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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 13 February 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Nuclear Proliferation

1.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied that all possible steps are being taken by Her Majesty's Government to prevent the spread of nuclear armaments to countries which do not currently possess them.

The Government believe that the non-proliferation treaty is the best defence against nuclear weapons proliferation. As a depository Power, the United Kingdom tries to persuade others to adhere to the treaty, which now has 113 parties. We have fully observed our obligations under the treaty and the Nuclear Suppliers Group arrangements on nuclear exports.

Is the Minister aware that there will be widespread support for the proposal that the Government's main effort in this vital subject should be through the non-proliferation treaty review conference due this summer? Does he agree that there is a unique opportunity at present, in view of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the reappraisal of defence needs in that area, when some countries calling for help have not yet subscribed to the non-proliferation treaty? Does he agree that Pakistan and other nations that seek help at this time, from us and our Allies, should be encouraged to participate in the non-proliferation treaty?

:Yes, Sir. President Zia has said that Pakistan has no intention of acquiring a nuclear weapon or transferring nuclear technology to other countries. The best course, as my hon. Friend says, would be for Pakistan to sign the treaty. It has said that this would have to be accompanied by a signature from India. If there is anything that the Government can do to help forward that process, we shall do so.

Are the Government involved in the American $400 million package of aid to Pakistan? What active steps have been taken to help the Nuclear Suppliers Group stop Pakistan from getting nuclear weapons?

The hon. Gentleman, who follows this matter closely, knows the measures that we have taken. They have been discussed in this House. As regards defence help for Pakistan, we are not involved in that proposal but we are discussing, as has been stated, with our partners and Allies, possible forms of help to that country.

This development on nonproliferation is to be welcomed, but would it not be realistic to accept that many countries, whether we like it or not, will develop nuclear weapons for the same reasons that we and other nations have done so? Is it not time to look again at the overall policy and, perhaps, consider examining regional agreements that might be more effective in stabilising the balance of power elsewhere in the world?

There is something in that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, some Latin American countries have come together in discussions on those lines. There will be the conference reviewing the progress of the non-proliferation treaty probably towards the end of the summer or early autumn. We intend to take a full part.

Will the Minister say what export licensing orders and arrangements are still in force restricting the supply of components that could be used in the manufacture of nuclear equipment in Pakistan and other countries? Will he say something about the progress being made with the INFCE report, which will have implications for the better policing of nuclear materials throughout the world?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, from his last office, these export controls are in being. They are looked at from time to time. We have recently tightened them to take account of the latest developments. The INFCE discussion to which he refers is still in being. I understand that there is a final meeting shortly. It has cleared the ground a good deal and removed some of the misconceptions. We believe that the final documents, when they emerge, will contain useful guidance for the future.

Secretary Of State Vance

asked the Lord Privy Seal when next the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs plans to meet Mr. Vance.

My right hon. and noble Friend has no definite plans for a meeting with the American Secretary of State.

When the Secretary of State meets Mr. Vance will he convey to him the congratulations of the Government and of most hon. Members on the stand that he took and the speech that he made at the IOC meeting at Lake Placid? Following the IOC's mostill-judged decision, what do the Government now propose?

I shall certainly see that my right hon. and noble Friend conveys my hon. Friend's congratulations to Mr. Vance. Of course, we are disappointed, as are many people, that the IOC decided as it did. We remain of the view that it would be preferable to remove the summer Games from Moscow, because any other course would appear to condone Soviet aggression in Afghanistan and allow the Soviet Union a propaganda victory—

Therefore, the Government will continue to consult the growing number of countries that, happily, share our view on this issue. We shall consider with them the options that are open to us as a result of the IOC decision. An important part of the consultation will naturally be the European Community ministerial meeting to be held in Rome on 19 February. After these consultations, and in the light of a study of all the possibilities, the Government will convey their views to the British Olympic Association, which is due to meet on 4 March

Will the Lord Privy Seal point out to Mr. Vance the danger to world peace of America sending 1,800 Marines to the Gulf next month, of preparing a 100,000-strong rapid deployment force, and of setting up military bases in Masira, Somalia, Kenya, Diego Garcia and other points further east?

It would be silly for my right hon. and noble Friend to complain in any way about the transport of 1,800 American troops when there are about 70,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan. That is the danger to world peace, and that is the problem to which the hon. Gentleman should be addressing himself.

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the United States Government on granting $10·4 billion to Third world countries for trade and military affairs, and will he arrange to coordinate funds in Western Europe in order to grant moneys to Third world countries and those under pressure, for example for the training of freedom fighters in Afghanistan, Yemen and Ethiopa?

I agree very much with the drift of the first part of my hon. Friend's question, but I do not at all agree with the second part. The Soviet Union is the only country that has interfered internally in Afghanistan, and we want it to remain that way—[Interruption.] I should make clear that we deplore the Soviet action, but we have no intention whatever of following suit.

Does not the Lord Privy Seal agree that the danger of peace is in the lack of a co-ordinate Western response at a time of crisis, and that some of the events of the last few weeks have echoed the lack of unity that was apparent at the time of the Yom Kippur war? Does he agree that political co-operation seems to work only at times of calm, and that the West seems to fall apart every time there is a real crisis? Should not the right hon. Gentleman be talking to Mr. Vance about that?

The hon. Gentleman is taking an unduly pessimistic view. It is not suprising that there should have been initial differences of perception about the dangers of what happened in Afghanistan, and a difference of reaction. There have been definite signs of convergence over the last few weeks, and I am confident that that process will continue.

Cuba

3.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he proposes to meet the President of Cuba.

6.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the relations of Her Majesty's Government with the Government of Cuba.

My right hon. Friend has no plans to meet the President of the Cuban Council of State. Her Majesty's Government's relations with the Republic of Cuba, which we would like to be more substantial, are constrained because Cuban foreign policy appears to be conducted in concert with the Soviet Union. The Government's current views of some aspects of Soviet foreign policy were clearly stated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 28 January.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he not think that recent events in Afghanistan have perhaps turned President Castro into a Cinderella among the non-aligned nations? Does he not think that, perhaps, my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal or my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary could act in this case as a fairy godmother and take the President of Cuba to another ball on the other side of the curtain?

It is true that Cuba voted against the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning interference in Afghanistan. The Cuban media have simply reproduced the Soviet statements and comments on events in Afghanistan without attempting any individual interpretation of them.

Will my hon. Friend comment on the increasingly widely held belief that the Government of Cuba are cracking up under the weight of their own oppressiveness?

I was interested to read in today's press that, in a secret speech on 27 December, for which the "Hansard"has only just become available through the auspices of the free press, the President said that 4,000 men had been set aside to weed out offenders and keep them out of the way for as long as necessary. That seems to me to be a sinister sign.

Is the Minister aware that his concern over Cuba would be more credible if he were not such a close associate and fellow traveller of the Fascist regime in Chile, even to the disgraceful extent of questioning whether Dr. Sheila Cassidy had been tortured by the junta?

That does not arise on this question, but the hon. Gentleman is well out of date and he should read the papers.

In the past, when Cuba has had economic crises at home, has that not been an excuse for a diversion in foreign policy, for it to become aggressive and expansionist? Does my hon. Friend feel that that has implications for the Caribbean, and in particular for the remaining dependent territories in that region?

It must be difficult for the Cubans to sustain the 35,000 or so troops that they have in Africa when economic conditions are deteriorating at home. I would have thought that that would hardly be the time to engage in adventures anywhere in the world.

Has the Minister lately taken up the case of Cuban forces in Ethiopia? If so has there been any satisfactory explanation for their presence?

Representations have been made to the Cuban Ambassador on this matter, but to no effect.

Cyprus

4.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is planning any discussions with the Governments of Greece, Turkey and Cyprus in relation to the division of Cyprus; and if he will make a statement.

The Government maintain close and regular contact over the Cyprus problem with the Governments and parties concerned, and hope to see the intercommunal talks resumed as soon as possible.

As there is already a degree of co-operation between the two communities on such things as the maintenance of electricity and water supplies, will my right hon. Friend press on the United Nations that in order to extend this co-operation, such things as Nicosia airport and other parts of the island could be put under temporary international con- trol to give the two communities further opportunities to work together?

I am well aware that my hon. Friend has recently been to Cyprus and therefore is speaking with considerable experience of the problem. I shall draw what he has said to the attention of those concerned.

If the Lord Privy Seal is so concerned about foreign troops in Afghanistan why does he not take a stronger line about the Turkish troops in Cyprus? They have been there for some years now. Does he not think that if the Government are to be consistent and are not to be accused of employing double sandards, Britain should take a much stronger line on this issue than it has done so far?

We are most anxious to secure a solution to the Cyprus problem. Turkish troops entered Cyprus while the hon. Gentleman's Government were in power. I fail to see the relationship between the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that the fact that Turkey is seeking to enter the European Economic Community presents this country with an opportunity to exert a constructive influence upon Turkey? Can he also say whether there is anything further to report on those British citizens who lost property during the Turkish invasion?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, linkage of the kind suggested is not always the best way of tackling these problems. He also knows that this Government, and the previous Government, tried to exert influence to achieve a settlement of the communal problem. I have some news of those British subjects mentioned in the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question. The Turkish-Cypriots have now approved 140 exgratia awards to British subjects as recommended by their claims commission and payment of these awards has begun.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, as one of the former guarantor Powers, we have some residual responsibility for the affairs of Cyprus? Can he give some assurance that in any discussions that take place we shall give due regard to the rights of the Turkish minority that were so seriously violated during the period from 1963 until the Turkish invasion?

I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall give due regard to the rights both of the Turkish minority and the Greek majority. The one objective of ourselves and Dr. Waldheim of the United Nations is to secure a settlement congenial to both parties.

If that is the case will the Lord Privy Seal consider having a word with Dr. Waldheim pointing out to him that because the situation is so delicate it would be very helpful if the United Nations appointed someone in Cyprus with experience of the area and its politics?

I do not entirely agree with the hon. Lady's inference that the United Nations' representatives have been inexperienced and have not been helpful. They have been extremely helpful and we shall continue to support them.

Diego Garcia

5.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement regarding the present use of Diego Garcia.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Richard Luce)

The present use of Diego Garcia as a United States communications and support facility is in accordance with the published exchanges of notes of 1966 and 1976. There is a British liaison team of 25 Royal Navy personnel.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Can he tell the House to what extent United States forces in the island are being built up and what is the extent of existing support facilities there? Can the hon. Gentleman further inform the House whether the Government intend to allow the former inhabitants to return? Is the present offer of further compensation contingent upon acceptance of the fact that they have been evicted from their island?

The size of the United States forces in Diego Garcia is around 1,900. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the two agreements of 1966 and 1976—signed by the then Labour Government—provide for comunications and support facilities for the United States. In recent weeks the United States has asked for an extension of those facilities in order to improve the staging and handling capacity there. These arrangements are within the understandings reached between our two Governments and are perfectly in order. We have agreed to meet the request. As far as the Ilois community is concerned, the issue goes back to 1965 and 1966 when the then Labour Government decided that the inhabitants should be asked to move to Mauritius. In the 1970s the British Government gave compensation of £655,000. With accrued interest, that figure totals almost £1 million. That is compensation, in particular for resettlement of the Ilois community in Mauritius.

Does the Minister agree that, in the context of recent events in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf and elsewhere, there are strong arguments for increasing the facilities available to the United States in Diego Garcia? Is not such an arrangement all the more relevant in the light of what seem to be unfortunate developments created by Russia's links with the Seychelles to the north?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the threat posed by the Soviet Union. The growing instability of the area fully justifies the request of the United States for these facilities.

Is the Minister aware that what we do, or do not do, in Diego Garcia is a sensitive issue? Does not his statement supersede the clear statement made by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), on 28 November, that no further developments were planned for the island? Is the Minister saying that he now overrides that statement? Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the offer of £1·25 million made to the islanders has been accepted?

I will take the latter point first. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman in that I did not complete my earlier answer. There is an outstanding offer of £1·25 million, which is not for resettlement since that is a separate issue. It is an ex-gratia payment for the removal of those people from the Chagos archipeligo to Mauritius. That offer is outstanding and has not been finalised.

As far as the provision of additional facilities is concerned, the hon. Gentleman knows that there have been additional serious developments since then. Talks have taken place at official level between the United States and Great Britain and the Americans have asked for additional staging capacity in that area.

Cairo

7.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will pay an official visit to Cairo.

While we await the visit of the Foreign Secretary to Egypt, and no doubt to Israel, will the Minister take this opportunity to reaffirm our firm and continued support for the peace process between Egypt and Israel and for its continuation? Will the Minister publicly welcome, in particular, the remarkable normalisation of relations between those old foes signalled this month by the exchange of ambassadors?

We certainly support the Camp David treaty and the negotiations that have flowed from it. We also welcome the normalisation. We now look forward to something equally important, namely substantial progress in the autonomy talks. We believe that such progress is necessary if the peace process is to be established and continued.

If the Foreign Secretary visits Cairo will he raise with President Sad at the lack of progress on linkage following the Camp David negotiations? Will the Foreign Secretary put forward the possibility of a European initiative, which would suggest a period of international trusteeship for the West Bank and Gaza?

We have no wish to cut across the current peace efforts, which we support. We are considering with our European partners ways in which we might help the peace process forward.

Ussr

9.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he expects to meet the Foreign Minister of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

I wonder, in view of that reply, whether my hon. Friend would consider writing to the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union drawing to his attention the extraordinarily large numbers of Russian surveillance ships near United Kingdom territorial waters? Will my right hon. Friend ask the Soviet Foreign Minister what those Soviet ships are doing near our waters?

This is a matter that has caused concern to successive British Governments. I take note of my hon. Friend's suggestion.

When the hon. Gentleman meets the Soviet Foreign Minister will he give him an assurance that this country is still committed to detente in Europe, in spite of what has happened in Afghanistan?

The problem with detente is that the Soviet Union has interpreted it in a way which its natural meaning does not bear. The Soviet Union has claimed the right to commit aggression in parts of the world outside Europe and has claimed the right to continue the ideological struggle against countries of the free world by any means. That is not an interpretation of detente that is acceptable to us.

When the Minister eventually meets Mr. Gromyko will he be in a position to inform him that Kuwait has such confidence in the West that it no longer feels it necessary to purchase Russian ground-toground missiles?

When the Minister next meets the Soviet Union's Foreign Minister will he ask that gentleman whether he will publish a report about the movements of other foreign Governments in Afghanistan so that we can determine why the Russian Government decided to invade Afghanistan?

According to information available to me the Soviet Union is the only country which has been interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

European Community

Council Of Foreign Ministers

35.Mr.

36.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he expects to meet his EEC counterparts.

37.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when his noble Friend expects to meet his European Economic Community counterparts.

39.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he next expects to meet his EEC counterparts.

My right hon. and noble Friend and I will meet our Community colleagues at the next meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 17 and 18 March.

Will the Lord Privy Seal confirm that he received no satisfaction on his recent tour of the European capitals and chancelleries in his effort to gain support for the United Kingdom's attempt to reduce its grotesquely excessive contribution to the European budget? Does he agree that in the last couple of days the French have been characteristically unhelpful? Does he accept that, if the Prime Minister is not to be grossly humiliated at the forthcoming summit, Britain will have to take action on its own? Will the Minister comment on the article by the European editor of The Guardian today which suggests that we could legally withhold VAT contributions?

The hon. Member's language is, to use his word, "excessive". I agree that our net contribution to the European budget is, indeed, excessive. I cannot confirm that I received no satisfaction on my recent tour. It was helpful. There was a general desire to see our problem solved. I hope that it will be. It is not for me to comment on articles by the European editor of The Guardian.

Order. I hope that the Member will ask his question, because time is short.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was put off my stroke by hon. Members. Is the Minister aware that many of us are deeply concerned by the report in The Guardianand by the Lord Privy Seal's reply? Can he confirm or deny that the Government are considering cutting off VAT payments if we receive no satisfaction in the negotiations?

I cannot comment on the article by the European editor of The Guardian. That is normal practice and it is particularly true on this occasion since I have not read the article.

I appreciate that some progress has been made towards achieving a common position among the Nine on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but does my right hon. Friend expect that further progress will be made at the meeting to reach a unified EEC approach to the problem?

I am sure that that will happen. Further progress was made in Brussels last week at the meeting attended by my hon. Friend. This is not a matter that can be settled overnight. There is an undoubted process of convergence in train.

What response will the Government make to the application by Turkey for membership of the Common Market? Is not that worthy of a statement before we go any further?

No, because Turkey has not yet made a formal application. Turkey has made it clear that that will be the ultimate result of the 1963 association agreement. It is far too early to make a statement.

Has my right hon. Friend any comments to make on the statements by Mr. Jenkins about the approaching bankruptcy of the EEC?

The President of the European Commission pointed out the general economic difficulties facing Europe. I do not think that he said anything new.

Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that the approaching bankruptcy of the EEC will not occur in time to rescue the Government from their public expenditure problems in 1980–81 since the £1,000 million which was to be agreed to be refunded to Britain at Dublin played such a significant part in the Government's plan?

May I take for granted that the Government will not be in any way deterred from their pursuit of a broad balance by a French Finance Minister reading his brief at the last Council of Finance Ministers? We know that it was negative, but the French frequently are. The Minister must make it plain that the Government are still absolutely determined to achieve the broad balance which they set out to achieve and that they will not—

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Geneltman but he must ask questions. This is not a time for debating.

I can confirm that, so far as is known, there is no question of the 1 per cent. limit being penetrated this year and that it does not have any immediate application to our budget problem. The House is aware of our approach to these matters. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said after the Dublin conference that progress had been made—[Interruption.] Well, it had. The inhibitions have been taken off the 1975 mechanism which was negotiated by the Labour Government and which was singularly ineffective. The Commission was invited to make proposals for increasing expenditure in the United Kingdom. It has now done so. After Dublin the Prime Minister said that our objective was a genuine compromise but she pointed out that we had little room for manoeuvre. That is still the position.

38.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he last met his EEC col- leagues; and what was the outcome of the meeting.

I last attended a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 15 January. My right hon. and noble Friend went to the most recent meeting of the Council on 5 February. I reported the outcome to the House on 7 February in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee). I also attended an informal meeting of Community Foreign Ministers on 8 February.

Will the Lord Privy Seal make it clear to his EEC colleagues that the House will not allow the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office to shuffle out of their commitment to reduce the British contribution to the EEC budget by £1 billion?

I have no reason to remind my colleagues of that because they are well aware that neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Office are in the habit of shuffling out of anything.

At all the recent meetings have not the French and the Germans in particular proved much more intransigent than was originally expected about reducing Britain's contribution? Is it not wiser to start reducing expectations in Britain about the possibility of repayments being made?

I do not think that my hon. Friend is right to say that the German and French Governments have been more intransigent than was expected. It will not have escaped his notice that the French economic Minister made some remarks on Monday about the effect of oil on the United Kingdom economy. He has been rather seriously misled on the matter, and we shall seek to correct him.

When the Lord Privy Seal discussed with his EEC colleagues the concept of broad balance, did he indicate that it should apply to all countries of the Community, including Germany?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we began by using the term "broad balance". That was widely misunderstood to mean juste retour on the Continent. As I have indicated already to the House, the position is that we are seeking a genuine compromise.

If the Lord Privy Seal will not cancel VAT payments, will he at least accept my suggestion that, until the French remove the levy on British lamb imports, we should impose an import levy on French cars?

I do not think that the implication of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is one that he really wishes to pursue. He is trying to say that illegality should be met with illegality. I do not believe that that is right.

When those responsible for either research and development or science and technology meet their colleagues in the EEC to discuss such subjects as the Davignon report on information and technology, who represents the United Kingdom?

That is a very good question. I think that it is the Secretary of State for Trade, but I shall confirm that to my hon. Friend.

Spain And Portugal

40.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects Spain and Portugal to become full members of the EEC.

The negotiations with Portugal and Spain are proceeding as planned. It is too early to forecast precisely when they might enter the Community, but it is the hope of the Government that this will not be delayed.

Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that, before Spain becomes a full member of the EEC, there ought to be a settlement of the dispute between Spain and Gibraltar, and a reopening of the boundary between those two countries?

I have made my view and that of the Government plain to the House. There should be an end to the restrictions as soon as possible, straight away. They should have been ended already. I have also made clear that it is not feasible that, if Spain becomes a member of the Community, there should be two frontiers between two members of the Commity both of which are clsed.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the negotiations careful consideration will be given to the possible effect of the Spanish and Portuguese textile and footwear industries on Britain's home domestic industries which are already suffering from a flood of cheap foreign imports?

I can confirm that. As my hon. Friend knows, there is a provision dealing with this in the Greek accession treaty. The same will occur in the other treaties.

What is the Lord Privy Seal's calculation of the effect that the accession of Spain and Portugal will have on our own resources system? Will it not be that these agricultural-based countries will speed the decline in the funds of the Common Market? What effect will that have on Britain?

I do not see how they can reduce Common Market funds. They are bound to increase the funds of the Common Market. However, if nothing is done about our budget contribution—the hon. Lady is quite right—it would make our problem even more acute than it is now.

Council Of Foreign Ministers

41.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he expects to meet other EEC Ministers.

43.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he intends to meet his EEC counterparts.

44.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he next expects to meet his European counterparts.

I refer the hon. Gentlemen and my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton).

If the Lord Privy Seal fails to obtain a broad balance of the payments, and if we are still contributing a net £1 billion plus to the EEC, what action does he propose to take? If the EEC refuses to curtail cheap imports of textiles from America and Romania, what action do the Government propose to take, or do they not care about the loss of textile jobs in Lancashire and Yorkshire?

The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade told my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) on 7 February that the United Kingdom had submitted an application to the Commission for safeguard action. The Commission is due to respond in five working days, which is by 15 February. On 5 February the Council of Ministers accepted that the United Kingdom was facing special difficulties. In spite of the hon. Gentleman's jibe, I do not have to tell the House that the Government are fully aware of the difficulties involved.

When the Lord Privy Seal next meets his counterparts, will he inform them of the rising tide of dissatisfaction and antagonism towards the EEC on the part of people in this country who believe that they are being bled white by the Community and are being pushed to the sidelines by the Franco-German axis?

I do not think that that is the right way to approach the problem. We have made it clear that the present position on the budget is totally inequitable. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day that our case is open and shut. We shall continue to argue that case to the Community. I am confident that it will accept our argument.

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that there are continuing important issues other than the question of the budget? Will he impress on his colleagues in the EEC the importance of concluding the new co-operation agreement with Yugoslavia, taking into account the ailing health of its President?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. He will be aware that the last two Foreign Affairs Councils gave considerable impetus to the matter. It was made clear that it was a matter of the utmost urgency and priority. I hope that negotiations will be concluded soon.

When the Lord Privy Seal meets the other Foreign Ministers, will he discuss with them the dangerous position that is developing in Southern Lebanon? Will he discuss what initiative should be taken, within the United Nations, to strengthen the United Nations peace-keeping effort in that part of the world, since otherwise we may face an explosive situation?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Nine made a statement on the matter last September. It is a dangerous position, but I cannot guarantee that it will be discussed at the next meeting. I shall certainly bear the hon. Gentleman's remarks in mind.

When my right hon. Friend is negotiating reductions in the United Kingdom contribution to the EEC budget, will he make it clear that he will not be fobbed off by back-to-back grants for Government projects that would, in fact, entail increased public spending in this country to match them?

I am not quite certain what my hon. Friend means by back-to-back grants. He will be aware that the problem has, essentially, two components. The first is the excessive contribution as such, and that will be dealt with largely by what was virtually agreed at Dublin. The second component, and it is by far the greater part of the problem—at least 60 per cent. of it—is that our receipts from the European Community are well below average. They are less than half of the Community average. That is by far the greater part of our problem.

Will the Lord Privy Seal reconsider the reply that he has given to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) about the European response to the position in the Lebanon? He referred to a meeting last September. As another bloody civil war is about to begin in the Lebanon, surely speedier action than he is proposing is required.

I did not think that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley, was proposing speedy action. I said that I could not guarantee that the matter would be discussed at the European Council.

Community Budget

42.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the outcome of his visits to other EEC member Stales in connection with the United Kingdom contribution to the Community budget.

My tour of European Community capitals was useful. As I informed the House on 31 January I discovered a general desire to get this problem solved. Following talks between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Mr. Cossiga, the Italian Presidency is also taking an active part in finding a solution. We shall be having further talks with our partners in advance of the next European Council.

Dos the Lord Privy Seal now take the view that, in retrospect, the Prime Minister was singularly indiscreet in refusing the £350 million that was on offer at Dublin? Will he now say whether it is the considered view of his Department that it is legal or illegal to withhold VAT payments?

I cannot agree in any way that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was indiscreet, as the hon. Gentleman describes it, in refusing the £350 million. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to be aware that that sum was on offer only in full settlement of our problem. I am sure that the whole House would agree that £350 million is totally inadequate.

On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, as I said in reply to an earlier question, we are intent on finding a solution. We have not considered properly any measures that might be taken if we did not reach a solution.

Has any preparatory work been undertaken in any Government Department in connection with the possible unilateral withholding of our budgetary contribution?

I cannot answer that question, because I do not know what goes on in other Departments.

What is the Government's attitude to the Commission's proposal for spending in the United Kingdom? If the Government accept that proposal with few qualifications what additional mechanism does the right hon. Gentleman imagine would help us to get the matter settled?

As the right hon. Gentleman appreciates, we naturally think that the Commission's proposal is a useful step on the road to a solution. It contains a number of ideas for increasing the level of Community spending in this country. We continue to believe that—not in substitution for the Commission's proposal, but in addition to it—a receipts mechanism to control the amount of Community spending in this country in future years is the right approach.

Order. I propose to call one more question from each side and I shall add on the extra time at the end of Question Time.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential, as soon as possible, to eliminate the United Kingdom's excessive contribution to the budget? Has he pointed out to other member States that, adjusted to present-day prices, our contribution represents one-tenth of what the previous Labour Government spent on useless, wasteful nationalisation leading to the destruction of key industries such as the steel industry?

I agree that this problem should be solved as soon as possible. It is in the interests of all. It is a Community problem, and it is in the Community's interests that it be solved as soon as possible. That is all the more true in view of what is going on in the rest of the world. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend is right in saying that the previous Labour Government committed a lot of wasteful acts of expenditure. The fact is that our projected contribution to the Community budget is grossly excessive.

The House knows that the Lord Privy Seal has been spending a substantial amount of time on political philosophy as well as on his departmental duties in recent weeks. I should like to press him further on the reply that he gave earlier, when he said that he did not know whether any serious thought was being given to possible counter-measures that the British Government might take if we failed to reach a satisfactory solution on the broad balance of the budget. Is he, in effect, saying that no studies are being made inside the Foreign Office? If so, will he start them forthwith?

I said that I could not give an undertaking on what my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) put to me, because I did not know what was going on in other Departments. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Foreign Office always takes all possible contingencies into account, and that is what we are doing.

Overseas Development

Aid Policy

48.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has completed his review of aid policy; and if he will make a statement.

The Government are just completing their review of aid policy and a statement will be made as soon as possible.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. In completing the further stages of the review, will be bear in mind the vital importance of aid funds in securing contracts overseas for British industry? Can he confirm that funds will be available for that purpose next year, notwithstanding the heavy forward commitments on both multilateral and bilateral aid that he inherited from the previous Labour Govermnment?

Yes; funds will be available. The matter is being taken very seriously in this review.

Has the Minister taken account of the Brandt report, to which so much publicity was creditably given in The Times this morning, on the imminent dangers of disaster for the entire world as a consequence of the maldistribution of wealth'? Will he discuss with his Government colleagues the question of seking to convene a summit meeting as recommended in the Brandt report? Will he also recommend to the Leader of the House that we should have a debate on the issue and that it should not be left to disappear in silence as was the Cabinet paper, "Future World Trends", which was published some years ago?

The Brandt report is being given detailed study. I should not came to comment on it yet. I have not read it. It is a massive document. I should have thought that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) had a big hand in it, an attempt should be made by the Community to speak with one voice, if it has one.

Does my hon. Friend agree that trade is often a better long term investment in developing the new world than aid, and that often the best form of aid can be to send out skilled United Kingdom manpower to teach the local people to work and to help themselves?

Yes. Both of those matters are very important in the whole aid programme.

In terms of the review of the aid programme, can the hon. Gentleman give a complete assurance that the conclusions of the Brandt report will be taken into full account and that, if the review is already under way, it will begin again in terms of the Brandt report?

Is the Minister aware that the general thesis of the Brandt report—the interdependence and mutuality of interest between the Third world and industrialised countries to resolve our own as well as their problems—has consistently been advanced for five years by the Labour Party? Whether or not the European Community is able to reach a joint conclusion—a doubt which I share with the Minister—does he accept that we in Britain must have a view?

I certainly accept that we in Britain will have a view, but it will take a considerable time. I do not want to use delaying tactics, but the Brandt report is a big document and it will require profound study before we come to a measured judgment on it.

The thesis may be simple, but the contents of the document are not simple.

Rhodesia

51.

If the elected Government seek assistance, we shall play our part and shall encourage the international community to do likewise.

Is the Minister aware that there will be considerable disappointment in the House that he is unable to make a statement now on the level of assistance that will be required for Zimbabwe? The election is getting very close and the time has come when that country will need a lot of assistance. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the House would be grateful if he could say now what that level of assistance is and not leave it to the future?

I cannot say what that level of assistance is until the new, independent Government are duly elected. Research has been carried out both by the United Nations and by ourselves. However, until we have had talks with the newly-elected Government, it is impossible to say what precisely they will want and what we would agree to give.

Will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that, in any discussions within the Council of Ministers, aid to Zimbabwe will be in the forefront of his thinking? Will he impress that fact on the Commissioners who may be influenced in other directions, depending on the Government who come into office in Zimbabwe?

Yes; that will certainly come up in discussions within the Community. I cannot say whether it will be in the forefront, but I take the other point at which my hon. Friend hinted.

W ill the Minister comment on the fact that we currently subsidise the six richest countries of Western Europe by a sum twice as large—[Hon. Members: "Three times."]—as we give to 127 of the poorest countries in the world?

I am not sure that I agree with the hon. Gentleman's arithmetic, but my comment is that, if it is true, it is an absurd situation.

Will the Minister authorise the Commonwealth Development Corporation immediately to continue or to resume its activities in Zimbabwe, and will he increase its financial provision to ensure that sufficient capital is available to invest in Zimbabwe?

The question of the financial position and the capital of the corporation has not been finally decided, but every reasonable opportunity that there is for it to invest in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia will be examined.

If the hon. Gentleman cannot make a statement about general aid to Zimbabwe, will he accept that it is this country's responsibility to see that adequate funds are available to allow refugees to return as soon as possible, bearing in mind that they will not all be back, even after the elections have taken place?

We are doing a great deal on behalf of the refugees who are returning to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. Earlier this week I saw Mr. Hay of ICRC and discussed that matter with him.

Order. As I promised, I shall add an extra two minutes to Question Time because of earlier slippage.

Zambia

52.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what further aid he is considering for Zambia.

An agreement covering the £10 million project loan referred to in my answer to the hon. Gentleman's question of 16 January was signed by the United Kingdom and Zambian Governments on 24 January. Zambia's need for further aid will be kept under review.

The Minister and the Leader of the House will be aware that I have already raised the question of the United Nations Security Council's resolution 544, regarding the Government's responsibility to Zambia. He will know, that ever since the bombing of the 10 bridges, the economy of Zambia has been critical. Despite the offer of £10 million in aid to that country, does he not accept that that is insufficient to meet the present needs?

Many would say that £10 million is insufficient, taking into account the overall view of Zambia. However, that was the agreement which was signed by the Zambians. The Government will look at Zambia's need for further aid, particularly in the context of the bridges, as they will for other developing countries in the light of the relevant economic, political and commercial factors and our financial constraints.

Will my hon. Friend explain why Zambia cannot borrow the money on world markets? Is there not a grave risk that the grant of the aid to Zambia will enhance the temporary power of politicians and others with the power to distribute the aid?

I cannot agree with my hon. Friend. The reason why Zambia cannot borrow on the world markets—as I am sure she would like to do if she could—is that her economy is not strong enough. The aid for development will help to strengthen that economy.

Is the Minister aware that the Government of Zambia are in default to hundreds of citizens of the United Kingdom in respect of debts either for insurance damages awarded through the courts or failure to meet bonuses on contracts and so on? Would it not be better to settle the debts from British Government funds before handing out the money to the Government of Zambia?

No, I do not agree with that. Zambia has agreed many of the debts and hopes to pay off the remaining balance when her economy recovers.