HC Deb 30 April 1975 vol 891 cc456-8
15. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Common wealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement about British relations with Portugal in the light of political developments since he answered on 9th April 1975.

Mr. Hattersley

The political developments that have taken place in Portugal since 9th April have not altered our relations with that country. They remain excellent.

Mr. Lamont

I accept the Minister's difficulties in commenting on the internal affairs of another country, but does he agree that the elections were a victory for the moderate forces, particularly for Dr. Soares, who has been so encouraged by the Foreign Secretary and all those who are interested in the development of Portugal? Will the right hon. Gentleman go further and express the hope that the Armed Forces Movement will find some form of accommodation for all those who have popular support in the country?

Mr. Hattersley

I subscribe to the proposition that the elections in Portugal, the turn-out and the result are a victory for moderation in Portugal. Therefore, they were greatly encouraging to those who want to see a policy of moderation spreading throughout Western Europe and flourishing there. The Armed Forces Movement has a special rôle in Portugal—a rôle conditioned by the fact that Portugal has been without democratic institutions for the last 50 years. I have no doubt that a combination of the AFM on the one side and the political parties which stood in the election last week on the other will bring Portugal to a democratic solution of its problems—a solution which will be remarkably successful if they take account of the difficulties which they have experienced in the last half century.

Mr. Whitehead

Should not the House congratulate the moderate party of the Centre Left on its victory and also congratulate the Armed Forces Movement on holding free elections after 48 years of dictatorship in Portugal? Will the Minister now make clear to the Government in Lisbon that Her Majesty's Government will wish to welcome Portugal to the Council of Europe as soon as a Parliament is elected in the same free manner as a constituent assembly?

Mr. Hattersley

I have already had the privilege, in a ministerial meeting at the Council of Europe, of saying how much Her Majesty's Government would welcome Portugal's inclusion in that body as soon as the election of a Parliament makes it possible. I am sure that the demonstration of friendship and understanding by the Community, as well as more material aid policies, are what the West should do to support Portugal. Her Majesty's Government will continue to support those policies.

Mr. Blaker

Will the Minister confirm that Portugal will be eligible for membership of the EEC if and when it becomes genuinely democratic?

Mr. Hattersley

Portugal will be eligible for membership of the EEC when—and only when—it becomes a democratic country in the full sense of the word. The House will recall that Portugal has already applied to the EEC for a special arrangement, which is more than an association agreement but a little short of full membership. Her Majesty's Government, like the Netherlands Government, are anxious to promote the EEC-Portuguese co-operation which the Armed Forces Movement in Portugal wanted to bring about.