investigation of the recent deaths of Arch-bishop Luwum and two others.

When the right hon. Gentleman is in Washington with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, will he discuss the recent talks between President Carter and Mr. Bukovsky, and will he then try to persuade the British Prime Minister to be rather more robust and effective in giving leadership on this vital question of human rights in Russia?

I have never made any secret of my own concern or the Government's concern on the whole issue of human rights. As to Mr. Bukovsky, he was asked to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who was looking forward to seeing him. Unfortunately he was not able to keep the appointment. There are no major differences between us on this issue.

Nuclear Technology


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government intend to respond positively to proposals by the new United States Administration for further limiting the spread of nuclear technology.

As my right hon. Friend's predecessor said on 22nd December 1976, we wholeheartedly welcome the high priority which the new United States Administration are giving to this question. When they put forward firm proposals, we shall study them with care, and I expect our response to be positive.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I welcome that positive response to the indications of the new American Administration's attitude? Is he prepared, on behalf of the British Government, specifically to follow up what the Foreign Secretary himself indicated yesterday—namely, that he would give a fair wind to some of the specific proposals involved, such as a moratorium on commercial reprocessing until the need, cost and safety have been fully assessed, and a strengthening of the International Atomic Energy Agency, particularly on the very important safeguards side, where the Agency is very undermanned?

I certainly assure the hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's Government are as concerned about this question as the United States Administration or any other Government. On the question of reprocessing, we certainly share the concern about the export of this technique and we support attempts to limit the export of either reprocessing or enrichment or the production of heavy water. On the final point, we certainly agree that an essential element of this is to improve the inspection and other techniques of the IAEA.

Has not the American President recently proposed stopping all tests, underground as well as in the atmosphere, and would this not probably prevent the invention and the production of further nuclear weapons? Why has Britain not publicly supported this great initiative, which has received a response in Russia? When the Foreign Secretary goes to Washington, will he publicly acclaim this great move towards peace?

I certainly expect that my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister will discuss this question when they go to Washington. Certainly we notice with great interest this proposal and, as my hon. Friend has said, the response that has come already from the Soviet Union. including the suggestion that there might be on-site inspection, which is one of the most important aspects of the question. We should like to follow that up and see whether it means what it appears to mean.

As it requires only three months to withdraw from the proposed non-proliferation treaty, is it wise for Great Britain to agree reprocessing contracts with countries such as Japan, whose contract, if fulfilled, would provide for the return of a very large volume of plutonium to that country?

We certainly see no reason to suppose that Japan will withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty. How- ever, this aspect of the matter to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention is important, and we shall certainly bear it in mind.

East Of Suez


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on current British policy east of Suez and indicate any direct commitments which remain.

The Government's broad policy east of Suez is, of course, to promote British and general Western interests there, within the limits of our resources. Our direct commitments are to our British dependent territories and those arising from bilateral and multilateral links which we have with independent countries.

What commitments does Britain still have through CENTO and SEATO? Is it not time that both these alliances were wound up, and should not Britain in any case sever any arrangements that she has with them, if for no other reason than the very practical reason that it is no longer physically possible for Britain to deploy military forces east of Suez?

I am sure my hon. Friend will recognise that we continue to be a party to the Manila Pact. The South-East Asia Treaty Organisation will be wound up by June this year, but the treaty itself will remain in being. Concerning CENTO, as we announced following the defence review, we retain our membership.

Will the Minister confirm that the British forces in Brunei are there at the cost of His Highness the Sultan and that no burden falls on the British taxpayer for them?

Brunei is a sovereign State in treaty relationship with the United Kingdom. We are responsible for external relations and we have a commitment to consult in the event of any external threat. A British Gurkha battalion is stationed in Brunei. We are now discussing with the Government in Brunei proposals for withdrawing this battalion and modernising our relationship.



asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if be will visit Mozambique.

Will the Minister get his right hon. Friend to follow the lead given by my noble Friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, and get him to condemn unequivocally the activities of the guerrillas operating in Rhodesia from Mozambique? Will he also get his right hon. Friend to tell the Government of Mozambique that until they stop harbouring those guerrillas not one penny piece more of British taxpayers' money will be given to them in aid?

On many occasions we have made very clear our position on the guerrilla war. I have myself spoken twice last year to President Machel. As for aid to Mozambique, our aid is in part to offset the impact of sanctions, which the Mozambique Government have adopted in accordance with the wishes of this House and the British Government.

Are the Government really intending to continue financial aid to Mozambique while the Mozambique Government are conniving at and encouraging the activities of terrorists from Mozambique in Rhodesia?

We shall fulfil the aid programme that we have established under the normal aid criteria.

May I ask my hon. Friend not to be at all deterred by the noises from the Opposition Benches and to continue to give aid to Mozambique, which is playing a very large part in trying to bring down the Smith régime? How much aid has reached Mozambique? How much humanitarian aid to help refugees in Mozambique has actually reached the camps?

I cannot give details on the last point. A loan agreement for about £5 million has been signed.

Hong Kong


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the social advance of Hong Kong.

Her Majesty's Government have welcomed the Hong Kong Government's plans for further progress in labour, social and allied fields. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the Hong Kong Government are making good progress in dealing with their social and other problems.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the deep resentment that is felt among many grass-roots organisations in Hong Kong? Does he not agree that unless there are further aids and reforms there could be disturbances and, indeed, riots similar to those that occurred in 1967?

I know Hong Kong quite well. I have spent a year of my life there. I do not honestly expect the kind of disturbances that my hon. Friend has mentioned in the immediate future. I am sure my hon. Friend knows that at the opening of the current session of the Legislative Council this year the Governor of Hong Kong announced rather sweeping measures in the very field about which my hon. Friend has spoken—social reform—for example, not only measures concerning labour relations and social welfare but measures that will raise the school leaving age to 15 by 1980 and double the rate of State house building.

Will the Minister bear in mind the burden imposed on the Hong Kong Government by a population which has increased eightfold since the war? In view of this, Hong Kong has achieved remarkable social and economic advances and now has one of the highest standards of living in Asia. Its GNP last year increased by 16 per cent. while the rate of price increases was less than 4 per cent. Will the Minister invite a team of advisers from Hong Kong to come here and advise our Government?

I accept that the rate of economic advance in Hong Kong has been very striking. On the other hand, I do not deny that we have a responsibility for this very important colony—the largest of our remaining colonial possessions. It is up to the Government of Hong Kong to ensure that social conditions correspond to the high standard of living to which the hon. Member has just drawn attention.

European Community

Direct Elections


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will discuss direct elections with the French Foreign Minister.

In view of the increasing unpopularity of the Common Market in both Britain and Denmark, would it not be wise—I mean this as a helpful suggestion—for the Common Market to reconsider the whole question of direct elections? Also, in view of the possible enlargement of the Community with Spain, Portugal and Greece, would it not be wise to consider at the same time the real aims of the EEC today?

I always take questions from the hon. Member as being asked in a most helpful spirit, particularly on EEC matters. I think that a reconsideration has, in fact, occurred in Denmark. The Danes are taking steps towards meeting the May-June 1978 target date. Every Government must try to seek to carry public opinion with them on any aspect of policy, but particularly on direct elections. That is the British Government's view too.

Would it not be better to clean up the scandal of the common agricultural policy before we wade further into the Brussels quagmire? Is it not wholly disreputable that, with the connivance of the Commission, 30,000 tons of butter has been sold to the Soviet Union at one-quarter of the price at which it is sold in member States in order to make further profits for a French Communist millionaire?

I have a great deal of sympathy with what my right hon. Friend has said. I made it clear to the House yesterday that this deal can be criticised very strongly on many different grounds. Although my views do not always coincide with those of my right hon. Friend on EEC matters, I have made it clear that where there are grounds for criticism we will criticise.

Will the Foreign Secretary accept that we are encouraged by his views about the common fisheries policy and the results that have been achieved to date? What are his views on the Irish Government's proposal to limit, as a conservation measure, fishing within 50 miles—

Order. I think that the hon. Member's supplementary question comes later. We are discussing direct elections.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there were some initial difficulties on direct elections for the French? Will he confirm that those difficulties have now been removed, and will he indicate at the same time what other member States within the EEC seem to have problems in their approach to direct elections, other than the United Kingdom?

I believe it is true to say that the constitutional court's ruling leaves the way open for the French Government to put proposals before their Parliament. They have not yet produced these proposals, and it is true that as yet no member State has passed fully the necessary legislation for direct elections. The Government with the most difficulties hitherto appear to be the Danish Government, and they are reconsidering their position. The promised White Paper will cover the question of the electoral system and will make an assessment of the various systems. At the moment, if we follow the Select Committee's proposals, we will be the odd man out. However, there is nothing against that as there is no necessity for a uniform electoral system.

If it is true that the Commission and a French Communist millionaire are making the EEC more unpopular, is that not all the more reason for hastening direct elections? It would be a total mistake for this party, above all others, to turn its back on the elective principle in these matters.

I believe in democratic Socialism, and I always have done. I have never believed that it is in the tradition of the Labour movement to turn aside from any democratic process. What we wish to ensure is that the democratic process is reflected in a variety of different ways. I would argue that it should be reflected in the decision-making of the Council of Ministers and in discussion on the Common Market in this House. Most hon. Members would agree that a system of nomination of Members of the European Assembly is not wholly appropriate to the full democratic process.

May I press the Foreign Secretary on the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer)? Can he confirm from his own sources the information that was given in an interesting survey in The Times last week that all other EEC countries, including France, now see their way clear to meeting the target date, both politically and legally? If that is so, will the right hon. Gentleman use his best endeavours to bring this matter before the House without further delay and in a form which would turn to practical effect the broad support that the majority of this House would give to the principle of direct elections?

My right hon. Friend is not keen for me to be pressed too far. I have already indicated that the White Paper will be put before the House in a matter of a few weeks, and I cannot be dragged into the argument any further. The House will then debate and discuss these issues, on which we have not yet had a full discussion. It is perfectly clear that there are differing views on both sides of the House on this matter, which would mean a constitutional change. We need to carry the agreement of the House as a whole, and that is what we intend to do.

Will the Foreign Secretary take comfort from the fact that we shall have a very good debate on this matter, which is one of the very few issues on which the Government are sure of a majority? That is a very happy change.

I choose my friends with circumspection. I am very fond of the right hon. Gentleman, who is a fellow Devonian Member, but I will look for support from my hon. Friends on my own side of the House. I am prepared to take time to persuade my hon. Friends, even my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), that it is in the interests of what many of them hold very close—proper scrutiny of the Common Market and of the Commission—to have that scrutiny through a properly elected European Assembly.

Commission Proposals


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arrangements he has made for Departments of Government to obtain updated proposals of the EEC Commission.

The EEC Commission very seldom puts forward updated proposals for Council legislation. When it does so, those proposals are made available to Government Departments in the usual way. They are also deposited in Parliament. No special arrangements are required to cater for this possibility.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that, in pursuing proper scrutiny of the EEC proposals, it is necessary for this House to have available all the relevant documents? Although we know that the Government have done their best, it is clear that some documents are available to some citizens and bodies in this country—documents which the EEC will not allow to come to this House. If that is so and my hon. Friend can confirm the situation, will he make representations to the EEC to change that classification?

The Government recognise the force of my hon. Friend's remarks. Obviously the House wants to have at its disposal the fullest possible information as a basis for any debate, but documents produced in the framework of the Council are normally confidential. The United Kingdom, in common with other member States, is required to observe that confidentiality. If hon. Members obtain their own copies of such documents from other sources, that is not a matter for the Government. The Government will seek to ensure that full information is available to the House in time for debates on EEC documents.

Will the President of the Council of Ministers, in taking office next week—and I hope to be there to welcome him—bear in mind that the European committees as well as the House would welcome information on the proposals? We would particularly welcome the views of this House before we go into committees and into the Assembly. It is difficult to obtain an adequate correlation of information, and I very much hope that the Minister will take up this matter when he goes to Strasbourg next week.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that all Ministers concerned in this matter understand what is at stake. It has fully registered with us all. We shall be seriously examining the matter with our colleagues.

Will my hon. Friend consider updating the proposal for stopping the disgraceful sale of subsidised butter to Russia or any other country? When we joined the EEC, were we not sold a pup?

My right hon. Friend has already dealt with that point, and the action taken by the Government this week shows how strongly we feel about this matter.

Does the Minister realise that the fact that occasions when the Commission comes forward with new proposals are so rare points exactly to the difficulty, namely, that the development of legislation and its redrafting are carried out within the Council of Ministers, without any new proposals emerging from the Commission, and that whereas new proposals from the Commission would come to this House, the process inside the Council of Ministers is confidential. What would the Minister say if the legislative process in this House were also secret?

I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will accept from what has been said in all parts of the House that his point is well taken. The Government are concerned about this matter and are closely examining the situation. I am sure that he will recall that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council told the House on 28th February, in reply to a Question tabled by the hon. Member for Broms- grove and Redditch (Mr. Miller), that he is now considering the problem and will provide the House with updated information on the progress of proposals for purposes of debate in this House.

Helsinki Final Act


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent consultations he has had with the other EEC Foreign Ministers about the observance by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other Eastern bloc countries of the provisions of Basket III of the Helsinki Agreement.

Compliance with the provisions of Basket III of the Helsinki Final Act by signatory States is one of the questions on which EEC Ministers have already consulted, and these discussions will continue amongst the Nine in preparation for the Belgrade review meeting. It is an important part, but only a part, of the whole framework of the Helsinki Agreement.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I welcomed his statement yesterday that the Government will not hesitate to speak frankly when they consider that the performance of obligations under the Helsinki Agreement by other signatory countries is unsatisfactory? Is that also the view of the other Common Market countries? In view of the unanimous advice by the Russian dissidents that the best way of helping dissidents in the Soviet Union is to speak frankly, will he encourage his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to emulate President Carter in that respect?

The Government's stance on human rights issues is well known. There are other aspects of the Helsinki Agreement and the Final Act to be taken into account. The way in which we should respond to a given violation of human rights requires careful judgment. I make no secret of the fact that we shall put our views frankly—sometimes publicly, sometimes in speeches, and sometimes by exerting varying forms of pressure. This is a very complex and difficult area, but what is important is the progress that is made. We hope at Belgrade to assist the progress that has been made in the past 18 months. I have made no secret of the fact that pressure will have to continue long after the Belgrade review conference if we are to be satisfied with the completion of the Final Act.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that any struggle to free peoples from torture or from having peen wrongly gaoled is welcome in any country, and certainly that applies to the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe? Would it not be helpful if Opposition Members would also struggle to free people in Chile and Fascist States as well as in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. In dealing with human rights, when there are violations we shall carry more conviction if we are seen to apply our standards around the globe. I said that to the House yesterday. It would be helpful if on more occasions we could have the same degree of support from the Opposition Benches when dealing with violations in Chile and in some areas of South Africa as when there are violations of human rights in Communist countries. We must all of us be concerned about violations, from wherever they come. We shall carry more weight with Communist countries if they see that we condemn violations of human rights elsewhere in the world.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his remarks will cause resentment among the Opposition? He has only to read the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Horn-castle (Mr. Tapsell), in replying for the Opposition Front Bench to yesterday's foreign affairs debate to know how much support we give to these considerations.

I am the first to admit that the speech made by the hon. Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell) in yesterday's debate was an extremely thoughtful and helpful contribution to the African debate. I recommend it to my hon. Friends. I think I made a fair comment on the situation. I must tell the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) that I did not intend to refer to him personally.

The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) will know that many criticisms have been levelled at some of my Labour colleagues who have been concerned about the situation in Chile. I strongly welcome what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), with his well-known views about violations in Chile and in Communist and Eastern European countries.

Euro-Arab Dialogue


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the progress of the European-Arab dialogue; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's contribution in the dialogue between the EEC and the Arab League.

The second meeting of the General Committee of the Euro-Arab Dialogue took place in Tunis from 10th to 12th February. The atmosphere was positive and frank and both sides were satisfied with the outcome. The Government played their full part in the Nine's preparation for the meeting and, as holders of the Presidency, the United Kingdom led the Community delegation.

When we bear in mind the enormous potential advantages that could arise from Euro-Arab co-operation, has not progress been regrettably slow? Is it not time to remove one obstacle at least, namely, the question of Palestinian representation, and should not the EEC accept the reality of the situation as the United Nations has done?

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the British Government attach great importance to this dialogue. At the recent meeting valuable work was carried out on the transfer of technology, commercial and cultural co-operation, protection and encouragement of investment, and labour and agricultural projects. The remainder of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question raises a wider issue.

Will my hon. Friend assure the House in regard to the EEC statement—which was agreed at a meeting in London on 29th January but which was not made public—that the Government exerted their influence to try to make that statement public—and if not, why not?

I hope that this afternoon I made our position plain on the dialogue. The British Government welcome the dialogue, and we feel that it has made a valuable contribution to Euro-Arab relations, to which both sides remain committed.

Will the Minister assure the House that the EEC will take up the question of the boycott of trade on the same lines as the United States now appears to be following?

The hon. Gentleman will have noted what my right hon. Friend has already said on that subject.

I greatly appreciate what the Foreign Secretary has said, not only this afternoon but many times, and his unequivocal denunciation of the Arab boycott. Will he take up with his European colleagues the question of how such blackmail can be made unremunerative by international action?

My right hon. Friend has made his position absolutely clear. The way forward is one that we shall consider together with our colleagues in Europe.