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Volume 931: debated on Wednesday 4 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he intends to take to ensure that treaties signed by Her Majesty's Government with the United States Government are honoured in accordance with international law, in the light of his answer to the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington that the United States Government are failing to honour their solemn obligations by refusing to ensure that Concorde can land in New York.

We have repeatedly made clear to the United States Government that we take a serious view of the denial of our rights to operate Concorde at Kennedy Airport. Until the results of the court hearing that began on 28th April are known it would not be appropriate to comment further.

I thank the Minister for that reply, but is President Carter really as powerless as he pretends? If, for instance, California were to declare a 500-mile fishing zone, would the President shrug his shoulders? Will the Minister note that there is an increasing demand in this country and in France, both from members of the public and from workers involved, for positive action, such as the withdrawal of traffic rights between New York and Britain and New York and France in the event that we are denied our legitimate rights?

The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that the Government are well aware of the strength of feeling in this country. Representations have forcefully been made to our American friends on this matter. But we see ourselves as close friends and colleagues of the Americans. We do not, therefore, look to melodramatic action.

As for the hon. Gentleman's point about law within the states, he frequently advocates the principles of the rule of law, and it is the rule of law that is being applied within the states.

Whilst thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I say that it is time that the British Government made repeated recommendations to President Carter at the summit meeting? Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that this will be done?

Obviously it is not for me to comment upon what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may decide to do and when. He has already drawn this matter to the attention of the American Administration, and I am certain that he and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will continue to do so whenever it is appropriate.

Of course, I fully appreciate our close relationship with the United States. But does the Minister of State realise that there is a very strong tendency to believe that the Government are less determined in their action to ensure that Concorde flies into New York than are our French allies?

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that, whatever the temptations, any tendency to believe that would be totally ill-founded. The Government are completely committed.