HC Deb 07 November 1973 vol 863 cc983-6
10. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what talks he is having with Middle East countries in relation to oil supplies and other problems.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We are maintaining regular and close diplomatic contact with Middle East countries on the question of oil supplies and other problems.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that despite the answers he has given earlier this afternoon there is an increasing volume of opinion in the country, which has been expressed even in Right-wing newspapers this morning, that the Government are on their knees to the Arabs, sacrificing their alleged principles of neutrality for the sake of an attempt to safeguard their oil resources? Will he comment on the more recent expressions of opinion in one of the evening newspapers this afternoon that, according to Dr. Kissinger, peace is imminent, and in another journal, that the Arabs are moving their forces to be ready for a renewal of the war? Will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Arabs that any move towards the renewal of the war will be deplored by Her Majesty's Government?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I hope that peace is imminent and that this is the right interpretation, but there is a long way to go before peace is achieved and it will need very skilful negotiations. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will not allow his interpretation about oil to go much further. Of course, we must care about oil, and so must he in his constituency, but we must also care about a just settlement in this area. I come back to the fact that we must get a different system from that which has been operating in the last seven years if there is to be peace for Israel, Egypt or Syria. This is the motive behind yesterday's declaration and it is certainly my motive in this matter.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

After yesterday's communiqué from the EEC, which has probably had the worst Press in this country since Munich, will my right hon. Friend choose a suitable occasion for joining with the German Chancellor in stating that it is impossible for the Arab States to use political blackmail in other matters over oil supplies? It seems vitally important that the Western world should make clear that it is not prepared to be blackmailed by these minor States.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

This has been made quite clear. I would point out that the German Government signed the declaration yesterday.

Mr. Lawson

Is it not understandable that a group of countries which are weak militarily are entitled to use what weapons they have? Is this not customary with other nations? I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to be too depressed by these outraged cries from both sides of the House about the Arabs' use of oil. Does he not agree that it will be immensely dangerous for this country and for all of Europe—much more so than for the United States—if the Arabs are pushed irreparably into the arms of the Soviet Union?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

It is not the Soviet Union or the United States which will suffer from any Arab oil policy. It is Europe which will suffer, and the Arab countries now understand this. I hope they will take note of it. It is a fact of life. Obviously we want to get as much oil as we can to Europe, but we do not want to submit to blackmail.

12. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has had discussions with the EEC Council of Ministers and the Commission on a joint policy to cope with the cut-back in oil supplies from the Middle East.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I discussed the energy situation yesterday in the European meeting with my colleagues and we decided to keep matters under review. The Council agreed on the need for member States of the Community to work individually and collectively for a just solution of the Middle East problem.

Mr. Rost

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that if the oil supply situation deteriorates in Holland or any other of our European partners Britain will not stand aside and pull up the drawbridge, but will accept her responsibilities as a member of the European Community in the face of Arab discrimination? Is it not a fact that if we sacrifice unity of Europe in the face of blackmail there may be no future for European unity, and we might as well tear up the Treaty of Rome?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We decided yesterday in the Council of Ministers that the political directors would keep this matter under review, and they will report to us regularly. The matter was under discussion for a long time and my colleagues and I agreed that in the present difficult situation further public statements would not help.

Mr. Barnes

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Council of Ministers did not agree yesterday on a policy of oil sharing to help Holland? Does the Council of Ministers not realise that the EEC can never have a convincing common foreign policy if it is clear to other countries that it is not capable of co-ordinating its internal policies to meet an outside threat of this kind?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

No doubt we shall prove capable of co-ordinating our policies. Yesterday's meeting decided that public statements would not help, and that is our view.

Mr. Fidler

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the deep concern felt on both sides of the House arising from an exchange on this subject at Question Time yesterday? It is important, is it not, that what should be heard is the truth and the whole truth? Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister quoted from a statement from Brussels—saying it was important that he quote it correctly—wanting to see Resolution No. 242 implemented in all its parts. At that stage the Opposition Front Bench asked whether anything had been included with reference to withdrawal from "territories" or "the territories". Today the statement has emerged and we see that point 2 clearly says: The need for Israel to end the territorial occupation which it has maintained since the conflict of 1967. Will my right hon. Friend now emphatically state that fulfilling Resolution No. 242 in all its parts means that Israel is expected to withdraw from "territories", but not from "the territories", and that this will be conveyed to the other members of the Council of Ministers when next they meet to confer?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Resolution No. 242 is unchanged. There has always been ambiguity in it, and that has not changed. It is covered in this statement, and it has to be fulfilled in all its parts, and that means negotiated in all its parts. The statement pointed out that the evacuation of territory must be a part of the settlement. This has been tried for years. Israel has occupied these territories and there has been no solution other than war. We must find another way to deal with the matter.

Mr. Freeson

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us clearly whether any request has been received from the Government of Holland or the European Commission for the disposition of United Kingdom oil supplies in such a way as to encourage sharing to enable Holland to sustain herself? Has there been any request of that kind from the Dutch Government or from the European Commission? May we have an answer, "Yes" or "No"?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home


Sir F. Bennett

I appreciate the misgivings of some of my hon. Friends about the exercise of what is called oil black-mail. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it comes a little odd from the benches opposite, because Labour MPs never permit a week to pass without trying to impose their form of trade sanctions against other countries with whose policies they do not agree?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have taken note of my hon. Friend's point of view.

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