HC Deb 08 July 1968 vol 768 cc25-7
24. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the régime in Greece.

25. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now make a further statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy in relation to civil rights and constitutional rule in Greece.

Mr. Mulley

We shall continue to work for a return to constitutional rule and democratic liberties in Greece.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the Foreign Office use its influence with the Prime Minister to revert from the language of the gutter to the language of diplomacy and so facilitate the restoration of King and constitution in Greece?

Mr. Mulley

I cannot accept that the two points of the hon. Gentleman's question are necessarily related. The House spent a considerable time on this matter last week, and I do not think that any useful purpose will be served by going into it again now.

Mr. Molloy

First, will the Minister give the House an assurance that he will not behave in such a simpering and sycophantic way as advocated by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas)? Secondly, as this régime is neither civil nor constitutional and uses torture to break body and spirit, is it the intention of my right hon. Friend to raise this matter at the N.A.T.O. Council, as he indicated, in reply to a previous supplementary question, that he does?

Mr. Mulley

I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that I will not conduct myself in a syohophantic way. I do not think I have ever before been charged with this particular crime.

I do not think at this juncture that it would be useful to raise the matter at the N.A.T.O. Council.

Sir F. Bennett

Can the Minister confirm that it is still the firm intention of Her Majesty's Government to maintain our present favourable balance of trade with Greece?

Mr. Mulley

I thought that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade set out with admirable clarity our desire to separate political and trade issues, and to trade not only with Greece, but with any other country with whom we can do it on a neutral basis.

Mr. Francis Noel-Baker

I think my right hon. Friend is aware that I was in Athens this morning. Is my right hon. Friend aware that recent statements have caused widespread indignation and offence in Greece among critics of the Government and others and among British residents in that country? Although the present Government did not come to power by democratic methods—[Interruption]—is my hon. Friend aware that they are not insensitive to public opinion and that statements of this kind are hardly calculated to assist British exports and orders under negotiation at the present time?

Mr. Mulley

I am glad to learn from my hon. Friend the importance of public opinion.

To put the whole matter in perspective, in a way that is done better in debate than in answer to questions, the Government's position was admirably set out on 11th April by the then Undersecretary. I would counsel hon. Members on both sides to see that we set out our position clearly and that we do not approve of the régime and our reasons for it.

Viscount Lambton

Will the Minister take this opportunity of saying whether the conversations on this matter between the King of Greece and the Prime Minister were private and whether the Prime Minister had the permission of the King of Greece to quote his interpretation of the talks?

Mr. Mulley

Such discussions are always private—so private I was not there, so I cannot assist the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. John Fraser

May I press my right hon. Friend on the question of raising this in N.A.T.O.? Is he aware that the N.A.T.O. Treaty contains a firm commitment to preserve individual liberty, democracy, and the rule of law? The philosophy of the N.A.T.O. Treaty is meaningless unless we raise this sort of thing within the Council.

Mr. Mulley

I agree that this is a matter of great concern to many N.A.T.O. countries, and it has been discussed in N.A.T.O., but as the Council of Ministers, which would have been the most appropriate forum, has just risen, it is unlikely that it would be acceptable to call a new Council on this issue at this moment of time.