HC Deb 04 May 1970 vol 801 cc27-8
30. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will now make a further statement on British relations with Malta.

Mr. George Thomson

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave the hon. Member on 6th April, and to the statement by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development on 27th April.—[Vol. 799, c. 24–5; Vol. 800, c. 881–90.]

Mr. Wall

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the bullying and ungenerous attitude adopted by the Government over what is, after all, a comparatively small amount of development aid, which is to be repaid in 25 years' time, is destroying good AngloMaltese relations and endangering the southern flank of N.A.T.O.?

Mr. Thomson

I cannot accept either of the hon. Member's adjectives. Far from bullying, we have been patiently discussing this matter with the Government of Malta since 1968, and we are ready to go on discussing it. Far from being ungenerous, we originally offered 25 per cent.—75 per cent. proportions, which were comparable with aid given to other countries in similar circumstances, and then we made a more generous arrangement of 50–50.

Mr. Moonman

I am sure my right hon. Friend will share the general distress which the whole House feels about the breakdown of the talks in Malta. Will he give attention to a central point of debate, which is whether one should give aid or grant, as the figures given about the tourist industry in Malta have been rather over-generous in their predictions?

Mr. Thomson

I am certainly conscious of the importance of this and the importance of relations with Malta, since I had the responsibility of dealing with them directly when I was Commonwealth Secretary. Like most hon. Members on both sides of the House, we have a strong sense of special obligation to Malta, but I can only repeat we have tried patiently to be as generous as possible.

Mr. Braine

The right hon. Gentleman will know that the aid and defence agreements of 1964 are linked. They are two sides of a mutually advantageous arrangement. In view of the difficulties which are arising out of the aid agreement, can he say whether the Government of Malta still accept all the detailed provisions of the defence agreement?

Mr. Thomson

The two agreements were, of course, linked in time. I am bound to tell the hon. Member that, in spite of the Motion on the Order Paper signed by a number of his hon. Friends which accuses us of failing in our consequential obligations, we have not failed in our consequential obligations. We are carrying out both the letter and the spirit of the financial agreement.

Mr. Braine

The right hon. Gentleman did not answer my question. I was asking him a purely factual question—whether, in view of the difficulties which have arisen over the aid agreement, the Government of Malta still adhere in every particular to the defence agreement?

Mr. Thomson

Perhaps I may give the hon. Member a factual answer of which he does not appear to be aware. Under Article II of the financial agreement its provisions are subject to the continuing operation of the defence agreement, but there is no similar commitment in the defence agreement making it dependent on the aid agreement. These agreements were made by the hon. Gentleman's Government.

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