HC Deb 02 February 1970 vol 795 cc12-3
12. Mr. Rose

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on developments in relation to Anglo-Libyan negotiations.

29. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the British withdrawal from Libya, and on relations with the new Republican Government.

Mr. M. Stewart

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) on 26th January. Arrangements for the withdrawal of British forces from Libya are proceeding satisfactorily, and with the co-operation of the Libyan authorities. [Vol. 794, c. 244.]

Mr. Rose

Will my right hon. Friend explain, after his supine failure to protest against the raping of British nurses in Libya and against our enforced withdrawal from Libya, and after his refusal to sell to Israel Chieftain tanks which were tested there, whether it is now his intention to proceed with negotiations for the sale of those tanks to Libya?

Mr. Stewart

First, my hon. Friend has his facts wrong. We did make protests. This matter has been fully discussed, and I think the general decision of sensible people is that the advice given and the attitude taken by the British Government was right. We are now searching for a new basis for a relationship between ourselves and Libya, since the basis on the former treaty clearly cannot now stand. As my hon. Friend knows perfectly well, we do not disclose details of particular arms transactions.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that he is negotiating to sell Chieftain tanks to Libya?

Mr. Stewart

No, Sir. We are at present discussing with the Libyan Government all aspects of the relationship between our two countries.

Mr. Mayhew

When my right hon. Friend is considering our arms policy towards Libya, will he bear in mind that Libya is not occupying tens of thousands of square miles of its neighbour's territory and is not bombing anybody's capital city?

Mr. Stewart

Some months ago I set out in the House what I believed was the right basis for our arms policy in the Middle East. After the war of 1967, we sought to get a general agreement that no one would supply arms. That did not prove possible. We would still partake in an all-round arms embargo if it were possible. Meanwhile, our policy will be not to act in a manner which puts either side in a position to think that it can achieve an easy victory over its enemies. This seems to me a sensible and humane policy to pursue, and we shall stick to it.

Sir B. Janner

Is my right hon. Friend taking into consideration in his arrangements with Libya the fact that Libya has entered into agreements with two States which have declared themselves direct enemies of Israel? Will he also take into consideration the fact that Israel is defending herself and that her opponents have deliberately set their minds against any arrangement consistent with the cease-fire agreement?

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend will remember that when I spoke of our arms policy generally I made it clear that before reaching any decision, yes or no, on the sale of arms, we took into account both the factors mentioned by my hon. Friend and everything else that might affect the peace of the Middle East.