HC Deb 20 November 1973 vol 864 cc1128-30
Q6. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if he has plans to meet President Sadat's representative, Dr. al Zayyat, on his visit to the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister

Dr. Zayyat called on me on 7th November as the special representative of President Sadat. We had a very useful discussion about the situation in the Middle East.

Mr. Roberts

Are the Egyptian Government, and indeed the Arab States, fully aware of the harmful effects on underdeveloped countries of the present oil cuts imposed on the developed countries? Are they aware, too, that the oil cuts are more likely to delay than to hasten a peaceful settlement in the Middle East?

The Prime Minister

I hope that the Arab countries are aware of the impact of the oil cuts on the developing world. I know that the leaders of a number of the developing countries have made that information available to the Arab States and that they are aware of it.

Mr. Paget

Will the Prime Minister point out that the way to meet the threat to our oil supplies is to create solidarity among the consumers similar to that among the suppliers—and that includes Holland and Japan—rather than try to squirm out of the risk by methods more adequately described in military than in parliamentary language?

The Prime Minister

This country has adhered to the same policy since September 1970 when it was publicly expressed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and it has not changed in any way.

The accusations made by the hon. and learned Gentleman are unjustified. Perhaps he will also consider, where countries are prepared to deny supplies even though it damages themselves because they have large financial reserves, what consumers then do. If he does that, the hon. and learned Gentleman will have some realisation of the difficulty of getting consumers to agree about their policy.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

What information did my right hon. Friend receive about the rearmament of Egypt and other belligerents in the recent conflict from the Warsaw Pact countries? Since Her Majesty's Government have suspended the supply of arms to those belligerents, is he in touch with other Governments about the balance of arms in the Middle East?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, we are in contact with other Governments about the supply of arms to the Middle East and their balance, but I could not confirm that our main source of information is the Soviet Union.

Mr. Harold Wilson

How can the right hon. Gentleman say that there has been no change in Middle East policy, since in 1967 the two-day arms embargo was ended as soon as it became clear that Russia would not adhere to it and the present Foreign Secretary said that that policy was right? Second, does he not recognise that there has been a big change in foreign policy and in policy in relation to the fighting, in that in 1967 we took very seriously, and took the lead on, the question of the freedom of the seas in the Straits of Teheran but he did not seem to care when we asked him about Bab-el-Mandeb?

The Prime Minister

All this was dealt with in the debate by my right hon. Friend. The Leader of the Opposition seems quite incapable of ever listening to any facts or any arguments. If he had been listening to my reply a few minutes ago, he would have heard me tell the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that there had been no change in policy under this Government since it was announced in 1970. That was what I was making clear in answer to his implied accusation that we had changed in the recent war in support of the Arab countries.

Mr. Wilson

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the September 1970 speech was purely about one clause of Resolution No. 242, but that in the matter of Bab-el-Mandeb he is quite wrong? Would he say what the Foreign Secretary said in answer to that? He did not reply to that. Would the right hon. Gentleman say what he thinks his right hon. Friend's answer was?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is now completely shifting his ground because he has referred back to 1967. I was dealing with Government policy since 1970; the question of any alleged blockade on Bab-el-Mandeb arose not in 1970 but only in the last few weeks. The position that we have taken there is exactly similar to the position on the freedom of the seas.