HC Deb 28 November 1973 vol 865 cc395-7
21. Mr. Kaufman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will seek to pay an official visit to Holland.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have no plans to do so at present. The Netherlands Foreign Minister visited London as my guest on 27th June and we, of course, meet regularly at multilateral meetings, such as that of the Council of Europe and NATO.

Mr. Kaufman

But should not the right hon. Gentleman go to Holland and tell the citizens of that loyal and steadfast ally how he reconciles British membership of the European Economic Community with the oil blockade Britain is carrying on against Holland?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I am not sure that the words "loyalty" and "steadfast" come very well from the hon. Gentleman. I recognise Holland as a loyal ally.

Mr. William Hamilton

The man of Munich.

Mr. John Mendelson

Has the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary seen the statement by the Chancellor of the Federal Republic, in a toast to President Pompidou in Paris two days ago, that it was the duty of all European countries to stand by Holland? Will the right hon. Gentleman address himself seriously to that proposition? Is it not the Government's duty to take the same view? Will the right hon. Gentleman comment publicly on Chancellor Brandt's statement and say whether he and the Government agree with that point of view?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We have agreed with our allies and the members of the Community, including the Dutch, about how to handle the oil problem. The matter is being considered by the political directors of the Community, and we shall return to the problem when the Foreign Ministers meet again on 4th and 5th December.

Mr. Heffer

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), he suggested that my hon. Friend was not loyal or steadfast. That, coming from someone who sold this country out at Munich and who is selling it out to the Arabs is not good enough. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has destroyed his own point of order by the nature of the language he has used.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for someone to question the loyalty of an hon. Member? As one who disagrees with my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) on many points, I ask you whether an hon. Member's differing from the policy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary can be put on the same plane as disloyalty to the country, which is a quite different matter. If it can, probably every hon. Member can be regarded as disloyal. With your long experience, Mr. Speaker, you will know that that is a not a customary thing for a Minister to say about an hon. Member, and I therefore ask you to ask the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, despite his elevated position, to withdraw that remark.

Mr. Speaker

The Chair has to try to administer the rules of order. Obviously, I deprecate very much personal suggestions, from whichever side they may come, and I deprecate strong language. I also regret sedentary interruptions. I do my best to reduce the temperature of the Chamber when I can. I have no power to order a right hon. or hon. Member to withdraw, unless in my view there has been a breach of order. I do not think that on this occasion there has been a breach of order.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I did not mean to question the loyalty to this country of the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman). If the hon. Gentleman interpreted what I said in that way, of course I withdraw it.