HC Deb 13 November 1973 vol 864 cc242-4
Q1. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on foreign and defence policy at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 26th October.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I did so on 29th October, Sir.

Mr. Lamont

Is not one of the lessons of the last few weeks that, even if Europe decides that its interests diverge from those of the United States, it is difficult to have an independent European foreign policy without some risk to Europe? Is it not more than ever clear that we need to have within NATO specific European defence co-operation?

The Prime Minister

There is a considerable degree of European defence co-operation within NATO through the Europgroup. Of course, this includes very close co-operation on supplies and development of weapons, as well as discussions about policy.

Mr. Thorpe

Does the Prime Minister remember that when he made that speech at the E1 Alamein reunion he said that peace would lead to greater prosperity in this country and other countries than had ever before been known? Did he know that in 18 days' time he would have an all-time record Bank Rate, imports up, exports down and a visible deficit of £298 million?

The Prime Minister

I was making that statement about the Middle Eastern war, and I believe it to be absolutely true that, if Europe can secure détente with the Soviets and the Eastern European countries, and if we can get a permanent settlement in the Middle East, this will help Europe and the rest of the world to have the greatest prosperity it has known.

Mr. Haselhurst

Is it not true that the continuing scale of the Warsaw Pact forces, and the apparent readiness of the United States of America to reduce her forces in Europe, undermine the position of strength from which my right hon. Friend said we should be trying to negotiate? Will he try to place this matter high on the agenda for discussion between the Community Heads of Government?

The Prime Minister

There is at the moment no agenda for the meetings of the Heads of Government in the Community, though this will be discussed by the Foreign Ministers at their next meeting. As regards the question, of course there is an opportunity for dealing with this matter in the European Security Conference, where we have constantly emphasised that we want to bring about better relations. There is an opportunity for European Powers to bring about détente with greater security in the European Security Conference. As regards forces, a mutual and balanced force reduction can be agreed upon in the conference which is at present being held.

Mr. James Lamond

Does the Prime Minister recall that at the end of his speech he made a stirring call to the people of Britain to show comradeship towards each other? Does he think that he contributes anything at all towards that comradely feeling by refusing to withdraw legislation such as the Industrial Relations Act and the Housing Finance Act, which are very divisive and have clearly shown that his concept of one nation can never be achieved so long as we have a Tory Government?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept any of the hon. Gentleman's allegations. I have constantly told the House that, if amendments to the Industrial Relations Act are put to us by employers, trade unions or any other bodies, they will receive full consideration, because we are prepared to amend the Act on the basis of a reasonable working of the Act. That is our position and we stand by it.

To take up the particular point mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, it requires responsibility from all sections of the community. That was the point I was emphasising.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Was it in this speech or in his speech to the Institute of Directors that the Prime Minister said that the problems we were facing were those of success?

The Prime Minister

This is absolutely right. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has asked that question, because it enables me to point out the dilemma, which he will never acknowledge, that expansion is required in Britain by the trade unions just as much as by the employers and that we require additional fuel and raw materials via our imports for expansion. The right hon. Gentleman will never get expansion without it. This is something he has never faced up to. Nor is he prepared to face the fact that, if inflation is to be dealt with, there must be a framework such as the House has approved for dealing with it. Let him say whether he believes that the miners should carry on with their present overtime ban or whether they should work on the perfectly generous basis approved by the House and the National Coal Board's offer.

Mr. Wilson

I am willing to make a statement on that. However, the right hon. Gentleman must get away from trying to justify his own failures by always asking me how to do it. If that is the position, the sooner we change places the better.

The Prime Minister

Last Thursday showed very effectively that that will not happen.