§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr.Pym.]
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)
We do not often have debates on foreign affairs in this House, and I intend to seize this opportunity to discuss the whole range of our foreign policy in some depth and to listen to the views and advice of right hon. and hon. Members.
I think that, even though the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is unable to be here, the House would wish me to launch this debate and to give a general review of international affairs. I shall include in a section by itself in this speech something on Rhodesia. I think that that would be for the convenience of hon. Members.
The feature of 1973 is change—widespread change, rapid change; change, we hope, for the better for the lives of ordinary people. The world scene is totally transformed in a number of ways from that which existed 10 or even five 1540 years ago. The last week's news has amply illustrated the extent of change. We have seen meetings and agreements between the President of the United States and Mr. Brezhnev which would have been literally impossible only a very few years back. The results in terms of détente or disarmament have to be proved in the future, but the trend towards collaboration between the world's two greatest Powers is of enormous potential. If it is the beginning of a continuing process from which trust and confidence can grow, it could lift a great weight of fear off the shoulders of ordinary men everywhere.
There is perhaps another lesson for Britain which I believe it is legitimate and timely to draw. In all the summitry that is going on, it is membership of the Economic Community in Europe which gives us the opportunity and the right to have notice taken of us, and I have seen many examples of that lately. Alone, we would have been in danger of being bypassed by events. We can now talk on equal terms and gain results from this partnership, and I shall illustrate that as I go on with the rest of what I have to say.
Another striking event of recent months is the fact and the degree to which China has at long last decided to play a full rôle in international politics. Here is another giant among the nations beginning to test its strength. These are early days, but we have been able to establish with China a very satisfactory working relationship. In my visit to Peking we were able to lay the foundations for it, in Mr. Chi P'eng Fei's recent journey to London we were able to consolidate understanding, and the Prime Minister has accepted an invitation to visit China later on.
On some interpretations of current events, owing to our widely differing political systems, we disagree, but in long discussions over many hours and over wide areas of policy we have found a good deal of common ground. Although China's foreign exchange will for some time ahead be hard earned, there should be a measurable increase in Sino-British trade. There have already been substantial purchases of British aircraft—of great importance to employment in this country—and we may reasonably look for more.
1541 For a long time ahead China's concentration must inevitably be on her internal programme of agricultural and industrial development rather than on external activities. In foreign policy in relation to the area south of her she is interested in achieving the non-alignment of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. That is the concept on which successive British Governments have been working since 1954, and if the Paris agreements are kept by North Vietnam—there has lately been a great deal of anxiety about this, illustrated by the Canadian withdrawal from the supervisory commission because it was being thwarted in its task—there is a chance that the goal of re-alignment may still be realised. This again would lift a burden of fear from South-East Asia and would enable the individual countries to devote their resources to the reconstruction of their homes and to the basic development of the food resources which are the simple needs of these naturally peaceful peoples.
Further afield, China does not wish to see the world divided and directed between the United States and the Soviet Union. That leads her to an active interest in the prospects of a united Europe moving towards economic and political unity. China also is definitely against monopoly control of the right of freedom of communication through all the oceans. Here again, our interests coincide. These are interests that she shares with her neighbour, Japan. We welcome the move towards a new and better relationship between the two major Powers in the area. I would underline here the importance of arriving at a satisfactory relationship between Japan and Western Europe, particularly in trade.
The third event which could prove equally momentous is the fact that a conference on European security and co-operation is about to open in Helsinki. This is a conference in which every nation in Europe, together with the United States and Canada, has been invited to take part. Again, such a conference would have been inconceivable only five years ago. It is, when the Warsaw Pact, NATO, the neutrals, the United States and Canada take part, a historic event in itself.
Of equal significance is the fact that the Atlantic Alliance and the European 1542 Community of the Nine, acting together throughout long months of preparation, have been successful in making sure that the conference concerns itself not simply with pious declarations of intent, but with matters of real substance which could lead to the practical beginnings of détente. High-sounding declarations of aims to live at peace in recent years have been two a penny; what have far too often been lacking are real moves towards peaceful living which could benefit the lives of ordinary people. That is what, essentially, we shall be talking about in Helsinki.
We have therefore, in complete harmony over many months, worked hard to ensure that the agenda for Helsinki focuses the attention of the committees and sub-committees which it is agreed will process the practical measures which can be taken—measures of substance. It is an important distinction between general declarations of intent and matters of substance and areas of agreement which can be devised between East and West. It does so in considerable depth and detail. The full texts of instructions for the committees are already in the Library.
I should like to draw particular attention to the terms of reference of the committee that will be dealing with the question of information and human contacts. They require the conference to:prepare proposals to facilitate the freer and wider dissemination of information of all kindsand toprepare proposals to facilitate freer movement and contacts, individually or collectively, privately or officially, among persons, institutions and organisations of the participating States".To show the House the practical character of what the conference will do, it is worth specifying that one committee will be required to pay particular attention to contacts and regular meetings on a basis of family ties, reunification of families, marriage between nationals of different States, travel for personal and professional reasons, improvement of conditions for tourism on an individual or collective basis, meetings among young people, expansion of contacts and competitions, particularly in sport. These provisions go to the very root of this matter and the root of the trouble so far between East and West.
1543 It has been the absence of these normal contacts between peoples that has so far stultified the development of a satisfying and productive relationship between Western Europe and the Soviet Union and the other countries of Eastern Europe. Admittedly, just as the meetings of Mr. Nixon and Mr. Brezhnev have to be proved by deeds—the proof of the pudding will be in the eating—so the results of this conference will have to be proved. We cannot say yet whether the results will match the expectations.
It was hard slogging to persuade the Russians to agree to any such agenda. It remains to test whether they will move from paper to action. All that I can say is that it is on the basis of this very detailed agenda and of the meetings of the committees set up to deal with these matters that the Russians have agreed. It is on this basis that they are coming to the conference with a public commitment to try to reach the goals which are set out under the different and detailed headings of the conference. The conference will open on 3rd July.
By comparison with recent years, there are also some other hopeful signs—the recent series of German-Soviet agreements, for instance, and the settlement to which Britain was a party which has noticeably improved the lot of the inhabitants of Berlin. This is very different from the cold war and of course the airlifts into Berlin, which are within the recollection of hon. Members. Then, of course, there is the coming entry of the Federal Republic of Germany and East Germany into the United Nations. This is all a tentative start, but nevertheless it is a start which should give confidence that we may, with statesmanship, be able to reach a more fruitful relationship between East and West and build upon it.
The House will therefore welcome with satisfaction, I think, the results of the meeting between President Nixon and Mr. Brezhnev which has just concluded. Among other achievements of that meeting is the signed Declaration of Principles on Strategic Arms Limitation, which should give an impetus to the talks in their second and more important phase. The agreement also on a common purpose to prevent nuclear war should help to reduce the risk of a war by accident or miscalculation. As I have read these documents and declarations very care- 1544 fully, I think that I can say with confidence that the interests of the Western alliance as a whole seem to have been fully protected in what has been said and written. Again, it is fair to deduce that all this is far more promising than it would have been five years ago.
Therefore, the Helsinki conference will be complementary to these arrangements made between President Nixon and Mr. Brezhnev and, if it is successful, it will be a European and Russian contribution to an improvement in the quality and prospects for the coming generations in this part of the world in which we are so intimately associated.
On Tuesday, therefore, we go to the first stage of the conference opening on 3rd July. The committee stage will take place in Geneva, beginning probably in September; when that has completed its work—it would be wrong to lay down any time limits; we do not want to be held up on the broad intentions but to work on until we get practical results—there will be a final meeting of the series which Ministers will attend. The level of ministerial representation will obviously depend, in the eyes of NATO and of the Nine, on the results that have been achieved.
Some hon. Members are interested in the question of some kind of permanent institutional machinery following the conference. There is an item on the agenda which will enable these and other questions relating to any follow-up to the conference to be discussed. We have an open mind on the possibilities. We shall wish to see how the conference goes, what work emerges from it and the substance of the decisions taken before reaching any positive conclusions on new machinery of a permanent character.
Relations between Eastern Europe and Western Europe remain of vital importance to this country. We in Britain fully recognise this and we regard our relationship with the Soviet Union as a most important element in our overall foreign policy. A satisfactory relationship requires both mutual respect and mutual interest. Our relations are now improving and have a chance on the new basis to thrive. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry paid a successful visit to Moscow a short time ago.
1545 As the House is aware, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh is going to Kiev in September.
We do not endorse all aspects of life in Russia. Nor do we expect that the Russians will wholly subscribe to the way of life which we have chosen. But we believe that we can expand our contacts and improve them. Just as we believe in the case of countries of whose political policies we do not approve that contact and not ostracism leads to peaceful change, so we must keep contacts with the Soviet Union and develop those contacts and hope for good results.
The other conference is the Conference on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions, which, it has now been announced, will open on 30th October. As the House will appreciate, this involves the most complex military calculations. It deals essentially with the security of both the Soviet Union and the NATO Alliance, European safety and Atlantic security.
The essence of the problem will be this. How, when NATO as compared with the Warsaw Pact is so thin on the ground and when Russia is so close and America so far, can we reduce armaments and still preserve our security? How can we lower the level and still preserve the relative strength of the Warsaw Pact and the NATO Alliance? That is of absolute importance for a reason which is apparent, perhaps, to the professionals but not so apparent to ordinary people.
For some time we relied for the security of West on what was known as the "tripwire" strategy, that is, the immediate response to any aggression by the use of nuclear weapons, either tactical or strategic. Its replacement by the present strategy of flexible response was right. I am certain of that. But to maintain flexibility there must be sufficient conventional forces on the ground to gain time for diplomacy to work in a crisis.
I think that it is obvious that being sparsely spread on the ground in relation to the Warsaw Pact deployment, as far as nuclear weapons are concerned, and with Russia still continuing to add substantially to her already preponderant strength in that area, in spite of the calls of the Chinese front, and still adding substantially to the numbers of her men and the quality of her weapons, the Alliance 1546 has to be extremely cautious as to the numbers of men and conventional weapons which it can afford to withdraw.
Unless we take care, we shall find ourselves—this is a very serious consideration—in a position of getting back to the "tripwire" again. I do not think that anyone would want to do that. Moreover, this time, the "tripwire" would be less credible.
We discussed MBFR at the recent NATO Council meeting in Copenhagen and agreed that some progress had been made at the last exploratory talks in Vienna. The Alliance remains convinced that the test of progress must be our undiminished security at every phase of a programme of reductions; otherwise confidence will fly out of the window.
This recent NATO meeting, which I attended last week, was generally judged by all there to have been successful. No one has said or would hold that the Alliance cannot be improved. Equally, no one suggested that any advantage would be gained by pulling it up at the roots and having a look at it and trying to plant something else. In the words of one delegate—perhaps the most unlikely delegate—"We have a jolly good Alliance; let us stick to it." By and large I think that that was felt to be the position which most of the Ministers held.
Over the years Europe may be able to carry more responsibility. That is possible, although I hope that the Americans will recognise how much Europe already does in relation to European defence. This is, perhaps, not generally understood in this country, either. The Europeans provide 90 per cent. of the Alliance's ground forces in Europe, 75 per cent. of its air forces and 80 per cent. of its naval forces in the European area. By any count, that is a substantial contribution to the Alliance. It is a lot. The members of the "Eurogroup" have demonstrated their collective determination to maintain and improve their defence efforts within the Alliance through a five-year European defence improvement programme, which was started in 1970.
Thus it can fairly be said that the Europeans recognise and are already responding to the need for a different balance in the relationship between the United States and Europe within the 1547 Alliance. Mr. Rogers, in turn, recognised this time in the NATO Council that the American presence in Europe was just as much about the security of the United States as it was about the security of the countries of Western Europe.
There are some who would argue in the context of NATO that the internal policies of Greece and Portugal and Portuguese policies in Africa are such that those two countries should be expelled or suspended from NATO. This seems to me to mark a fundamental miscalculation of what foreign policy and security are about. How would a drastic blow to the security of the West, exposing the Portuguese seaboard of the Atlanic Alliance and the south-east corner of Europe, result in a change of the internal policies of those two countries?
Foreign policy and defence are matters too serious to be conducted on the basis of emotional reactions to aspects of other Governments' policies over which we have no control. Rt. hon. Gentlemen of the Opposition, when they were in office, held exactly the same opinion.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
When Opposition Members were in office, they were rather more trenchant in their criticisms of the Greek Government's internal policy, in the Council of Europe at least, than the present Government have been in the context of the EEC.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
That may be a matter of opinion. [Interruption.] I think that it is a matter of opinion. The hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) is inclined to laugh. I quote to him what one member of his right lion. Friend's Cabinet said in this context. Presumably he was speaking for the whole Cabinet, although that does not always happen. He put it in this way:NATO is a defence alliance. Actions against Greece in NATO would not necessarily help the Greek people, but would undermine the security of the south-east flank of NATO, thus putting at risk democratic ideals and parliamentary institutions on a scale far wider than Greece."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December 1969; Vol. 793, c. 1139.]He was a wise right hon. Gentleman who spoke at that time. I should inform the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court that he was a most distinguished and respected right hon. Member and 1548 one who has considerable wisdom—Mr. George Thomson.
A fourth development in recent months has been the growing realisation, on both sides of the Atlantic, of the importance of developing and improving the United States-European relationship in a number of fields. If President Nixon comes to Europe this year, I believe that he should meet both the NATO Alliance and the Community. The Nine have yet to decide how it should best be organised, but such a meeting would help to symbolise the progress made in European integration since the President last visited in 1969. However useful such a visit would be, it would be no substitute for hard work on issues which are currently important in relations between Europe and the United States.
These will have to be debated in the existing fora which conduct their business in different time scales—the Committee of Twenty and the International Monetary Fund for money; the GATT for trade, and NATO for security.
Good progress has been made in the trade field. In the early hours of Tuesday the Council of Ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, was able to reach agreement on a comprehensive paper setting out the Community's overall approach to the forthcoming multilateral trade negotiations. This fulfils the "Summit" commitment to reach agreement within the Community on an overall approach to the negotiations by 1st July; and when the paper is printed, as it surely will be, it will be seen to provide a sensible and practical framework which should enable the trade talks to start as planned in Tokyo in September.
Two conditions were necessary before a calm and sober look at the possibility of trade talks was possible. The first was that the rather shrill rhetoric in the United States about their problems with Europe should give way to a calm examination of the facts. In fact, the United States' balance of payments problem derives from Japan and Canada and only very marginally from Europe. According to American statistics, the amount of American trade deficit attributable to the Community in 1972 was 8.8 per cent.
The second condition was that the Community should avoid doctrinaire 1549 positions and clearly affirm its fundamental interest in the further liberalisation of world trade. I am glad that the approach now adopted by the Council of Ministers reflects this thinking.
The climate for a sober and confident approach is now much better. Last time there was quite a success by the Six in the Kennedy Round. There is no reason why the Nine should not match that performance.
But the Community is not concerned merely with its relations with its industrialised partners. In July negotiations will begin for the next Convention of Association which will replace the present Yaoundé Convention.
I think that everyone now fully realises that what the Community is aiming at is a co-operative relationship of benefit to Europe and to the African countries which has nothing to do with neocolonialism. The 20 developing Commonwealth countries covered by Protocol 22 will have the opportunity to participate in these negotiations alongside the existing associate. We very much hope that they will take this chance. We had the chance the other day to talk to General Gowon about the important part that Nigeria, for example, could play.
Although the details of the mandate for these negotiations have not yet been decided by the Community, it is certain that the developing countries concerned will be offered tariff-free access to the Community market for the bulk of their produce and access to the European Development Fund.
Though it is for the countries concerned to decide for themselves on the nature of the relationship and the options they choose for association with the European Economic Community, we hope that they will not forgo the advantages in aid and trade which association will bring. We greatly look forward to seeing them at the opening conference in Brussels on 25th and 26th July, attendance at which will in no way commit them to accepting the terms which may eventually be worked out and offered.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Is it true that we have accepted that the common agricultural policy shall not be negotiable in these negotiations?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I had better leave the whole document, as it was decided early on Tuesday morning, to be studied by the right hon. Gentleman. The agricultural policy is seen by the whole Community to be basic to the Community's existence. That does not mean that there cannot be some changes of some kind in it—[Interruption]—it will cover all aspects, including sugar. We hope that the conference with the developing countries on 25th and 26th July will be successful in paving the way for substantial benefits to them.
I believe that in all these matters which affect so many people our objectives and our work towards them in the Community are on the right lines.
I do not intend today to dwell any longer on the fact that we are now a member of the European Community. It is a fact and we must look to the future. I will say just this. Whatever the arguments may be—the House has had ample opportunity to debate these—of one thing there can be no doubt. By being in the Community we have an influence which we could not possibly exert to the same degree outside.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Does the Secretary of State recognise that some of us are sad that this influence does not extend to influencing France in her nuclear test programme? May I ask the right hon. Gentleman quietly and unvituperatively in this foreign affairs debate to reflect on why he and the Prime Minister have absolutely failed to influence the French Government?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The hon. Gentleman might well address that question to many other people. We have represented to France that we do not think that there should be any more tests in the atmosphere. Therefore, our position is that we do not think that these tests should be carried out, but the French are capable of making their decisions for themselves. They will no doubt decide in the light of all the approaches which have been made to them whether to go ahead.
Therefore, as I look at the broad sweep of policy in relation to the emergence of China, in relation to the security conference to be held with the Soviet Union and 1551 the Warsaw Pact, in relation to the formation of the Community and its progress, I think that we can report progress.
As always in the conduct of foreign affairs there are some areas that justify optimism. There are other areas still faced with stubborn problems but where it should be possible to see a way through. The Indian subcontinent is certainly one where rigid positions must give way to neighbourliness. The price of separation and non-co-operation is too high on that continent. There are signs that this is recognised by all three countries—India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
But there are other areas where we seem to be stuck as regards reconciliation and where the future is depressing. The Middle East is the most outstanding. Two profoundly emotional human needs are there in conflict—security and sovereignty. It was these needs which were taken into account in Resolution 242, which has been accepted by both Israel and Egypt. Implementation of this resolution, with all its ambiguity, remains the best hope for peace.
In so far as we can help—unfortunately, the wish is not necessarily the father to the deed—we will do so. But I cannot report to the House that I am optimistic. Everyone for years past has been looking for an answer in terms of reconciliation. None has found it. Sooner or later negotiations must take place. We will use all our influence wherever we can to bring that about.
I said at the beginning of my speech that I would include a section on Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Before the Secretary of State turns to the question of Rhodesia, will he enlarge a little on the current policy of the Government with regard to Resolution 242? Does he say that his interpretation of that resolution is consistent with the previous Government's interpretation; or does he support an amendment to it?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I think that our interpretation is exactly the same. [Interruption.] I hope that it is. I do not think that we want to amend Resolution 242, because I do not think that we should get any consent in the United Nations to another resolution. We had better stick to it as it is.
1552 I turn to the question of Rhodesia. Since the Pearce Commission reported last May, we have been endeavouring to maintain contact as best we can with all shades of opinion in Rhodesia, including the Rhodesian authorities. To this end there have been various contacts with officials and others. Rhodesian officials have been to London. There have been meetings with the ANC and with other people, European and African, from Rhodesia. We have, as I indicated to Parliament, maintained the status quo as creating the best climate for discussion between Rhodesians.
I sent Sir Denis Greenhill to Salisbury from 22nd June to 25th June with my political secretary and an official of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They had two meetings with Mr. Smith and a meeting with Bishop Muzorewa. They also saw a number of prominent Africans and Europeans. They took no new proposals to Salisbury, nor did they bring any back. They were not engaged in any new settlement negotiation.
The purpose of the visit was to provide me with an assessment of the present position in Rhodesia. That was necessary because it is very difficult to obtain the first-hand knowledge we need if we are to make up our mind how to proceed. I shall study their report, and shall thereafter have to consider whether any further move would be appropriate.
However, as I have told the House before, I do not think that the problems of Rhodesia can be solved from London at this stage. What is required is for Europeans and Africans in Rhodesia to try to seek solutions to their problems between themselves. After the short talk I have had with Sir Denis since he came back, I see no reason at present to vary that judgment.
I think that the people of Rhodesia, both the ANC and Mr. Smith and his Government, now realise that a settlement is essential. The question is how they achieve it between themselves. It is better at present that we allow them to talk. If they felt later that we could help towards an honourable settlement, we should always be ready to consider that, but first there must be a greater measure of agreement than there is now between Europeans and Africans. Otherwise, no settlement would be stable.
1553 I hope, therefore, that I can speak for the House in appealing to the two sides in Rhodesia to try to come together in a spirit of mutual compromise—that is what is needed—to seek just solutions to their problems which take account of the practical realities of the situation in their country.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and for the brief explanation he has given the House. Will he confirm that he still feels bound by the view that there can be no settlement which does not fully honour the five principles, the six principles, however defined? Will he repudiate reports—I am sure that the House would be glad to hear him do so—that the Government were disenchanted by the Pearce Report and would not wish to repeat the experiment of the Pearce Report? Will he confirm that he is bound by the proposals for what we called a Royal Commission, which he followed last year? I hope that he can confirm, and the House will be delighted if he can, reports we have read today that his emissaries made clear to Mr. Smith that auy future negotiations from now on must include representative Africans no less than European participants.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
We have always—and I say it again—stuck to the five principles. If it comes to a test of opinion in the future, we shall have to decide what the test is, but it must be consistent with the principles we have always followed. We shall not obtain an agreement which sticks unless responsible Africans join Mr. Smith in representing it to the British Government as a basis for Rhodesia's independence. I hope that they will be able to do that. I hope that they will be able to come together. As I said just now, I think there are signs that at last they are begining to realise how essential a settlement is for Europeans and Africans in Rhodesia.
In those circumstances, although I should like to return in July, before we rise, and perhaps give an account of my latest thinking on the matter, I believe the best chance, the best climate, for the settlement is created by maintaining the status quo.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am not quite sure what the right hon. Gentleman meant by his second answer on the Pearce Commission. Can he go further? There were reports today, which appeared well informed, that his emissaries from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are taking the view that from now on any meaningful negotiations, not fact-finding, emissary tours such as that which we have just had, must include responsible African leaders of opinion as well as Europeans. Are those stories true?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The stories are, I think, jumping one or two moves ahead. I think that first responsible Africans must talk to Mr. Smith, and they must come to an agreement. I have said that if we can help later we shall do so, with both Europeans and Africans representing a proposal to us. That seems to me the right way to proceed.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up one point? Did Sir Denis Greenhill come back as planned or was he recalled prematurely? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, whilst it is wholly admirable for Mr. Smith to talk with the majority of the population who actually live in Rhodesia, it is rather difficult if so many of them are in prison?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Sir Denis came back as planned. The reason why I did not announce his going before he went is that I think that normally one would not do so, and I have a preference in a difficult situation for quiet diplomacy.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Smethwick)
Has the right hon. Gentleman made representations to the illegal régime, either in the latest talks or in any earlier talks, that each individual member of that régime will be held responsible, when the time comes, for the illegal execution of the freedom fighters engaged in the liberation of Zimbabwe?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
We have made representations to the Rhodesian Government about their attitude towards people who are imprisoned without trial.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I am sure that the whole House, and both Africans and Europeans, want to find a way in which we can honourably bring Rhodesia back to a legal relationship with this country. If the hon. Gentleman will concentrate on that, he will do very much better than he does now.
There are many other aspects of foreign policy which will no doubt be touched upon in the debate, and my colleagues will seek to deal with them and to answer the points which right hon. and hon. Members may raise.
There is a great interest in the House in aid and overseas development. A Select Committee is sitting to consider the subject. Britain must continue to play her part in the international effort to improve the condition of the least economically developed countries. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is paying special attention to the problems of the remaining dependent territories, which often do not receive the public attention that they should deserve. We must help to create an environment in which trade and investment can grow to the advantage of all, and in which the strains and inequalities between nations can be reduced. In the Commonwealth context trade is better than aid, but aid still has a part to play. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development hopes to say more on aid matters later today.
On the topics in the main stream of foreign policy with which I have attempted to deal, I would sum up my speech in this way, It has been about talk between nations. Talk is emphatically better than war, and it is better still when the inspiration of that talk is peace which is real. Therefore, we must prove that the Helsinki talks or whatever other international negotiations we conduct with the Russians and the Warsaw Pact are substantial.
Perhaps our main task is to attempt to create a new relationship between the West and the Soviet Union without sacrificing security. It is not enough to be satisfied with a relationship which would mean a freezing of the status quo in Europe, allowing encroachments elsewhere. Our relationship must be based on a real desire to live together in peace, and a mutual interest in doing so.
1556 Equally important is the nourishing of a fruitful relationship between the new Western Europe and the United States. Divergence of policies between America and Europe would be a major disaster for the free world.
Thirdly, we should add to our circle of friends. I hope that my noble Friend the Minister of State will speak later in the debate about our position and our policies, which I think are being successful, in the Middle East, the Gulf and the Sudan.
I have been much impressed lately with the constructive tone of the conversations I have had with Kenyan Ministers and with General Gowon.
The Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference at the beginning of August will have the opportunity to review the wide sweep of change of which I have been speaking. I hope that the Prime Ministers will add their voice decisively to what I am convinced must be the theme of 1973 and the years ahead—reconciliation. If we can concentrate on that, there is at long last a portent—althought it is only so far the "size of a man's hand"—of a theme which is worthy of man.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
We shall wish to study carefully the content and import of the statement on Rhodesia which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has made. We are grateful to him that at such short notice he was able to say so much today.
As this is a two-day debate, there will be opportunity for my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who is today unavoidably absent, to give our more considered views tomorrow on the implications of the statement which we have just heard. Because of the difficulties about printing the OFFICIAL REPORT, and the serious difficulties caused to hon. Members, I wonder whether, exceptionally, the right hon. Gentleman might manage to make available to hon. Members duplicated copies of his speech, or at least that part of it dealing with Rhodesia, today or by tomorrow morning?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I have already made arrangements to do so. I shall try to make more copies available.
§ Mr. Roberts
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his prescience. We are most grateful for the concessions which he has already made. In the meantime, there are some matters which should be raised at once regarding the new development in the Rhodesian situation. If I overlap to some extent with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I am sure that the House will bear with me. These matters need to be reiterated.
First, we take it that the mission was trying to assess present attitudes in Rhodesia and took with it no new proposal or proposals departing from those of the Pearce Commission. Secondly, may we take it that the essential condition of acceptability to the people of Rhodesia as a whole was in no way qualified by the mission in the course of assessing the attitudes which now exist in that country? Third, and this is extremely important, may we understand that the mission had unimpeded access to black as well as white leaders of the Rhodesian people and not only leaders of the African National Council, including its chairman, Bishop Muzorewa, but those who are at present incarcerated and who represent an important facet or element of African opinion in Rhodesia and throughout the continent?
I shall now leave the Rhodesian question, anticipating that my right hon. Friend, the Member for Cardiff, South-East will tomorrow be dealing with it in greater depth.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I said that if we came again to a test of opinion, we should have to make up our mind what form that test should take.
§ Mr. Roberts
I was not dealing with the form of the test, but I hope that the form of the test will be as thorough and as credible in its final result as that undertaken by the Pearce Commission. I take the point that it may well be necessary to consider the form nearer to the day, if that day comes.
I shall now deal with the general debate. While it is inevitable that Rhodesia will figure prominently in speeches by Government and Opposition Members, the debate will range over a wide range of topics. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has treated us to a comprehen- 1558 sive tour of the whole scene. It might be helpful if I indicate how those of us who will speak from the Opposition Front Bench will aim to apportion broadly between the two days the various subjects which we think should be discussed. It can be only a broad apportionment and inevitably there will be a certain amount of overlap, though I hope no undue repetition.
Today we shall deal mainly with a group of subjects which can be described as being of immediate urgency. While all foreign affairs are urgent, some are somewhat more urgent than others. There are uppermost in the minds of many hon. Members, and in the minds of people throughout the country, certain questions which can fairly be described as of imminent urgency—for example, the famine crisis in West Africa and India, our relations with Greece and Portugal and the implications of Portuguese policy on the whole of the African Continent, and the French nuclear test in the Pacific. Later today, my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) will deal with overseas aid.
Tomorrow my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East will deal with the issues on which policy is in the process of continual formation, for example, European security and cooperation, force reduction, the law of the sea, the Middle East and Rhodesia. Although the two latter subjects could fairly be described as always being in a state of urgency, it can be said that there, too, policy is in the process of formation. I shall make some reference in my speech to the Middle East and Rhodesia.
The matters of immediate urgency to which I come at once are the famine crises in West Africa and India. The situation in West Africa is clearly one of mounting tragedy. Six countries are involved in the consequences of one of the most prolonged and disastrous droughts in history. Mauretania, Niger, Mali and Chad are in the grip of a terrible famine which is spreading into Senegal and the Upper Volta.
The immediate need is to move supplies to the afflicted villages. Time is limited. That is the urgency of the situation. Soon the rains may make the roads impassable. It is a grim paradox that the lack of rain has created a crisis 1559 of survival for 6 million people and that the onset of the rains may make their rescue difficult if not impossible.
There is deep concern in the House and in the country about the Government's slowness of reaction to this terrible tragedy. We seek a detailed statement about what the Government have done and are doing to help these starving millions. France and Belgium are already on the spot with aircraft to fly in food, fodder and medicine. Great Britain possesses suitable air transport of the Hercules type. We wish to know how many are being committed to the rescue operation in West Africa.
There is a European aspect to the matter. The countries concerned have special trade relations with the EEC. In fact, the EEC benefits as much as or more than these countries from that relationship. Great Britain is a member of the Community. How strongly if at all have the Government pressed the countries of the EEC to act in these stricken areas? Europe has a debt and a duty in this area possibly above all other areas.
There is also an international aspect because, harrowing as the immediate crisis is, we must look beyond it. This is a vast area not only of immediate tragedy but of possible future catastrophe. The very life space of 6 million people is in danger of being taken over by the desert. That is partly because of over-grazing and over-herding and because of a series of droughts which apparently fit into no known cycle and which will probably recur. It is, like the Indian crisis, a problem of international dimensions. To deal with it only an international commitment of conscience and resources will be adequate.
What progress has been made in establishing under the United Nations an international organisation to deal not only with the short-term emergencies where-ever they occur, but with the longer-term conditions which erupt into emergencies at increasingly frequent intervals, particularly in certain parts of the world?
There has long been general agreement among nations on the need for an international organisation for this purpose, and recently there have been some small signs that practical beginnings are being made. It surely should be a major objective of British policy and of Western European 1560 policy through the United Nations to speed up this process. I believe that no country has more to offer in expertise and leadership in this direction than ours. What is lacking is not compassion but political will and energy to press forward in a practical way.
I join the right hon. Gentleman in saying that the most stylishly contrived declarations of aspiration mean nothing unless there is a political will and energy to implement them. I hope there will be more energy and more drive in the British support for the proposal in the United Nations and among our friends and allies so that this essential international organisation is speedily established.
The situation in India is in many ways similar to that in West Africa. I have some sympathy with the Indian Government, which has expressed certain resentment because reports have appeared extolling voluntary contributions to alleviate the distress in the provinces while somewhat ignoring the tremendous efforts made by the Indian Government. These reports have been corrected and I am sure that we all wish it to go from this House to the Indian Government and all the people of the sub-continent that we greatly admire what the statutory bodies, the Governments, in that part of the world have been doing, so that no unnecessary dichotomy of efforts and of spirit arises between the authorities and the voluntary organisations which are so vital in what they can contribute in that part of the world.
I have some sympathy also with what the Minister for Overseas Development said at Question Time recently. He told us that he was very willing to help India, but was waiting to be asked. I understand what he meant, but there are times when it is proper and necessary to ask to be asked. I think that this is one of them. I am sure that the Indian Government would respond to a little friendly prompting, a little assurance that there is a tremendous fund of good will in this country among Government, Opposition and people generally towards them, especially in the immense difficulty which faces them.
There are immediate urgencies of a rather different kind in our relations with one or two European countries. I refer first to Greece. The Government have been somewhat slow in reacting to crises 1561 of great poignancy and magnitude in certain parts of the world, but in regard to Greece they have acted with indecent alacrity in recognising a Fascist republic in preference to a monarchical democracy. They could have stayed their hand and waited a little longer. At least they could have delayed the act of recognition which helps the Fascist dictatorship to consolidate itself.
The right hon. Gentleman twitted the Opposition with having tolerated the Greek dictatorship within the community of NATO, but surely in the last two or three years the pace of repressive events in Greece has somewhat changed the situation, and there is a strong argument today for definitive talking and even action towards the Greeks in relation to their presence in NATO.
After all, is it not the purpose of NATO to defend democracy? How does the Greek dictatorship go about that? By a system of arbitrary arrests, of detention for indefinite periods without charges being laid, and by terrorism and torture. Ministers well know that on both sides of the House hon. Members are revolted by the persecution of distinguished Greeks who are guilty of nothing more than the normal expression of moderate liberal opinion. The case of Dr. Pesmazoglou is by no means the only one but it is a good example of how this policy is being followed in Greece. He is a distinguished international economist of moderate views who is now languishing—we do not know for certain in what conditions—in a Greek gaol.
This kind of thing is intolerable, it is increasing and is getting worse. While Greece geographically may well be part of the system of defence of Europe, to be effectively so it must shed these practices and approximate considerably more closely to a form of government which accords with the essential purpose of NATO, namely, the preservation and practice of democracy.
The Under-Secretary of State has told me that it is not possible to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign Power. Apparently in the EEC sovereignty is increasingly an outworn shibboleth. In relation to Greece or Portugal, however, it is a sacred principle. Yet is it not the case that the Federal Republic of Germany intervened with the Greek 1562 Government on behalf of at least one distinguished non-German citizen, and did so effectively? No one then raised the question of interfering with the sovereign power and rights of Greece. Could we not be a little more forthcoming and definite in our representations to what we are told is a friend and ally of ours, especially when the West German Government have been able to do so?
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I wish that we could have a little more of a generally tolerant attitude. If the Opposition would recognise that the colonels have done a great deal for many people in Greece and that there is strong popular support for them in many respects and would weigh that factor against the complaints which the right hon. Gentleman is right to level about the unfortunate treatment of certain individuals, it would be much easier to deal with the Greek Government and the Greek people. It would be much easier to point out that they are making some serious errors in their handling of individuals. Success lies along those lines, recognising that the Greek Government have done a great deal of good, rather than constant attacks upon their approach to democracy.
§ Mr. Roberts
Surely it is not necessary to condone Fascist oppression in order to make clear to a country which is titularly a friend and ally that we expect from it basic regard for human liberties as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the present Greek Government, as well as their predecessors, have adhered.
If the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) wants us to approve of Fascism before we argue for human rights, the answer is "No".
I mentioned Portugal. Portugal alone among the European Governments is waging a war of colonial oppression in Africa. The whole of black Africa views this as a war upon it. The Foreign Secretary has toiled for a settlement which would be acceptable to all races. No other settlement would be possible or durable. His task is immensely difficult and I think we all admire his persistence and optimism, despite what he said today. I am sure that he feels that there is a green hill not so far away and we hope that he will persist in seeking access to it.
1563 We know that it is possible. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition came within an ace of succeeding some years ago. Are the Government making the task easier by going out of their way to applaud and indeed fete the Portuguese dictatorship? Is this the way to convince either the Smith régime or the African people of his determination to achieve a just and non-colonialist settlement? Surely while this attitude towards the Portuguese Government—which in Africa is held to be the major protagonist of an outdated colonialism—continues, whatever he says to the Smith régime and the ANC will carry that much less credibility.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The right hon. Gentleman knows my respect for his moderation, but is he being fair to Portugal? In Mozambique, for instance, there has just been a general election which elected a majority of Africans in the local parliament. Two-thirds of the army is African. Does he not realise that the Portuguese have the support of the vast majority of people in Mozambique?
§ Mr. Roberts
The hon. Member falls into the familiar trap of prescribing for other people and countries the way in which they should behave.
§ Mr. Roberts
This is not a prescription. This is a basic need for regard for human rights. It is a declaration to which all civilised countries are signatories. There is no future in the Portuguese policy. It can go on for a few more years, escalating in terms of bloodshed. Every other European country has realised that and has abandoned such a rôle. This country abandoned its colonial rôle honourably and effectively. I would be prepared to defend very strongly not only the rôle of Britain in Africa but the manner and spirit in which it divested itself of that rôle and continued to attempt to assist the emerging countries which it had helped to create.
This is not the position with Portugal. Surely nowadays, when even the Belgians have gone, this is the last vestige of an anachronistic colonialism. We in this country and the European countries generally should speak firmly and effec- 1564 tively to the Portuguese, telling them that this cannot go on, that if it does, there is a danger of embroiling the entire continent in serious tragedy and disaster.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) referred to these elections as a proof that there was support for Portuguese policy in Africa. Surely these elections were "phoney", because if the majority of Africans in the Portuguese colonies really supported the Portuguese Government, would it be necessary to keep 200,000 Portuguese troops permanently stationed there to keep order?
§ Mr. Roberts
If I may intervene in this debate for a moment; my hon. Friend has answered the question. The presence of 200,000 troops to maintain this system is in itself an indictment of it. It cannot last. If it does, it will increasingly imperil the peace of the entire continent.
I wish to raise as a matter of urgency the subject of the French nuclear tests in the Pacific. The latest reports indicate that these tests are imminent. There is a report today that some of the islands are now being evacuated. That comes on the same day as a report that the Chinese have detonated their fifteenth nuclear device. This is a threat not only to the Pacific, but to the whole of humanity.
The Governments of Australia and New Zealand, our friends and partners in the Commonwealth as well as Governments in Africa, are desperately trying to persuade the French Government to desist from this awesome action. What support have they received from our Government? The impression which Ministers have given when answering questions on this vital topic is that they have been going through the motions and that is about all. How seriously have they impressed upon the French Government that they should hold their hand with these proposed tests?
I hope that there will go from the House today—there certainly will from the Labour side—a message to the French Government that they should in the interests of humanity abandon these tests. If they do that, it will redound more than anything to the true glory of France.
1565 The right hon. Gentleman is in a strong position to argue in this way. He negotiated the test ban treaty 10 years ago, just as it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) who produced the British initiative and persistence which led to the anti-proliferation agreement. Moreover the right hon. Gentleman has shown, with regard to the Icelandic dispute, that this country is prepared to accept the ruling of the International Court. He knows how strongly Labour Members have supported that policy and assisted in making it known.
Is it not even more important, having regard to the gravity of the threatened tests in the Pacific, that the French Government should similarly defer to the International Court decision? Surely, armed with this record and background, the right hon. Gentleman could carry credibility with the French Government if he were to put to them with the necessary strength and persistence not only the wish of this country but, I believe, the wish of every other country that they should abandon these tests.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does my right hon. Friend recall that during the course of the Foreign Secretary's speech I put to him, as courteously as I could, that it was odd that the Foreign Secretary should turn round and say, "After all, this question ought to be addressed to someone else"? To whom else can it be addressed?
§ Mr. Roberts
The Foreign Secretary will wish to answer that in his own way either now or later. We are concerned with what we want him and the Government to do in the name of Britain, namely, to put to the French Government, our friend and ally, our conviction, which we believe to be that of the civilised world, that these tests should not proceed.
The right hon. Gentleman—and I pay him a deserved compliment by putting it in this way—having been honourably concerned with advancing the cause of nuclear control, and having deferred to the International Court decision in one particular which was, in a sense, detrimental to our material interests regarding the Icelandic dispute, is in a strong position to say to the French, "This is 1566 how we, your geographically closest friend and ally, feel, and we believe that we speak for our other friends in Europe and for all the countries of the world". Will the right hon. Gentleman do that?
§ Mr. Laurance Reed (Bolton, East)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is inconsistent for Britain to be prepared to use force to uphold a judgment of the International Court in one case and not to lift a finger to uphold a judgment of the International Court in another case? If the implication is that those who are parties to a judgment before that court are to be responsible for enforcing its judgments, will not that produce international anarchy, which the International Court is designed to prevent?
§ Mr. Roberts
That is a little wide of the question to which I was addressing myself. We all know that the International Court has no sanction. It has tremendous influence if those who appear before it and who are notionally subject to it are prepared to accept its decisons. Britain—and I freely give the right hon. Gentleman the credit due for this—with our support has deferred to a decision of the International Court in respect of a dispute in which Britain was involved—
§ Mr. Roberts
May I answer the hon. Gentleman's question?
One could commend that attitude to an International Court decision to another country, namely, France, the dispute in her case being with another country and of a different character. However, the principle remains.
§ Mr. Reed
I support the right hon. Gentleman's view. I am saying that it is inconsistent for Britain to enforce the judgment of the court in relation to Iceland and to remain silent about the decision of the court in relation to the tests in the Pacific. If the justification is that only those who are party to a dispute before the court are to be responsible for enforcing action, it can only mean international anarchy, which the court is designed to prevent.
§ Mr. Roberts
I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but I shall not be drawn 1567 into an argument about whether we are enforcing that decision. I do not think that the presence of our ships in the area is an enforcement of that decision. However, this is a very fine point.
I agree that until the International Court is backed by a system of enforcement, which must in turn be agreed, it has less validity than we should wish it to have, but I do not agree that the present system, which is authority without enforcement, could lead to anarchy.
I have time only briefly to refer to another area in which I am interested, the Middle East. There is a new initiative under Doctor Jarring. I was glad to hear the assurance of the Foreign Secretary, I think on the prompting of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, that any initiative, including the present initiative, will be based on the terms and objects of United Nations Resolution 242. I am sure that both sides of the House are right in believing that we should rest on that resolution. It is the only possible basis for an agreement which is just and durable between the two main sides in the dispute.
What I am slightly concerned about is this. The Foreign Secretary rightly described what has been happening in Washington as a "detentive" development, which we warmly welcome and hope will lead to practical results. One of the emanations of what has been said in Washington is that the two super Powers will be looking at the Middle East with a view, as Mr. Brezhnev put it in his broadcast in the United States, to assisting a settlement in the Middle East. Meantime, we have the Jarring exercise once more. The Tunisian President has been engaged in certain talks. Then there are the results of the détente talks in Washington. It must surely be a major purpose of our foreign policy in the next few weeks to ensure that those three efforts to assist in the Middle East situation do not diverge but are, if possible, brought together.
There are other aspects of the detentive development in Washington which others, apart from ourselves, will wish to ensure do not diverge from existing efforts to create understanding. We thoroughly agree with the Foreign Secretary about the way in which the Helsinki talks should develop, namely, that the work should be 1568 commissioned to practical committees with the duty of reporting back to the major body practical means of moving ahead in security and co-operation and of selecting priorities such as that of exchange—one could almost say exchange of persons and papers. We look forward cautiously to the creation of a more permanent body once the conference feels that it has fulfilled its function. I think that there is general agreement on those points.
We are dissatisfied that in the areas of immediate urgency—the French nuclear tests, West Africa, India—the Government do not show a proper sense of urgency, a drive, a commitment to act with other countries in solving certain outstanding problems. We on this side of the House shall listen carefully to what is said in the debate, but we reserve the right at the end of the two days to show in the appropriate manner what we think of the Government's foreign policy.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
It is my pleasant duty to report to the House that I was, fortunately and fortuitously, present in Tokyo when Mr. Speaker made an official visit. I wish to report to the House on the fine and powerful impression which he made on the Japanese Diet, the way in which he was welcomed by the Japanese people and Press, and the good which his visit did to Anglo-Japanese relations.
I do not propose to dwell at length on the question of the Far East because I have expressed my views on the subject in an article which appeared in The Times this morning. I should like to range much more widely than the right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) and discuss the question of the Government's attitude and policy towards world trade. I believe this to be the most pressing and important issue that will face the country over the coming months and years.
My right honourable Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary gave a very optimistic view of the political changes which are in the process of taking place. He expressed great hopes for the future, and we all echo those hopes.
1569 I will not follow the speech of the right hon. Member for Caernarvon except to say that I support his view that we should help Francophone Africa through the EEC and also the Indian Government in famine relief. The issues mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman fall into tiny perspective compared with the dangers facing this country and the West on trade and monetary reform and in the negotiations which will begin this autumn in Tokyo.
The Government must consider carefully where they stand. The Foreign Secretary said that because of our membership of the EEC we had a new burst of life and importance. I hope that we have. But it is notable that when Mr. Brezhnev comes to Europe he does not come here, when the American President wishes to see someone in Europe it is not our Prime Minister whom he sees in mid-Atlantic, when the Japanese Foreign Secretary comes to Europe he does not come here; but Mr. Pompidou is visited by all these gentlemen. We must, therefore, he careful how we regard our position of growing importance because of our membership of the EEC.
Of course, there are some advantages in our membership, but it is vitally important to remember when the House comes to discuss—I hope in full—the arrangements reached at dawn on Tuesday regarding the position paper to be discussed by Europe at GATT, that in the last five years there have been great changes. We have taken a long time to get into Europe and during this period Europe has ceased to be the great growth area of the world. The Far East, South America and the Middle East are now more important. We must maintain and build un our interests in Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore—throughout the whole of what was once called the co-prosperity sphere inside America and the North.
When the Government discuss these matters, first with the Prime Ministers in August, then with the World Bank in Nairobi and finally with GATT in Tokyo, they must consider carefully where precisely they stand. We have to ask ourselves searching questions. Does our membership of the EEC help us in our search for more raw materials, or in our relations with South Africa, North and 1570 South America and the Far East? Is membership an assistance or a hindrance? This matter should be fully debated by the House when the EEC position papers on GATT come before us.
We have interests that are parallel with those of Europe but not necessarily identical to them. The European bankers are talking today about what are called fixed but flexible exchange rates. That sounds a meaningless phrase but a good slogan. If the Foreign Secretary is to have any impact on world affairs he must recognise that the United Kingdom, on world issues, has an approach which is parallel to but distinct from that of Europe. If we play second fiddle to interests which are not necessarily totally aligned to our own, many of the troubles which face the world today could be inflicted on us.
Much as I admire Sir Christopher Soames and warmly as I regard him as an able and tough negotiator, we must nevertheless have an assurance from the Foreign Office that British interests will be represented to GATT by a British national delegation. Otherwise, some of our interests will not be reflected. We have an interest in securing cheaper food and in our Australian, Canadian and Far Eastern connections which Europe does not necessarily share.
Our interests are parallel to but distinct from those of Europe. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give an assurance that there will be a full and proper debate on the position paper produced by the EEC. The paper seems to contain only one basic point of major substance—that the European agricultural policy is not negotiable. I believe that the European agricultural policy must be made negotiable, and that is why it is essential for us fully to study the paper before it is taken to Tokyo. We must also have an assurance from the Government that there will be national representation of the British Government in Tokyo rather than a merging with the EEC delegation, however well it may be led.
If we do not pursue a policy that is parallel to but distinct from that of the EEC we are in grave danger of losing not just national sovereignty but the advantage of the British people which should be paramount in the Government's mind. I hope that my right hon. Friend 1571 will walk with all the delicacy of Agag in these matters, making sure that the interests of this country are paramount in any negotiations and relying on the House of Commons rather than anyone in Brussels to judge where that paramountcy lies.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Sutton)
I do not intend to follow the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) in the important element of foreign policy which he discussed. It is possible for him and me to have a somewhat different enthusiasm for the Common Market and still agree that the issue of our posture in GATT is of immense importance. It would be extremely foolish to enter into the GATT negotiations on an entirely Euro-centred trading and negotiating position. It would also be extremely foolish for the EEC countries to enter the GATT negotiations without fully recognising that the United States has legitimate anxieties and concerns about the common agricultural policy.
If we were to enter the negotiations with an absolute embargo on any changes in the common agricultural policy we should be effectively saying that the GATT negotiations could not make the progress that is so essential for our trading patterns worldwide. To that extent I agree with some elements in the speech of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone, although I think it possible to have a European negotiating position which reflects some of these anxieties and I do not wish necessarily to push a single nation's viewpoint.
The debate will range widely on many issues, and one could raise a number of anxieties, controversies and matters of concern. The main issue of foreign policy is the growing trend towards bilateralism among the super Powers. At present we are seeing a major breakthrough. The Soviet Union and the United States have developed a close and intimate negotiating posture on many items of foreign policy, and yet I believe I must draw the attention of the House to a matter of fundamental concern. I believe that bilateralism has its dangers. Bilateralism must be seen as the path towards a mulilateral approach. I fear that if we exclusively rely on bilateralism 1572 by means of which we funnel the world's problems into a dialogue only between the super Powers it will eventually let us down.
I intend to speak primarily about the Middle East, and I do so mainly in the context of the Foreign Secretary's speech. He frankly admitted that this was an area in which practically no progress had been made, and he was rightly pessimistic. When we look at the Middle East at the moment, we might take the view that strict logic indicates that there is no immediate risk of a repeat of the 1967 war. That is the conclusion one comes to in looking at the relative force levels and in making other comparisons. But strict logic in terms of the Middle East has rarely been paralleled by events. Sadly, it must be said that prospects for a peace settlement remain minimal, and another war even in the next year is not something which any of us can lightly exclude. It is a sombre prospect.
We need to be as realistic about the situation as possible. The rôle for super Power mediation, for outside intervention, is strictly limited. I personally feel that one must come to a conclusion that in the main this is part of a regional problem which will have to be resolved in a regional context. However, such a conclusion does not exclude the participation of outside Powers from taking a definite interest in the problems of this area.
The problem of the Middle East is not strictly to be seen only in terms of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are deep differences of approach in the Arab world—differences involving the Palestinians, the Jordanians and the Egyptians. On top of this, there is a tremendous scepticism about the rôle of any of the international organisations, and there is a particlar cynicism in Israel about the rôle of the United Nations. Reluctantly, one has to accept in part that some of Israel's criticisms are justifield, although I personally think Israel tends to exaggerate the consequences of some of the resolutions passed in the United Nations and perhaps feels too sensitive about them.
However, with those rather pessimistic forecasts, I turn to one area in which we might make some progress. The crux of 1573 the immediate problem is to get negotiations going between the two countries, Israel and Egypt. I do not belittle the fact that there are many other problems, but in my view it is not the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, Gaza or the Palestinian refugees which currently impede progress. It may be that those difficult elements in a settlement may prove to be the main stumbling blocks but at the moment the problem is the territorial dispute over the largely barren wasteland of Sinai. It is to Sinai that I would wish the House and, hopefully, the world community to look.
It is the major problem in the whole context of Middle East security that there is no body which can bring together national expertise in a technical framework on security issues. There is no dialogue taking place on military strategy at a defence level; there is only diplomatic discussion inside the United Nations. If we look at the United Nations secretariat or at the facilities available to that secretariat, we see that there is no body of informed opinion capable of discussing such complex issues as the technicalities of the demilitarisation of Sinai.
If the British, or the European super Power, have any contribution to make at the moment it is to clarify thinking about what demilitarisation of Sinai involves. The Egyptian formal position is contained in their reply to Jarring in 1971. The Egyptians would agree to:the establishment of demilitarised zones astride the borders in equal distances.but this would be in the context of:the full and scrupulous implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 and of the withdrawal of the Israeli Armed Forces from all territories occupied since 5th June 1967.I must say to the Egyptians that reciprocity over demilitarisation of Sinai is impossible. The mere geography of Israel and its size compared with areas of Sinai and Egypt preclude reciprocity. It also must be stated as a simple matter of fact that unless and until the Egyptians are prepared to accept a measure of near total demilitarisation of Sinai there will be no basis for an agreed peace settlement with Israel.
The Egyptians could be persuaded to adopt a total demilitarisation of Sinai. If they were to be so persuaded the prospects 1574 for implementation of Resolution 242 would become very much stronger. If there were total demilitarisation, it would offer the prospect of satisfying some of the legitimate anxieties of the Israelis about their own security. We must realise the genuine need for Israel to have a substantial amount of warning time of any possible air attack from Egypt and the necessity for the Israelis to have an absolute safeguard against the mobilisation for a long period of time of hostile forces on their borders which inevitably means that they have to mobilise their predominantly civilian forces.
I do not believe the Israelis can possibly accept a settlement where the Egyptians could again be in a position to mass tanks and ground forces along the old 1967 boundary and to wait there indefinitely. But there is a gain for the Egyptians by a demilitarisation of Sinai. The gain initially may be seen as purely one for Israel, but it works in reverse. What are the prospects of demilitarisation?
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) is making a most interesting speech. When he talks about demilitarisation of Sinai, does he envisage that it will be under Egyptian sovereignty, Israeli sovereignty or some kind of joint sovereignty?
§ Dr. Owen
I shall come to that matter. Demilitarisation means no tanks, no troops, no airfields in the whole of Sinai. The sovereignty of Sinai must be predominantly returned to the Egyptians in line with Resolution 242. I do not need to go into the exact boundaries at this moment of time. When we talk about demilitarisation of Sinai we come face to face with the problem of Sharm el Sheikh. We have to accept some of the legitimate security anxieties felt by Israel. The Israelis are concerned not just about the triggering nature of the Straits of Tiran, but about the Bab el Mandeb Straits which enter the Red Sea. They are very concerned about the prospects of interference with shipping moving into the Red Sea such as occurred in 1971 when the passage of the "Coral Sea" was interfered with.
How can we satisfy those anxieties? Here, I think, the need for action by other 1575 nations outside this region becomes paramount. There is a real need for a treaty backed by all the main maritime nations to clarify the status in international law of the Straits of Tiran and the Bab el Mandeb Straits and to ensure free passage through the Suez Canal if and when it is opened. In that sense some outside guarantees could be meaningful. But on the ground, for the policing of any demilitarisation of Sinai, the most successful form would probably be a joint policing arrangement between the Israelis and the Egyptians. I have some doubt about the preparedness of one side to accept a UN force, and it might be better for any policing arrangement initially to come from the two sides.
When we look at the problem of observation and of policing arrangements, we have to make a major breakthrough. Why is it that the SALT have been able to reach agreement? Why has it been possible to overcome the old problem of on-the-ground surveillance and observation? The reason is that satellite surveillance technology has made such staggering improvements that both super Powers have been able to rely on satellite reconnaissance in this highly sensitive area of missile locations. How much more capable would satellite reconnaissance be of ensuring the policing of the demilitarisation of Sinai? Here again the super Powers have a contribution to make. But they must make available satellite reconnaissance photographs and observations in such a manner that both the Egyptians and the Israelis can feel confident in times of crisis that information will be free and readily available to them. In 1970 the Israelis wanted to have the information which was available in the United States about the Soviet SAM sites being built on the Canal zone. They were not able to get any clarification of the SAM site build-up on the Canal zone. Any agreement on observation involving super Power satellite reconnaissance facilities would have to be so arranged that very strict guarantees were attached to it.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I hesitate to interrupt a very interesting speech. However, my hon. Friend has referred to SALT. Does he accept that, since those talks were a kind of negotiation between two sides, before it became possible to get the kind of 1576 surveillance which he envisages it would be necessary to have a dialogue between the two sides, which in this instance would be a dialogue between Egypt and Israel?
§ Dr. Owen
This is the greatest problem. It is to get the two sides into a dialogue. It is well known that the Egyptians are fearful of getting into a direct dialogue lest it be read as a recognition of the State of Israel at the start of the negotiations. In my view their fears are unjustifield. They ought to look at the agreement negotiated between the West Germans and the East Germans. That was done initially on the basis that the negotiations did not involve recognition. It was expressly written into the negotiations.
It seems to me that in any peace settlement pure verbal recognition is of no importance. What is needed is an eventual recognition involving a big psychological change in the attitudes of the two sides to each other's status. I believe that they could negotiate directly without any question being raised of recognition of either country's position. I think that the Egyptians could do that, and that the Israelis would be very wise to help the Egyptians by saying that direct negotiations did not involve recognition and that recognition could come only with an agreement and a final solution.
This is the problem, and it is difficult to know how to bring the two sides together. I hope that Willy Brandt's visit to Israel has shown the Israelis that any insistence on recognition in the early part of negotiations is valueless. Recognition is so fundamental to Israel that it will require much more than any paper formula.
I do not deny that there are many other serious problems. I leave out all reference to the complex problem of Gaza. It may be that in the negotiations there could be some lease arrangement arrived at for Sharm el Sheikh which would be acceptable to the Egyptians, though I recognise why they believe that to be unacceptable at the moment. Certainly the Israelis have to accept that the sovereignty of Sharm el Sheikh must be vested in Egypt. I find it hard to see a lease arrangement being susceptible to negotiation, however.
I return to the fundamental formula, which is that a total demilitarisation of 1577 Sinai is the only way to ensure secure boundaries. The importance of secure boundaries in this area lies in the fact that it is Egypt which is the most sophisticated military Power which the Israelis see as a potential threat to their boundaries.
I have not discussed the Golan Heights. Anyone who believes that the Israelis will give up every single part of the Golan Heights is living in an unreal world. Part of the Golan Heights could be given up. But it must be recognised that even within Resolution 242 there will have to be some modification of boundaries. Equally, anyone who believes a minority Israeli notion which seems to think that it will be possible to draw a line across the Sinai from El Arish to Sharm el Sheikh and retain that sizeable triangle of Egyptian territory is also living in a land of unreality. There is an urgent need for progress over the West Bank.
Whatever one's feelings may be about the facts of a possible future energy crisis, it is clear that this area needs some movement towards a peace settlement. As for the absence of dialogue and the total lack of discussion between the parties, I see an opportunity for the world community. The greatest contribution which the world could make would be actively to speak about the concept of demilitarisation, to discuss it, to probe its technical problems, to try to elaborate the difficulties associated with it, to look at possible modifications and, if possible, to bring Egypt's strategic and military thinkers together in a dialogue on demilitarisation with those of the Israelis. If that could be done the gap between the two countries which at the moment is close to being unbridgeable might be bridged.
The world has to face these real security problems. There is a danger of talking too much about the need for a political will. That may come. But first there has to be a better understanding of the security issues which lie behind the fears and apprehensions of both sides. In my view a political settlement will not be achieved unless the legitimacy of many of the current security issues gains far wider acceptance, not merely in the Arab world but also in the United Nations. The UN 1578 has a special responsibility at the moment, as the debate goes on and as the Secretary-General has promised to visit the Middle East, to come up with proposals which are far more than just diplomatic language discussions. They must be detailed, technical proposals based on modern military strategy. Only with that sort of working dialogue will it be possible to superimpose a political settlement which has any chance of success.
The British Government can make a contribution by making efforts to this end. If the United Nations put more effort into this and less into declaratory resolutions about the dispute it would make a greater and more profound contribution to peace and security.
I have raised this issue purely on the Middle East, but I think it has wider ramifications. There is a need worldwide for greater recognition of the technical aspects of security and freer discussion of it.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
Whatever view one takes about the right solution to the problems in the Middle East, I think that the House generally will agree that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) has given us an interesting analysis of what is happening at present.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend would have been concerned to hear what the hon. Member said about demilitarisation of Sinai. I found it most constructive. I am not in a position to follow the hon. Gentleman, except about his fear regarding the dangers of a kind of bilateral arrangement between two super Powers. I have this fear, too. I believe that this country and Europe have a great opportunity to exert the kind of influence leading to reconciliation to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary referred. My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the improved standing of British foreign policy, but he was right to be cautious in saying that the reconciliation for which we all hope is no bigger than a man's hand at this time.
I should like to refer particularly to the need to have regard for human rights in all our policies and to begin with the 1579 question of refugees. I mention this matter shortly, because I hope that some time in the autumn there will be an opportunity for a debate on refugee policy and that some hon. Member will choose it as the subject for a Private Member's motion. I mention this matter because Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, should receive the support of the House and the Government to a greater extent than at the moment. I am a member of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and that is another reason why I mention this matter.
We have often debated major emergencies involving refugees and made large financial contributions to situations such as Bangladesh. It is perhaps a contrast, a lack of balance, that I refer in passing to the fact that in the day-to-day administration by the United Nations of refugee problems all over the world we contribute relatively little. I thank the Government for the increase in contribution to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees from £180,000 to £210,000, but that is a very small figure compared with the large amounts that we have contributed when there has been a great emergency. I hope that there will also be a debate in another place on this question.
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development has done his best to help the United Nations over the Sudan. I hope that the Government will continue to give all possible aid to the Sudan Government with their vast refugee problem in Southern Sudan. So far the Government have given £500,000—half of that before Christmas—and £50,000 to the voluntary agencies which are working in Southern Sudan.
Like many hon. Members, I visited Southern Sudan recently and saw for myself many of the terrific problems which are occurring there. About 700,000 or more refugees are coming in from various neighbouring African States.
In this connection it is necessary that the Government should find some money to help the United Nations and the Sudan Government with the problem of the bridge over the Nile at Juba. This affects the whole of the transport problem of Southern Sudan which at the moment is 1580 conducted in a most primitive fashion. There is great difficulty in getting hospital and education supplies into this area for the large number of returning refugees. Denmark and Holland are contributing, but the United Nations must find a considerable sum, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development is fully aware.
None the less, I welcome the Government's policy towards the Sudan generally and the award of £15.7 million in technical assistance at the time of President Nemery's visit to this country. I congratulate the Government on what they have done in the last year for the Sudan.
Whatever our relations with other countries may be, we must always make a stand for human rights and principles. These must never be sacrificed. I am an officer of the International Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in the Soviet Union. Whatever our policy may be towards the Soviet Union or the strategic importance of Greece, we should still be in a position to make a stand for individuals and never turn a blind eye to the fate of political prisoners. I was an official at the Nuremberg Tribunal. We condemned many practices, which are being continued today, at the Nuremberg trials of the major Nazi war criminals.
This brings me to the Brezhnev doctrine. What does he mean by the "end of the cold war"? This week's Economist provides some quotations from Pravda. I welcome a period of reconciliation, but we should be realistic, as hon. Members on both sides certainly have been. Pravda says,Only naive people can expect that recognition of the principles of co-existence by capitalists can weaken the main contradiction of our times between capitalism and socialism or that the ideological struggle will be weakened.It also states,Co-existence does not mean a discontinuation of the class struggle but only the renunciation of military methods.We must realise, as I think we do, that the Soviet Union wants to see its system prevail without a shot being fired. Russia has frankly stated that on numerous occasions. We know that the Soviet Union needs foreign capital.
§ Mr. Neave
And food. But what price will she be asked to pay in human terms?
I mentioned that I am a member of the International Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in the Soviet Union. Are we going to exert any influence or pressure—in my view, we have greater influence today—against her blatantly anti-semitic policies? I hope that we are. How many Jewish people will be allowed to emigrate as a result of contacts that we are making with the Soviet Union and which Ministers of 34 countries will have an opportunity to make at the Helsinki Conference? I beg my right hon. Friend to take note that the Helsinki Conference will provide an excellent opportunity to make these representations. The Foreign Secretary told us that a committee would be set up to discuss human contacts between East and West. I hope that that will be a permanent committee.
Will the treatment of dissidents be less brutal than it appears to be? We all have an interest in this matter. We must remember the 1 million people who are in forced labour camps and the 10,000 or more political prisoners. It is not a question of our interfering in the affairs of the Soviet Union, but of being able to influence and make a stand for human rights.
I should like to refer to one case that I find difficult. Some 30 years ago I should never have believed that I would be making any form of plea for the release of a top Nazi. At that time I was in Germany, in Colditz, when I heard about Rudolf Hess. I next met him in his cell at Nuremberg.
Some may think it surprising that I should make this plea, but I assure them that my views about the Nazis are as strong as theirs, for a variety of personal reasons. Hess is now living in Spandau Prison—my information comes from his family—in extremely cramped quarters. He is now 79. The doctors believe that he will live for another 10 years; that is to say, to 89. He is in good health for a man of his age, and if that medical opinion is right—and I hope that my right hon. Friend is taking note of what I am saying—at the date of his death he will have been detained for more than 40 years.
One reason for raising his case is that it is rather exceptional, in that we are a 1582 party to his detention. He is detained on a four-Power basis, and the time will come when we can no longer bear this responsibility. We are part of the four-Power agreement. I hope that this case will be raised with the Russian Foreign Minister at the Helsinki Conference, and I am trying to get support in America and France to persuade their Foreign Ministers that they must now take a firm line about this.
The Russian prison officers at Spandau demand that the prison regulations of 1947 are rigorously obeyed. Spandau, being an allied prison, is a four-Power institution, and any decision requires the agreement of all four Powers. The four Powers provide the warders and guards who man the main gate and the towers at Spandau 24 hours a day. It is a considerable guard. This is a prison with 600 empty cells, and one man is there. As a result of their restrictions on his activities, the Russians allow Hess half an hour's walk a day in the garden. That is what his family tell me. We all have our views about the Nazis, but if something does not happen within the next 10 years this will be one of the biggest scandals of our time.
My right hon. Friends and the previous Government have made strong representations to the Russians for a long time—I know, because I was personally involved—and the Federal Republic has also taken a considerable interest in this case. Herr Willy Brandt raised this with Mr. Brezhnev only the other day, but Mr. Brezhnev refused to discuss it. The reason is that the Soviets have always said that Hess should be executed for his responsibility for the death of between 15 million and 20 million Russians. He was convicted at Nuremberg on a charge of conspiracy to wage aggressive war, but he was acquitted by the Russians of crimes against humanity and war crimes. I was present when the Russian judges said that. Admittedly, the Russian judges were instantly told to issue a dissenting judgment and they have never been heard of since, but the fact remains that Hess was not convicted upon the last two charges.
Hess is being harshly treated. His family are not even allowed to shake his hand. They are not allowed any form of physical contact with him. Hess is 1583 79, and the three Allied commanders among the four Powers want to make a medical check but they are not allowed to because the Russians will not agree to his being taken into hospital for that purpose and, as I have said, Mr. Brezhnev refuses to discuss the matter.
If Mr. Brezhnev is sincere in trying to stop the cold war—and I hope that he is —this is one of the matters on which he ought to listen. If the Russians do not agree to release this old man very soon, despite all that we have suffered in the past at the hands of the Nazis—and I know many people who have—the three Western Powers ought to release him. I know that there will be some Russian threats of what they will do about Berlin, and so on, but I believe that we have to take a stand on this matter very soon. The opportunity to raise it will arise at the Helsinki Conference, where part of the agenda is that there should be a day to consider the position of human beings and human rights. These matters are of serious moment, and the opportunities are great. I think that my right hon. Friend's policy may lead to reconciliation, but it may also lead to national revival.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
I propose to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) in respect of only one matter and that is his reference to "The Prisoner of Spandau". I am sure almost everyone would agree that the Rudolf Hess of 1973 is a very different person from the Rudolf Hess of the 1940s.
It is not a matter of forgiving or forgetting the crimes of the Nazis in which he played some part, but of asking whether we should keep a person of his age in these physical conditions. No matter what his crime had been, I do not think that anyone would do that in the United Kingdom, and there is a good deal of support and sympathy with the plea for his release that has been put forward from this House before. The plea comes from all quarters, and particularly from those who suffered most from Nazi oppression I am not one of those who suffered most, but I support his release on the grounds of ordinary human decency.
The debate has already ranged extremely wide. One reference was made 1584 to our ability to control or to influence opinion in the European Economic Community. I do not think this debate has shown that our interest in the rest of the world is any less than it used to be now that we are members of the Community, but, rather, that our interest continues and, indeed, has been sharpened. We are still a world organisation—I shall not say a world Power—and our interests—economic, social, industrial and commercial—are world wide.
Many hon. Members are waiting to take part in the debate and it may be that some are interested, as I am, in a particular part of the world—Southern Africa. I follow the Foreign Secretary's statement on Rhodesia by saying that any words going forth from this House, either today or tomorrow, on the subject of Rhodesia should spell out clearly that a settlement has to be reached in Rhodesia first before it has any hope of being approved by the British Government, the British Parliament or the British people. The first real hopes for the next step towards a settlement must be agreed in broad range or in narrow detail in Rhodesia. Unless there is agreement amongst the majority of Rhodesian people, any settlement has little chance of being supported or accepted by the Government, Parliament or the people of this country.
I want to refer particularly to that part of Africa in which we have influence but in which we no longer have the control that we once had. That loss of direct control is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. It is a fact. I refer to the Republic of South Africa, which is one of the most complex and diverse countries in the world.
As time is limited, I propose to refer only to one aspect of our interests there and to relations between the Government and people of Britain and the Government and people of South Africa. I have first to declare that I have no financial interest or investment in, or any income from, South Africa. That is the reverse of the usual arrangement. I wish there was a register of members' interests, so that there was no verbal need to declare interests which one had or, alternatively, did not have.
In October 1972 there was published a book—which has since been widely read—entitled "The South African 1585 Connection: Western Investment in Apartheid". At the back of the book there is an index of British Members of Parliament who are directors of companies that have either a direct or an indirect financial interest in South Africa. My name was listed there as a director of a company which had such financial interests.
There is a person of my name who has that privilege or responsibility. The company is next to the coal mine at which I used to work. That was as near as we ever came together, but the book entry obviously caused some difficulties for me. The error was corrected in The Times of 13th December 1972—even the edition in the Library has been corrected—and a fairly substantial sum of damages was paid, which, in one way or another, has found its way to South Africa for causes which I think almost everyone would support. I am sorry to have to take up time on that, but this is an opportunity, after some time, to get the matter on the record.
The Labour Party's position on South Africa is part of a continuing saga. Part of that saga came out in a report a little while ago. But the last firm report—the last before the Labour Party conference —was outlined in "Labour's Programme for Britain" published in 1972. On page 78, it said:The Labour Party totally rejects the basis of society in South Africa, which because it has rightly been called a danger to peace in Africa by the United Nations, must be of major concern to everybody. South Africa's apartheid policy is not just a domestic affair for the Republic alone, it is a major threat to civilised values everywhere and western states have a particular responsibility because South Africa is, mainly though not exclusively, involved with the West.The Labour Party has not advocated unilateral economic action by Britain alone. The figures speak for themselves. In 1971, Britain's exports to South Africa were worth £395.4 million and imports from South Africa £241.3 million. Although these figures are less than Britain's trade with independent Africa, they are still substantial. The Labour Party would support international action against South Africa and the use of trade embargoes, but would expect parallel action by the international community to help re-direct Britain's trade elsewhere. As we are South Africa's main trading partner, this parallel action is vital to Britain if British workers are to be protected. Unilateral action would adversely affect the jobs of British workers in a situation of already high unemployment brought on 1586 by Britain's Conservative Government, and would not produce the desired effect on South Africa if British trade were replaced from elsewhere.That might not be a very ethical statement, but it is practical. It goes on:These and other issues are under review at the present time and proposals concerning our relations with South Africa will be contained in the 1973 Statement.We have had part of that statement.
So the policy of the Labour Party is evolving, and the time to influence policy is when it is being made, not after policy has been finalised. The back benches are not necessarily the best place from which to influence that policy, but it is important to get something on the record.
Many of the problems in South Africa which we call racial would, in another country, be social, economic, industrial and educational problems. Many of the problems of the Industrial Revolution and some of the religious problems of Northern Ireland would, in South Africa become racial.
My own interest in and experience of this situation stems from the fact that, from 1964, in spite of the many attractions of foreign travel, I was mainly a stay-in-the-United Kingdom Member of Parliament. Foreign travel is easier for some Members than for others, but it should not necessarily be available only to the very rich or the very righteous Members. Let us share it around.
I did my best to look after my constituency and the interests of Merseyside, and kept away from foreign attractions, but it seemed that for an Opposition Member the mid-term of a Parliament was a good time to look at other parts of the world. Last year, I had the opportunity of a three-week visit to South Africa—a week in Durban, a week in Cape Town and a week in Johannesburg. The idea was to have a clear, cold look at the people, the problems and some of the opportunities of South Africa.
The invitation came from the South Africa Foundation. Some of my colleagues know of this organisation, and many have particular views about it. Some say that it is a broadly-based organisation, independent of Government and industry, which sets out the problems and opportunities of South Africa. Others say that it is simply a front organisation. I understand that the invitation to Labourd 1587 Members came because people in South Africa complained that only Conservative Members were being invited by the South Africa Foundation to visit their country.
The invitation was considered carefully and was then accepted, on the understanding that my two colleagues and I could go where we wanted, to see whom we wanted within the restrictions imposed by the Government, look, listen and learn. There would be no strings attached.
There are those in the House who believe that if one accepts an invitation to lunch or dinner or a trip abroad, one is selling one's soul. My father, when I came to this House, said, "Eric, you will meet people who can buy you or sell you, but you are the only one who can decide whether you are for sale." He added, "If you decide to sell yourself, make sure you get a good price." He was a practical man. That has not happened, but if anyone thinks that a Member of Parliament can be bought for a trip abroad, such a Member is not worth buying.
There was time, over a seven-months' period, to arrange not only the official programme, following some illustrious predecessors in the Conservative Party, but also an unofficial programme of checks and counterchecks. We made no guided tour".
Before leaving, we informed the Labour Party, Transport House, the Labour Whips, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) the TUC, the Foreign Office, the South African Ambassador and my National Union of Mineworkers. We took advice and gained some information. I took with me letters of introduction from His Excellency Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop Beck, Bishop Butler, the Father Provincial of the Friars Minor, the Secretary of the Methodist Conference, Doctor Greet, the National Union of Mineworkers and from private individuals and companies. That was a fairly mixed bag of introductions.
In the week in Cape Town, we saw Mr. Grobbelaar of TUCSA, the Trade Union Congress of South Africa, Mr. Sonny Leone of the Coloured Labour Party, Mr. Schwartz of the Coloured Representative Council, people from the 1588 University of the Western Cape for Coloureds, Monsignor Galvin of the Roman Catholic Church and Newton Thompson of the United Party. We met Helen Joseph at a public meeting at Rodebosch which should have taken place in a hall half the size of this Chamber, surrounded by security forces. By some chance, tear gas bombs were thrown. It would have been worse had it not been known that British MPs were present.
At one place we were accused of being Communists and at another of being members of the South African Special Branch. We had lively receptions, but interesting ones. We met leaders of the Afrikaaner University at Stellenbosch, Admiral Johnson, and an ex-P and O officer, and a member of the British Naval Reserve, and we visited the Simonstown dockyard, which seemed to be staffed almost entirely by people from Salford or Scotland. It is like a little piece of England, except that everyone spoke with a Scots accent. We met Victor Norton of the Cape Times, members of the Dutch Reformed Kirk and anyone who would talk to us about the problems and the opportunities.
In Durban, we visited Umlazi and Chatsworth, and toured the harbour and the Shell refinery, Tongaat, and Frametex. We also met the Indian Representative Council—an influential part of the community—I would have hoped—in South Africa. But, from meetings with that council I got the unfortunate impression that the Indian community were conscious of their standards of living, education and behaviour, which qualified them for equal treatment with the whites, that they were concerned almost exclusively for their own people, and not as much as they should have been with the coloured or Bantu people.
We visited the Transkei and we met Du Chene Gris of the South African Race Relations Institute, Katcha Bultelezi, Chief of the Zulus, and Helen Susman. In Johannesburg, we met Marais Steyn, at that time the recently deposed leader of the United Transvaal Party.
We also met members of the National Union of Mineworkers. If hon. Members opposite think that they have ever met tough union negotiators, they should 1589 meet the white South African mineworkers. They played it very cleverly. Instead of sending some of their perhaps more committed members, either in economic or in racial terms, they sent a charming man who was so nice that all we could discuss were geological problems rather than racial or economic problems. But at least I met them. We went to meet representatives of the General Electric Company, and met friends in English Electric, ICI and South Africa Telephone Manufacturers. We met a whole range of people. We made a visit to Pretoria. We toured some of the Army camps outside Pretoria and saw the South African security forces there. If anyone has any doubt about their ability to contain any troubles within their country, that kind of visit is well worth making.
We met many people, in public and in private, and visited many other places, officially and unofficially. I do not intend to list more people than I have done. It is not my desire to cause any difficulties for anyone in South Africa by naming them all, whether we met them officially or unofficially, lawfully or unlawfully. I do not think that we broke the law, but we may have bent it on a couple of occasions.
I take three points which arise from those contacts and discussions, which have led me to some conclusions. First, it is a time of change in South Africa. By how much or how far no one yet knows. We saw that from the trade unions, the industrialists and some of the church leaders. It is particularly a time of economic change. Economic pressures on industry, in job reservations, wage rates and training opportunities, mean that the whole attitude of the trade unions and employers is changing.
It is also time for possible political changes. The Nationalist Party will not be swept out of power by either the United Party or the Progressive Party. But it may well be that some of the Nationalists' policies will change and that they will adopt variations of some of the policies of the Opposition. We have seen that happen in this House over the last two or three years. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that versions of proposals, perhaps the federal type of 1590 plan put forward by the United Party, will be taken over by the Nationalist Party.
My main point concerns opportunities raised by British investment in South Africa. This matter has been before this House and the country in may ways over the last six to twelve months. Roughly 60 per cent. of South African industry is either British based or British linked. GEC—this is particularly relevant to my constituency—sends back £20 million worth of orders for work in the United Kingdom. It may be that some people in GEC in West Derby, Liverpool, would say, "Pull out investment", but if one asked the 12,000 people working in the Liverpool factory whether we should do that and give up the work that comes from South Africa, a different answer would be forthcoming.
In practical terms, a reduction or withdrawal of investment will not happen and would not help. We can use British investment to make things better. The Guardian has run a campaign with front page articles. Our Select Committee is directly interested. British-based or British-linked companies are open to influence from Britain and can be persuaded or pressured to improve the wages and conditions of their workers. The lessons of Distillers Company have been lessons for us. There was tremendous pressure on Distillers to improve the offer for thalidomide victims. There were improvements in the offers after parliamentary debate, and so on, but I believe that the real change in Distillers attitude came when Prudential Assurance had a quiet word with the company, as major shareholders, and said that the situation was not doing them any good—that they had to do better. Lonrho is rather different. However, the influence of shareholders on companies, as exemplified by Distillers, could be used and improvements could come through for the benefit of all South African workers.
A method of improving the wages, conditions and opportunities there, and training, education, housing and social opportunities, could be found if the influence of British shareholders, be they local government, churches or individuals, was exerted on British-based companies which have sectors in South Africa.
1591 We met only one person in South Africa who was aiming for a revolution. All the rest were aiming for evolution and fair shares. We put the question many times—contact or quarantine? That was the basic question. It was whether we should do a Pontius Pilate over South Africa, saying that things were so bad that they would not be changed by anyone and that we should just have to wait for the worst, or whether there was a glimmering of hope that by contact and persuasion, particularly by bringing South African people out to the rest of the world, we could help to change things.
It will not happen overnight. But all those whom we met—all the details are available for anyone who wants them—whether they were Bantu, Coloured, Indian or Afrikaaner, or Nationalist, English Progressive or United Party, or in industry or the church, or trade unions, said that it was contact that was required and not quarantine. These are their words—not mine alone.
There are many ways in which the Labour Party can help, and the TUC and individuals, with direct links. Everyone we met was saying, "Help to make these contacts better." There is an old saying that not everyone can hold up the world but those who can, do. There were many in South Africa, good people of all races, creeds and colours, who said to us, Help us to hold up our little bit of the world and to make it better. Help us and do not abandon us."
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I support the views expressed about the relief or, at the minimum, the modification of the prison conditions of Rudolf Hess. That is a view held on both sides of the House.
I should like to follow some of the points about South Africa made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), but for brevity's sake I shall take just one point, about African wages and conditions. I agree that the higher the wages paid to Africans in South Africa, the better. But we have to bear in mind, on both sides of the House, that if there is a major increase in wages to African labour in South Africa, the inevitable result will be that a large number of workers will be laid off. A smaller 1592 number will be getting more pay, but a larger number will have no work. Neither side of the House would want that. That is one of the dangers. The hon. Gentleman's speech showed that the exchange of visits and views can do nothing but good, to this House, to Britain and in South Africa.
In opening the debate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talked about the trend to co-operation, and only a fool would be unhappy at the growth and the policy of détente. Equally, only a fool would lower his guard at present. The USSR today needs Western technology and food, and is fearful of China. Therefore, we have a policy of détente. We hope very much that this policy will continue and mature and that it will be proved to be a positive, long-lasting policy. But we must still keep up our guard and keep in mind the dangers that exist today to the flanks of NATO and the danger of the continuing and general subversion of the West's will to resist, both at home and abroad.
The buttress of our foreign policy since the end of the war has been the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. That organisation, more than anything else, has prevented world war three. The discussions that are taking place about mutual and balanced force reductions concern only central Europe and completely leave out the flanks and, particularly, the seas of the world to the north and south. There is the danger.
I want briefly to mention a country in the north and certain countries in the south. In the north, I would refer to the present problem that we are having with Iceland. I start by congratulating the Government on the way that they have handled this problem. It is extremely important that we make it clear that there are in fact two different problems. The first is one of limits, namely, what should be the right limits for fishing for oil exploration, or for anything else. That can be decided only by international agreement at the Conference on the Law of the Sea next year. The second problem is the unilateral action on the part of the Icelandic Government in seizing a limit of 50 miles.
I hope very much that the Government will consult the House about their proposed policy at the Conference on the 1593 Law of the Sea, because that is important. I believe that the limit will be extended and that it is vital to see that that is done over a comparatively long phasing-out period, so as to give time for the world's fishing industries to adjust themselves.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Laurance Reed) is right to put his view that Iceland has a good case. I agree with that to some extent. But to suggest that the Royal Navy is trying to enforce international law by force when it interposes itself between our trawlers and Icelandic gunboats, as I believe my hon. Friend suggested, is a perversion of the truth. The Royal Navy is there to protect our fishermen who have been shot at by rifle fire and shell fire by Icelandic gunboats on the high seas. I am sure that if my hon. Friend's constituents were in such a position, he would ensure that they were protected, as is their right.
§ Mr. Laurance Reed
The point I made earlier seems to have been misunderstood. I am saying that, where there is a judgment by an international court, it is for the international community to secure compliance, not the parties to the dispute, any more than one would expect that in an ordinary civil action in this country.
§ Mr. Wall
Surely my hon. Friend realises that that international action is exactly what will happen next year at the Conference on the Law of the Sea. We are complaining about the unilateral action of the Icelandic Government using violence against our ships, which they have no right to do.
The Icelandic Government estimated that the winter weather last year would prevent our fishermen from carrying on their fishing inside the new limits. They were wrong. They now estimate that, because we are fishing under the protection of the Royal Navy, we shall not be able to catch the 170,000 tons which have been allowed by the International Court. I am convinced that the Icelandic Government will be proved wrong again. They are thinking in terms of the last cod war when we were fishing between six and 12 miles. Today we are fishing between 12 and 50 miles, which is a very different matter. I believe that our fishermen will 1594 be able to ply their trade under the protection of the Royal Navy and that they will catch the maximum amount of fish permitted.
I have been in Iceland recently, and I know that the other issue which is continually to the forefront is the pressure against the American maritime air base at Keflavik. This pressure is misguided. Keflavik accounts for about 6 per cent. of Iceland's gross national product and, if it were to go, Iceland, whose economy is already pretty shaky, would feel the draught immediately. Secondly, no one in Iceland seems to have appreciated that the Americans could well retaliate. If they were to be told to get out of Keflavik, they might well decide not to buy any of Iceland's fish, which could well finish Iceland's economy, which, as I have said, is already dicky.
I hope that the Icelandic Government will realise the complexities of the situation and that we have some sympathy for them in the position in which they find themselves. I hope, too, that they will return to the negotiating table which could only be to the advantage of Iceland, Britain and the international community as a whole.
I shall devote the rest of my speech to the southern flank, particularly the subject of oil. The energy gap is the most important question facing the world for the next generation or, possibly, two generations.
That brings to mind immediately two issues—first, that Europe draws 57 per cent. of its oil from the Middle East and that the oil comes round the Cape; secondly, that America in the next decade will draw 60 per cent. of its oil from the Middle East, also round the Cape. We have also the problem of the immense increase in wealth which is going to the nations supplying the oil—the nations of the Arab world—and the effect that this could have on international monetary policy. Obviously, we shall have to consider this problem carefully in the future.
I believe that the dependence of the West on its long-range oil supply round the Cape is crucial. The question has been asked: why should the Soviet Union bother about this; if it wanted to be aggressive, would it not be so much easier and quicker to invade the 1595 Middle East? Any such action would be the cause of world war three, as the Soviet Union knows as well as we do.
The alternative is to take action against this long and tenuous line of Western oil communications either directly or through a third party. This could happen. Such action has been taken in the past—in the Nyon agreement during the Spanish Civil War, the Malaysian and Indonesian confrontation, and other such conflicts.
Only last week, at the meeting of Western European Union, General Goodpaster, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, emphasised the dependence of the West on this oil route and said how worried he was about it. We must have a policy of flexible response, not only in central Europe, but also as regards our oil supplies. I do not believe that we can have such a policy without the help of South Africa, Rhodesia and the Portuguese provinces in Africa. This is the burden of my speech.
It has become fashionable in recent months in the Press and elsewhere to say that the British Government have a choice between black Africa and southern Africa, and to try to force them to make this choice, the pressure being clearly in favour of black Africa. I do not believe that we have to make this choice. We want to trade and be friends with both sides and use our influence on both sides to try to persuade them to come together for the common good of that continent.
I want to put some important figures on the record. First, not more than 10 per cent. of our oil supplies come from Nigeria. As I have already said, about 60 per cent. of our supplies and those of America, will come round the Cape during the next decade.
The relative figures of investments for black Africa, excluding the Arabs, and for southern Africa—not South Africa, alone—are as follows. The book value of investments, less oil, in Southern Africa is £740 million. In other African Commonwealth countries it is £280 million plus £72 million in other independent African States, a total of £352 million. Thus the value of our investments in Southern Africa is twice the value of our investments in the rest of Africa.
Our investment in oil in Nigeria is worth from £150 million to £200 million, 1596 but that still leaves a large balance in favour of the south. Adding to that the value of our holding of South African securities of about £1,000 million, it is clear that the balance of investments is much in favour of the south rather than of black Africa.
In 1972, the figures of United Kingdom imports and exports were: imports from the south, £352 million, and from black Africa, inclusive of Nigerian oil, £457 million; exports to the south, £342 million, and to black Africa, £405 million. That gives a slight bias in favour of the north, of black Africa. But weighed in the balance must be the growing tendency in African, Commonwealth and independent States towards the nationalisation or expropriation of British firms, which does not happen in the south.
My object is to try to put the balance sheet to the House. I do not want this country to be forced to make a choice between the two areas. That would be wrong for this country and I do not think any hon. Member would want it to happen. However, if we have to make a choice, if a decision is forced on us, it seems clear where the balance of British advantage lies in both economic and strategic terms.
I return to the vital question of the oil routes; 60 ships a day pass Cape Town. One thousand ships a month call at South African ports. Yet the British Government have not yet implemented the undertakings they gave when in opposition. The House will recall that in 1967 it debated the question of the supply of maritime arms for the defence of the Cape route. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, said:The Government have taken the wrong decision.That was when they decided to suspend the delivery of arms to South Africa.They have failed to justify it to the House. It is damaging to our national interest in finance, in trade and in defence, and a Conservative Administration will reverse it"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th December 1967; Vol. 756, c. 1152.]That pledge has not yet been fulfilled. True, we have provided the South African navy with eight small anti-submarine helicopters, but that was after a good deal of flap and bother including a White Paper. The Labour Government provided 1597 16 Buccaneers, which we built in my constituency and four of which have since been written off in accidents. Are replacements to be supplied?
I remind my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that when as Leader of the Opposition he came to my constituency and was asked at a meeting whether a Conservative Government would supply Buccaneers to South Africa when returned to office he said, "Yes." They have not yet been supplied. When I table Questions on this matter, I get the stock Foreign Office answer to the effect that no orders have yet been placed. Every hon. Member and every civil servant knows that orders from South Africa are not placed until an assurance has been given that export licences will be granted. The Simonstown Agreement must be fulfilled in the spirit as well as in the law, if our oil routes are to be adequately defended.
May I leave it at that? We are running into the danger of being faced with the choice, which is presented in the Press and other mass media, between black and southern Africa. By havering between the two, not making up our minds, not being firm with either side, we run the risk of being distrusted by both.
I do not propose to mention Rhodesia, as I want to be as brief as possible. I end with a word about Portugal. I believe that both sides of the House accept that the Portuguese are the most non-racial of all European nations. They have been attacked from the Opposition Front Bench today for colonialism. The figure of 200,000 troops in Africa has been mentioned, but it is much inflated.
I do not believe that the Portuguese attitude can be termed colonialist. I was asked why they have any troops in Africa at all. The answer is that they are there because of attacks by guerrillas armed with Communist—that is, Russian or Chinese—weapons, by guerrilla forces based in Tanzania, Zambia or sometimes in Zaire. The Portuguese are defending their own people. The Portuguese have borne the brunt of the fighting because they believe in themselves and still believe in their mission in the world. I believe that they carry massive African support. Two-thirds of their army are now black. Nobody can tell me that if the soldiers in 1598 that army were opressed they would not revolt.
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
It is true that approaching two-thirds of the Portuguese troops are black, but there is also a large equivalent of a Home Guard who are all black, who are all armed, and who have no white officers in almost every case.
§ Mr. Wall
I agree with my hon. Friend and this also applies to civil life.
Elections have now been held in the provinces in which I am particularly interested—Angola, Mozambique and, to a lesser extent, Guinea. In Angola 53 members were elected to the legislative assembly, of whom 23 were non-white, and there was a poll of over 85 per cent. In Mozambique, of the 50 elected representatives, 28 were non-white, and there was a poll of more than 90 per cent. In Guinea, 17 members were elected, of whom 15 were non-white, and the poll was 89 per cent. That does not look to me like Fascism or colonialism or anything else of which the Portuguese are accused from Labour benches.
Portugal believes in her rôle in Africa, In that she has the support of millions of non-white Portuguese in Africa and elsewhere in their fight against terrorists who have been armed by Moscow or Peking. I believe that the last fling of the terrorists in Mozambique is their attack on Cabora Bassa, which has already failed, as will be evident to the world when the dam is completed and starts operation in 1975.
I very much welcome the visit of the Portuguese Prime Minister to this country. I believe that the Anglo-Portuguese alliance is as important today as it was 600 years ago, and I greatly hope that it will last another 600 years.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
It is a cliché in the House to say "If the hon. Member will excuse me for not commenting on what he says" but I hope that the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) will not excuse me, because I wish to comment on just one thing he said and to make my speech on that subject. I refer to the so-called cod war.
At present there is a quiet but most significant lull in the situation. It is to be welcomed, but we must be ever-vigilant 1599 in the defence of our fishermen, their interests and their welfare.
There is a need to state the case about Iceland, because there is developing a quiet and insidious campaign on behalf of the Icelandic fishing industry. I make no complaint about that. I do not mind the friends of Iceland. I am a friend of Iceland, with a small "f," not a big "F." But it is a little ironic that we allow Icelandic MPs to come here and speak—I was debating with one a few hours ago in Hull—when the Icelanders expelled a member of our embassy in Iceland over a slight misunderstanding. However, I wish to behave like Voltaire in this matter. I do not deny the Icelander's case for a moment. They have an overwhelming dependence on fishing, but we must examine their case not with too much sympathy but with genuine objectivity.
I wish to dispel one or two myths and legends that are beginning to develop in the northern mists of the Atlantic. Iceland has a case for extension of the limits, but it has behaved in the most uncivilised fashion. I accept Iceland's dependence upon fishing, but the correct figure is that it accounts for 48 per cent. of its budget. I accept its export figure, but let us not forget tourism, agriculture, aluminium and the NATO base.
It is not correct to say that the Icelanders have no fuel. They have inexhaustable supplies of thermal energy. Thanks to the Danes, they can heat their capital city and their horticultural glasshouses. Iceland is not a poor nation, and no one wishes it to be one. The Icelanders have a higher gross national product per head and a higher standard of living then we have.
Let us examine the new international law which has been mentioned. In 1961 we willingly signed an agreement in which we said that any future dispute should be taken to the International Court at The Hague. Twice, by 14 votes to one, the court, an arm of the United Nations, to which both Iceland and the United Kingdom belong, has told Iceland to find an interim agreement with us pending the conference next year in Santiago. Iceland takes up the position that she is judge in her own cause. It is ludicrous for anyone to say that we are in any way sheltering behind or using the court in a dubious way.
1600 Iceland's behaviour is a sure recipe for chaos in the north-east Atlantic. Iceland is the odd man out in the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Conference, where all other nations, both east and west of the Iron Curtain, accept the 12-mile limit for the time being. All the nations which have extended their limits so far, with the exception of Canada, are either Latins in South America or Afro-Asians, and with none of those have we had any dispute. None of them has attacked any of our fishing vessels. With the utmost good will, I find that Iceland is pursuing a lone course. Some people might accuse Iceland of wanting a monopoly, but I state bluntly that her politicians—Mr. Joseffson and others—definitely know that they will get a bigger share of total annual catch than they are now getting by any agreement they care to make with us freely and honourably.
I was in Iceland at the time of the last talks. Despite the fact that in 1971 we landed 210,000 tons, we not only accepted the cut suggested by the court to 170,000 tons, but went down to 155,000 and finally to 145,000. I wish that the Icelanders would get off their base of 117,000 tons. I believe that we would go below our so-called base of 145,000 tons and that we might find a figure between the two.
The north-east Atlantic is not fished out. There has been over-fishing, which is a vastly different matter and could be coped with by means of limitation of catch if we could all get together and decide upon it. The North-East Atlantic Fisheries Conference is the authority upon conservation in those waters. It depends for scientific advice upon the International Council for Exploration of the Sea. The White Paper is correct to say that there have been five surveys between 1965 and 1972, and they recommend limitation of catch by all manner of means. The only nation which will not ratify agreement upon that is Iceland. Thereby she stultifies any action that we can take jointly to conserve her own fishing stocks.
I refer next to the sending of frigates. I will not say a word about the distress and unemployment that could be caused in Hull or any other fishing port, speaking as I do as a constituency Member, but our constituents were attacked daily by shot and shell. Their 1601 warps were cut. The fact of life is that since our Navy went in on 19th May not a single warp has been cut. Our men are fishing peacefully and fetching home good catches. I do not say that the lull can continue well beyond the Santiago conference. However, the existing conditions are a base or an atmosphere on which we might begin talks again and reach a genuine settlement.
Unlike the hon. Member for Haltemprice I discount the Communist bogy. I believe that the Icelanders are nationalist even to the point of chauvinism and that they do not wish to have any aliens—I almost said expatriates—living on their island, fishing upon their banks, or living on the NATO base.
I speak as a Member representing a constituency that has approximately 100 fishing vessels in its docks. I do not accept for one moment that the Navy should be asked to come out under existing conditions. I know that our skippers and crews would not fish there under constant harassment unless they receive the legitimate protection which they deserve as our people. They are lawfully engaged upon their centuries-old pursuit upon the international high seas.
Ordinary working-class people who have to get their living and who go to sea in dangerous conditions have no doubt about the position. It is a fact that we have never used our Navy before in this context, but no country except Iceland has ever attacked our fishing vessels in this way.
I contend that we are justified in defending our people in these circumstances. It is vital that we all work for a peaceful solution. Iceland has the solution in its own hands. If it will come to a sixth set of talks and settle for a limitation of catch between 117,000 tons and 145,000 tons, a solution can be found.
The ocean covers 72 per cent. of the surface of the globe. The oceans should be looked upon as the common heritage of mankind. At this moment, government in the oceans is virtually nil outside the 12-mile limit. The unilateral action of Iceland merely adds to the incipient chaos which prevails all over the oceans. It is our duty to work together and not to encourage Iceland to continue as the sole outlaw in the north-east Atlantic. That 1602 is a duty which we have not only to our fishermen, but to all mankind.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
I hope that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) will excuse me if I do not take up his speech, except to say that, as a fellow hon. Member from an East Coast port with some fishermen, I admire the battle which he is fighting not only for his fishermen but for our fishermen of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. James Johnson
I have been handed a note which says:The Icelandic patrol vessel 'Thor' today severed two warps of the Hull trawler Arctic Vandal'.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has given us a grand review of his extremely successful stewardship of the Foreign Office. I am sure that the greatest achievement of the Government has been to give us the opportunity of playing our part as a member of the EEC and our part in European affairs. I have always said, as a liberally minded new member of the EEC, that I realise full well that we shall have some battles to fight over the protectionism of some of the other members of the EEC. I represent a number of people, too, who are concerned about agricultural policy. I know that those people would like to see a reform of the common agricultural policy.
Today I shall concentrate on Eastern Asia. When I first went to Asia it was called the Far East because it took about six weeks to get there. Today it takes approximately 15 hours to fly to Tokyo. That makes me realise what a small world we are living in today and how Eastern Asia has been brought so much closer to Europe.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs referred to our policy towards China, and as I have just paid a visit to Japan it is appropriate that I should refer to Eastern Asia. It was fortunate that my visit coincided with that of yours, Mr. Speaker. If it is not out of place, should like to congratulate you on the success of your mission in opening the British Parliamentary Exhibition in Tokyo. The wit which you used in your speeches pleased the Japanese. Your 1603 visit was also helpful in aiding our relations with Japan and making a good foundation for the new relationship between Japan and Europe.
We have been fighting too long a rearguard action in our withdrawal from the empire. We have found a new rôle as a liberal and outward-looking member of the enlarged European Economic Community. It is in that new rôle that I found in Japan a real and new attention being paid to our attitude and views. Our parliamentary delegation of 10 hon. Members was the first of a series of invitations which the Japanese Government are making to other members of the EEC Governments. We met the Japanese Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, leaders of Japanese industry and trade unions, and Japanese MPs, as well as visiting Japan's industry.
We paid an official visit to Hiroshima at our request. We learned how a 50-megaton bomb had killed 250,000 people. When we consider that we are now building 1-million megaton bombs we should realise what could happen now. Perhaps that was the biggest impression which we had after visiting Hiroshima. After visiting the city I realised how vital it was that the Government initiated and signed the Test Ban Treaty of 1963 and how vital it is for other Powers in close proximity to Japan who are exploding nuclear bombs to realise the deep feelings which exist in Japan and in the world about what is happening at present.
Hiroshima, like Japan, is a hive of bustling economic activity. Japan, like Europe, is a huge importer of raw materials, especially oil. Like Great Britain, Japan is dependent upon maintaining an expanding world trade. That is why Japan is so concerned about the forthcoming negotiations with the EEC. From some of the things which I have heard, I am slightly anxious about some of the protectionist lobbyists which I have heard working inside Europe, and I am, therefore, concerned for the possible outcome of the negotiations in Tokyo.
Our delegation had some rough words to say about Japan's hosepipe operations on small sections of industry such as the ballbearing industry. However, since 1st May capital liberalisation has been enforced. I am sure that it is fair to say, when trade restrictions and trade practices are considered, that Japan is at least 1604 on even terms with most of the developed countries, including the United States.
Japan's fear is that we in Europe and the United States will be tempted to resort to protective trade policies rather than positive and outward-looking attitudes to solve international conflicts of interest. Undoubtedly our Prime Minister's visit, at a particularly difficult time for him, did a great deal to assure Japan that we wanted to extend our trade and that protection would be resorted to only as a last resort.
I am certain that there are great opportunities for exports to Japan. There are also great opportunities for Japanese investment capital in our regions. The Japanese want to export more of their capital. But we must get over to them that our labour relations have reached a new and better phase. In this, it would be worth while for other delegations, such as one from the trade unions, to go to Japan to talk to the Japanese about our labour relations and our hopes for the future. Unfortunately, over the last few years the picture we have drawn of this country has created a fear of investing here. This bad image has been painted perhaps more because of political differences in this House than in industry, but it has suggested to many people overseas that Britain is not a good place in which to invest. This is why I am so anxious to get over the point that other delegations could help to improve the picture.
One of the main things which our parliamentary delegation learnt in Japan was that there are great opportunities to seize if we can get away from the internecine squabbles which so many people accept as the picture of Britain, however untrue it may be.
Foreign travel is altering the outlook of many insular-minded Japanese. Nevertheless, they still have in their minds how in the 1930s they became isolated and extremists took control. They fear, quite rightly, that economic nationalism could drive them into isolation again. This time, however, bearing in mind the expansion of their industry, it would be even more disastrous. Japanese oil requirements have expanded from 4 million tons a year in 1940, largely for military purposes, to 240 million tons today. Their steel production in 1940 was 5 million tons a year 1605 and today it is 100 million tons. All their raw materials are imported.
Quite rightly, of late we have been concentrating on improving our relations with China, and I welcome my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Peking this autumn. But we must be careful not to do this at the expense of our relations with Japan. My concern is lest, because of economic competition, we repeat the mistakes we made in the 1930s and isolate Japan. We obviously have used, and will continue to use, rough words, as we did on our visit, about some of their economic practices, but they are spoken against the background of political friendship.
Undoubtedly, however, there is growing nationalism in Japan. This is why we must not repeat the mistakes of the 1930s. The Japanese are not the easiest people to get to know, as there is such a great language barrier. They are insular people and naturally reserved, like ourselves. The Chinese are more worldly and easier to get to know, and their cuisine, like that of the French, is of worldwide renown. They are also better linguists.
It is vital, therefore, that our policy should not be that of in any way making a choice between Japan and China as our friend in Asia. We should do all we can to make them both our friends. That is the spirit in which I welcome the Prime Minister's forthcoming visit to China. Japan today, at least economically, is completely in the orbit of the free nations. She has come of age in the post-war world. She is now a most important factor in the balance of power, and I am sure that she is looking to the EEC and particularly to the United Kingdom to help her in her relations with the new Europe. Japan already has a close association with the United States, and a close association with Europe also has real meaning for her today.
I therefore hope that in the coming negotiations in Tokyo the result will lead to an expansion and not a contraction of trade. That is in the interests of the United Kingdom as well as of Japan. This is a time when vital decisions are being made for the next decade. I want to be sure that our children do not have to suffer as our generation did because 1606 of the economic nationalism of the 1930s and the isolation of Japan. It is in the hands of the negotiators in the GATT discussions to ensure that we do not adopt protectionist attitudes which lead to a wave of economic nationalism in the world, because we all know in our hearts that this was a major cause not only of the Japanese war but of the war in Europe as well.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)
I applaud the words of the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale). I am certain that it is impossible to debate intelligently international affairs at this juncture without taking into account the already immense significance of Japan in world affairs, both economic and political, which will be even greater in the future. It deserves a great deal more time in terms of the House's attention.
I hope that I shall not be regarded as churlish when I say that, despite the most interesting contributions which have been and will be made, the unsatisfactory nature of a wide-ranging debate of this kind underlines again the dreadful lack of priority accorded to foreign affairs by this House. At the time of our entry into the EEC, we heard from hon. Members supporting entry that one of the strongest points in favour was that it would give us a basis for a more significant and relevant rôle in world affairs. Looking back over the past year of parliamentary activity, I do not believe that there is any indication that the House is taking its part in discussion of world affairs, which affect us all so deeply and significantly, as seriously as it should.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) referred to the French nuclear tests. The Opposition feel deeply about them. We all rejoiced to hear the Foreign Secretary making more clear than has so far been done by the Government that formal representations have been made strongly, if privately, to the French. But however strong the private representations, the impact on the French Government must have been muted because of the failure of the British Government to come out openly on the side of our traditional partners in the Commonwealth, Australia and New Zealand, in leaving no doubt where we stand on the issue.
1607 We must to some extent try to analyse the reasons for the Government's inhibitions. I hope that we are wrong when we fear at times that one possible explanation lies in the view of the Government that they want to leave their options open in terms of the creation of a European nuclear deterrent and that any forthright stand against the French at this juncture might create grave obstacles in the way of such future developments.
know that I speak for many of my hon. Friends when I say that we want to leave the Government in no doubt that, whatever the honest differences of opinion we might hold among ourselves about European affairs and institutions, on one thing we hold profoundly to common ground. This is that we want nothing of an independent European nuclear deterrent.
Having said that, we want to recognise the very significant developments in the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, to which the Foreign Secretary rightly referred.
It would be absurd not to see the tremendous opportunities for humanity which this rapprochement offers. Simply because of the new possibilities opened up by the rapprochement, I believe that we should send out a clear message from this House that we want to do everything possible to avoid an unnecessary fragmentation of the Atlantic Alliance. When fresh possibilities for disarmament and détente exist it is not just a matter of making gestures either on the part of the West or the East.
Surely the challenge is, to responsible political leadership, to make sure that developments in the direction for which we all yearn are guaranteed and underlined. To guarantee developments of this sort demands a strong negotiating position. I believe that we have come to this point of opportunity because of the success story of NATO to date. This is the time when we must say clearly to our partners in the alliance that the Atlantic connection is more fundamentally relevant today than ever before.
This is not the time to go into details of that relationship. Suffice it to say that we recognise that an inherent and fundamental part of that arrangement has been the significant physical presence 1608 of the United States in Western Europe. We all deplore any tendency on the part of the United States—any voices within the United States advocating unilateral withdrawal—which might place in jeopardy the system I have been describing. However, we must recognise that this is a two-sided coin and that if we are concerned for the strength of the Atlantic Alliance we have to see to it that political leaders in Western Europe do all they can in political and economic affairs to underline the inseparable relationship which is the key to effective military co-operation.
We have to recognise that the voices of antagonism—if I may so describe them—in the States are greatly strengthened when it seems that we are preparing for an economic confrontation with the United States.
I want to refer to a few points that the Foreign Secretary raised. I take first the issue of Portugal, Greece and Turkey. It is simply because I believe in the importance of the NATO Alliance that I say we have to take far more seriously than we do the danger to the NATO Alliance from within. There is a real danger to the alliance by the corrosion of those principles to which the alliance is theoretically committed. I refer only to Article II of the North Atlantic Treaty, which commits the parties to observethe principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law and the strengthening of their free institutions.It is a fact that in Turkey, Greece and Portugal those provisions are by no means fulfilled. Not only where this happens is the strength and cohesion of the alliance undermined but it also occurs where it is condoned. If we are to have wholehearted support for the policies of the alliance it is essential to be able to demonstrate the philosophy and the coherence of the alliance. Those three countries in particular are putting that gravely in jeopardy. I also believe that it it difficult for an alliance to be convincing in its stance in world affairs and to fulfil its potential when regimes in countries of the alliance become so preoccupied with suppressing opposition within their territories that they are not in a strong position to contribute effectively should the alliance collectively come under pressure.
I reject completely the Foreign Secretary's concept that this is somehow 1609 woolly, sentimental or idealistic thinking and not hard-headed, practical analysis. When the right hon. Gentleman uses quotations—and I do not deny those which he used—suggesting that if we want to preserve democracy in our own and other countries in the alliance where democracy means something we must not be too squeamish about certain partners where the same principles of democracy are not observed, I emphasise that while it is easy to say that in this House, if one is a liberal in Greece, Turkey or Portugal, languishing in prison, and perhaps being tortured because of one's views, that sort of remark is seen in a very different light.
I come to the Foreign Secretary's remarks on Rhodesia. I agree with him, as someone who has tried to follow Southern African affairs fairly closely for a number of years, that the key to the solution of the problems in that area must lie with the people of Southern Africa. One of the profound qualitative changes in the nature of the Southern African situation recently has been the growing realisation on the part of Africans that things will not change as a result of outside intervention, that the most that they can hope for is for enlightened policies from the world community which will support them in their initiative and endeavours.
If we believe that, it is incumbent upon those of us who wish to see a peaceful change in Southern Africa to point out uncompromisingly to Mr. Smith and his colleagues in the illegal rôgime and to the South African Government, whenever the opportunity arises, that they must come to terms with the fundamental aspiration of the African people which is now majority rule.
In so far as they refuse to come to terms with that principle they are making confrontation and violence in the political situation inevitable. It is against that background that many of us, most reluctantly because of our outlook towards political, social and economic affairs, have reached the position when we believe we have to support the liberation movements, because whenever an articulate spokesman for the majority puts forward the ultimate political objective he is told uncompromisingly that this is the one concession which is not available. 1610 In that situation the men who lead the liberation movements, themselves people who would normally reject any concept of violence, cannot be left alone.
It is all very well for the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) to say that the liberation movements receive their support from Communist Powers. They do receive their support from Communist Powers in terms of military operations because the West has not been prepared to support them effectively in the struggle they are waging. They would welcome support from the West because they have no desire to become prisoners of totalitarian Communist countries. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways.
There is another point that is related to the two I have been making. What distresses me about our discussions of foreign affairs is that we become preoccupied with the short-term issues at the expense of long-term strategy. I take specifically the issue of Iceland as an example. It seems that whenever we discuss Iceland we do so in terms of the immediate problems with which we are confronted. Should we deploy the Navy? How should we deploy it? Where should we deploy it? What will we achieve by doing so? The lesson staring us in the face is that the real significance of Iceland is that it is symptomatic of the new situation developing in the world.
There is a grave shortage of world resources and increasingly heavy pressure by the rapidly growing world population on those resources. There is also a determination on the part of the under-privileged that they will not endure third-or fourth-class economic standards any longer but, instead, want fairer access to the world's resources. This has to be coupled with what I believe will be the ultimate condemnation of our generation of politicians—the absolutely irresponsible way in which we have been consuming and destroying the world's nonrenewable resources without ever looking to the future. We like to talk about social justice, and one of the things that frequently strikes me as being very cynical in the way we discuss this is that we discuss it in a horizontal time-scale. We talk of social justice for the existing population but never spare a thought for future generations. A commitment to social justice must mean concern for the 1611 unborn just as much as for the already born. This complicates and aggravates the size of the issues with which we are confronted, of which Iceland is an example.
I would not dot every "I" and cross every "T" of what the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Laurance Reed) says, but I pay warm tribute to him—and it must have taken a great deal of courage for directing our attention to a proper time perspective. I am sure that if we care about the issues raised in the Icelandic dispute we should be discussing much more what our line will be at the forthcoming international conference on the law of the sea at Santiago where the salvation of humanity will be worked out. We shall have to decide whether it should be just the rich countries, with their technological ability, which should have disproportionate access to limited world resources or whether the resources in the sea belong to humanity as a whole. We must decide how to work out an effective system which ensures that not only nations with a seaboard but land-locked nations as well have a fair share of what is available in and under the sea.
There are the well demonstrated racial overtones in the problems of southern Africa, but it is not just a racial issue which is the long term issue confronting us. The most serious issue is the confrontation between the disproportionately privileged and the disproportionately disadvantaged, who make up the majority of the world's population. There are two ways of approaching the situation. We must say, either that we should lend our shoulder to realistic mechanisms to try to achieve a fairer distribution of resources, or that we should join the advantaged in deploying all our military and technological skill to keep the world's majority at bay and to go on using disproportionately the advantages which we have traditionally come to enjoy.
The latter is an honest approach which I think we would all reject as creating a civilisation hardly worth living in. However, if we reject it, we must take a good deal of time in working out how we shall implement the alternative. When we talk, as the Foreign Secretary talked this afternoon, about the forthcoming negotiations within the context of the EEC and the way in which we shall extend the 1612 range of associate status for certain countries, let us bear in mind our objective. Is it to fragment the potential collective bargaining power of the developing world in asserting its strength against the advantaged communities to which we belong, or is it genuinely to strengthen its position in obtaining fair access to the resources of the world and to the potential for economic development?
The countries of the developing world will not be deceived any longer. The message is clear from the majority of the world's population living in the so-called developing countries of the third world. It is, "We do not want your charity. Your charity, if it is necessary to remove the evils caused by your ruthless exploitation, adds insult to injury. What we want is justice in world trade, in the management of the world's economic resources and in the redistribution of the resources of the world community."
The challenge to political leadership on both sides of the House in the next decade will be how we can help the British people whom we claim to represent to adjust to the fundamental reality of the post-imperial world in which we live.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)
I am sure that the hon Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) will not expect me to agree with all the points he made in his interesting speech. However, I agree wholeheartedly with what he said about the need to continue the cohesion of NATO.
I deal first with what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said about the peace negotiations currently taking place between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Almost a year ago I paid a visit to India and Bangladesh—a very interesting visit it was, too, because the hostilities had just finished—and I watched with admiration the efforts made in that country to build up a stricken economy. Incidentally, it is extremely tragic that another disaster should have struck Bangladesh just the other day.
I found a great feeling of gratitude for the part which this country played in supplying aid after the end of hostilities. In both Dacca and Delhi optimism was 1613 then the order of the day. Now we find, 12 months later, that no progress has been made. Three separate sets of people —the Pakistani prisoners of war in India, the Bengalis in Pakistan and the Pakistanis or Biharis in Bangladesh—are pawns in the negotiations. It is most unsatisfactory that these unfortunate people, particularly the prisoners of war, should be kept in this state for so long.
The initiative can come only from India. Only India can break the log-jam. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make it clear that friends of India, among whom I count myself, find it increasingly difficult to defend the continued delay in releasing the prisoners of war in complete disregard of the Geneva Convention. I hope that India will reject the joint command arguments and will make the first move towards a solution.
When the history of the present period is written, I think that it will be recorded that overall the world was at peace during this time, and no small amount of credit must go to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for the successful diplomacy which he has brought to bear on this situation. There is no major confrontation in the world today. Even the so-called running sores are healing, whether it be Vietnam, the India-Pakistan dispute, Southern Africa and the Middle East. Everywhere tension is at the lowest point it has been for some considerable time. Yet it is all so deceptive. The position will undoubtedly change, and it will change for the worse.
My theme, therefore, is that it is most important that the British Government should seize the opportunity to disengage from their commitments east of Suez and, I believe, on the continent of Africa. They should remove these hostages to fortune which will prevent the conduct of a successful diplomacy in future years.
I turn first to the question of the four-Power agreement in Malaysia. I have never been able to regard this agreement as credible, because people do not believe that we have the will or power to reinforce our commitment. It has the basis of a Munich situation, with all the attendant bitterness and disappointments. The Australians want to go; that is clear. I think that we should take the oppor- 1614 tunity to remove our land presence in Malaysia and instead rely, as we should have relied from the word "go", on a true maritime strategy throughout the Far East. In the same theatre, I am in favour of the early grant of independence to Hong Kong. We shall have to go eventually, and I suggest that we go now with dignity, when the situation is calm.
In southern Africa the choice is far more difficult and complicated, but the same principles apply. I was interested to hear the optimistic view of the Rhodesian negotiations put forward by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in Rhodesia, but I have certain sources of information. This information is depressing in the extreme. I hope it is wrong but there appears to be no hope of reaching an agreement with Mr. Smith along the lines of the six principles. The question is what the British Government should do in a situation such as this where they have responsibility without power, which has been the case in Rhodesia from 1922 onwards.
There is only one possible course of action and that is to make legal a de facto situation. However that is done, whether by a Termination of Sovereignty Bill or by other means, that is the only course of action open to the Government. That does not imply approval of Mr. Smith's régime or the actions that he has taken. The fact that we operate with Greece and Portugal in NATO does not imply that we approve of these régimes. There are many régimes throughout the world of which we disapprove, but if we do not talk or trade with those countries, the position becomes extremely difficult.
§ Dr. Miller
The hon. Gentleman says that making legal the de facto position in Rhodesia does not imply approval of the Smith rôgime, but does not he agree that to do that would be to abandon 4 million Africans to a situation which we might be able to influence in the near future?
§ Mr. Benyon
From the word "go" neither the previous Government nor this Government have been able to exercise any influence in that country. The situation will not change one iota, and we shall simply be accepting the situation as it is.
This brings me to sanctions. I suggest that we tell the United States that we 1615 are not satisfied with being the only country to observe effectively the mandatory sanctions resolution and that if the United Nations cannot put the matter right within one year, we shall have to think again.
At the same time, I believe we should sever any defence association with the Republic of South Africa. I was interested in the speech made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) who has just been there. To cut off South Africa from contact with the West and to try to stop United Kingdom investment in South Africa cannot be the right policy. The alternative, which is to try to influence people and events in that country but not to play any part in its defence, is the best policy.
I listened with interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). I cannot see the difference between a Russian attack on the Middle East and a Russian attack on shipping on the sea routes from the Middle East to the United Kingdom. They are both overt acts of aggression and would evoke a similar response.
In these days of nuclear submarines, the defence capability of the South African base is limited and ignores the very long tanker routes from the Gulf. A commitment to defend the South African base, is counter-productive to our interests elsewhere in Africa. The three main spheres on which we should concentrate are Europe, the North Atlantic Alliance and the development of our sea power into a true maritime strategy.
Despite all the optimistic statements that have been made about the European Security Conference, it will not achieve anything. It is a charade, and a dangerous one at that the Russians aim to procure United States withdrawal from Europe and to weaken the newly emerging Community. I am sure that the Russians will offer substantial force reductions, but they will be reductions from already high levels.
We must ask ourselves why the Russian forces have been increased in the west. One could understand if they had been increased on the eastern border, but they have been increased in the west. Why have the Russians increased their submarine fleet? Russian is a landlocked Power and has no interest in protecting 1616 its trade. These weapons therefore can only be offensive weapons.
I believe that the conference will fail because the will is not there and because there has been no real change in the Russian attitude. The same old imperialism still exists and the fact that it now has a smiling face should make us doubly wary.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) mentioned several matters, some of which I will take up later. I want to begin by taking a course which is perhaps a little eccentric and which I hope will not be regarded as too academic; that is, to look at Parliament's rôle in the conduct of foreign affairs. I have sensed increasingly over recent years a diminution in that rôle which is both unhealthy for our democracy and unfortunate for the conduct of foreign affairs.
We have experienced a decline of interest in foreign affairs debates, which is mirrored not only by the relatively small attendance in the Chamber but by the almost complete absence of the Press from the Gallery. This is all the more remarkable because the issues that we are debating are of profound importance to the country and our electors.
It is worth considering the reasons for this. One reason is, perhaps, that Parliament's prestige in foreign affairs has declined, partly because it is relatively less well informed on foreign affairs questions. It may seem somewhat churlish to say this to hon. and right hon. Members who have made extremely useful and interesting contributions. It is not intended to be a reflection on the participants in the debate or on those to come. It is a reflection of the enormously expanded range of our national interests projected on to an international plane.
This has resulted in hon. Members becoming specialists and talking to the Minister about the subject in which they are particularly interested. The Minister has the benefit of the individual's views and experiences which are highly informed, but it means that Parliament rarely expresses a collective view or consensus on major issues. The result is 1617 that the Government are forced to rely primarily in their formulation and conduct of foreign policy upon the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and only secondarily to consider the views of Parliament.
This is, perhaps, entirely natural and, in the light of the fact that we have such an extremly skilful foreign service, not wholly to be deplored, but there are certain disadvantages in the Government's relying so exclusively upon the foreign service for advice. Among the disadvantages is one that is apparent not only in the conduct of foreign affairs but in all spheres of Government—a natural tendency to caution and a great reluctance to effect changes of direction. There is also a tendency not to recognise when a change of circumstances dictates a change of Government policy.
Parliament offsets this natural caution of the Civil Service in domestic spheres much more effectively than it does in the conduct of foreign affairs. Hon. Members who participate in domestic debates speak with the weight of their personal involvement in the issues. They speak as representatives of interested groups, for different sections of the community, for different parts of the country. They do not come to foreign affairs debates with quite such an immediacy in terms of knowledge and understanding of world problems.
Parliament must take account of this diminution of its rôle and consider what best can be done to improve its participation. It is significant that in the evidence that he gave to the Franks Committee on the Official Secrets Act, Sir Denis Greenhill, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office, spoke of the importance of foreign affairs debates, but he said:I think it is fair to say that foreign affairs debates in the House of Commons attract less attention than they used to, and it was foreign affairs debates which were very often the main source of information about policy.Certainly, foreign affairs debates are infrequent. Indeed, we have had only two general foreign affairs debates in the last two years. It cannot be thought that foreign affairs debates supply Members with information of a current nature. Clearly, if we are seeking information we must find it elsewhere.
1618 There is the further disadvantage that such information as is vouchsafed by members of the Government is information that they wish to vouchsafe and not necessarily information that Parliament might think relevant in considering important issues. It is almost inevitable that the information obtained in such debates will necessarily be superficial and cursory if all the important areas of policy have to be considered once every six months. Therefore, we must look for some new parliamentary device for the conduct of our exchange with the Government on foreign affairs than this kind of generalised two-day debate which does not allow the House to focus the issues.
Every contribution that has been made this afternoon has related to an important matter, but there has been no coherence and no consensus. At the end of the day I cannot believe that the Government will feel either greatly fortified that their view has been greatly challenged by our opinions or particularly affected by what has been said.
This aspect of the matter is particularly important in the light of what the Foreign Secretary said in opening the debate. The theme of his message was the need in international relations to talk. The right hon. Gentleman was quite right. International affairs are primarily concerned at the present time with international negotiations. A number of vitally important negotiations are either in train or about to take place. It is right that we should have the opportunity to participate fully in the consideration of policies that will be put forward on behalf of this country in these various negotiations.
I have in mind the GATT negotiations, of which the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) spoke so forcefully. I am in considerable sympathy with his views. There are also the negotiations that will be carried on within the Community about the relationship of the associable countries with the Community. We would like to be able to discuss in detail what form of association and what particular relationship with the Community is apt for each of the countries with which we have such strong historic connections and with whose interests we are so profoundly concerned. We would all like to discuss these matters in a debate of this kind in a meaningful 1619 way. But the situation in each country is very different. Countries have their own special problems. For example, the former high commission territories of Southern Africa have peculiar problems involving their relationship within the customs union. On the other hand the problems of the Caribbean are very different. But it is not feasible in a debate of this kind to go into the questions that ought to be examined by hon. Members in fulfilment of Parliament's rôle.
There is a third set of negotiations in which hon. Members should be involved, in terms of debate. I refer to the conference on the law of the sea. This matter has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) and the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Laurance Reed) in an intervention. This subject is pre-eminently a matter of importance, in which the views of Members should be expressed in detail in response to the Government's expression of their general thinking about forthcoming negotiations. These matters cannot be fully examined at Question Time.
It is not possible, in a couple of sentences, to say what is the Government's thinking about the law of the sea conference. It is not even possible to refer to the matter more than cursorily in a Government Front Bench speech of the kind we heard today from the Foreign Secretary. Yet the conference on the law of the sea will be of crucial importance for this country in its many implications in terms of the resources of the sea and the seabed. There is the likelihood of new international agreements on this topic, and this may affect the livelihood of many of our people. Then there are questions of communication links, defence, and many considerations.
I suggest that it is almost impossible for us, as a House, to fortify or criticise the Government effectively in their foreign affairs policies by the way in which we conduct ourselves.
Lest it be thought that I have nothing positive or substantive to say on foreign affairs questions, perhaps I may deal with one of the most important matters about which the Foreign Secretary spoke, namely, the situation in Rhodesia. I was interested to hear the underlying optimism 1620 in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks which led us to believe that he saw some possibility at least that the Rhodesian Government and the leaders of African opinion in Rhodesia saw increasingly the need to talk to each other before we engage in a dialogue with them. I do not feel entirely confident that that hopefulness is justified.
I paid a short visit to Rhodesia just over three months ago, and from my discussions there I did not form the impression that there was such a recognition. It would be helpful if the Minister could say a little more about the foundation for the right hon. Gentleman's optimism. That optimism does not seem to be reflected in the behaviour of the Smith régime. It is not reflected in the decision to take into custody without trial a number of leading members of the African National Congress. It does not seem to be reflected in the extraordinary insensitivity to world opinion which led to the imprisonment of Peter Niesewand— though it must be said that one welcomed the response to world opinion in releasing him. Again, that optimism does not seem to be reflected in the slightly cocksure tone of voice adopted by leading members of the Smith régime. Nor is it reflected in the brazen way in which the regime has sought to justify its every action with such crass folly as the closure of the border.
These matters occurred some weeks ago. I have no doubt that the Minister of State has more up-to-date information. We look forward to hearing in more detail what has changed and what new realisation there is. We notice that it is apparently Mr. Smith's intention to speak in Salisbury himself in a day or two in order to put his gloss on events. We shall have more to go on before the week is out.
I am sure that the Secretary of State is broadly right in the view which has been supported by a number of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd), that the only way forward in Rhodesia will come with the recognition by the illegal régime that it must above all have contacts with the leaders of African opinion, especially with the ANC. No settlement will be acceptable within the five principles if there is not that contact 1621 and a recognition of their importance in the Rhodesian scene.
Having made that slight diversion from my general theme, I return to my suggestions to the Government about how we might begin to think about overcoming this problem of Parliament's relative powerlessness in foreign affairs.
There are a number of minor matters which should be considered. One is the question of Press conferences. There is no doubt that, in the main, members of the Press—especially the diplomatic correspondents—are far better informed about the Government's views on foreign policy than are Members of Parliament. This is as a result of continual informal and in some cases formal briefings. I hope that the Government will give serious thought to the possibility of making sessions of this kind open to Members of Parliament. I recognise that there will be occasions when they wish to make unattributable statements which they do not wish to be known to be the Government's view. But by and large it must be in the interests of democracy that the Government's views on foreign affairs, as on domestic affairs, should be known and fully understood.
Many of the difficulties that Governments experience in the realms of foreign policy stem from a lack of understanding of the objectives of and the background to action that has been taken. I have the view that it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that over a period of a decade successive Governments came to the view well ahead of public opinion and sometimes at loggerheads with it, about the Common Market. Successive Governments took the view that it was in the interests of Britain to apply for membership. It is at least possible that had all the arguments been made available to the public there would have been a somewhat different attitude taken to the issues involved. In the event the outcome was very different. Parliament was presented with a fait accompli on a number of occasions. Policy changes had to be made without adequate preparation and without any understanding of the background which led to those changes being necessary.
The same is true of the decision to withdraw from east of Suez. Here 1622 again there was a rapid policy change that might conceivably have been more assimilable and might even have come about earlier if Parliament had been able to tease out the strands of thinking that led to the perpetration of our rôle east of Suez.
My second suggestion is that we should recognise that in order to be properly informed parliamentarians must travel. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) spoke of his experience in South Africa and of how he had been taken there by a South African foundation. I have had a similar experience, although I did not draw precisely the same conclusions. But it is desirable that Members of Parliament should not feel beholden to their hosts when they go abroad or in any sense be their creatures when they return. It is highly desirable that Members should be in a position to go abroad to look for themselves, to be informed and to make a proper contribution. This should be regarded as the normal function of Members of Parliament. It must be up to them to decide how much time they can afford to allocate to it. But the financing of it should not exercise them. That can only be done by making available limited public resources for the purpose. There has been some discussion of this matter already. I strongly support the view that resources should be made available for the purpose.
In much the same way, more use could be made by the Government of the practice that has grown up, but has not been used extensively, of sending Members of Parliament to participate as spectators and on some occasions as spokesmen at international conferences. I believe that to be of great value.
The prime and overwhelming need is for a specialist committee to be set up to concern itself with foreign affairs generally. There is no substitute for that. We have made a number of tentative steps in this direction, and we can see the success that there has been. We have had the sub-committee of the Expenditure Committee concerning itself with defence and overseas matters. However, that is so predominantly concerned with expenditure matters that it cannot review the underlying policy issues. We have the current experience of the sub-committee on Trade and Industry looking into South African 1623 wages. We have had the excellent experience of the Select Committee on Overseas Aid. We hope that that will be a permanent feature of our parliamentary scene, because its impact in educating the public to the needs of the developing world and our responsibility and rôle in meeting, those needs has been of inestimable value.
We now need a committee to look closely at current negotiations and those which lie ahead. Such a committee will give members of the Government an opportunity to explain the issues and the Government's thinking on them. I know that there are difficulties. Inevitably, international negotiations are a matter of compromise and it will be difficult for the Government to declare their hand in advance of the negotiations. But it will be possible for the Government to spell out what they regard as the country's interests as they see them and the posture which they will adopt when they enter the negotiating chamber. Given information of that kind, Members of Parliament can be behind the Government if they agree and critical of the Government if they disagree. In that way we shall have a more democratic involvement in the process of foreign policy making and in the conduct of our international diplomacy.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Woodhouse (Oxford)
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) has given us food for thought, towards a great deal of which I feel sympathetic. As I listened to his diagnosis, one or two other factors occurred to me. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the interest and influence of the House in foreign affairs is waning.
My experience in recent years is that Ministers who reply to debates on foreign affairs seem extraordinarily disinclined to answer anything that hon. Members may put to them in those debates. Another important factor is the enormous complexity and diversity of themes in a foreign affairs debate, which make it extremely difficult to devise any coherence of the kind that the hon. Gentleman and I would welcome.
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts), who opened the debate for the Opposition, made a 1624 useful distinction between long-term issues and matters of immediate urgency. As the debate has proceeded, I have had the feeling that many matters of immediate urgency are at the same time issues which will be with us for a long time to come. It is one of these issues to which, with some regret, I return this evening.
It is a bad habit in the House to repeat oneself, but I find it unavoidable today. I must retrace some of the ground that I covered in our last foreign affairs debate in December last year on the subject of Greece, partly because the situation there has grown not better but worse, and partly because it appeared to me from the Minister of State's winding up speech that he had not taken in a word that I had said.
When I say that the situation has grown worse, I am not referring merely to the fact that Greece has now become a republic. That involves no real change of power, though I must express my regret that Her Majesty's Government were the first to recognise the new situation. What I have in mind is the increased barbarity of the police State with which we now find ourselves in alliance.
As any businessman or tourist will confirm, the Greeks in general do not have the air of an oppressed people. This is perfectly true. However, one does not have to probe far beneath the surface to find a sense of profound humiliation—humiliation at the loss of political liberties and at the fact that anyone who, with a democratic intention, seeks to criticise the Government is imprisoned and often tortured.
I have been chary about making accusations of torture, but today I have irrefutable evidence that it is the practice in the prisons of the Greek military security police. I wish to give one or two examples.
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon mentioned my friend John Pesmazoglou who, for most of last year, was exiled in a village in Southern Macedonia. Towards the end of the year, he was allowed to return to Athens. In January, when the student troubles began, he was arrested. He was released shortly afterwards and arrested again a few weeks later. He has now been held for many weeks by the military security 1625 police without trial and without charge. His only offence is that he was the founder and president of the Society for the Study of Greek Problems. He has also been accused of stimulating student unrest.
Shortly after he was arrested, another friend of mine, Mrs. Virginia Tsouderos, who was the secretary of the Society for the Study of Greek Problems, was also arrested. Both have since been kept in solitary confinement. They have not, to the best of my knowledge, been physically tortured, but a clear attempt is being made to break their morale. The reason is perfectly obvious: it has proved impossible to frame any charge against them that would stand up in court.
Mr. Pesmazoglou was recently described to me in a letter from a friend as appearing to be a bent and broken man who walked only with difficulty, whose eyesight was impaired, and who appeared to be suffering from drug injections. The same statement about impaired eyesight was being made of Mrs. Tsouderos, and it has also been made of Mr. Sakis Peponis, the former Director of the National Broadcasting Service.
In order that the House may be under no misapprehension about the calibre of these people, let me remind hon. Members that Mr. Pesmazoglou is a Professor of Economics at Athens University, was deputy governor of the Bank of Greece, and the sole architect on the Greek side of the Treaty of Association between Greece and the European Economic Community. Virginia Tsouderos is the daughter of the Greek Prime Minister who refused to capitulate to the Nazis in 1941 and took the Government into exile to continue the war on our side.
These people have not actually been physically tortured so far as I know, but I have an even worse case to mention, which is the first I have known from certain knowledge of actual physical torture by the military security police. This concerns a Wing-Commander Anastasios Minis, who served with me during the war. He was one of the most highly decorated officers in the Greek Royal Air Force, including a British decoration. He was a wartime pilot with the Eighth Army in North Africa. He was a parachutist in occupied Greece under the 1626 Nazis, and fought against the Communist rebellion in the post-war years.
His only real offence was to speak for the defence of a group of air force officers who were tried and convicted of sedition and whose convictions were subsequently quashed, partly on his evidence. His nominal offence, for which he is now in prison, was to let off a number of homemade fireworks, not bombs—what our children on 5th November called "bangers"—by way of demonstration on the arrival of Vice-President Agnew in Athens last year. They did no damage and caused no casualties, because they could not. He admitted the offence, but was tortured to try to implicate others.
I have his story here—it was smuggled out of prison—and I hope that it will shortly be published in this country. I have no doubt whatever of the genuineness of this story from both internal and external evidence.
Minis was kept in solitary confinement for 111 days. He was frequently deliberately kept awake all night; he was made to stand at attention for hours on end in a circle one foot in diameter, and was beaten with clubs on his calves, thighs and buttocks if he moved or wavered from the position of attention in that circle. He was kicked in the stomach, kneed in the genitals and beaten on the soles of his feet. When at last he returned from the Greek military security police to a civilian prison, he wrote, "I feel as if I have returned to freedom." Nevertheless, he was sentenced to almost 10 years in gaol for letting off "bangers".
A somewhat shorter sentence was imposed on his only accomplice, Stephanos Pandelakis, an eminent paediatrician who was trained in this country at Radcliffe Hospital and at London University. I have seen scraps of messages from Minis to his wife and I have confirmation, both directly and indirectly, that those messages are genuine.
Greece is a far-away country of which many of us know nothing, so I will attempt to translate what is happening there into British terms. I ask the House to imagine a situation in which the Director-General of the BBC, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, the Professor of Greek at Cambridge, the Professor of Economics at London University, a Professor of Law at Trinity 1627 College, Dublin, an eminent paediatrician from Radcliffe Hospital, a daughter of the late Sir Winston Churchill, half a dozen QCs, dozens of students, and scores of officers are all held in the Tower of London, mostly without trial and without charge.
I ask the House to imagine a situation in which the Lord Mayor of London, the editors of The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, the widow of a Nobel Prize winner, Mr. Benjamin Britten, Dame Peggy Ashcroft and half the cultural and intellectual élite of the country have fled abroad into exile. I ask the House to imagine a situation in which the Queen, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chief Justice have all been deprived of their office on the whim of the Government, and a situation in which Harold Macmillan has been placed under house arrest and permanent police surveillance, Mr. Malcolm Macdonald has been charged with treason and driven into exile, and Lord George-Brown is convicted of a criminal offence for holding a cocktail party.
That sounds funny but that is what is happening. That is an exact parallel with what is happening in Athens.
Finally, I ask the House to imagine that our allies tell us that all this has nothing to do with them, that they could not intervene, and that they would not even if they could, because it would interfere with their own defence system. Those are exact parallels with the situation in Greece today, and the men who have produced that situation are our allies and they are maintaining it with weapons supplied by the Western Powers.
Not only are they our allies, but, I am sorry to say, they often enjoy the express approval of Her Majesty's Government. Ministers sometimes express the wish that they would restore democracy. They sometimes even refer to them as an illegal Government, but they hasten to show that they do not really mean it. The slogan is "We cannot interfere", but the fact is that we are interfering all the time, and we are doing so on the side of the dictatorship.
We are interfering on the side of the dictatorship when we recognise the republic even before there has been a plebiscite 1628 to confirm it. We interfere on the side of the dictatorship when Ministers, generals and admirals are photographed in Athens beaming on George Papadopoulos. I am told that our ambassador in Athens has explicitly compared Papadopoulos with de Gaulle, and I do not believe that he did that in order to insult the memory of the French President. Our Chief of Defence Staff a few weeks ago in Athens publicly praised the morale and efficiency of the Greek armed forces. A few weeks later, the Greek navy was in full revolt, but I do not believe that that was the intention either.
All that is justified on the argument that Greece is essential to NATO, Greece is essential to NATO, but a military dictatorship is not. Let me repeat the warning which I have given in the House before. Although the human material of the Greek armed forces is as good as it has ever been, under their present high command, for purposes of external defences they are of no more use than the French or Italian armies in 1940. Captain Pappas, the officer who recently defected from Greece—a Regular naval officer of 20 years' service—has said explicitly that the defence of NATO's south-east flank has ceased to exist.
There is another aspect to the NATO context. As the right hon. Member for Caernarvon and others have said, NATO was set up to safeguard freedom in Western Europe. How can we expect the Greeks to accept that in order to safeguard the freedom of Western Europe their own freedom has to be sacrificed?
I can imagine them saying to us now, "If it was true that you had to put up with the colonels for the sake of NATO, why do you still have to put up with the colonels now that President Nixon and Mr. Brezhnev have decided not to have a war after all?". That is the sort of question that is now being asked, not provocatively and not by Communists, but by our natural friends in Greece—those of them at least who are not in gaol.
I have here a newspaper which is published in Greek in this country. Although it appears on pink paper, it is a respecable newspaper. Indeed, the paper is bought from the surplus stock of the Financial Times. The paper is published by democratic, royalist and left-wing 1629 exiles in this country. They have long despaired of the Americans—and who is to blame them?
They now say of us:The shameful rôle of being the first to recognise the republic of Papadopoulos before it had even been ratified by the Greek people has fallen to Britain once famous for her parliamentary tradition.…The Greeks have learned once more the falsity of the myth that the words "a gentleman's agreement" originated in aged Albion.That is how we are seen now by the Greeks who until recently were our lifelong friends. Now we have an ally who is not only completely undependable today under a military dictatorship, but whose dependability, even if the military dictatorship were removed tomorrow, we are already in the process of undermining ourselves.
I do not believe that the damage is as yet far-reaching or irremediable. Nevertheless, I think that our policy is not only degrading but counterproductive, and it is not even true that we have no power to do anything about it. We have a powerful lever in the current negotiations for our adherence to the Treaty of Association between Greece and the EEC which the Greek Government desperately need as a preliminary to the further development of the treaty itself. We should have the support of many other members, including the Dutch, Danish and probably the German and Italian Governments, if we were to use that leverage to the utmost.
I hope that before the debate is over the Minister of State will have something to say on these matters: something much more satisfactory than he said last December—which would not be difficult —and something other than a tape recording from Athens. Otherwise, if the House divides on this matter tomorrow night, I have to warn my right hon. Friend that he will have to count without my vote.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I cannot speak of Greece with the great authority of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) but, like him, I have paid several visits to that unfortunate country and have made some close observations on the spot of what is 1630 going on there, and I can corroborate everything that the hon. Gentleman said.
My most recent visit was earlier this year, when I attended a trial that was a travesty of justice, as most of the trials in that country are. I have a number of friends in Greece and I have no doubt that the treatment meted out to them while they were in prison on the most flimsy of charges was extremely harsh. The position with regard to sentences is a little better than it was at one time, but only four years ago a friend of mine —Pavlos Zannas—received 16 years in prison merely for daring to publish criticism of the Papadopoulos régime.
I also wish it to be known, as the hon. Gentleman said, that opposition to the régime in Greece is not one of red revolution. The opposition comes from and is supported by intellectuals and both middle and working-class people. The apparent British support of such a brutal regime, which came to power as a result of the overthrow of a freely elected democratic government marks a shameful period in our history. There are those on this side as well as in the Conservative Party who feel that we should be doing more in opposing a regime of this kind.
I should like to deal now with the situation in British Honduras and British policy towards that country. I have visited the country twice, and both times, travelling around, I got the decided impression that the apparently overwhelming support for the present Prime Minister is not quite as unanimous as would appear from his position in Parliament. When independence is granted to British Honduras—it cannot now be long delayed—will the British Government give that people a guarantee that their sovereignty will be protected from any attempt to infringe it by neighbouring Guatemala?
I receive regular correspondence and newspapers from British Honduras and I know that there is a growing feeling among a fairly widespread grouping of several parties that there will be an attempt by Guatemala—which the Guatemalans have never denied—to claim sovereignty over British Honduras. Will we give any guarantee on independence?
The third area about which I wish to speak is the Middle East. When all the foliage is cut through, and when one has 1631 disregarded the verbiage, the root of the problem can be seen as the non-acceptance by the Arab States of the existence of the State of Israel. I know that there are differences of opinion in relation to other problems that have developed and are still present but this is the root of the argument.
The Prime Minister of Israel, Mrs. Golda Meir, said in a recent speech that the Arab refugee problem was the result, not the cause, of the 1948 war, and went on:It is absurd to contend that the present territorial configuration is the cause of the Middle East tension. The heart of the problem is what caused the six-day war, not the territories administered by Israel after the war. Simply put, the root issue is the Arab attitude to Israel's very existence and security, and once the Arab countries accept the legitimacy of Israel, as we have always accepted theirs, there is no reason for their intransigence against negotiating the differences between us. In this connection, let me state as firmly as I can that Israel's insistence on negotiations, direct or indirect, is not a manoeuvre devised to bait our Arab enemies. The vehement refusal of Arab leaders to discuss with us the terms of a possible settlement must raise the question as to whether they are really prepared to live in peace with us. This is the crux of the conflict.When Resolution No. 242 is still in the forefront of the minds of the people of this country, the United States and France, it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that it continues to be the basis for a settlement. It is a resolution that has been stated over and over again, and which requires to be discussed; negotiations should take place to secure its implementation.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) who, in a very percipient speech, talked about the withdrawal of Israeli forces and the evacuation and demilitarisation of Sinai being an excellent starting point for negotiations towards the implementation of Resolution No. 242. When one considers all the problems that seemed at one time completely insoluble, and which attempts have been made to solve—the success of Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, with a dialogue between East and West Germany which no one would have thought possible a few years ago, a treaty of agreement discussed and signed between North Vietnam and America, bringing in South Vietnam, which also could not have been envisaged a few years ago, and in the face of all the difficulties, 1632 some discussions going on about Bangladesh, India and Pakistan—one sees that there are no areas in which negotiation has not taken place and in which some progress has not been made as a result.
It seems to me, and to many others, that there is no reason why this very delicate area of the Middle East should not fall into the same category as those other areas.
Every now and then, at indeterminate intervals, we undergo the ritual of a debate on foreign affairs. What emerges—and what has emerged in this debate, to some extent—is that we react to an immediate situation but when that immediacy recedes we relapse into our previous somnolent state.
I enjoyed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd). He made a practical suggestion about what we should be doing in debates of this My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) also made an excellent suggestion, which I commend, if I may be so bold, to the Foreign Secretary and the Government. My hon. Friend said that the only manner by which we, as the British House of Commons, can have any influence and knowledge of all the intricacies of what is taking place in other parts of the world is to have a specialist committee on foreign affairs. I commend that idea to the Government as worthy of very serious consideration.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Lieut-Colonel Colin Mitchell (Aberdeenshire, West)
As a one-man specialist committee on foreign affairs—as I always like to think of myself, and as most hon. Members probably think of themselves in their own way—I should like to think that in this great tour d'horizon which has gone on since half-past three one can pick up some threads. The threads that I should like to pick up are of Europe and the Caribbean.
Before turning to those two subjects, however, I am bound to say that one could not be anything but impressed by the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller) about the situation in Greece. It is terrible to hear these dreadful descriptions of torture and intimidation. If one were objective about this, one could 1633 say that they are not as bad as the situation in Ulster. But they are something about which the Government should certainly intervene or make their position known. I am certainly no Byron but I would say that here is a case where we might suggest to the present regime that there are alternatives to its present behaviour.
It was most interesting to hear the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) talking about the conference on the law of the sea in terms of the cod war. I have been pressing the Government for many months about that conference in terms of preservation of salmon, which try to breed in my native rivers, the Dee and the Don. We are told every time we go to an international symposium that we shall eventually be saved by the conference on the law of the sea which will take place in South America at some time in the future. We are beginning to determine the date. In Questions I have even begun to determine the British representation. I do not put much faith in much coming out of that conference, as it has been described to me by the Government. Let us hope that that situation improves.
The subject of the Middle East has been raised. I was sorry and rather saddened to hear one hon. Member of the Opposition talk about the energy gap and the oil which belongs to Arab countries. He did not appreciate how much more vulnerable and isolated this makes Israel. I frighten myself at times thinking in terms of Israel's trying to survive. The acquisition of a military nuclear capability is probably the one thing that Israel must go towards. I shall make no comment on that, nor expect any reply from the Government.
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) talked about détente. I was most impressed by the sincerity and strength behind his arguments. Most of us who are responsible have followed the moves over the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and over the talks on mutual and balanced force reductions. If one looks at those matters possibly slightly cynically, from a military viewpoint, one must also realise that at the same time as these excellent diplomatic advances, two other things have happened. The Soviets have 1634 built up their missile parity and have made their great maritime expansion. This, from the military point of view, is strategically frightening, and probably explains why people like myself sometimes regard détente as a Trojan horse. Now is not the time—it might be done better in a defence debate—to discuss the implications of that in terms of a United States withdrawal from Europe.
I want to talk about Europe, in the sense that I am always trying to hang a label on what Europe means in terms of Britain. Europe can be regarded as a world Power. In many cases this was what sold British entry into the Common Market to the British people. This implies the existence of a European political entity—something that is unified politically to point the way and which is able to conduct foreign policy in areas far removed from its own frontiers. That would imply that there was a collective mind on situations like Vietnam or Rhodesia, or arms to South Africa, or French atomic tests in the Pacific. I believe that this rôle may be only that of the honest broker or the candid friend, and probably a rather ungrateful rôle for Europe.
A world Power economically, which is what many people talk about Europe as being, has great global repercussions which, I suspect from the great movements going on between my Whips and those on the other side, has nothing to do with a debate on foreign affairs. The only thing more difficult than a debate on foreign affairs is a debate on defence policy.
The position now, if Europe is a world Power, is that Russia deals at the top only with the United States of America; and that is where real global power resides. Therefore, a true global rôle for Europe is impossible. I have always argued that we are faced with a pseudo-global rôle in the way we have been talking tonight.
The emergence of a truly independent and authentically European foreign policy would be dangerous to the balance of power. This would exacerbate Russian posture, even though the Chinese might like to see it happen. I do not know whether the Japanese would like to see it happen, because I am no expert on Japan relationships. However, in the next five years this surely is 1635 the most important thing we need to know about.
Another alternative for Europe is that as a neutral Power it is faced with pursuing a policy analogous to that of the neutrals—Switzerland and Sweden—where we would exercise little political influence outside our own borders. However, we have a compensating feeling for the lack of power by a zealous assertion of moral values in international affairs—something of which both sides of the House are guilty. This is a policy of weakness compensating for the minor rôle by political agreement, which is obtainable only in terms of negatives.
This would allow an increase in world trade—many on both sides have fought for this for many years—if politics did not stand in the way of big business. This is appropriate to a situation in which the United States agrees with Russia over military détente and no military umbrella is available in Europe. I hope that this is a power vacuum which will not arise in our lifetime, although it might.
Finally, it can be said that Europe can be viewed as a regional Power. This is a middle course, in which Europe is effective in black Africa, in the Mediterranean, and perhaps in the Arab States—if one does not look for the Israeli overtones—to look only towards the oil situation, and where Eastern Europe is something which we can influence provided we have a modus vivendi with the Soviet.
Perhaps this is the most realistic alternative of all those I have described. It is an easy transition from national to supranational policies, although those hon. Members who know my views will appreciate that I am basically a sub-national politician. It is affected by other factors, the nature and progress of European integration and the United States and Soviet Foreign policies being the greatest of all. Above all, in terms of Europe as a regional Power, the choices for Europe are governed by Anglo-French nuclear agreement.
In the short time that I want to take up in a very important debate, I turn finally to the question of the Bahamas. I returned last week from a visit to Abaco, and I should like to tell the House in my own simple words what I felt. Those who wish the island to remain a dependent Crown colony have 1636 a direct precedent for such action. The population of the Turks and Caicos Islands, which physically appear part of the Bahamas, is about 6,000, exactly the same as Abaco's. Yet in 1959, when Jamaica was granted independence, the Turks and Caicos Islands were granted Crown colony status after its people petitioned against independence.
The islands were placed under the Government of the Bahamas as long ago as 1799, and were granted a separate charter in 1848. In 1873 they were annexed to Jamaica as a dependency at the request of the island's inhabitants. An administrator was appointed, reporting to the Governor of Jamaica, together with a legislative assembly and an executive council to advise the administrator. Since Jamaica's independence the Governor of the Bahamas has also acted as Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
I am only stating this for what it is worth, because I know that nothing will change the Government's decision between now and 10th July, but it is nice to be able to put it on the record. It is an alternative that no one has so far suggested.
There are two solutions to Abaco's problem. The first is that the island should be allowed some freedom of choice, as was accorded to the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1959, and be permitted to opt for Crown colony status. The second is that Abaco should be invited to link with the Turks and Caicos Islands from the administrative point of view. It may be said that Abaco is too far from Grand Turk. I will overtake that question, which I am sure some hon. Member would have asked, by saying that Grand Turk is a long way from both New Providence, within which Nassau lies, and Jamaica, both of which were its seat of government when communications were far less sophisticated than they are today.
That is all I can say about the Bahamian situation and Abaco. At vast personal expense I went to see the situation and tried to do something about it. All I could say to the 3,000-plus white people was "For goodness' sake don't resort to violence. Go for what you want through the normal constitutional procedures." I told them to be like the Scottish Nationalist Party—he is not here tonight—and just go on plugging away 1637 for their independence. I told them that they would get a fair deal, that we in this House would ensure that in the long term they got fair play.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Those who have sat through the whole debate deserve to be heard, and therefore I shall be very brief.
I should like to raise three issues. The first is West Africa. I cut short what I had hoped to say, simply asking the Minister for Overseas Development whether he has anything to add to the long Written Answer he gave me on Wednesday 13th June. The figures of £1.2 million and £435,000 seem to many of us to be inadequate, given the crisis situation. We hope that tonight the right hon. Gentleman will have a great deal to add to the answers he gave in good faith on that occasion.
The second issue I wish to raise is the politics of oil. Again, I shall cut a great deal of what I might have said, simply asking what study the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is making of the effects on this country when the United States, having been a net producer of oil, becomes a net importer in a big way. This is a major change in world affairs. I claim no originality for the remark. But if I were adviser to Saudi Arabia or some other country in the Middle East perhaps my economic advice would be to reduce the supply of oil from that country or those countries. This has to be faced: they may cork up some of the oil.
So what I would ask for is serious discussion with the oil-producing countries on their medium-term plans. The Foreign Office is a powerful Department and I think it also has an interest in nuclear policy and other forms of energy policy. This is an argument which could be made at much greater length and more convincingly and I hope that I shall be acquitted of sloppiness because I put it so quickly, but the meaning is quite clear.
The third issue I wish to turn to is that of the French nuclear tests. I think that I am perhaps in a position, if I speak briefly, to make a kind of moral bargain with the Government—if I put these questions briefly, one of the right 1638 hon. Friends of the Minister may do me the courtesy of replying to concise questions, not tonight, but tomorrow in the opening speech when the debate is resumed. That seems to me to be a reasonable request.
The first question is whether we may tomorrow hear some kind of coherent argument from the Government as to their attitude to the ruling of the International Court at The Hague. It seems as though this country at the moment is trying to have it both ways, for on Iceland we say, "The International Court is sacrosanct" but in relation to the French nuclear tests the attitude is more muted. That is the first question I ask—on the Government's response to the International Court.
The second question is whether we could be told anything of the discussions which have taken place with Australia and New Zealand. Certainly Hugh Watt when he was over here, and indeed the Australian High Commissioner, in long meetings some of us had with them, expressed in various ways their deep disappointment, their sadness, at the attitude of our Government here. They referred—in muted terms—to what happened in the Second World War and they said, "Now that you are a member of the European Economic Community, and we are not criticising you for that, we think that for the sake of old Commonwealth ties and for the sake of history and of two world wars, you are in a position to influence your new partner, France, and that you might have made some more stubborn effort to do so". To some of us, this cuts deep. So my question is about what discussions have taken place with the Australians and the New Zealanders. It would seem to me that that is a matter which cannot simply be answered by saying that it is all confidential.
My third question is equally specific and it relates to the Foreign Secretary's answer today when I interrupted him and he said, very nicely and rather sadly and rather resignedly, "This is a question which must be addressed to many other people". I am not going to make a cheap remark about that, but the fact is that this is an issue for him and the Prime Minister, and that the Foreign Secretary should reply in those words to an interruption, saying, "That must be addressed to many other people"—and 1639 that can be checked with the OFFICIAL REPORT—needs some explaining.
So also does the Foreign Secretary's further remark that the French are quite capable of making decisions for themselves. That seems to be passing by on the other side of the road in a way that does not befit a British Foreign Secretary in the Community of the Nine about which he spoke so glowingly.
My fourth and last question is one often answered by the Minister, the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). This is about the scientific evidence available about the level of radioactivity. I hope that tomorrow we shall be given as detailed a report as possible as to the views of the two scientists in the Pitcairn Islands and what they are actually doing and what their terms of reference are. I am a great defender of the Foreign Office in what it has done in China—Chinese tests are no better than French tests—and I do not sneer at the Foreign Office, but on this subject of scientific advice over the past months the advice which has been given to Ministers has been far too complacent. When double Nobel prize winners such as Dr. Linus Pauling can express doubts, and many other reputable scientists of many nations, it would seem that the British Foreign Office's attitude is unbecoming. I should like to be told the level of advice which Ministers are receiving. I do not think that they should be happy about it.
I have put these questions gently and concisely and I hope, because I have taken a short time, that they will be answered tomorrow.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurance Reed (Bolton, East)
I have been fulsomely praised and attacked about my view on the Icelandic fisheries dispute. I propose to say nothing about that, because time will not permit. I suggest that it is a subject of sufficient importance, particularly in the context of the law of the sea conference, for the Government to find time to have a full-scale debate on the matter.
I shall say something about the French nuclear tests because I am mindful of my experience in 1957 of attending the British thermonuclear tests on Christmas Island. During that series we exploded three bombs. They were all above one 1640 megaton. On each occasion I was within less than 25 miles of the detonation. Within a short time of the detonations—to the best of my recollection it was certainly no more than four hours—I landed on the island and saw something of the devastation. There was found to be so little evidence of radiation that it was possible to play a game of cricket and to swim within one mile of ground zero.
At those tests there were two New Zealand frigates. They were not there in protest but in participation. When I asked a New Zealand scientist on one of those ships whether there was any anguish in New Zealand and whether there was any concern about radiation hazards from the tests, he replied that the New Zealand Government felt that such high air tests could be carried out with absolute safety.
All that is a long time ago and we know much more today about long-term radiation hazards. I do not think that it is wise to found a case on a subject on which many eminent experts are in total disagreement. However, on moral grounds I should have thought that the case was unchallengeable for condemning the French action, especially as the bulk of nations have signed the test ban treaty, and even more so now that the International Court has made a judgment on the matter.
Earlier in the debate I had an altercation with the right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts). He misunderstood what I said. It seems to be sheer humbug for anybody to send gunboats to Iceland to uphold a judgment of the International Court and to remain dumb and silent about another judgment by the same court on a different case.
The only interpretation which I can put upon such actions is that on the one hand the Government are saying that, because we are a party to a dispute, we will intervene and, on the other hand, they say that because we are not a party to the other dispute, it has nothing to do with us. I believe that it is not for parties to a dispute about international law to try to enforce the judgment of a court or to secure compliance with it. It is for the international community as a whole to try to bring about such action. Of course Britain is an important component in the international community, and 1641 for that very reason we should be condemning the action taken by France.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Laurance Reed) and to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) for being so succinct and giving me a chance to speak, albeit briefly.
I wish to direct my remarks solely towards the conference on security and co-operation in Europe, a subject that so far has been strangely under-discussed, although it now seems that greater realisation of its importance is coming about. Because of the shortage of time, I shall have to speak in laconic almost paragraphic heading terms.
I congratulate our negotiators, in conjunction with our allies, at the conference on the excellent work they have done. I do not say that as a bromide. Anyone who reads the draft final recommendations of the conference sees that our negotiators actually got the Russians, who had been strongly reluctant to do so, to agree to discuss, according to the passage on "human contacts",contacts and regular meetings on a basis of family ties; reunification of families; marriage between nationals of different States;travel for personal or professional reasons; improvement of conditions for tourism, on an individual or collective basis.Perhaps even more astonishing is that we have got them to agree to discussimproving the circulation of, and access to oral, printed, filmed and broadcast information and extending the exchange of information;encouraging co-operation in these fields of information on a basis of short or long term agreements;improving conditions under which journalists from one participating State exercise their profession in another participating State.That is a considerable distance down the road, and I congratulate our negotiators and those of our allies on achieving it.
I was glad to see the degree of unity that has prevailed between our allies in the EEC and our allies in NATO—where they did not overlap—in achieving a unity of policy towrds the Warsaw Pact countries in the conference. The next stage of the conference begins on 3rd July. It is vital that we should adopt a realistic 1642 attitude towards the next stage. I would define "realism"—others no doubt have different views—as being somewhere between the euphoria bandied about by certain of the Warsaw Pact embassies in London and the rather depressing attitude taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), who saw nothing but evil coming out of the conference.
It is a good and appropriate time to examine the Soviet aims as at least a stepping stone towards understanding the reality of what we are doing. My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) mentioned an interesting article in The Economist this week. I shall not quote it again, but I draw the attention of the House to a statement quoted in it. It reminds us that only last July Mr. Brezhnev said—and it is interesting to recall it in the light of what we have been told about the cold war being over—We must be ready to see the struggle intensify.He added that they must be ready to see, "an even sharper antagonism." He was referring, if one might over-simplify, to the two sides.
I say with sorrow that nothing I have seen so far at Helsinki, where I was recently, is incompatible with the theory that the prime Soviet aim in the pursuit of détente is no true détente but the altering of the balance of power in Russia's own favour.
The prime aim remains to divide and to weaken the West—that is, both the Nine and NATO—to stabilise the Eastern European frontiers, to legitimate the situation there and to consolidate the Soviet hold over the countries of Eastern Europe, and to reduce the risk for the Soviet Union in Europe in the light of Russia's considerable and, indeed, growing technical and consumer difficulties within the country, its own growing and vociferous ethnic tendencies, and the Red Chinese threat on the eastern borders.
Otherwise, it is not really possible to explain the great divergence between all the Soviet words on détente and nearly all the Soviet actions on détente. Soviet actions are almost diametrically the reverse of Soviet words on this subject.
1643 Only one example is needed to prove this. Since the talks on mutual and balanced force reductions were first proposed in 1968 the Warsaw Pact has increased its military spending by 5 per cent. in each succeeding year. On the other hand, NATO has cut such spending. There could not be a more clear-cut example of the difference between Soviet actions and words.
It is interesting to compare what the Soviets have just put their name to at the preparatory talks for the CSCE—the principles on which they are prepared to base their international policy—with some of their acts. The Soviet Union has now agreed to acknowledge sovereign equality and respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty; it has agreed to refrain from the threat or use of force, to respect the inviolability of frontiers and the territorial integrity of States, and to accept peaceful settlements of disputes and non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States.
I should be interested to know how anyone in the House, or Mr. Brezhnev, can reconcile that with the doctrine of the rights of the Soviet Union to interfere as it did in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Does this mean that Mr. Brezhnev can never contemplate another such action? That is not an academic question—certainly not to a Yugoslav, with President Tito's departure not far away. Such a person must be wondering what will happen—whether the Soviet Union will take the attitude it took in 1968 or will abide by the principles that I have mentioned. Or is it that the two are irreconcilable and the first is mere hypocrisy?
I was hoping to demonstrate that it was not just a question of military incompatibility between Soviet words and action, and to show that that incompatibility was not confined to the Soviet Union. If we consider practically every one of the Warsaw Pact countries it will be seen that internally there has been a tightening of the screw. I mention only one country—Czechoslovakia. I do not believe that a single appointment that was made to Czech television during the days of Mr. Dubcek continues today. In 1970, 40,000 people in Czechoslovakia lost their jobs for "political reasons".
Even Poland, which. by some standards of the Warsaw Pact, is fairly free, recently issued an official statement that said that 1644 only those close to the Communist Party would be allowed to hold jobs in radio and journalism, I believe that practically every academic in Poland who showed any inclination to be anti-Russian has now been removed from his post There is a serious divide between the words and the actions of all Warsaw Pact countries on this point.
None the less, I do not believe that the picture is totally bleak. The conference on security and co-operation in Europe will give the countries of Eastern Europe the chance to make their individual contributions. It would be fatal for this country or our allies to go to the conference with a bloc mentality. I hope that we shall not do so. I have long believed that coming out of this conference there would be some form of continuing machinery that we could support. I said so in the last debate. I suggest that if the Soviet Union is really interested, as it says, in seeing continuing machinery come out of this conference, one very good job for such machinery would be the monitoring of the third section, namely, the human contacts section. Some form of permanent organisation could be set up to see how both sides keep to the exchange and freer flow of individuals and information.
I do not share the pessimism of some of my hon. Friends about this conference. Although most of us agree that Soviet aims have been to extend their power, the results may be very different, and in 10 or more years the long-time pursuit of this aim by the Soviet Union may prove to be a blunder of immense magnitude. In so far as it started out to weaken the West and to consolidate its hold on Eastern Europe, it has succeeded in uniting the West to a great extent, both in NATO and in the EEC, and what has happened in the third section of the CSCE discussions, namely, closer contacts and a freer flow of information, has sown the seeds that will ultimately loosen its hold on Eastern Europe.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
Despite the fact that this has been a thinly attended debate, the first day of it has been one of the best foreign affairs debates that I remember. We have heard some extremely good and interesting speeches from both sides of the House. I am sure that this trend will carry over to 1645 tomorrow, as will two or three of the subjects which have been discussed today—for example, the European security conference to which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) referred. I do not intend to discuss those matters.
I wish to deal first with the drought situation in West Africa and India and the way in which Britain can help and is helping; then with what has been said in a number of speeches about Portugal, Greece and Turkey; and, finally, with the other major question confronting us in terms of the European Community and of the Commonwealth developing countries as we enter upon the Yaounde negotiations and the trade negotiations which are to follow later in the autumn.
I much welcome what the Government have indicated they are likely to do in helping to deal with the drought situation in West Africa. Like my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), I hope that we shall hear more about the stage that that help has reached and what immediate prospects there are of a British Government contribution in terms of transport, goods and money.
We must understand the long-term problem thrown up by both crisis situations. It takes two forms. One concerns the need for effective international action on food stocks, particularly grain stocks. Here the prospects look very sad. Dr. Boerma, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, has been trying to take some initiative in ensuring that international stocks of grain are built up so that they are available when a crisis of this kind arises. However, we know what is happening as a result of the United States action on grain. The prospects do not look bright.
I hope that the Government are taking strong initiatives through our representatives at the FAO and in the United Nations development programme, because it is clear to me that the eminently necessary proposal to create stocks of grain which are available for use in times of crisis will see the light of day only if enough Governments put on the pressure. I hope that our Government will do that.
The second long-term and much more far-reaching question concerns the prevention of crisis of this kind. This is a matter of providing essentially controlled water supplies. In the dry areas of India 1646 and Africa there is total reliance on climatic rainfall. Sometimes it does not come at all, or, when it does come, it ruins the seed crops and the situation is unstable because there is no controlled irrigation.
In the past, the problem has always been that the rich countries said that there was not much they could do about it because the expenditure needed for sinking tube wells, cutting canals and doing all that was necessary for the control of irrigation was a matter of local costs. They said that there was no need for enormous capital equipment from abroad, that it was difficult for aid to cover local costs and that they could not do it. Very little donor aid is directly concerned with irrigating the dry areas of the world. Yet 70 per cent. of the world's poor live on the land and probably two-thirds of those in the dry areas.
We have to seek both an international and a bilateral solution. We have to overcome the problem of local costs so that priority can be given in the long term to this as the primary requirement in aid policies to countries in which there are areas with no controlled irrigation.
I have one specific comment on the Indian drought in Maharashtra and elsewhere. So far, there have been only brief exchanges at Question Time, apart from correspondence between myself and other hon. Members and the Minister. The Minister has not fully understood the point I was trying to make in Question Time a week or two ago.
I accuse the Minister of being a little insensitive on the Indian problem. I do not mean that he is in the least insensitive to the desperate crisis that the Indian Government are trying to meet. I am sorry to say this, because on many occasions the right hon. Gentleman has shown great sensitivity, particularly in dealing with Bangladesh a year or two ago. He has been insensitive in allowing himself to get caught up in a diplomatic minuet from which he has been unable to escape.
Of course it is true that the Indian Government have a massive programme of their own and that whatever comes in from outside, whether from Governments or voluntary agencies, is only the merest trickle along the margin of what the Indian Government are doing. It is equally true that the Indian Government 1647 will not go round with a begging bowl, as they did in the 1966–67 Bihar famine, because they do not find it an enjoyable experience. Hence, they say, "No, we will not ask".
The attitude of the Indian High Commission in London is extremely clear. It is that if Britain as a friend of India were to go through the diplomatic dances and say that we should like to offer food grain, tube wells or drilling rigs, the offer would be infinitely appreciated by India. It is a pity that the Minister is so caught up in the situation that he cannot do this.
The suggestion that, if the Indians would like it that way, part of the existing aid programme could be diverted for this purpose was unfortunate and the Indian reaction to it would be unfavourable. I am sorry to have said all this, because our record in helping in disasters has been good. It is a pity that the Minister has not been able to find a response to the sincere wish in Britain to do something to help, even if it is not very much.
I turn to what has been said about Portugal and Southern Africa. I was interested in the Foreign Secretary's use of words. We are talking, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) pointed out in an excellent speech, about the logic of the alliance with Turkey, with Greece and with Portugal—and with the extra dimension added in the case of Portugal in terms of the southern Africa situation and the colonial wars in Africa.
The Foreign Secretary said—I think that I quote his words correctly—that foreign policy and defence are too important to be the subject of emotion about internal politics. If the Foreign Secretary is walking down the street and sees a young man being beaten up, he may well have emotions. He may be angry or sympathetic, but he will surely also have an intellectual moral reaction. It is that moral judgment which gives rise to the emotion, the anger, or the sympathy. Is he saying that morality and moral judgments have no part to play in foreign policy? Some people have said so, and indeed for many centuries it was accepted that European foreign policy was determined in terms of amoral self-interest. It is only compartively recently 1648 that morality has been allowed to enter into politics.
I am certain that the Foreign Secretary is not saying that moral judgment should be excluded from foreign policy, because he believes in the purposes of NATO and that NATO's intention and purpose is to preserve freedom and to extend democracy. Those are highly moral and emotional words. I use the word "moral" in that context, whereas the right hon. Gentleman would use the word "emotional". The word "freedom" is, in a sense, an emotional word, as is the word "democracy". The Foreign Secretary clearly takes the view that it is an emotional word, because he accepts what NATO exercises are all about. He has demonstrated in the case of Bangladesh how ready he is to allow judgments and emotion to enter into his own conduct at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Where is the logic—not the emotion—in the Foreign Secretary's position on the matter of the 600th anniversary of the Portuguese alliance? With NATO claiming to be a defender of freedom, with the Government insisting that this is so in the knowledge that NATO weapons are used in the colonial wars in Africa, where does the logic lie in saying, "We want to take no notice of these things in our relations with Portugal"? This is to say nothing of the situation within Portugal where four-tenths of the people are illiterate and poor. One reason for the colonial war in Africa being tolerated in Portugal is that at least it means that soldiers who fight there bring one little bit of income into peasant families in Portugal.
With almost half Portugal's budget being spent on fighting its colonial war, why should Her Majesty's Government support with such joy and acclamation the Duke of Edinburgh's visit to Portugal and the bringing to London of Mr. Caetano? We do not believe the Government should have taken such action. We believe that until there is a change of situation, Portugal should be suspended from NATO. We do not think that Portuguese membership is in line with the purposes and the rôle of NATO. We believe that the events associated with the celebrations should be stayed away from by all self-respecting people and that direct humanitarian 1649 help should go to the liberation movements struggling in the colonial war.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) is now absent from the Chamber. I am sorry that he is not here, because I wanted to make a brief comment, not so much about what he said in his speech, but about the attitude which he revealed, an attitude which one or two Conservative Members occasionally reveal. The hon. Member for Haltemprice pointed to the elections in Mozambique and Angola; he also pointed to excellent race relations and so on. But those were precisely the sort of things that were being said in the 1930s about our own colonial policies.
We were saying what a splendid colonial record we had and asking what, therefore, was wrong with colonialism. We were saying what wonderful administrations we had in Africa and asking why, therefore, people like Kenyatta, Hastings Banda and other liberation leaders in our own colonies should seek to liberate them. It is an extraordinary throwback and a total failure to understand the principles of liberation and what colonial freedom is about, quite apart from what colonialism is about.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I dislike intensely the Soviet Union's policy towards Jews, yet I feel on balance, because of the international requirements of peace and co-existence, that we have to have contacts with the Soviet Union and that we have to try to create constructive co-existence with the Soviet Union.
I do not like the Greek Government. Although I will tell the Greek Government that I do not like their policies, here is a flank of NATO exposed. I am not prepared to expose the security of Western Europe in the south-east corner of the Mediterranean or the NATO seaboard of Portugal. They are essential to the physical security of Western Europe.
Therefore, we have to judge these matters carefully. Of course there is a moral content in foreign policy. Nevertheless, we have to take account of the physical security of a continent under threat. Therefore, this is a nice consideration of balance. Moral content comes into it, but so does the physical security of Western Europe.
§ Mrs. Hart
I take the right hon. Gentleman's point. My first comment is that we are not in a military alliance with the Soviet Union. Of course we work for co-existence with the Soviet Union, but we have no military alliance. Secondly, when the right hon. Gentleman says that we must protect the physical security of Western Europe, we know how important are the Cape Verde Islands to NATO defences and, therefore, why it is that so many of the countries of Western Europe are anxious that the battle for liberation in Guinea is not won, as seems likely it may be in the next two or three years.
What is the security element if included in it are people who themselves are a threat to democracy and freedom? I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has clarified the situation. But the Opposition beg to differ, and we hold our position strongly.
I turn to the EEC and to aid and trade. Here we are concerned with the interrelationship of four elements—the associables and the non-associables and the aid and trade positions of both.
Three major policy issues arise and will be with us over the next few months. It is difficult because the Government, in entering into negotiations, can tell us little. All that they can do is to listen to us, and we can only hope that what we say will be taken seriously.
The effect of going into the European Development Fund and making our contribution to it, as the Minister himself has made clear, will be that the increase in our own aid programme will bear the cost of the contribution to the European Development Fund. Therefore, there will be no loss of aid to any other present recipient. Equally, there will not be the increase in aid to other countries which might have taken place if we had not had to contribute to the fund.
We must look, therefore, at the recipients of EDF aid. This is the crux of the matter. I remember giving the figures about a year ago when we were debating the European Communities Bill. I give one set again. According to the Development Assistance Committee of OECD, which is the European collator of all these international figures, out of 184 million dollars distributed in the period 1968–70, 108 million went to the French franc area, mainly to countries south of 1651 the Sahara. Another 5.5 million dollars went to India and Pakistan. It is not clear whether that was food aid or other aid, but it counted in terms of the DAC figures. To other Commonwealth countries went 600,000 dollars. The rest went in little bits and pieces here and there.
Let us look at this imbalance that we must seek to correct. India and Pakistan alone have 650 million people, yet they had this fractional proportion from the EDF budget. There is nothing terribly wrong with that, since the EEC throughout has had the dominant influence in matters concerning aid. It is natural that France should seek to have the EDF budget geared particularly to her ex-colonies and direct departmentes d'outre mer so we should not be surprised.
But now we enter, and it is the Community of the Nine. There are the associables, whatever decision some of them may make about whether they wish to be associated, which are Commonwealth countries in parts of the world other than Africa, as well as countries in Africa. Clearly, we need to be certain that the balance of the budget is substantially changed.
It will be an uphill task. It will not be easy for the Government so to tilt the balance that it remotely resembles justice to the developing countries linked with the member countries of the EEC. However, that must be the task. I should like to know whether the Government confirm that that is the objective. Of course, they cannot say how, but unless they can confirm that they are clear in their mind that nothing less than a considerable tilting of the balance would safely preserve the interests of Commonwealth countries, we shall be disappointed.
I come now to trade matters. Two further questions arise here. One concerns the generalised preference scheme, which I understand will be coming under negotiation soon, and probably the negotiations will be meaningful shortly. We know that we are up against a tough proposition here, because our generalised preference scheme, as everybody agrees, is better, flexible and more favourable to the member countries of the Commonwealth, particularly those in Asia, than is the Community generalised preference scheme. Yet there must be harmonisation 1652 between the two, and it must take place by 1st January 1974.
We come up against the conflict of interest between the basic tariff protection philosophy of the Community and the need to open up markets and lower tariffs if the developing countries all over the world, not just the Francophone and Commonwealth countries, especially in Asia, are, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West said, to build on their own resources so that they do not have to rely on charity or remain poor. They want to earn their own way forward. They cannot do that unless the rich world buys more of what they make. In terms of primary and semi-processed and semi-manufactured products and goods, the EEC is very tough indeed. So, if we hope to change the attitude of the Community, we have a big tussle on our hands. I do not underestimate the task before the Government.
On both these major issues under negotiation the potential victims are the same people—mainly, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the poorest and the largest of the developing countries in the world and certainly in the Commonwealth. It hits those countries from both directions. They are not rescued in one way and suffering in another; they are attacked in both ways.
The third major question is on CAP itself. I should like some clarification from the Government on this subject. The discussions that are going on at the moment, of which we have been seeing Press reports, seem still to be centred on compensatory finance rather than greater access to markets. On the question of greater access to markets, there are certain important elements of the CAP itself that will have to be considered. This is particularly true in terms of sugar, because the sugar-producing countries are much less interested in compensatory finance than in being able to sell more, because by selling more they create more employment, which in turn generates growth. It will not be enough for those interests that we seek to protect to have arrangements for compensatory finance, and it means that once again tough negotiations will have to take place on some of the most sensitive areas of the CAP.
I hope that we can be told a lot this evening that will be helpful to us, and that anything that requires rather longer 1653 and more thoughtful answers will be dealt with tomorrow. These issues will be with us for a long time. The poverty of the developing countries will not go away because we do not look at it.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Richard Wood)
I should like, first, to apologise for my late arrival in the debate, for which I have asked and, I am glad to say, received the forgiveness of the right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) whose speech I missed.
I welcome the opportunity tonight to say something about our aid programme and about the whole question of overseas aid. A number of important points that have been raised in the debate have been noted by my two right hon. Friends who will speak in tomorrow's debate, but before I begin to discuss the general aspects of the aid programme I should like to deal with what I think the right hon. Gentleman referred to as the immediate issue of the suffering that has been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) and others in those parts of India and Africa that have been gravely affected by the lack of rain.
I propose to deal first with the West African drought. As hon. Members know, the countries affected are Senegal, Chad, Mali, Mauretania, Niger and the Upper Volta. As was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), and the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) who showed an interest in this matter, this has been a critical problem in those countries for a number of years, but it was only at the beginning of this year that they appealed for international help.
It is an area with which Britain is not particularly familiar, or with which we have close ties. In the early stages of this crisis we had no reliable immediate information about the conditions, and we had to rely mainly on reports from the international agencies. It therefore seemed to us that the most effective way for Britain to help was to supply aid through the multilateral bodies. We responded quickly to the appeal of the Director-General of the FAO, with a contribution of £300,000 to his Sahelian Zone Trust Fund. The money was paid promptly to 1654 the fund for uses which the Director-General adjudged best.
Meanwhile, the British Government, as a member of the European Community, are playing a full part in the relief efforts that the Community is making. The British share of the cost is likely to be more than £500,000. Substantial relief measures are already being considered by the World Food Programme to which Britain is contributing more than £1 million this year.
Reports of the situation in the countries concerned tend to be conflicting, but there seems to be an urgent need to provide air transport to certain areas, and other members of the Community are either contemplating or beginning to carry out that task. Members of the Community in general were urged to do this at the special EEC Food Aid Meeting in Brussels about 10 days ago, at which my Department was represented.
Requests have recently been made by the FAO to airlift food into the areas most severely affected. As I said in answer to a Question last week, we have therefore sent a reconnaissance team of the Royal Air Force to West Africa to examine the requirements on the spot and to look at the problems of providing air transport for this task. The team left last Friday, and it is expected to report shortly. Meanwhile, in anticipation, preliminary arrangements are being made for the provision of three Hercules aircraft.
The right hon. Lady, in particular, spoke of the long-term needs in this area. We have made it clear that we are willing to co-operate with other donors and with international organisations to consider provision of assistance in the longer term. The United Nations Secretary-General has called a meeting in Geneva, for late this week, to discuss this, and we shall be represented.
The right hon. Lady made the perfectly valid point that the long-term treatment of this kind of situation required the provision of secure water supplies, irrigation and so on. The problem of local costs, although it no doubt worried the right hon. Lady when she was in my office, as it has worried me, has gradually been more flexibly treated over the years. We are in many cases now willing to make greater provision than we made in 1655 the past for local costs of projects of this kind.
Also, it is possible to make significant contributions to agricultural development through projects that do not have a substantial offshore procurement content. The right hon. Lady will remember, as I certainly do, the question of the setting up of the fertiliser plants in India, which will be very important in the long-term development of Indian agriculture.
The share of bilateral project commitments that is now going to agriculture increased considerably between 1970 and 1971. It was 4 per cent. and over 17 per cent. in those two years, respectively. This is all relevant to tackling the longer-term situation, which will no doubt exist for a number of years in places like West Africa and India. Meanwhile, for some years this country has had small aid programmes in the countries that we are now discussing. These, admittedly, at the moment include small water projects and, together with the efforts of other donors, we intend to continue these development programmes.
Both the right hon. Lady and the right hon. Member for Caernarvon have several times mentioned the international treatment of disaster relief. This is very important. As the House knows, we supported the establishment in 1972 of the office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Co-ordinator in Geneva, financed by the United Nations budget, to which we are a major contributor. The functions of the co-ordinator are, broadly, to encourage planning before disasters take place, to collect information about relief requirements, to act as a clearing house, to balance or compare the needs that may arise with the supplies and services which may be available to meet them, to establish the stocks or help or services that donors and other organisations can provide, and to study the problems of natural phenomena in order to try to forestall disasters. The essence of a disaster is that it is largely unexpected. Disasters occur in very different parts of the world, and they are of very different kinds and need different treatment. Therefore, while we give every support to the work of the co-ordinator, it world be unwise to expect that this will be the total answer to all the kinds of problem that we have 1656 been meeting and will be meeting no doubt in the future.
Coming to India, there is a great deal of concern in this country, as has been shown recently in the Press, about the problems which India has faced because of the partial failure of the monsoon in 1971 and the nearly complete failure of the monsoon last year. The drought has hit hardest those States in Western India where there is inadequate and uncertain rainfall and where irrigation is difficult—the kind of area about which the right hon. Member for Lanark was talking.
This time last year the Government of India had food stocks of nearly 9 million tons. The autumn and spring harvests, the last harvests, were expected to yield about 100 million tons, and India also bought 2 million tons from her foreign exchange reserves. At present the Indian Government are making available a little over 1 million tons a month for rationed sale in fair-priced shops. I understand that the Indian Government are now considering further purchases abroad to reinforce what they can buy from their own spring harvest, which has yielded less than they hoped. India's ability to buy grain is clearly boosted by aid from the consortium. In the last financial year Britain provided over 40 per cent. of the total net aid received from donors by India, and that is quite a remarkable contribution.
To return to the problem of water, food is clearly useless without water. The Indian Government are tackling the water shortage in a number of ways. Much of their public relief work programme is directed to creating better supplies. Deep wells are being drilled and the relief work plan is employing daily more than 4 million people in the State of Maharashtra alone. We ourselves have contributed specifically to well drilling, both directly in the State of Mysore and indirectly through the proposed grant of£250,000 to UNICEF.
Voluntary agencies from this country are closely involved. I am told by observers who have seen their work that they are doing a very good job indeed. The conquest of the drought is, and must be, largely a task for India herself—a task that I immediately say she is tackling with great energy and great enthusiasm. But success depends obviously, above all else, on a plentiful monsoon. 1657 Meanwhile, I am not expecting that the Indian Government will ask for more help than we are already providing.
The right hon. Lady talked about my conducting a diplomatic minuet. I assure her that I have not been dancing around the Acting High Commissioner. The right hon. Member for Caernarvon suggested that we should ask to be asked. That is playing with words. As I told the right hon. Lady a short time ago, I have made perfectly clear our attitude in this matter, and the Indian Government are well aware that we stand ready to help if the need arises. But I am not expecting a request for further help.
India's future in the longer term depends on the success of her development plans. At the India Aid Consortium meeting in Paris 10 days ago, pledges of development assistance were offered by donor countries and the World Bank which were higher than for some years past. Pledges are not yet complete but they are already close to the minimum requirement calculated by the World Bank. I am glad to say that our pledge is higher than that of any other bilateral donor, and that this general willingness to help should strengthen the Government of India in the management of the economy and in facing all the problems that they have ahead of them, including the management of the food procurement programme in this critical year. But if the Government of India find it necessary to ask for further help to meet their food requirements I hope the international community will be ready to accept such a request, and we for our part would consider it sympathetically in so far as it lies within our means to respond.
When we came to office in 1970 the first Gracious Speech promised that we would pursue an expanding aid programme. I am glad to say that in each of the annual public expenditure reviews we have kept the aid programme on the course of considerable annual increase, well above the annual increase in other programmes. The apparent rate of increase in the programme as a whole was reduced by pressure on the aid programme that led us to bring forward 1658 expenditure, but I am glad to say that some of these pressures have abated.
The true aid programme would give us today at 1972 prices a net expenditure of £257 million this year, which is likely to rise to £333 million in 1976–77. I make it clear that these figures are revalued each year so that we get the cash equivalent of those 1972 values.
In the last three years for which figures are available Britain has reached the United Nations target of 1 per cent. for the total flows of financial resources to the developing countries.
My noble Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs told the UNCTAD conference that we would consider increasing the official aid programme if we looked like missing the 1 per cent. official aid target in the middle 1970s. This is the target we have accepted. As I have told the right hon. Lady on one or two occasions, we have not accepted the separate target of 0.7 per cent. We believe that in a mixed economy it is right for both private and public contributions to assist the development of the less-developed countries.
The distribution of our aid programme is still largely in the direction of the Commonwealth countries. We are very ready to increase the application of our aid to countries outside, but I think that most hon. Members will support the provision of a substantial proportion of the aid programme to countries with which we have a long association.
Over the next few years, and subject to discussions which will begin in July and about which I will speak in a few moments, we shall have to start contributing to the European Development Fund. It is very difficult to say precisely at present what effect this will have on the distribution of our own aid programme, but we shall want to continue to help the countries which become associated with the Community.
In answer to the right hon. Lady's question, I have said publicly on a number of occasions that I believe our expanding aid programme will enable us to maintain the total of bilateral aid at the same time as we contribute to the European Development Fund. Those countries which become associated with Europe will become eligible from the European 1659 Development Fund, which will naturally include contributions from other countries of Europe which may not have helped them in the past. At the same time, we shall want to ensure that countries which are not eligible for association do not suffer as a result of diversion of money through Europe.
I return to the subject of India, which, because of its vast size and population, has always ranked first among the recipients of our bilateral aid. In the light of the needs of India, it is very difficult to put any specific limit on what should be directed there, and our own resources are always limited. Therefore, we must secure the best balance we can between the claims of India and those of others. I hope that we are getting it about right.
During recent months we have reached a fresh agreement with Kenya, and during the recent State visit we were able to reach an agreement with the Government of the Sudan for an aid programme in that country. We have made substantial contributions towards relief in the Sudan in the past.
Egypt is a fairly new recipient of bilateral aid from Britain. By the end of October 1971 we were able to propose a£5 million development loan to be spent at the rate of about £1 million a year. The loan was announced in the House in November 1971, and it is being spent, but there exists a vast number of projects which could be financed from bilateral aid funds. Moreover, Egypt's need of such funds, and her ability to use them effectively, is clear. Therefore, I recently decided that Egypt should be offered a new loan of £10 million to be spent at the same time as the balance of the existing loan, so as to result in a total expenditure in Egypt of about£5 million in our financial year 1976–77.
§ Mr. Wood
I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to continue, because I wanted to say something about Europe.
While we maintain our aid to the Commonwealth, to the dependencies and to the associated States, which last year totalled nearly £30 million, it has been possible to take new initiatives within the aid programme. In particular, we have a growing programme of aid to Indonesia, where we are providing money in 1660 general support of Indonesia's import programmes and for particular projects.
The right hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) in particular raised the important question of the future relationship between Europe and the developing countries. As the right hon. Lady knows well, my Department recently produced a memorandum for the Select Committee of which she is a member. It contained a good deal of factual information about Europe and development issues There is a great deal of ground that the memorandum naturally could not cover because of the negotiations that are to take place.
I should like to say something about the major themes of negotiations about association that are due to start soon and about the approach that the European Community is making towards the overall policy of developmental cooperation on a world-wide scale. The present Yaoundé Convention ends on 31st March 1975. The existing associates and the associable countries of the Commonwealth have been invited to an opening conference on 25th July. The European Commission last April produced a memorandum, which is now available in the Vote Office, setting out the main issues that will be for discussion—things like major areas of tariffs and quotas, the stabilisation of export receipts, the question of joint institutions and so on.
The invitation to the eligible nations, all of which we hope will attend, is in very broad terms. I fervently hope that the conference will lay the foundations for co-operation between the Anglophone and the Francophone countries, and will emphasise their opportunity for the first time in history to join in a common relationship with the ex-metropolitan Powers of Europe.
I say to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd), who made a most thoughtful speech, in which he spoke about the fragmentation of the power and influence of the developing countries, and of his determination that we should get away from that, that I believe that this is a real opportunity to do so, to bring together the developing countries, particularly in Africa, which have for a long time been divided because they happened in the past to be colonised either by France or by Great 1661 Britain. I believe that this represents a great opportunity for us all. The present associates have the promise of quantitative and qualitative continuity. The new associates who decide to choose association have the equally binding promise of similar treatment.
Until we know more certainly the likely number of future beneficiaries, it is clearly impossible to say how big the new European multilateral fund will be, but it is likely to be—I hope it is likely to be—substantially larger than it is now. The terms and management of the new fund will be a matter for negotiation. We shall be playing an active part in the discussion. We are at the moment studying the project criteria and the purchasing rules now in use and once we are full contributory members we shall be able to put our weight behind the generally encouraging trends towards a distribution of moneys which balances the claims of the most needy with the proper objective of achieving the best economic results.
The right hon. Lady rightly pointed out that we have historic ties and long friendship with the large and important developing countries of the Asian Commonwealth. I am therefore glad to say that negotiations for a comprehensive trade agreement between India and the European Community are going well. In the light of the recent discussions by the Council of Ministers, I hope that there 1662 will be a positive response to the summit call last year forthe progressive adoption of an overall policy of development co-operation on a worldwide scalefrom which those countries in particular will in due course benefit.
We shall meanwhile maintain our normal development criteria for management of our bilateral programmes and we shall go on working to achieve an important place for this important and heavily populated part of the world through organisations like IDA and the Asian Development Bank.
There is no doubt in my mind, nor I think from what I have heard said by a number of right hon. and hon. Members, in many minds in the House, that this country should continue to pay a full part as a member of the international community in efforts to promote the well being of people in the developing countries all over the world. This is our clear objective. The work to be done is almost infinite and it is most unlikely to be completed within the lifetime of any Member here, but I am convinced that it is work that will substantially change the kind of world in which our children and grandchildren are to live, and for this reason alone I hope that Britain will never abandon it.
§ Mr. Oscar Murton (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.