HC Deb 13 July 1977 vol 935 cc401-3
1. Mr. Walters

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the present situation in the Middle East and the prospects for peace.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Dr. David Owen)

The statement issued by the Nine on 29th June demonstrates the importance which the European Community, including the United Kingdom, attaches to an urgent resumption of peace negotiations.

Mr. Walters

I welcome the EEC statement on the Middle East as a positive contribution towards achieving peace in the Middle East, but will the Secretary of State say what effective representations are now being made to the Israeli Government about the continuing building of settlements in the occupied territories in defiance of international law, which can only make progress towards peace more difficult?

Dr. Owen

We are in close and continuing contact with the Israeli Government, but I know of no new decisions taken by the new Israeli Government about settlements. I shall certainly look into any details that the hon. Gentleman cares to give me.

Mr. Thorpe

Has the Foreign Secretary seen that yesterday in another place my noble Friend Lord Byers introduced a Bill to protect companies, individuals and businesses from the effects of foreign boycotts? There is no substitute for a lasting settlement in the Middle East, but can we at least expect that in the interim the Government will give the same protection to British individuals and companies as is accorded by the United States Government to United States citizens and companies in that country?

Dr. Owen

I believe that there is another Question later on the Order Paper relating specifically to the boycott. The Government's view is well known. There was an Adjournment debate on this subject only a few days ago.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that during the Adjournment debate on this matter a short time ago the Government spokesman specifically refused to stop the disgraceful practice of authenticating boycott documents? Will my right hon. Friend agree to give renewed consideration to stopping this practice, in view of what is, I think, the universal feeling of hon. Members that it is quite wrong for this practice to continue?

Dr. Owen

There is a specific Question on the Order Paper about that. I read the report of my hon. Friend's speech in that Adjournment debate and the speech of my hon. Friend the Minister who replied. I thought that it was a very useful exchange of views.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

The Secretary of State must be aware that there is a view that the statement by the Foreign Ministers has unnecessarily heightened tension in the area. By its open commitment to a Palestinian State it is a sort of Balfour Declaration in reverse, without the strength, or occupation, and should be reconsidered.

Dr. Owen

I respect the right hon. Gentleman's views and I know his feelings on this matter, but what he has said is not correct. The statement was not referring to a Palestinian State. It was referring to the need for a Palestinian homeland. The statement needs to be read as a whole. It speaks of the need for a commitment to peace, with exchanges between all the parties concerned, with a view to establishing truly peaceful relations. I believe that it is a balanced statement and I do not believe that it has heightened tension in the area.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Is my right hon. Friend aware that recently the word "territories" in Uniled Nations Resolution No. 242 has suffered a metamorphosis to "all territories"? Will my right hon. Friend repudiate that change to the best of his ability?

Dr. Owen

What has concerned us since 1967 is the continuing occupation of the territories that were overrun in 1967. That is what Resolution No. 242 refers to. If people are extending it to other territories, that is going far wider than Resolution No. 242.