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United States Secretary Of State

Volume 927: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1977

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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.