Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the progress being made towards a ceasefire and new elections in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, following the appointment of Lord Soames as Governor.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what arrangements have been made to hold elections in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
The ceasefire in Rhodesia came into effect at midnight on 28 December. Rhodesian forces disengaged and deployed to the vicinity of their company bases. Some 20,000 members of the Patriotic Front's forces have subsequently gathered with their arms at designated assembly points. A number of breaches of the ceasefire have been reported. These have mostly been attributable to elements of Mr. Mugabe's forces. The Governor has taken appropriate steps to deal with breaches of the ceasefire in accordance with the, Lancaster House agreements. Cross-border liaison arrangements have been made between the monitoring force and the defence forces of Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana. These are working satisfactorily. Zambia and Mozambique have opened liaison offices in Salisbury. The House will wish to pay tribute to the skilful and courageous performance of the monitoring force during this difficult period.The Governor has announced that elections for the white roll seats will take place on 14 February and those for the common roll seats on 27 to 29 February. Registration of parties for the election was completed on 14 January, and nominations have to be in by 21 January. The election commissioner and his staff are supervising preparations for the elections.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. While appreciating and acknowledging the difficult, dangerous and unique combined military and civil operation now under way in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia—and in no way wishing to belittle or exaggerate any recent problem or tragedy in the last three weeks—may I ask my right hon. Friend to give the House some reassurance about how the Administration intend to deal with possible intimidation of voters, especially in the scattered rural areas?
My hon. Friend will be aware that intimidation is forbidden by the Lancaster House agreements and it will be for the Governor, his staff and the police to see that intimidation does not occur. It is impossible to abolish it completely, but the Governor will do everything in his power to see that it is kept to a minimum.
Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that South African troops have been withdrawn from Zimbabwe-Rhodesia? If they have not been withdrawn, will he assure us that they will not be allowed to interfere with the election process, and that all the parties involved in the election will be allowed access to the broadcasting media? Is the right hon. Gentleman disturbed by the comments made by the front-line Presidents to the effect that there should be complete impartiality in these matters?
I cannot assure the House that all South African troops have been withdrawn because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the Governor has reviewed the situation and has decided that a small contingent of South African forces is required to guard the Beit bridge. The Governor will keep this matter under review. The bridge is half South African property. On the question of broadcasting, an official from the BBC visited Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. The Governor is observing the broadcasts carefully and, here again, it is laid down in the Lancaster House agreements that there should be impartiality. So far I have heard no complaints.
Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the tribute of the House to General Acland and the British and Commonwealth forces is not merely recorded here but is actually transmitted? Secondly, will he deal with what seems to me a small problem that has been built up to major proportions, namely, the small contingent of South African forces which is on one side of the bridge—
which is considered incorrect? Is it not possible for the Commonwealth monitoring forces to be there? It seems that this matter is greatly exaggerated in the eyes of many coloured people.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I shall certainly see that the tribute is sent out to General Acland. I also entirely agree with my hon. Friend that this matter has been greatly exaggerated. We made clear at the Lancaster House conference that there will be no external intervention or involvement in Rhodesia at this period, and we are in touch with the Governor to ensure that this is so. But I cannot accept that a small South African presence to defend Beit bridge amounts to external intervention. All that is required is the protection of the bridge, which is a joint venture. I can assure my hon. Friend that there is a monitoring force very close to the bridge which monitors what goes on.
I am sure that the whole House will welcome the progress which has been made so far towards the difficult goal of acheiving an effective ceasefire and taking the first and very important steps towards holding elections, which we trust will be free and fair. May I turn to two questions, one of which has just been raised by the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans)? The question of the safeguarding of Beit bridge is difficult. We know very well that it is a crucial installation and therefore it must be properly protected. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind about that. The right hon. Gentleman will know better than most that a specific pledge was given at the Lancaster House conference, and in the House on 18 December he said:
In the light of the need to keep good will and general acceptability and to build up trust, it does not make sense to do what is being done. I am in favour of using either the direct Rhodesian security forces to secure the Rhodesian side of the bridge or of using any Commonwealth or other forces which are available. Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand—he surely must—the legitimate and reasonable sensitivity that there is about this matter, particularly in the light of his own strong words and the pledges which he has given?"…there will be no foreign forces in Rhodesia."—[Official Report, 18 December 1979; Vol. 976, c. 309.]
My second question—
All right—I shall put it quickly.In terms of the ceasefire arrangements, is the Lord Privy Seal satisfied that enforcement is in the first instance by the forces of the two sides and, where an infringement takes place, does he agree that that process ought to precede any attempt to call out the security forces, which should be the last resort? Is he satisfied that that procedure is being followed?
The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's second question is that that is in fact what happens, and the Patriotic Front commanders are invariably, if time allows, contacted before anything happens. As regards the right hon. Gentleman's welcome to what is going on, I think that the House will be interested to hear one figure which puts a good deal of the reports of the past few days into perspective. The total number of people killed in Rhodesia since the ceasefire is the same as the number killed daily before the ceasefire. That again calls for considerable congratulations to all concerned—to the Governor, the monitoring force, the Rhodesian forces and the Patriotic Front.I have already said what I have to say about Beit bridge. I cannot accept that the presence just across the border of a very small detachment of South Africans can be said to be a foreign involvement in Rhodesia. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] As I have said, this is also monitored by the monitoring force, and the Governor will, of course, keep this situation under review. We hope that, before independence, the need for special measures to defend the bridge will have disappeared.
May I join right hon. and hon. Members on both sides in pressing the Government to look again at this question? Is it not normal practice, where there is a crossing point between any two States, that each side is guarded by the respective State? Why is that normal rule not being followed here? Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that this is a provocative irritant in an otherwise possibly successful ceasefire settlement?
With respect, I must ask the House to look at this matter with some sense of proportion. Let us look at what has happened since the Governor took over. The ceasefire has been established; the monitoring force is deployed; a large number of the Patriotic Front forces have been assembled, with very few incidents involving the forces of both sides; restrictions on political parties have been lifted and arrangements for elections are well in hand; the majority of ZANU and ZAPU political leaders have returned; relations with neighbouring countries have been normalised; plans for the return of refugees are well advanced and it is hoped that movement will start next week; internal restrictions have been greatly relaxed; many detainees have been released, while the cases of the remainder are being reviewed, and a general amnesty has been declared.Those are remarkable achievements in a very short time, and it seems to me extraordinary that, instead of concentrating on that, the House should concentrate entirely on a very small detachment of South African troops.
Order. This matter comes up again.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will invite the Foreign Minister of Cyprus to London.
The Foreign Minister of Cyprus is always welcome in London, and I look forward to seeing him here soon.
Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that there is a need for a new initiative on Cyprus? Does he also agree that it is primarily Britain's responsibility to try to achieve a settlement in that country, and will he tell the House what plans he has to do that?
I am not sure that now is the best moment for an initiative. I certainly agree that an initiative of some sort is welcome, but intercommunal talks under the Secretary-General of the United Nations remain, I am sure, the only practical means of progress towards a settlement. Some small progress was made last summer and then other events intervened. We continue to give the fullest support to Dr. Waldheim's efforts, and if we see any opportunity to take an initiative ourselves we shall take it. At present, I do not see that opportunity.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Dr. Waldheim said before Christmas that there was some hope of restarting intercommunal talks this month, that is, in January this year? What has changed in the meantime to put that back? Did the right hon. Gentleman's last reply mean that he does not see any chance of the intercommunal talks taking place in the first half of 1980?
I did not say that. I said that I did not see any prospect of an immediate initiative by this country. As regards the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I think that the reason for delay was merely events elsewhere in the world.
British Engineering (Overseas Representation)
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied with the current state of representation given to British engineering overseas via British embassy, facilities; and if he will consider the setting up of a Foreign Office-sponsored international engineering bureau for the purpose of co-ordinating British engineering developments and industrial growth with world-wide sales initiatives so as to ensure full integration between international banking and credit facilities, United Kingdom engineering manufacture and the successful sale or leasing of British engineering products overseas.
We are satisfied that British embassies take proper account of the overseas interests of British engineering. The question of departmental support in setting up an international engineering bureau is a matter for my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Industry and for Trade.
Would the Minister of State give support to such a concept? Does he agree that now is the time when initiatives of this sort worldwide should be taken in order to enhance the efforts of British engineering to sell its products overseas? Although the whole House would pay tribute to the services now offered and given by British embassies throughout the world, is it not a fact that they remain unco-ordinated and there is, therefore, a need for a fresh look at the trade services and facilities offered by the Foreign Office so that they may be improved and linked with the efforts being made in this country?
There are about 750 United Kingdom-based and senior locally engaged officers employed on export promotion at more than 200 posts in more than 100 countries. I believe that they do excellent work, and I am grateful for the tribute which the hon. Gentleman paid to them. As to whether there should be co-ordination, that, as I have said, is a matter not for me but for my right hon. Friends.
Secretary Of State Vance
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has any plans to meet Secretary of State Vance.
My right hon. Friend has no immediate plans for a meeting with the United States Secretary of State.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the effectiveness of the proposed United States trade boycott of Iran depends very much upon the co-operation of Europe and Japan? Will his right hon. Friend make that clear to the Secretary of State when they next meet? Does my hon. Friend agree that there have to be steps to support the position of the United States in practice rather than merely verbally, which the Government have done so far?
My hon. Friend will know that the Russians vetoed the United Nations sanctions motion. My right hon. Friends are considering, along with our European and other allies, what they can do to show solidarity and to express the world's disapproval of the detention of the American hostages. We shall do everything possible to secure the release of the hostages.
Does the Minister recollect that when his hon. Friend the Minister of State was answering questions on the statement on Afghanistan on Monday he stated that no agreement had been concluded with the United States on the expansion of the base at Diego Garcia? Are we to take it from that reply that such an agreement is under discussion? If so, what arrangements are the Government making to embody the views of countries around the Indian Ocean, such as India, which have previously opposed such expansion?
All the factors that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned are taken into consideration. I have nothing to add to what my hon. Friend said on Monday.
Has Mr. Vance been told that the refusal to sell arms required by the Royal Ulster Constabulary for its protection and that of Her Majesty's subjects is an unfriendly act towards an ally that is giving President Carter and his Administration considerable support?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made that point of view abundantly clear during her visit to Washington, and to the President shortly before Christmas. What she said to the House on her return made it clear that she shares, as I do, my hon. Friend's view.
When the right hon. Gentleman meets the United States Secretary of State will he make it plain to Mr. Vance that we share American feeling about the outrage that is continuing against the personnel of the United States Embassy in Tehran? Was this dangerous and, in my view, intolerable situation discussed at yesterday's meeting of NATO at Brussels, and if so, with what effect?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for those comments, which express entirely the Government's view about the continued detention of the American hostages in Tehran. I assure him that there has been no lack of activity to try to co-ordinate action, both in Europe and with our American allies, on what should be the next stage of the response after the failure of the United Nations motion.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what staff will be attached to the Governor of Rhodesia in Salisbury to deal with aid and development planning and co-operation during the transitional period.
There are no staff attached to the Governor specifically for this purpose. But senior officials from the Overseas Development Administration visited Salisbury from 8 to 12 January to make a preliminary assessment of Rhodesia's aid requirements.
I am glad that those staff have gone to Rhodesia to take account of the situation there. Will the Minister make an announcement to the House on the level of aid that the Government propose to make available to Zimbabwe following the elections? Will he make that announcement now, or at least before the elections, and give an assurance to the House that the level of aid will not be dependent in any way upon the outcome of the elections in Zimbabwe?
The British Government have already made it plain that they are willing to consider any requests for aid that emanate from a newly formed Government. Obviously, it is too early as yet. Once a Government have been formed in March, and once they form a view that they would like to request aid from the United Kingdom, we shall be very willing to consider that request. In the meantime there are some forms of temporary assistance that the British Government have already given.
While it is not surprising that that represents a change from the policy of the previous Government is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is a serious matter? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it had been assumed that a certain amount of money would be available not from the aid budget but the contingency fund for the inevitable and necessary assistance with the economic development of an independent Zimbabwe? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman also knows that there was an effort to elicit the assistance of other countries in forming a Zimbabwe development fund. If he is not able to comment on these matters today, will he undertake to make, very soon, a full statement to the House on the whole issue?
As the right hon. Lady rightly suggests, there have been considerable changes in Rhodesia since the Government assumed office. I do not quite understand what it is that she is getting at when she talks about aid. As she well knows, we provide considerable sums for the education of Rhodesian students, principally in this country. When a newly formed Government emerge in March, we shall be ready to consider any form of assistance that they want. We have already been assured by the United States and by Western European countries that they will be ready to consider forms of assistance.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects to meet the Governor of Hong Kong.
My right hon. Friend has, at present, no plans to do so, but the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker), met the Governor on Friday 11 January.
Will the Minister instruct the Governor to repeal the Draconian public order law that makes it a criminal offence for three or more persons to hold a meeting in a public place? Is he aware that it is a law that may be used by the police to intimidate workers and others who are threatened with eviction from their homes and work places, such as is the case of the villagers of Muk Min Ha in the New Territories? Is he not ashamed to have responsibility for a British colony where such fascist legislation still exists?
We do not instruct the Governor, but the hon. Gentleman probably knows that extensive discussions have been taking place on the public order ordinance. The Hong Kong Government expect to introduce amendments to that ordinance in the near future to deal with the problem that he has mentioned.
Will my hon. Friend make clear to the Governor and the people of Hong Kong our appreciation of the way in which they are accommodating a substantial flow of immigrants into their country and giving sanctuary to a large number of refugees? In spite of the economic difficulties to which these factors give rise, the colony is still a most significant market for British goods in Asia.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for saying what I think should be said about the extraordinary successes of Hong Kong economically and in terms of humanitarian assistance in dealing with refugees from all quarters. There are still 55,000 Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong. I am sure that the House will appreciate that that is an enormous burden on the Administration of Hong Kong.
Is not the fact that there are still 55,000 boat people in Hong Kong a comment on the resettlement programmes which have been introduced, which are obviously failing in terms of speed and time scale to deal with the serious problem that has arisen?
What about Merthyr?
The people of Merthyr volunteered to take refugees from Vietnam, as did many other communities.What is the position with the large-scale illegal inflow of refugees or immigrants into Hong Kong from China? What was the result of the important discussions with the distinguished Chinese guests of a few months ago?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it presents a major problem to have so many Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong. About 10,000 of them are about to come to the United Kingdom. Others will go to other countries. The more that can be done to persuade other countries to accept more of these refugees for permanent settlement, the better. As for immigration from mainland China, the recent visit of Chairman Hua Kuo-feng has resulted in much improved border security arrangements. The flow has greatly reduced, to the great assistance of Hong Kong.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what reports he has received from the Governor of Southern Rhodesia about the activities of foreign troops or mercenaries in that territory.
There are persons of various nationalities serving with the Rhodesian forces, as there are with the Patrotic Front forces. The Government made clear during the constitutional conference that there would be no purge of the forces of either side during the interim period. The Governor has agreed that a small contingent of South African forces should be stationed at Beit bridge on the Rhodesian-South African border for the protection of the bridge.
Now that the Government have quite shamelessly admitted to the presence of South African troops on Rhodesian territory, in flagrant contradiction of the explicit assurances given to the House that such troops would not be permitted there, does that not cast a shadow over the good faith of the Government in the implementation of the Lancaster House agreement?
No, of course it does not. It is astonishing that the hon. Gentleman should get up and ask the same question that has been asked already by three hon. Members.
We still want an answer.
Many other matters are of greater importance to the House, such as the breaches of the ceasefire and the detention of ZANU detainees by Mr. Mugabe in Mozambique. To concentrate on the matter referred to by the hon. Gentleman and others seems to show a complete absence of any sense of proportion. As I have said already—I may as well say it again—I cannot accept that one small detachment of troops to guard the Beit bridge adds up to involvement by foreigners in Rhodesian affairs.
Questions relating to EEC matters, No. 22.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to register a protest about the short amount of time that has been given to questions dealing with foreign and Commonwealth affairs at a time of world crisis.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he intends to raise the question of the relationship between the different Community institutions at the Council of Ministers.
The Government do not intend to propose changes in the present balance of powers between the institutions of the Community. However, the European Parliament's rejection of the 1980 draft budget is likely to lead to further discussion in the Council of its relations with the Parliament.
After his recent tour, is my right hon. Friend more optimistic that both the longer-term reform of the budget and the elimination of our excess contribution—the short-term problem—can be achieved in a spirit of genuine compromise? That is the only way in which the Community can move forward. Does my right hon. Friend see a positive role for the European Parliament in the formulation of sensible ideas for reforming the budget structure?
Plainly, the European Parliament has an important role to play. The direction in which it is seeking to alter the budget is a direction which will appeal to many hon. Members, if not to all. It also strikes a chord with public opinion. Exactly how the negotiations between the Council, the Commission and the Parliament will proceed, I cannot yet say. Presumably, the Commission will produce a paper some time next month.
Will the Lord Privy Seal confirm that the present position is that the EEC can pay up only one-twelfth of last year's budget? Will he also confirm that, if the Council so wishes, it can authorise payments in excess of that amount under the Treaty of Rome? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether that matter was discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council that was held on Monday and yesterday? If so, what was the conclusion of such discussion?
I confirm the position about the payment of one twelfth—it is as the hon. Gentleman says. There was no discussion on this matter on Monday and yesterday and, therefore, the position about the one-twelfth payment remains the same.
Is not the position that, if the European Parliament asks for a larger budget sum, differently divided, the Government will go along with that as part of their compromise?
I cannot possibly speculate as to what will happen. I cannot say what will be our reaction to the European Parliament's proposals on the budget until we know what those proposals are. I stress to the hon. Lady that the first step is for the Commission to resubmit the budget. It is not, in the first instance, for the Parliament to produce its proposals.
Will my right hon. Friend go further than he did in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) and say what changes he believes may be necessary in the relationships between Community institutions in view of the European Parliament's rejection of the Community budget? Should not such changes ensure that, in future years, the European Parliament does not have to take such a drastic step in order to have its views heeded?
That is an extremely important and difficult matter. I am not convinced that any changes in the institutions are necessary. Plainly, some change in the working of the institutions may be necessary, but I trust that, in the future, there will be better relations between the Council and the Parliament. No doubt, more attention will be paid to the Parliament in future. As a result of that, similar constitutional crises will not arise in the future.
Council Of Foreign Ministers
asked the Lord Privy Seal when his noble Friend expects to meet his European Economic Community counterparts.
At the next Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 4 and 5 February.I attended the Foreign Affairs Council yesterday at which we considered the measures which the Community should take as a result of events in Afghanistan, trade with Rhodesia, the appointment of an extra Advocate General to the Court of Justice, staff pay, and the Community's relations with ASEAN, Yugoslavia and Latin America. There was a brief procedural discussion of the United Kingdom budget problem. I am circulating a more detailed account in the Official Report.
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the Community can respond quickly enough to the serious and changing international situation? If not, will he put proposals before his colleagues at the next meeting of the Council to improve the machinery for developing Community foreign policy?
It is in the nature of a community, a collection of States or an alliance, that it is able to work less quickly than an individual country. Obviously, there are difficulties in concerting measures in the Community. As my hon. Friend will be aware, important decisions were made yesterday concerning the cancellation of food aid to Afghanistan, the urgent consideration of the refugee problem in Iran, an agreement by the Community not to fill the gap left by the halting of United States' food exports to the Soviet Union and the temporary suspension of butter sales pending detailed examination of further measures. Further action will be contemplated next week. As I have said, I do not believe that we should be paying attention to constitutional changes at the moment.
Did the right hon. Gentleman discuss with his colleagues the question of other measures to be taken as a result of the Afghanistan invasion, in particular the possible cancellation or removal of the Olympic Games from Moscow?
The Olympic Games were mentioned at the NATO discussion, which I did not attend. However, they were not referred to at the discussion yesterday, although they will be in the future. That was because of lack of time, as much as anything else. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, the Government have not yet formed a final view. The International Olympic Committee and the British Olympic Association are independent bodies.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not entirely satisfactory that the decisions that were reached yesterday by the Community Ministers should be communicated to the House only by way of an accidental question on the Order Paper? There should be a proper statement on the matter which could then be the subject of questions. In the circumstances of Afghanistan, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the members of the European Community are doing what is required and not merely talking about taking measures? Is he aware that, as an ardent European, I am disappointed by the reaction of our French and German friends-to date?
The question of making a statement is always difficult. Sometimes the House complains of too many statements, while at other times it complains that there are not enough. I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said, but, as I said earlier, it is difficult for a community or an alliance to reach quick decisions. Only the first step has been taken, and I hope that more will be done in the future.
I should like to associate myself with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). I agree that there should have been a proper statement on the matter. As I understand it, the meetings that took place yesterday in Brussels, both at NATO and at the EEC, were of some importance. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman attended the wrong Council meeting. He might have had more serious discussions at the NATO meeting than at the EEC discussions. We hear a great deal about political co-operation—
Order. The right hon. Member really must ask a question.
Was there, at the EEC meeting, or during consultations with the Lord Privy Seal's right hon. and hon. Friends who attended the NATO meeting, any serious discussion of trade policy? If so, what was the response of our partners? Perhaps at the meeting which the right hon. Gentleman did not attend, but of which he will have heard, there was discussion of the Olympic Games.
I believe that the Minisster of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd), said at the end of the meeting that no decision had been reached about the Olympic Games. I have already told the House what was decided about trade in agricultural products at the meeting that I attended.
Following is the information:
I represented the United Kingdom on 15 January at this first meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council under the Italian Presidency.
The Community has agreed that EEC supplies of food should not be allowed to take the place of those from the United States on the Soviet market, directly or indirectly. The Council has invited the Commission to take all appropriate measures to implement this decision, as regards cereals and products derived from them, and to propose further measures if necessary, for other agricultural products.
In addition, the Council decided to cancel the 1979 Community food aid programme to Afghanistan, and to consider as soon as possible a proposal which will shortly be produced by the Commission for emergency aid to Afghan refugees.
This represents a concrete and substantial economic response by the European Community to the situation which has been created, which complements the political positions also adopted yesterday by the Nine Foreign Ministers. It was agreed that work in the Community on this question should continue and that a further report would be made to the next Foreign Affairs Council on 5 February.
The statement on Afghanistan approved by Foreign Ministers recorded their grave concern at the Soviet Union's military intervention in Afghanistan which they viewed as a flagrant interference in the internal affairs of a third country and a threat to the peace of the region. They called on the Soviet Union to act in accordance with the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly and withdraw their troops from Afghanistan.
Agreement was reached in principle to an EEC trade regime for Rhodesia and, eventually, an independent Zimbabwe which will last up to the end of 1980. This regime provides for free access for industrial products and generous treatment for agricultural products—including duty-free access for tobacco. The Council's agreement is subject to the opinion of the European Parliament but that will, we hope, be forthcoming by the end of this week. I should like to record here the Government's appreciation of the contribution made by other member States and, in particular, the Commission towards securing so quickly full agreement on this important subject.
The Council agreed that details of the Community's improved offer for a new EEC-Yugoslavia co-operation agreement should be settled at tomorrow's meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives so that the Commission can continue negotiations with Yugoslavia next week in time for a final decision on the new agreement to be taken at the next Foreign Affairs Council on 4–5 February. We welcome this sense of urgency.
No agreement was reached on the appointment of an additional Advocate General to the European Court of Justice or on the annual staff pay review.
The Presidency made a statement drawing attention to the importance of developing relations with Latin America. There was no discussion.
Ministers agreed that the next ministerial meeting with ASEAN should take place when the co-operation agreement is signed. The first week of March will be proposed to ASEAN.
The Council took note of the resolutions passed by the Parliament at its session of 10–14 December 1979. There was no discussion.
The Foreign Affairs Council reviewed progress in other specialist councils. There was no substantive discussion.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he intends to meet his European Economic Community counterparts.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he will meet his EEC colleagues.
I met them at the Foreign Affairs Council yesterday. I shall meet them again at the next Council on 4 and 5 of February in Brussels.
Will my right hon. Friend please make a special effort to have further discussions about whether the Olympic Games should be held at a venue other than Moscow and will he see whether his European counterparts have the same views, even if that means postponing the Olympic Games? If those Games are postponed, surely any disappointment felt by a few thousand athletes sould be seen as a minor matter compared with the possible effect upon Russian public opinion that withdrawal might have. It may help to prevent a third World War. Surely the Government are not entirely without influence, as they contribute to the cost through the Sports Council.
At the Council meeting yesterday it was agreed that all possible measures relating to Afghanistan should be considered in Rome next week and therefore discussion of the Olympic Games will take place then. I appreciate my hon. Friend's point about the advantages of finding another place at which to hold the Games, but he will understand that many difficulties are involved because there is such short notice. Other countries, like Britain, do not control their Olympic committees.
Will the Lord Privy Seal tell the House of any benefits that Britain derives from membership of the EEC?
One benefit I hope will appeal to the hon. Gentleman is that the EEC strengthens the Western orientation of Britain. Given Soviet behaviour in Eastern Europe, that should appeal to all hon. Members.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread disappointment at the published reports of the meetings of the EEC yesterday? Will he give the House an absolute assurance that Her Majesty's Government will urgently examine, with all their allies, measures for decisive action against Russian influence in all parts of the world as an unmistakable demonstration of our refusal to march, again, along the path of the 1930s?
I understand from newspaper reports, and from the House today, that there is some disappointment about our achievements. However, as I have said, alliances and communities can move only slowly. No doubt my hon. Friend is aware that my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary is now touring the area adjacent to Afghanistan. He will return at the end of the week and we shall consult as to what further measures should be taken.
Is it true that yesterday the French even opposed the complete cancellation of sales of cheap butter by the EEC to the Soviet Union?
It is not the custom to reveal the attitudes of individual Governments in Council meetings. There have been reports on that matter.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the cost of holding plenary sessions of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and Luxembourg, and committee meetings in Brussels; and what would be the saving if the Parliament were based in a single place.
According to a recent report of the European Parliament's Committee on Budgets, the cost of the three centres including rent and accessory items amounted to approximately 17·1 million European units of account—£11·39 million—or 20·3 per cent. of total expenditure in 1978. If the member States were to agree that the Parliament should be established in one place, savings would no doubt be possible. But no official estimates have been made.
While it was bad enough in the previously indirectly elected Parliament, is it not absurd that a European Parliament of 400 Members should be peripatetic and unnecessarily caravanning around Europe?
With his European experience, the hon. Gentleman will know that this is a matter for the Parliament and the European Council. It can be changed only by unanimous vote in the Council.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that there would be an even greater saving if there was no European Assembly?
Of course, all parliaments cost money. However, no one would regard that as a reason for abolishing the European Parliament. I would have thought it was common ground that the European Parliament has already shown its great usefulness and that it is a great asset to the Community.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps he is taking to reduce the amount of EEC legislation.
The Government have made clear on a number of occasions that they are against unnecessary legislation and standardisation for its own sake.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we need a drastic reduction in legislation? Is he aware that the legislation is a particularly heavy burden on small businesses, it is costly and it is unnecessary? Does he appreciate that such a practice spoils the good legislation that can come out of Brussels? Will he make a special effort to ensure that a drastic reduction in legislation occurs? Perhaps my right hon. Friend will bear in mind the stupidity of the directive concerning harmonisation of bathing water.
I do not remember that particular incident, but it seems a most cogent example.
Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that some public scrutiny would help to curtail the mass of legislation from the EEC—most of which is trivial and absurd? Rather than keep the decisions of the Council of Ministers behind closed doors would it not be of help to open those doors to the public, so that they may know what is going on within an absurd Common Market?
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is against excessive legislation, but if that is so within the context of Europe, that is a matter for him. It would not be helpful for Council meetings to be open to the public. As the hon. Gentleman will have noticed, a good deal leaks out, despite the so-called privacy. Apart from anything else, there is no space in the room. There is, therefore, a good technical reason for leaks.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should be reductions in all forms of legislation, both nationally and within the Community? Will he remind the House that it is always constitutionally open to the Council of Ministers to say "No" to the Commission if it wishes to on any proposal?
I agree with both parts of that question.
Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that these EEC regulations have the force of law and that there is great disquiet in the House about the number of decisions that are taken without giving the House an opportunity to discuss them? Will he look at this question again and will he bring many more issues before the House as quickly as possible before decisions are taken, rather than afterwards?
I was not aware of great discontent. I thought that we had been most scrupulous. I shall certainly look at the point.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what arrangements have been proposed or agreed to within the European Economic Community to harmonise statutory regulations for the recording of urgent calls for fire services, police, and ambulance services in accordance with the arrangements now in existence in France and Germany; and if he will make a statement.
No arrangements have been agreed to within the Community and I am not aware of any proposals for the harmonisation of recording procedures for such telephone calls.
Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that Britain is sadly lagging behind in modern technology for very important emergency services? Is he aware that both France and Germany have improved on our efforts? Although that might not come within the province of Common Market harmonisation, will he make representations to the Home Office to bring us up to date?
The hon. Gentleman has baffled us with his question. He seems to be making a case for harmonisation within the EEC, and perhaps there is such a case. I shall draw the attention of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to the hon. Gentleman's remarks.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects to make a statement concerning his recent official visits to Governments of various member States of the EEC.
My round of visits is not complete. I have so far visited Rome, The Hague, Luxembourg and Brussels. I shall be visiting West Germany tomorrow and the remaining Community countries next week.I have at present no plans to make a statement to the House. I can, however, say now that I am not discouraged by my discussions so far.
Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that yesterday when he was at the EEC Council his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in answer to a question from me, changed her objective of £1,000 million to "vastly increased receipts"? Can he tell the House what that figure is?
The hon. Gentleman's premise is wrong and I therefore cannot answer the question. After Dublin, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear that it was the Government's policy to seek a genuine compromise with our partners and she added that we had little room for manoeuvre. At a time when the Government are pursuing negotiations, it is quite impossible to give figures or disclose our exact negotiating position.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what projects for rural development have been approved during the last five months.
Two major rural development projects have been approved since July 1979. This brings to 10 the total of such projects initiated in the first nine months of the current financial year. I am arranging for these projects to be listed in the Official Report.
I thank the Minister for that information. Has he seen the report of the American Commission on World Hunger which predicts that within 20 years there will be acute starvation and malnutrition in the Third world unless measures are taken to step up food production in those countries? Will he redouble his efforts and the aid that he gives to rural agriculture in underdeveloped countries?
It would be difficult to double the amount of aid that we give on these rural projects. The share of bilateral aid committed to the poorest countries, where this is very much one of the main projects, has exceeded 60 per cent. in recent years. However, I agree that the emphasis should be placed in the way the hon. Gentleman suggests.
Since India is the principal recipient of British overseas aid, will my hon. Friend look for an early opportunity to have discussions with the new Government? Is he aware that there are a number of rural projects there where British aid could materially assist in improving food production?
Yes. I hope to do so in March, but already this year there are four projects going ahead for rural development in India.
Following is the information:
|APPROVALS OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS IN 1979–80 FINANCAL YEAR|
Date of approval
|5 April 1979||…||Nepal||…||Khosi Hill area development programme (Khardep)||5·76|
|3 May 1979||…||India||…||Foot and mouth disease vaccine plant||7·3|
|17May 1979||…||Peru||…||Cajamaraca agricultural development project||1·22|
|14June 1979||…||Sudan||…||South Darfur savannah project||4·63|
|14June 1979||…||Sudan||…||Southern region agricultural project||9·24|
|21 June 1979||…||India||…||Kanpur fertiliser plant||7·7|
|12July 1979||…||India||…||Earthmoving equipment||17·0|
|26 July 1979||…||Jordan||…||IRBID rural electrification||3·5|
|6 September 1979||…||India||…||Orissa family welfare||10·84|
|7 November 1979||…||Tanzania||…||Rural water supplies||1·4|
"Aid To The Poorest"
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he proposes to maintain the aid policies of Cmnd. 6270, "Aid to the Poorest" or if he proposes to produce a new White Paper.
A review of the aid policy is well advanced and I hope to make a statement shortly.
Can the Minister be a shade more informative? Is he proposing to change the priorities of the White Paper, which were accepted by the Conservatives when in opposition? He must come clean a little more.
That is precisely what I propose to do. I intend to make a statement to the House.
When reviewing the aid programme, will my hon. Friend recognise that anger has been caused to a large proportion of the population by the continuous attacks on Britain by Presidents Nyerere and Kaunda?
I recognise that but it is not a factor that one can take into account when considering a development programme.
Why are we giving so much aid to Turkey, which is one of the richest of the developing countries?
Turkey is still very much a developing country, particularly in rural areas. It has had balance of payments problems and we have offered Turkey £15 million programme aid, which I think is quite right.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied with the progress being made within the overseas development programme to ensure that population programmes are integrated into all overseas aid development projects; and whether he will make a statement.
I am sure that more might be done, but not all aid-financed development projects can logically contain population programmes, and in any event such projects must obviously be designed in relation to the wishes and policies of the recipient Governments. I accept the argument that there may be a link between economic development and the constraint of the world population.
Is the Minister satisfied to see the largest British aid programme of £100 million which is devoted to the Mahewelli plan project in Sri Lanka remain an economic project without any social input? Does he recognise that land being allocated to families cannot sustain an increasing birth rate and that population growth is an obstacle to progress in many Third world countries? Will he give a firm commitment to integrate into this and other development projects administered by the British Government an element dealing with welfare and population activities?
I believe that in that case the aid is to go to the dam. The Mahewelli project is further down, outside the dam. This is a World Bank project and obviously the Bank integrates those matters.
Does the Minister accept that one of the best ways of dealing with the problem is to improve the general economic well-being of the area as a first priority? If so, how does he justify the £115 million cutback in the aid programme for 1980–81? That is a 14 per cent. cutback and the most savage public expenditure cut by this Government.
I do not agree with those figures. They are wrong, but they were published in The Guardian. If the hon. Gentleman will table a specific question, I shall answer it.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what proposals he has with regard to aid directed towards children in developing countries.
Children should benefit directly and indirectly from much of our aid expenditure. So far as concerns programmes specifically directed towards children, I intend to continue aid to education and child health, to support international organisations such as UNICEF and the organisations concerned with population questions and to contribute to suitable projects designed for children put forward by British voluntary organisations.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Is he aware of the great disappointment both inside and outside the House about the way in which the Government's expenditure cuts affect aid to underdeveloped countries? Will he assure us that any further cuts will not interfere with the programmes for children in the Third world?
I can give no assurances because the aid framework is not finally agreed. The right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart), my predecessor, will, perhaps, explain to the hon. Gentleman exactly what that means. The programme will continue, but at a possibly slightly reduced level. We simply must understand that our duty is to get our economy right first. The latest report of the World Bank said that, unless countries such as Britain do that, it is the developing countries that will suffer.
Can the Minister give some assurance that at least another side of the question is being put by himself and his colleagues in the Foreign Office? As he well knows, there is another side of the case, as I think the Brandt report will show when it is published. Is he aware that one of the solutions to our economic problems is the promotion of development in the Third world? Are the Minister and his colleagues in the Foreign Office pressing for minimum reductions in the aid programme and the earliest possible increases?
It is natural that we should do so.
London School Of Hygiene And Tropical Medicine
asked the Lord Privy Seal what funding is provided towards work at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine by the Overseas Development Administration.
In the current financial year our commitment is of the order of £556,000.
Will the Minister accept that this is an internationally renowned centre which appears to be facing a serious financial crisis, primarily as a result of spending cuts by the Department of Education and Science? If overseas students from the poorer countries cannot go to this centre, that will represent a serious indirect reduction in our overseas aid effort. Because of that, will the Minister have urgent talks with the Secretary of State for Education and Science to see whether he can assist in satisfactorily resolving this problem?
I accept the importance of this institution. It is fair to say that the students who are placed there by the Overseas Development Administration will be fully funded at economic fee levels, and I cannot forecast the demand from other students. However, I am visiting the institution at the end of this month.