HC Deb 10 March 1976 vol 907 cc406-9
11. Mr. Sproat

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the progress being made by all signatories on the implementing of the Helsinki Agreement.

Mr. Ennals

I refer the hon. Member to the reply on this point given by my right hon. Friend on 22nd January. We shall not be satisfied until all the points in the Final Act are being met by all signatories. Some progress is being made to adjust existing practices to the provisions of the Final Act. But any proper assessment must wait until the 1977 review meeting.

Mr. Sproat

Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that many who supported and continue to support the Helsinki Agreement consider that recent and on-going action by the Soviet Union regarding Southern Africa, persecution within its own border, and the massive growth of the Soviet Navy are in flagrant breach of the Helsinki Agreement? Will he make it clear to the Soviet Union, before Belgrade next year, that other signatories are not prepared to tolerate these continued breaches and will, if necessary, be prepared to withdraw trade and technological agreements if the Soviet Union does not mend its ways?

Mr. Ennals

I think that it is far too early to take any action on the lines suggested by the hon. Gentleman. In connection with Soviet and Cuban involvement in Angola, my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have made their views very clear. The House knows them and so does the Soviet Government. However, the purpose of Helsinki was to achieve agreement on a wide front. There are a number of ways in which the Final Act is being implemented. For the convenience of the House I should like to circulate a note detailing actions which cover notification of manoeuvres, relaxation of immigration rules, the easing of restrictions on journalists and the admission of Western newspapers. We are not yet satisfied. These are early days, and we shall be watching their performance, as others will be watching our performance.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. Friend take it from me that one of the most inexplicable occurrences is that ordinary citizens who wish to leave some of the Eastern European countries to marry citizens of this country are unable to do so—[HON. MEMBERS: "Socialism."] That has nothing to do with Socialism. It is Stalinist bureaucracy. Will my right hon. Friend explain to the authorities in Eastern Europe that this is inexplicable to Democratic Socialists and that we believe the time has come for them to change fundamentally their attitude, or otherwise it will be impossible for us to believe some of their other statements?

Mr. Ennals

I am certain that many hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome the point made by my hon. Friend. In cases where the individual concerned has an immediate relative who is British, it is our practice to raise the matter formally with the Soviet authorities even if the individual is himself a Soviet citizen. We have done this for a number of years. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State had a discussion on this subject with the Soviet Ambassador as recently as 16th February. We shall continue to make representations on this basis to the Soviet authorities. We think it important that family reunification should take place, and take the view that anyone who stands in the way of that is in breach of at least the spirit of the Helsinki Agreement.

Mr. Maudling

I understand that Mr. Gromyko is about to pay a visit to this country in the near future, at the invitation of the Secretary of State. Will this occasion be taken to explain clearly and fully to Mr. Gromyko the doubts felt on both sides of the House about the Russian performance in fulfilment of the Helsinki Agreement?

Mr. Ennals

It is not for me to anounce the agenda but, of course, the follow-up and the events which follow Helsinki will be discussed by my right hon. Friend when Mr. Gromyko is here. Equally, the situation in Africa, on which my right hon. Friend has expressed so much concern, will, of course, be an issue for discussion with Mr. Gromyko.

Mr. Greville Janner

In view of the Soviet authorities' failure to comply with the terms of the Helsinki Agreement, which my right hon. Friend himself so eloquently denounced in a recent foreign affairs debate, will he give the House an assurance that the matter will be raised with Mr. Gromyko when he is here?

Mr. Ennals

I cannot list the items that will be raised by my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend is present. He will be conducting the discussions. The concern that my hon. and learned Friend expressed in the debate 10 days ago, and which I have reiterated, will certainly be uppermost in the mind of my right hon. Friend.

Following is the information:


1. The Soviet Government gave advance notification of a military manœuvre (KAVKAZ) held from 25th January to 6th February 1976 in the Trans-Caucasus Military District (in the neighbourhood of the Turkish border), and in this connection observed the provisions of the Final Act. They invited observers from five European states (including Greece and Turkey) to attend this manœuvre. (Invitations are encouraged by, but are not mandatory under, the Final Act.)

2. In his speech to the Polish Party Congress in Warsaw in December 1975 Mr. Brezhnev proposed All-European congresses or interstate meetings to develop co-operation in the fields of environment, transport and energy. No details of this proposal have yet been given.

3. While they have made no formal anouncement to this effect, the Soviet authorities appear in recent months to have relaxed their emigration rules, at least in some cases, in the following respects:

  1. (i) the exit visa fee has reportedly been reduced by 25 per cent.
  2. (ii) the deposit made on application for an exit visa is now said to be reimbursed if the visa is not granted;
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  4. (iii) the time between appeals against refusals of exit visas has been reduced from 12 to six months.

4. In the field of information exchange they have:

  1. (i) said that they will allow into the USSR in 1976 a further 18 non-communist Western newspapers, including a small number of copies of the Financial Times;
  2. (ii) concluded arrangements with a number of Western countries (including the United Kingdom) for the reciprocal grant of multiple entry-exit visas for permanently accredited journalists;
  3. (iii) abolished the requirements for prior authority before journalists can send tapes and undeveloped film out of the USSR;
  4. (iv) anounced their intention of making, as from 1st March, a small improvement in the conditions of travel for foreign journalists based in Moscow. (Her Majesty's Government have responded by pledging an equivalent improvement for Soviet journalists resident in Britain.)