§ 24. Mr. Swingler
asked the Lord Privy Seal why the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has accepted an official invitation to visit Spain on the eve of the spring meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council.
§ 25. Mr. Healey
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will state the reasons for the forthcoming official visit of the Foreign Secretary to Spain.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)
I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave yesterday to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies).
§ Mr. Swingler
The Lord Privy Seal will now have had an opportunity to reflect on the inadequacy of his Answer yesterday, Would he not now consider that, since every time this kind of exchange arises, the rumour is bound to circulate that there is some proposal to bring Spain into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, he might now bring himself to say that Her Majesty's Government will oppose the entry of Spain, under the present régime, into that organisation?
§ Mr. Healey
But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Foreign Secretary's visit is bound to dishearten those forces in both countries that work for more liberal régimes there? Will he, further to my hon. Friend's supplementary question, assure the House, which he did not do yesterday, that at least Her Majesty's Government do not intend to propose that Spain should become a member of N.A.T.O.?
§ Mr. Heath
As I say, I could not give any assurances in advance. These questions are matters for the N.A.T.O. alliance as a whole and must be considered in the light of the circumstances 231 at the time. That is the position. I cannot agree with the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question. My noble Friend is carrying out the policy advocated from the opposite side of the House that we should try to improve international relations by personal contacts with other countries, regardless of their internal régimes.
§ Mr. Healey
While welcoming the inference that the visit of the Foreign Secretary does not imply any approval of the régimes in the countries which he is visiting, will the Lord Privy Seal answer by question; namely, do Her Majesty's Government intend to propose that Spain should become a member of N.A.T.O.? This is a matter wholly within the competence of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Sir H. Studholme
Is it not an excellent thing that my noble Friend should be visiting a friendly and Christian country like Spain? Is it not also quite possible that there are a great many people in this country whose manners would improve considerably if they studied those of the average Spaniard?
§ Mr. Dodds
Would the Lord Privy Seal bear in mind, and also draw the fact to the attention of the Home Secretary, that Spain for some years now has behaved disgracefully to Gibraltar, that Gibraltar is a most important part of the Commonwealth, and that if there is to be any liberal dealing with Spain, Gibraltar should share in whatever results?
§ Sir P. Agnew
Although a proposal that Spain should join N.A.T.O. may not be on the official agenda, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the vast majority of the people of this country are anxious to do all they can to recreate the concert of Europe and that, therefore, Her Majesty's Government should not give a discouraging reply to any suggestion made by Spain that she should take part in the defence of Western Europe by joining N.A.T.O.?
§ Mr. Jeger
Will the Lord Privy Seal impress on his noble Friend that the 232 average Spaniard, like the average Briton, would like to have civil rights—freedom of association and worship, and the other freedoms inherent in the Charter of N.A.T.O.—and that friendship between Spain and Britain would be enhanced by the introduction of such freedoms in Spain today?