HC Deb 15 November 1973 vol 864 cc658-61
Q1. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister if he will publish the letter from President Pompidou proposing a European summit conference to discuss the Middle East.

Q5. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the Heads of the Governments of other member States of the EEC.

Q10. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if he will publish the text of President Pompidou's letter proposing a European summit conference on the Middle East and the text of his reply.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

A summit meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the European Community is expected to be held on 14th and 15th December in Copenhagen. I warmly welcome this.

The position of the French Government was explained in an official French statement on 31st October, a copy of which is in the Library of the House.

Mr. Lamont

Can my right hon Friend say what representations the Government have made, either by themselves or in conjunction with our European partners, about the treatment of prisoners-of-war in the Middle East? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in spite of the good news about the exchange of Egyptian and Israeli prisoners, there is great concern in Israel about the treatment of prisoners of war by the Syrians? Unless the Syrians observe the Geneva Conventions, an eventual peace settlement might be endangered.

The Prime Minister

On three occasions Her Majesty' Government have made representations to the Syrian Government about Israeli prisoners of war. We have urged that the Geneva Conventions should be observed in full and that prisoners should be returned to Israel. We have also told our partners in the European Community about the representations we have made. I recognise the Israeli concern about these prisoners. That is one of the matters which Mrs. Golda Meir raised with me in our talks at the beginning of the week.

Mr. Paget

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on one occasion Machiavelli observed that the precondition to a foreign policy was a capacity and will to defend oneself? As Europe lacks both the capacity and the will, a European foreign policy is somewhat futile.

The Prime Minister

I do not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. It is obvious that the Community, having been enlarged only at the beginning of this year, has not had time to develop a full foreign policy. I should have thought the hon. and learned Gentleman would agree that defence policy follows foreign policy. The fact that there has been agreement between the Foreign Ministers of the Community about the European identity and its relationship with the United States and that there is to be a summit in the middle of December on these political affairs shows that progress is being made.

Mr. Tebbit

Can my right hon Friend say what attitude he will take at that meeting towards the speech of Chancellor Brandt at Strasbourg on Tuesday?

The Prime Minister

I think that the German Chancellor made a number of important points in his speech at Strasbourg on Tuesday When we had talks together on Monday of this week at No. 10, he told me about the speech that he was proposing to make at Strasbourg. It is a speech of such importance that I do not think I should deal with the individual items. I have no doubt that much of it commands the support of the members of the Community.

Mr. Maclennan

What representations have Her Majesty's Government made to the oil-producing countries since the Foreign Ministers' meeting about the predicament of Holland in particular?

The Prime Minister

What we have done is to point out to the other countries with which we are in contact the nature of the declaration by the Foreign Ministers of the nine members of the Community, including the Netherlands, and to emphasise the importance of it.

Mr. Roberts

Have any positive demands for action by this country been made by the Arab States? If so, can my right hon. Friend tell us what they are? Secondly, will he assure the House that the British Government will stand by their present impartial peace-seeking policy?

The Prime Minister

No demands have been made by Arab countries upon this country. The British position, as has been repeatedly stated in the House, in the United Nations, in public and at the European conference, rests on Resolution No. 242, which was passed when the previous Government were in office and which we supported, and it rests upon the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at Harrogate as long ago as the autumn of 1970. Her Majesty's Government's position has not changed in any way from the speech made at that time.

Mr. Shore

Has the Prime Minister yet received any communication from the Dutch Government on the question of oil supplies and the sharing of them? If he has not, will he indicate what attitude he would take if he were asked to help?

The Prime Minister

We have had no formal communications. It is, therefore, a hypothetical question. When the Prime Minister of the Netherlands came to see me early last Sunday morning, naturally we discussed the whole Middle East situation and its effect on Europe. I think I am free to say, although it was a confidential discussion, that what he emphasised particularly was the nature of the world problem concerning oil supplies in the future.