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Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Volume 21: debated on Wednesday 31 March 1982

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the latest proposals of the contact States relating to elections in Namibia.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on any consultations that Her Majesty's Government have had concerning the holding of elections in Namibia.

Most of the constitutional principles have been agreed by all concerned, but agreement has not yet been reached on the Five's proposals concerning the electoral system for the constituent Assembly. These proposals are fair to all parties and groups. The Five hope to resolve this question as soon as possible, with the co-operation of those directly involved, and to move on to phase 2 of the negotiations without further delay.

Is the Minister aware that the South Africans have frustrated a settlement in Namibia for nearly a decade and a half? Does he agree that the propositions advanced by the contact States about the electoral process are enormously complicated, especially for an unsophisticated electorate that is unused to elections? Does he agree that that is a sign that the contact States are preparing to appease South Africa because of that Government's obstruction?

It is an exaggeration to say that the system now being discussed is enormously complicated. Not only in Europe, but in African countries, there are a variety of systems in which a number of votes are allowed for. We are here working towards a mixed system of proportional representation and single-member constituencies, although we are now working through the contact group to see whether there are further ways of simplifying the system. We are in close touch with all the parties concerned.

Is the Minister aware that the proposal to appoint Mr. Mishra, an Indian diplomat, as United Nations ambassador for Namibia is reported to have been opposed by Britain and other Western States, as being likely to delay Namibian independence? Will he deny that report, because if it is true it must surely mean further appeasement of the South African regime by the contact States?

No, what the hon. Gentleman says is absolutely the case. The Government do not believe that filling the post of United Nations commissioner to Namibia is helpful to the current negotiations. Neither the United Nations Commission nor the United Nations Council for Namibia has a role to play in the present negotiations. We do not believe that the present position is helpful when we already have a United Nations representative to play a role in the transition and when the Five are working extremely hard to achieve a settlement.

Does the Minister accept that many Conservative Members agree with his reply to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown)? Does he agree that it is SWAPO which is now holding up progress towards the independence of Namibia, as it does not accept the election proposals advanced by the contact group? Does he further agree that it is important that the United Nations should remain impartial if there is to be any meaningful and constructive settlement?

On my hon. Friend's latter point, as I said to the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis), it is essential when we reach phase 2 to discuss the impartiality of the United Nations. That is an important factor in a successful transition.

On my hon. Friend's first point, SWAPO has expressed anxiety about the election method. We are discussing that with SWAPO and the front-line States. I do not believe that the procedures are complex. It is possible to find a simple procedure and we are working on that now

Is the Minister aware that the whole basis of the negotiations is a resolution that was passed unanimously by the Security Council in 1976? How can he claim that the United Nations has no role in the matter? Will he acknowledge that the dual system of voting is widely regarded as a trick to exclude the majority of the African population in Namibia from real power in an independent State?

The hon. Gentleman cannot have listened to my earlier answer about the United Nations commissioner. That is quite different. The Government fully support Security Council resolution No. 435, which allows the United Nations to play a key role in the transitional phase. However, we opposed the appointment of a United Nations commissioner this week. That is a different matter and we believe that it further complicates the process. That should be made clear.

Suppression Of Terrorism (Convention)


asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards seeking the adherence of those States which are parties to the international convention on genocide but not the European convention for the suppression of terrorism, to the latter convention.

We strongly support the European convention on the suppression of terrorism, and would like all eligible States to become a party to it.

As the convention on terrorism is just as consistent with the general principles of international law as the convention on genocide, and as both conventions deny to political offenders the right of immunity from extradition, are not the Government of the Irish Republic hypocritical, considering that they have already signed the convention on genocide, to assert that they cannot sign the convention on terrorism on constitutional grounds? If that is a demonstration of their sincerity, what reliance can be placed on their promises to respect the will of the majority in Northern Ireland?

My hon. Friend's question is really for the Irish Government. I can only say that we hope that they will find a way through the constitutional difficulties that they seem to see and will join the convention.



asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement on the Foreign Secretary's visit to Israel.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about the Foreign Secretary's visit to Israel


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in the visit of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to Israel, he has yet discussed the priority attached by the Israeli Government to security as an essential part of the peace process.

My right hon. and noble Friend arrived in Israel only last night. Today he has had talks with, among others, the Israeli Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Conservative friends of Israel in the House send good wishes to Lord Carrington on his important mission and hope that he will be received with courtesy and warmth in Israel, because we believe him to be a fair-minded man who is genuinely seeking peace?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. It is in exactly that spirit that my right hon. and noble Friend is in Israel.

During his visit to the Holy Land, will my right hon. and noble Friend take every opportunity to promote trade between this country and Israel, particularly with a view to overcoming the pernicious Arab boycott?

I think that my hon. Friend knows the Government's position on that. We in no way approve of the boycott, but we think that it is a matter best left to the judgment of the firms concerned.

Will the Secretary of State, during his visit to Israel, assure the Israeli Government that no representative of the British Government will meet representatives of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation so long at it remains committed to those clauses of its convention that call for the destruction of Israel?

We have contacts with the PLO at official but not at ministerial level. We use those contacts to urge the PLO to recognise Israel's right to exist and to make it absolutely clear to Israel that the PLO would fully accept the existence of Israel if Israel accepted self-determination for the Palestinians.

Will the Foreign Secretary tell the Israeli authorities that, despite the many injustices that Jewish people have suffered in previous years, the way in which they are establishing settlements on occupied Arab land in Jordan, and their dictatorial policies on the West Bank, only exacerbate tensions in the area and are against the long-term interests of Israel?

Our views on the settlements have been frequently stated. In the past few days we have made a statement deploring the present activities on the West Bank. A statement was made by the European Council yesterday to the same effect.

Will the Secretary of State represent to the Israeli Government that actions such as the dismissal of elected West Bank mayors and councillors by the illegal occupation forces are not only contrary to the Geneva convention but unacceptable to all fair-minded people in the United Kingdom?

Does the Minister agree that my right hon. Friend might suggest to his hosts that if they are serious about improving relations between Britain and Israel they might desist from publishing on postage stamps likenesses of prominent Jews who have murdered British subjects?

I am not sure that that particular point will come up, but I have a good deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says.

Is the Minister aware that we support the Foreign Secretary's visit to Israel, because it keeps open lines of communication in a difficult situation, but that most Arabs believe that the Israelis are on the point of annexing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? Will the Foreign Secretary therefore associate himself completely with the EEC statement on this yesterday and tell any Israelis who are thinking of annexation that we would regard such a move as very dangerous and prejudicial to a peaceful settlement in the Middle East?

Is the Minister also aware that we would associate ourselves with his right hon. Friend's statement about the dismissal of the West Bank mayors and with the views of the Israeli Labour Party in the Knesset on 23 March, which were vigorously critical of the current Israeli Government?

As the right hon. Gentleman has said, any attempt at annexation of the West Bank would certainly be very dangerous, but we have no actual evidence that that is being contemplated.

Contrary to what the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) has said from the Labour Front Bench, have not the disturbances on the West Bank been instigated and organised by the terrorist PLO precisely because the Israeli Government are beginning to make headway with moderate Palestinian leaders?

I advise my hon. and learned Friend not to accept any such simple explanation. What has happened on the West Bank is the outcome of one incident feeding on another, leading to a cycle of violence and repression. As other countries, including ourselves, have known, this is a consequence of a regime of military occupation. It is for the Israelis to consider, as they are now clearly doing, whether such a system provides the best foundation for the security of Israel.

El Salvador


asked the Lord Privy Seal what reports he has so far received from the observers sent to the elections in El Salvador on 28 March.

How can there be free elections when anti-junta candidates do not stand because they are afraid of being murdered and when voting is compulsory? Secondly, do the British Government intend to recognise the Right-wing extremists now in the saddle in El Salvador?

As I have said, we have not yet received the report of the two observers. They will return this week and report to my right hon. and noble Friend. Their report will then be published. I think that it would be sensible to wait and see what they have to say. That is why we sent them there—to see whether the elections were a valid test of opinion and to learn about the form in which they took place. On the first evidence, with more than 1 million people reported to have voted, we should be very cautious of insulting the people of that country who wish to use the ballot box rather than the gun.

Although the result of the elections may not seem entirely satisfactory, does not the very large turnout show that there is a majority in El Salvador that favours the ballot rather than the bullet? Ought not the results of the elections to be respected both inside and outside El Salvador?

I very much appreciate what my hon. Friend has said, as I know that he has been in El Salvador with an all-party team. It appears from the first evidence that the poll has been high. I should have thought that anyone who believes in democracy would condemn those who use the gun to try to intimidate those who wish to use the ballot box.

Does the Minister agree that 1 million voters is well under half those of electoral age and that many of those who voted did so out of fear of being punished by the Government, because voting is compulsory? Does he further agree that, unfortunately, my predictions have proved true and the situation after the elections is infinitely more difficult? Does he also agree that the only alternative now to negotiations, as suggested by the Mexican President, is continuing suppression of the people by a Government in El Salvador who have no respect whatever for human rights and have indeed boasted of that fact?

I find it difficult to understand how the right hon. Gentleman, sitting in the House, can come to such sweeping conclusions at this stage. Surely it is more responsible to wait to hear what the observers have to say. Let us then read their conclusions and discuss them.

The hon. Gentleman's figure of those who voted is well under 50 per cent. of those of electoral age. We all know that those who have not voted are breaking the law in El Salvador, yet about 60 per cent. chose to break the law rather than to vote, unless they were forced into emigration by the actions of the previous Government. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the majority of voters voted for parties of the extreme Right wing, led by a man who has described President Duarte as a tool of international Communism? Is that the right hon. Gentleman's view?

I am surprised by the rather unconstructive way in which the right hon. Gentleman seems to be approaching this problem time and again.

Yes, perhaps I should not be surprised. I am trying to help the right hon. Gentleman. I remain surprised by the attitude that he has adopted. Let us wait to hear what the observers have to say. In the meantime we note that the figures suggest that about 60 per cent. of the electorate has voted. If the right hon. Gentleman believes in the use of the ballot box, surely he should be supporting and encouraging that process rather than encouraging those who have used the gun to try to intimidate.

Is my hon. Friend aware that those of us who had the privilege of visiting El Salvador find it hard to arrive at the same sort of certitude as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has expressed, without having been there? Will he accept that, whatever the result of the election, the main attack on human rights has come from those who sought to prevent people from going to the ballot box in peace? Secondly, does he accept that we should have the greatest admiration for the courage of the Salvadoran people who risked their lives to prosecute an election by the ballot and not by the bullet?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that not all of those who went to El Salvador entirely share the views of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths)? The evidence that we received from the man who was organising the elections showed that the techniques involved would allow the police in El Salvador to identify those who vote and those who do not. As those who do not vote are guilty of a crime, punishment may follow.

When the observers' report is available it will be published in full. It will be available to the House, to the press and to the British public. We shall be able to study in great detail what the observers have to say. They have been in El Salvador for a number of days and they have observed the elections. Let us wait to hear what they have to say.

United Nations Special Session On Disarmament


asked the Lord Privy Seal what ministerial representation Her Majesty's Government will have from his Department at the United Nations special session on disarmament.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on 16 March, she plans to go to the second United Nations special session on disarmament. There are at present no plans for a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister to go as well.

Does the Foreign Office think it wrong that the Heads of Government should be meeting in Geneva at the same time as the United Nations disarmament conference takes place? Surely it would be a good idea for the Heads of Government of all countries throughout the world, including those from the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries, to attend the session and for Britain to submit constructive proposals for nuclear disarmament, for reducing the sale of conventional weapons throughout the world and for diverting the massive expenditure of £500 billion on the arms race to deal with the problem of world poverty, which would be a better way of bringing peace throughout the world?

The hon. Gentleman's argument about dates is a thin one. The NATO summit will last for one day whereas the United Nations special session will sit for five weeks. Many people, including my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, plan to go to both.

Will my right hon. Friend say something more about the shape of the session? Does he see its purpose as being to deal with particular hot-spots around the world or to try to take a global view of disarmament?

Certainly the second. The preparations are still continuing. We have tabled with some of our friends a draft programme for comprehensive disarmament that we think is realistic. We are discussing it with others who have other ideas and we hope that it will be possible to reach agreement at the special session on a framework that will act as a spur and a stimulus to the different negotiations on arms control and disarmament that are taking place and are in prospect.

The House will commend the Prime Minister on her decision personally to attend the United Nations special session, although it may have some reservations about the fact that during the five-week session there will be no Forign Office Minister in attendance with the right hon. Lady. The House will hope that she will use the occasion, not for unhelpful rhetoric, but for exerting some political muscle to beak the deadlock that has been reached in disarmament negotiations. Will Her Majesty's Government use some of their influence to try to avoid the complications that will arise from the clash of dates between the Geneva summit and the United Nations special session, bearing in mind the widespread feeling on the issue?

As I have tried to make clear, there is no clash. We intend to take a lively part in the special session. It will not be a negotiating occasion but it might give a stimulus to those who are doing the negotiating in the different places where that is happening.

While I welcome my right hon. Friend's presence at this most important conference, can my right hon. Friend assure the House that the Government will bring forward fresh initiatives to encourage and promote multilateral disarmament? Will he ensure that the public are kept in touch? He must recognise that there is deep anxiety to see these initiatives stepped up.

I agree with my hon. Friend. We take initiatives where we think that it is sensible and useful to do so. We have done so recently in respect of chemical weapons. My hon. Friend is right about public information. We have recently published what I think is a reasonable pamphlet entitled "Peace and Disarmament". We shall do our best in the coming months to take our full part in public discussion.



asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has had any recent discussions with the Foreign Minister of France concerning the aid given and the policies pursued by France in respect of Nicaragua; and if he will make a statement.

No, Sir, but my right hon. and noble Friend has recently had discussions with the French Foreign Minister, M. Cheysson, on many issues, including Central America.

Is it not a fact that the French Government are recognising the freedom and independence of the Nicaraguans? Bearing in mind the overwhelming sympathy of the British people towards the Nicaraguans and their independence, is it not about time that the Government gave a lead to all the super Powers in urging them to allow the Nicaraguan's to have the freedom to which they are entitled?

We can all say that we want to see freedom and independence in that part of the world. The Government have noted with some concern that the Nicaraguan Government have decided to suspend all civil rights and to declare a state of emergency. We regret that very much. There are some indications that the Nicaraguan Government are not entirely independent, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. The actions that they are taking against the Miskito Indians causes great concern to those of us who have respect for human rights, as I am sure the entire House has. We want to encourage the consolidation of a pluralist society in Nicaragua. I have had two meetings this month with the Nicaraguan ambassador. The discussions have been extremely useful.

Has my hon. Friend heard, through the press or direct from the Nicaraguans, whether they plan to bring their proposed elections forward from 1985? If they are to continue to have a plural society, it will be helpful to have elections so that people with different political views can be elected to a Nicaraguan Assembly.

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I think that the outside world would be encouraged if there were evidence that the Nicaraguans were prepared to hold early elections and thereby demonstrated their wish to have a pluralist society. This is something that we have urged upon them in our recent discussions.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that on many occasions the United States Administration has made threats of direct intervention in the affairs of Nicaragua? It has been widely reported and not denied that the CIA has had a plan accepted costing $19 million for destabilisation of the regime in Nicaragua. As the United States has twice this century intervened by military force in Nicaragua, it is immensely important that Nicaragua should know that it has friends other than those in the Communist world who are prepared to support its desire for independence.

As was said in an earlier debate, the Government have no knowledge of the use of any particular United States funds through the CIA. We have also noticed that on a "Panorama" programme earlier this week ambassador Bosworth of the United States denied that the United States had any intention of military intervention, or the use of troops. We should take note of the fact that Secretary of State Haig has repeatedly said that the United States wants to foster and encourage democracy in that part of the world.

Is the Minister aware that many of us have had opportunities to talk to Mr. Bosworth on this issue, and while it may be the case that the United States does not intend to send its troops to Nicaragua, it has made threats, widely reported in the American press, and supported by members of Congress and the Senate, of an organised campaign to destabilise the Government in Nicaragua? Does the hon. Gentleman not know that Nicaraguan terrorists are being trained in the United States for intervention inside Nicaragua? That, too, was recorded in the "Panorama" programme to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman and I disagree. Any actions that are taken by countries interested in stability, whether in Nicaragua or any other part of central America, would be to help to do what we can to foster greater stability. That is our objective. All I was saying was that I had noted, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has noted, that the United States Government's objective is to try to foster and encourage democratic Government. That is something with which we ought to agree rather than disagree.

While no one in the House can doubt that the replacement of the Somoza regime by the Sandanista revolution was a step forward, does my hon. Friend agree that the injection of French weapons into the situation is not helpful? Does he accept that there is grave disappointment in Nicaragua about a Government who have allowed their revolution, which had much support, to go sour in the suppression of civil rights, to bring about the militarisation of the country and the use of Nicaragua as a base for the destabilisation of surrounding countries?

The British Government do not believe that it would be helpful to sell arms to Nicaragua. We condemn and criticise the suspension of civil rights as a result of the recent declaration of emergency and we express concern about the substantial build-up of the military in Nicaragua beyond any requirement for their own defence purposes.

However, it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government to do whatever is possible to encourage and foster stability. We are in touch with Governments such as the Mexican Government and other Governments who play an important role in that part of the world.



asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress there has been in the intercommunal talks in Cyprus since his reply to the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) on 3 March, Official Report, c. 182.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what further discussions in the intercommunal talks on the future of Cyprus have taken place since his reply to the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) on 3 March, Official Report, c. 182.

There have been regular meetings throughout March. Some progress has reportedly been made towards an agreed statement making use of the evaluation tabled by the United Nations Secretary General in November. I understand that, at a meeting on 17 March, the Secretary General's representative opened a new phase in the discussion, to deal with freedom of settlement, movement and property.

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that international opinion generally agrees that intercommunal talks have reached a dead-end? Is he also aware that when President Kyprianou visits Rome next week for discussions with the Secretary General of the United Nations it will be put to the latter that the opinion of Cypriots is that they can make no further progress. Under these circumstances, and knowing that the Turkish Government have no intention, even after eight years' occupancy, of withdrawing their troops from Cyprus, has not the time come for the British Government to intervene if any progress is to be made?

It may be the hon. Gentleman's view that the talks have come to an end, but it is not the view of those taking part in the talks. In particular, a new phase of discussion has been opened by Mr. Gobbi. I do not know what President Kyprianou will tell the Secretary General of the United Nations next month when they meet. However, the talks are continuing. It is our view that they form the best basis for progress, and we wish to do everything that we can to support them.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the patience of the Greek Cypriot people is fast running out in their attempts to reach a possible honourable settlement? In view of the Minister's reply to my hon. Friend does he not think that the British Government should be putting pressure on the Turkish Administration to remove some of the many thousands of troops that they have on Cyprus? When will the right hon. Gentleman, or his right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, visit Cyprus so that he can see at first hand the tragedy on the island?

With regard to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, Mr. Rolandis will be coming to see me in about four weeks' time. That will be a useful start, and I hope to go to Cyprus shortly afterwards. With regard to the Greek Cypriots' patience running out, I should draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that they are still engaged in talks with Mr. Gobbi.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the intercommunal talks have now been going on for 15 years and that the results have been wholly ineffectual? How long are we and the people of Cyprus expected to continue with this form of negotiation? It has been fruitless up till now, which should surely lead us to the belief that a new initiative is required.

It has been made clear to us that a new initiative from us would not be welcome. My hon. Friend speaks of the talks having gone on for a long time. They have, but the evaluation tabled by the United Nations is only four months old.

Will my right hon. Friend recognise how welcome his statement about his proposed visit to Cyprus will be to many people on both sides of the House? When he is in Cyprus, will he take the opportunity to listen to both sides of the community, as he will find that what links them is much greater than what separates them? Will he continue to bear in mind the fact that despite the apparent relative non-success of the United Nations negotiations Britain still retains a responsibility as a co-guarantor and should take a major role in settling once and for all the affairs of this island?

We shall not forget our role as co-guarantor, but we believe that it is our duty to make our best efforts to further the efforts of the United Nations. Both President Kyprianou and Mr. Denktash are meeting the Secretary General next month, and I hope that this will prove that this is the way forward.

El Salvador


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement on the situation in El Salvador.

The results of the elections are not yet final. No one party appears to have an overall majority.

As the House knows, Her Majesty's Government take the view that if El Salvador is to achieve peace and stability, there is a need for peaceful rather than violent change and full respect for human rights and further progress on social and economic reform.

In view of the legitimate concern of Her Majesty's Government that there should be a concerted European response to the problems of Poland, Afghanistan and the Middle East, why do Her Majesty's Government not take the same view when it comes to a response to the problems of Central America? In particular, will the Minister say why we fell out of line with our European neighbours on the vote on human rights in the United Nations on 16 December, and why we broke the line on the question of observers?

It is right and important that the members of the European Community should continue to exchange views about Central Latin America. This will become increasingly important in the forthcoming weeks. What really matters if peace and stability are to be achieved in that part of the world is that the important nations such as Mexico, Venezuela and others, as well as the democratic nations such as Costa Rica, Honduras and so on should play a key role. It is their region, they have important views to express, and it is important to keep in touch with them.

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on having the wisdom to stick by his decision to send observers to the El Salvador elections so that the House may be informed independently of the nature of those elections and their outcome? With the apparent result of the elections, will my hon. Friend and the Government now support a negotiated settlement with all parties interested in the El Salvador problem?

We shall do whatever we can in our own way to try to foster peaceful change, social reform and respect for human rights. I was due to leave for Mexico tonight for discussions with the Mexican Government. I have decided to postpone my visit temporarily, but it will be helpful for us to have an exchange with them.



asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will raise at the United Nations Israeli conduct in the occupied territories, which is contrary to internationally accepted conduct on the part of occupying powers.

The United Nations Security Council is discussing the situation in the occupied territories at this moment in response to a Jordanian request. We have made clear our grave concern at recent developments on the West Bank, including the dismissal of the three mayors, and our hopes for an end to the violence which can only harm the prospects for a settlement.

In addition to those points, and recognising that many matters could be so raised, will the Government make a special point of raising the forcible and illegal closure of Bir Zeit university with the harassment of staff and students, which has now occurred for the fifth time in five years?

The action at Bir Zeit is one of the factors, although not the only one, that has built up this unfortunate situation. In New York, we are now trying to reach agreement on a resolution that can be carried by the Security Council which might help remedy this problem.

Does my hon. Friend agree that we are concerned not only about the closure of Bir Zeit university but about the closure of many other university and education establishments? Surely it is the wider aspect as well as the specific one that the Government should be drawing to the attention of the United Nations in the context of any resolution.

As I tried to explain in answer to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), we believe that many elements have built up this explosive situation on the West Bank, and through the Security Council and by other means we are trying to see what we can do to reduce the temperature.

The hon. Gentleman will be familiar with the Geneva convention, which deals with the rights and practices open to an occupying power when it militarily occupies another territory. We believe that some of the activities of the Israeli military Government in recent months have run counter to that. We also believe that it would be sensible for all concerned in the area to accept resolution No. 242, which calls for withdrawal from occupied territories, and to accept the right of Israel to exist in security.

Nuclear Weapons (Geneva Talks)


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will give a progress report on the Geneva talks aimed at limiting the number of intermediate nuclear weapons held by the Soviet bloc and the West.

In the first round of negotiations, which concluded on 16 March, the United States tabled a draft treaty embodying NATO's proposal to ban all the land-based intermediate range missiles of most concern to each side. The Soviet Union proposed limited reductions which would allow 300 such systems in Europe, but which would permit NATO no equivalent deployment. The second round of these negotiations will begin in May.

Will NATO's special consultative group again be brought into action to consider the next stage of the negotiations? In my hon. Friend's view, is the zero option still on the table or is it a dead letter?

The special consultative group, and the whole system of consultation within NATO, and between the United States and its allies, is working well in this area. The zero option remains on the table. It is embodied in a draft treaty. It is much the most radical and peaceable proposal on this subject that has been put forward by anyone, and we hope that everyone in this country concerned with the process of disarmament and arms control will support the zero option and do what they can to persuade everyone else to do the same.

While I welcome the Government's attachment to the zero option, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the planned Polaris D5 force will have the same number of warheads as the current SS20 force of the Soviet Union and, therefore, is difficult to ignore in any negotiation on European-based nuclear missiles?

Not only is the right hon. Gentleman confusing Polaris with Trident, but he is also confusing intermediate and strategic weapons. We hope that it will soon be possible also to start negotiations on strategic weapons. We believe that that will be an important part of the process of seeking disarmament through balanced and verifiable measures.

I welcome that statement. Does it imply that the Government are prepared to throw the Trident D5 force into the START negotiations?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) seems to be ignoring the fact that the D5 option is related to the mid-1990's and that there are presently about 300 SS20's in position?

My hon. Friend is right. The House discussed this matter in great detail on Monday. The question of my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) related to the intermediate force negotiations now proceeding in Geneva. Surely it must be sensible to see whether we can make progress in this area. For that purpose, the United States, on behalf of the alliance, has made a very radical and worthwhile proposal.

Should the right hon. Gentleman not request the United States to defer deployment of cruise missiles in Europe at the end of next year if there is any possibility of agreement being reached? If that decision is not made clear at this stage, are we not presenting the conference with a fait accompli?

It is up to the Russians. They have presented the alliance with a fait accompli by deploying the SS20s week-by-week in this period. If they now not only freeze that but are prepared to do away with this type of weapon, of course there will be no need for cruise and Pershing. That has been clear since December 1979.

European Community

I shall not ask the question, Mr. Speaker, because I hope to catch your eye to put a supplementary question on the statement to be made later by the Prime Minister.

European Commission (British Nationals)


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make representations to the President of the European Commission about the situation whereby fewer British nationals are employed by the Commission at all grades above A7 than nationals from the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Italy.

I raised the problem of British under-representation in the Commission services, which in fact applies only to certain levels, with the President of the Commission when I called on him in October last year, and wrote subsequently to the Commissioner responsible for personnel matters. Since then we have been in frequent touch with those concerned in the Commission at many levels, most recently with Mr. Pisani, Commissioner for Development, when he was in London on 16 March. The Commission recognises the existence of the problem and is taking steps, with our encouragement, to redress the position, for example through the open competition now in progress.

As there is now no reasonable doubt about the permanence of our membership of the EEC, should not British participation in the institutions of the Commission reflect our size and importance? Is it not absurd that at every level, except the top, the number of British civil servants in Brussels is not much more than half that of France, Italy and Germany? Is there a shortage of British applicants for those important jobs?

There is no shortage of applicants and agree that our nationals are under-represented. That is the point that I made to the President and to Mr. Pisani. They recognised the problem, which is not confined to Britain. Other more recently joined nations have the same problem and they are taking steps to set it right. That is a slow process, because vacancies do not occur all the time.

Can the Lord Privy Seal give us more. information about whether British people are applying for the jobs? Is there not also the problem that top civil servants employed by the British Government in Brussels are paid more than those who are employed by the Commission? The Commission people are overpaid, but we pay our people, for example, £36,000 as against £32,800. Is it not time that the rates were brought into line and the overpayment reduced all round?

The principle of the rate for the job should be applied throughout the Commission. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is no shortage of British applicants.

In a number of areas, especially industry and commerce, do not British interests sometimes lie importantly with Brussels? If so, is it not even more important that Britons should hold a fair share of responsible posts within the Commission?

Yes, Sir. That is the purpose of our representations, which are slowly having an effect.

Has this not, unfortunately, gone on for some years? Will the Lord Privy Seal have a word with the previous President, who has attended the House only when being introduced, to see whether he has any suggestions for saving British taxpayers' money and helping the British Government?

Council Of Ministers (Meetings)


asked the Lord Privy Seal what additional meetings have been arranged by the Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community for the months of April or May; and for what purposes.

The forecast of business for the month of April was placed in the Library of the House on 29 March. In May it is expected that there will be meetings of the Agriculture, Steel, Social Affairs, Finance, Fiscal, Foreign Affairs and Energy Councils. As I told the House on 24 March, Foreign Ministers are to meet on 3 April to carry forward their discussions on the mandate.

Will the Lord Privy Seal confirm that it is the Government's intention that, whatever arithmetical agreement is reached, there will be a review clause at the end of the determined period? If so, is it satisfactory that we must renew our contribution to the EEC on a lease every four years?

We believe that a settlement of the problem should be for a period of five years, or more if we can get it. However, I agree that a review at the end of whatever period is determined is essential.

To what extent can I pass on to my constituents who are engaged in fishing an assurance from my right hon. Friend that something will be resolved definitely in the next nine months to protect their interests and prevent them from losing their livelihood by the end of that period?

I hope that the matter will be resolved. As my hon. Friend knows, we are awaiting the Commission's proposals on the total allowable catches and quotas, which I hope will be forthcoming soon.

Will the Government give an unequivocal assurance that there will be no question of further cutting Britain's capacity to make steel at the proposed Steel Council meeting?

Reform And Structuring


asked the Lord Privy Seal what propress has been made in the negotiations designed to reform the structure and policies of the European Economic Community since his reply to the hon. Member for Southend, East on 3 March, Official Report, c. 188.

The Foreign Affairs Council devoted 23 March to a detailed discussion of the budget problem, the outcome of which I reported to the House on 24 March. The subject was further considered at the European Council and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be reporting on this shortly. Foreign Ministers will meet again on 3 April and will take as a basis for their discussion the suggestions that have been put forward by the Presidents of the Council and the Commission concerning the method of dealing with the United Kingdom's budgetary problem.

As about two-thirds of the total CAP expenditure was concerned with disposing of surplus foodstuffs to Russia and elsewhere, as most Common Market countries—including Britain—are finding ways of evading the CAP, and as the CAP is the basis of the continuing British budgetary problem, is my right hon. Friend at least willing to discuss with his colleagues in Europe the possibility of scrapping the CAP so that we can resolve many problems and begin to co-operate on matters in which we have common interests?

As my hon. Friend knows, our aim is not to scrap the CAP but to reform it. I agree with him that one reform that is needed is that not so much should be spent on producing goods in surplus.

To what extent does my right hon. Friend anticipate that the likely accession of Spain and Portugal will assist the process of reform on which our minds are set?

Before Spain and Portugal accede, we should have solved our immediate problems, because it would not be in the interests of the Community to enlarge without solving those problems.

Policy Co-Ordination


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he plans to pay an official visit to the European Economic Community Commission in Brussels to discuss policy coordination matters.

I paid an official visit to the Commission in October last year. I have no immediate plans for another formal visit, although I regularly meet the President and other members of the Commission in the course of normal Community business.

Although a fair and proper resolution of our budgetary problems is essential and must be obtained as soon as possible, does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is remarkable that even Labour Party spokesmen accept that if we scrap CAP aid our domestic farm prices support system would cost over £2 billion?

Will my right hon. Friend advise the House whether, as of today, we have received full reimbursement of the moneys due under last year's European budget?

We have received nearly all our money. I believe that a small amount remains to be paid, but we should receive it soon.

Without anticipating what the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister will say, can the Lord Privy Seal tell the House whether the Government are turning their attention formally to what is likely to happen if the French dig in their heels, if we do not reach an agreement on the budget, and if—rightly—we do not agree to the farm price increases without an agreement on the budget? What are the Government likely to do? Is he aware that so long as the Government stand firm, the Opposition will support them? We do not want any backing down whatever on this question.

I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says, and I am always grateful for his support. I shall not give him details of any plans that we might have in mind if there were a total breakdown in the discussions, because it is our hope and belief that there will not be such a breakdown.

Reform And Structuring


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in view of his statement in the Official Report on 3 March, c. 267, he has anything further to add on British budget contributions; and if he will make a statement.

I refer the hon. Member to my reply earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor).

Is the Minister aware that when Britain entered the Common Market we were told that, irrespective of budget contributions, unemployment would be reduced? Throughout the five-year transitional period, when we were paying less than the others, we were told that that would also assist Britain to reduce unemployment. During the referendum campaign in 1975 we were also told that, whatever the budget contribution, unemployment would be reduced. We were also told that the refund that has just been mentioned would help Britain to bring down the level of unemployment. Is it not a fact that the Common Market, coupled with this Tory Government, is an unmitigated disaster, whatever the budget contribution?

It seems to have escaped the hon. Gentleman's attention that countries outside the Community also suffer from unemployment.

Will the Lord Privy Seal at least remind his colleagues in Europe that since we joined the EEC we have paid net more than £3,000 million, or more than £1 million every day of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays?

My hon. Friend has used those figures before. I remind him that our total net contribution last year was £55 million. That is an improvement, and the present discussions taking place in the Community are designed to secure the position for the future.

Does my right hon. Friend think that the nature of questions tabled by the Opposition in any way reflects their disappointment that the Labour Government were unable to achieve what the Conservative Government have manifestly done—secure a major reduction in the amount that we pay to the EEC?

I am sure that it does, and the Labour Party has a great deal about which to be disappointed

As the right hon. Gentleman is so scathing about the alternative of the guaranteed deficiency payments system that Britain operated before making such massive contributions to the CAP, will he say what calculations have been made by his Department on the possibility of again embarking upon a guaranteed deficiency payments system?

No. Because our efforts at present are designed to reform the CAP, and we believe that we shall be successful.

European Commission (President's Interview)


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will obtain a transcript of the interview with M. Gaston Thorn, President of the EEC Commission, during which he made comments upon the Prime Minister and Her Majesty's Government; and whether he will publish this in the Official Report.

No, Sir. The hon. Member will have noted that the Commission has issued a statement which makes it clear that Mr. Thorn was misreported. I understand that the radio station concerned has since confirmed this.

The original statement contained some rude and offensive remarks about our Prime Minister. That is now supposed to have been withdrawn. Why cannot we be told what the original statement said? If there was a correction, why should we not be told the facts? We have not yet seen the official details. The Minister has them. Why cannot he place them in the Library?

I did not say that the statement had been withdrawn. It could not have been withdrawn, because it was never made. Mr. Thorn's office and the radio station have confirmed that it was misreported. If the hon Gentleman wishes to see precisely what Mr. Thorn did say, I shall arrange for that information to be made available.

As Mr. Thorn is obviously embarrassed about this, will my right hon. Friend seek his. help and advice to establish what I am unable to establish—the view of the Commission and the EEC about our legal rights to keep EEC fishing vessels out of British waters after 31 December this year?

I do not think that matter arises from this question, but I shall pursue my hon. Friend's point.