HC Deb 23 March 1976 vol 908 cc199-201
Q3. Mr. Blaker

asked the Prime Minister whether a date has yet been fixed for the visit to the United Kingdom of Mr. Brezhnev, agreed in principle in 1975.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) on 9th March, Sir.

Mr. Blaker

Does the Prime Minister recall that when he was in Moscow a year ago he signed a joint statement with Soviet leaders in which they pledged the efforts of their two Governments to establish detente on a firm basis throughout the world? Will he make it known to Mr. Brezhnev, through Mr. Gromyko—with whom we are glad he is having talks—that an interpretation of detente that enables the Soviet Union to behave as it has behaved in relation to Portugal and Angola is not acceptable to this Government?

The Prime Minister

In my statement, which was the opening speech at the Helsinki Conference, I said that detente would not be very meaningful unless it went beyond the area of Europe and the North Atlantic, covered by the Conference.

Regarding Africa, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that, as I have already told the House, in my conversation with the Soviet Ambassador on 12th March I told him that foreign intervention in Southern Africa, from whatever source, was likely to distort progress towards democratic freedom and would cause unnecessary bloodshed and suffering, particularly in the area of Rhodesia and her closest neighbours.

Concerning Angola, the hon. Gentleman may be aware that, as a result of the initiative which my right hon. Friend and I took on that occasion, there is hope of an improvement in the situation.

Mr. Thorpe

If the Prime Minister is not seeing Mr. Brezhnev in the immediate future, will he draw the attention of Mr. Gromyko to the fact that there are at the moment on the Order Paper two all-party motions signed by a wide variety of Members on both sides of the House, the first on the general issue of Soviet Jewry and the second on the specific case of Dr. Mikhail Shtern? If he could raise those matters it would be a humanitarian gesture that would be very much appreciated.

The Prime Minister

I am aware of that. Mr. Gromyko, as well as Mr. Brezhnev and Mr. Kosygin, knows that I have raised these matters many times. I have always found that in trying to find out about people for whom there is concern one gets far better results by private discussion than by making resounding public declarations about them.

Mr. Frank Allaun

In all his 30 years in Parliament, has the Prime Minister ever found the wild men and women of the Conservative Party and Press so bellicose? Is not their daily anti-Russian dose of propaganda aimed at whipping up hysteria against détente and the cutting of arms, and may it not lose us important export orders?

The Prime Minister

The short answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's question is "Yes, Sir. I have known them like this quite frequently over 30 years".

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and to others who are regarded, not without reason, as being on the Left of the party when they have found it necessary or right—[Interruption.] This is no laughing matter—to express in the strongest terms, at the Soviet Embassy and elsewhere, any feelings they have had about the treatment of individuals or about Soviet policy in other ways. It is only right that should be said, and, I repeat, it is not a laughing matter.

The Conservative Party's present posture is, of course, related more to its internal problems than to world affairs. The Conservative Opposition think that they can get a few cheap meretricious Right wing Tory votes back by taking that course. Nobody in the outside world takes them seriously. The pay no attention whatsoever to the attitude and posture of NATO in these matters. But, if it makes them feel happy, I should be the last to complain.