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Council Of Foreign Ministers

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 16 April 1980

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


asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects next to meet his EEC colleagues; and if he will make a statement.


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

My right hon. and noble Friend will meet his Community colleagues at the next Foreign Affairs Council on 21 and 22 April. I myself will be paying an official visit to Cyprus on those dates. I expect therefore to meet Community colleagues next at the Council to be held on 5 and 6 May.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that at these meetings, and at the even more important EEC summit in Luxembourg, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will carry with them the good wishes of the entire nation when it comes to trying to organise a fair reduction of Britain's contribution? Will the Government be sure not to neglect the more pressing and urgent geo-political priorities at these summits, especially the need for a concerted European approach to the crises in Afghanistan and Iran?

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said, I am sure that my right hon. Friend and my right hon. and noble Friend will carry with them the good wishes of the entire country. As regards the second part of his question, that will depend upon what happens between now and the meeting of the European Council, and especially upon what happens next week at the Foreign Affairs Council. However, I strongly take my hon. Friend's point.

In view of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Southern Lebanon, especially the difficulties facing the Irish troops as a result of the activities of Major Haddad, supported by his Israeli advisers, will my right hon. Friend confirm that top priority will be given by his counterparts and himself at his forthcoming meeting to taking some form of initiative to safeguard the peaceful intentions of everyone living in that area?

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State said earlier, he and I talked with Dr. Waldheim this morning about this matter, which is serious and needs remedying. However, I cannot guarantee that it will be given top priority at the next meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council.

When the Minister next meets his European colleagues, will he make it clear to them when they discuss the imposition of any sanctions against Iran in line with President Carter's request, that any decision that they make, notwithstanding article 131 of the Treaty, will be subject to ratification by the House of Commons, as the Prime Minister promised yesterday?

Of course what the Prime Minister promised yesterday will, needless to say, be carried out.

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that in some of the questions put to him on this matter there has been reference to "counterparts" and in others a reference to "colleagues"? It will not have gone unnoticed that my right hon. Friend used the word "colleagues", and in these days of questioning about Europe I am grateful to him for that distinction.

Can the Lord Privy Seal and his counterparts or colleagues think of any good reason why the Soviet Union should want to colonise Afghanistan?

That question should be addressed to the Soviet Union. All we know is that at least 80,000 troops are present in Afghanistan terrorising the inhabitants and causing large numbers of casualties and that this action has been criticised by almost the entire free world, 104 members of the United Nations, and by the Islamic Council. It appears to be supported only by the hon. Gentleman.

When he next meets his EEC colleagues, will my right hon. Friend discover from them whether the Brandt report is to be on the agenda for Venice in June? If so, will he undertake to publish the Government's response to it before that date?

It is too early to say what will be on the agenda in Venice, but I think that I can assure my hon. Friend that the Government's views on the Brandt report will have been published before that date.

The Lord Privy Seal is to discuss with his opposite numbers in the EEC the proposal by Lord Carrington for a neutral Afghanistan. Bearing in mind that he has said today that this neutrality would not be imposed but would have to be agreed, presumably by Afghanistan, would it not have been courteous to have indicated to the Afghan Government the nature of the proposals so that they—after all they will be the Government with whom the proposals will have to be agreed—would have known exactly what was proposed?

The hon. Gentleman has that wrong. The present Government of Afghanistan would not last a moment if the Soviet troops were not there. His views on this subject are, therefore, not all that relevant.

To return to my right hon. Friend's meeting with his counterparts, may we assume that on the agenda of this meeting will be the text of Sir Roy Denman's report, which asserts that the majority of senior Eurocrats are drunk and incompetent?

I cannot give a definite answer to that, but I think that it is unlikely.

When the Lord Privy Seal talks to his counterparts about Afghanistan will he make it clear to them that if there is to be a concerted effort to support the American position over the hostages in Iran that is made easier by the fact that the EEC is now less dependent on Iran for its supplies of oil? That therefore makes the problem political, as opposed to directly economical.

I agree that it is largely a political problem. The question is how to achieve the objectives that we all have in mind, which are, first, the maintenance and solidarity of the Western Alliance, and, secondly, the release of the hostages.

Order. I shall make a statement tomorrow on open questions on foreign affairs, which is something new.