HC Deb 06 March 1972 vol 832 cc1008-10
8. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will now make a further statement on the European conference on security and on the reasons for the delay in convening, it.

19. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made towards the arrangement of a European security conference, attended by representatives from both Eastern and Western Europe.

Mr. Anthony Royle

We and our N.A.T.O. allies have stated that we are ready to enter multilateral discussions to prepare for a conference as soon as possible after signature of the final stage of the Berlin Agreement. We are ready to sign this forthwith but the Russians wish to postpone signature until the West German Government has ratified its treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland.

Mrs. Short

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that proposals for a security conference have been made over the past 17 years, that after the recent Prague conference it was expected that the conference was to take place in 1972 and that I was told the other day in the defence debate that it would be held possibly in 1973? The situation thus goes on with one excuse after another. with more and more time being wasted and with no action being taken. Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that defence expenditure in this country, in the Soviet Union and in the United States goes on increasing year after year? Does he not think it time that he and his right hon. Friend did something to remove these phoney obstacles and got down to talking business?

Mr. Royle

Without wishing to be impolite to the hon. Lady, I think it is time she checked her facts. Her Majesty's Government and her Western allies are for their part ready to sign the final quadripartite protocol immediately. The Russians have said that they will not do so until the Federal Government's Eastern treaties have been ratified.

Mr. Hamilton

When do the Government expect the Berlin agreement to be signed, and what will be the delay between the agreement and the convening of the conference? Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, if and when the conference is convened, all our N.A.T.O. allies will be represented?

Mr. Royle

On the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I cannot reply for all our allies. As for the Berlin agreement, it has three stages. The first stage consists of a four-Power agreement which was signed on 11th September. The second stage was completed when the inner German agreements were signed on 17th and 20th December. The third stage is the final quadripartite protocol which will bring the whole agreement into force. We have made it plain that directly this is signed, and the treaties are ratified in Bonn by the Bundestag, as the Soviet Union requests, we shall be prepared to start preparations for a European security conference.

Sir A. Meyer

Is my hon. Friend aware that certain interests, including the Yugoslav Government, are in no great hurry to see this conference convened? In their opinion, so long as the conference is in the future there is some incentive for the Russian Government to moderate the pressure which they are exercising on Governments such as the Yugoslav Government.

Mr. Royle

I note my hon. Friend's comments. We are having talks with the deputy Yugoslav Foreign Minister over the next two days.

Mr. Healey

Since the hon. Gentleman has admitted that the only real obstacle to multilateral preparations for a security conference is the fact that the Bundestag and Bundesrat have not yet ratified the treaties in Bonn, could he inform the House whether he acquainted Dr. Schroeder during his recent visit with Her Majesty's Government's urgent hope that the treaties will be ratified at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Royle

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that it is the Russians who have said they will not sign until the Federal Government's eastern treaties have been ratified. We had discussions with Dr. Schroeder during his visit last week and all matters connected with the Federal Government's Ostpolitik and East-West relations were discussed.