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Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 13 February 1980

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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.