HC Deb 06 June 1978 vol 951 cc22-4
Q2. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to meet President Husak of Czechoslovakia.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to meet President Husak of Czechoslovakia.

Mr. Whitehead

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Czech civil rights movement has appealed directly to the Socialist International for help and that we all hope that all leading members of the Socialist International will make their views know, even if privately, to President Husak? Is my right hon. Friend heartened, as I am, that those who have to fight for the classic human freedoms recognise who their friends are and are not taken in by the kinds of smears against Socialists in this country that we constantly got from the gang of four on the Conservative Benches?

The Prime Minister

I am aware that an approach has been made, with a direct appeal for support from Social Democrats who recently signed "A Hundred Years of Socialism in Czechoslovakia", although I have not received it directly. If I do so, I shall be happy to render what assistance I can.

Mr. Blaker

Is the Prime Minister aware that his reluctance to criticise the Governments of the Soviet bloc in public contrasts very strikingly with his eagerness to criticise in public the Government of the United States?

The Prime Minister

That is an unusual inversion of matters. In fact, had the hon. Gentleman been present at the NATO conference he would have heard everything that I said about the Soviet Union on that occasion. It was widely reported.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

May we on this side congratulate the Prime Minister upon the words of sense about Africa at the NATO conference which defused the hysteria which was becoming endemic in the Western world? As a result, that has made a significant contribution to peace in that continent.

The Prime Minister

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. There is a clear attitude by all the countries of the West about affairs in Africa, but no clear policy has yet evolved. That is something which we must continue to work on.

Mr. Rifkind

Does not the Prime Minister realise that, at a time when the United States, for the first time for some years, is becoming aware of the full responsibilities of the West to the African continent, it is unfortunate that it should be the British Prime Minister who appears to be the only Western leader trying to point the West in the opposite direction?

The Prime Minister

In fact, my views received very widespread support from the members of NATO. They were not designed to close anyone's eyes to the threats in Africa that arise from forces from other countries, either actual or threatened. What I was trying to do, and what I hope the Opposition may do, is to realise that some of the issues involved there go far deeper than that of an East-West confrontation. They arise out of basic problems in Africa which we left behind and problems which the French and the Belgians left behind. I think that the Organisation of African Unity was quite right to establish the principle—I hope it can carry it out—that there should be no outside interference, that the countries themselves should settle their own disputes and that as far as possible they should settle them peacefully. That is what I was concerned to point out, and it received widespread support in the United States and elsewhere.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most of us on this side of the House will be absolutely delighted with the statement that he has made? Is he also aware that the CIA has played a very disreputable role with regard to Africa? Had the CIA not involved itself in Angola and had not Mr. Stockwell's references—now published in a book—been exposed to the world, it is quite clear that the Cubans would not have been in Africa. Therefore, the basic responsibility for what has happened with regard to the Cubans in Africa is that of the CIA.

The Prime Minister

I am aware of these charges. In due course history will no doubt adjudicate upon them. At the moment, it should be in the interests of the whole of the world to avoid Africa becoming a scene of East-West collision leading to a third world war. It should be our policy not to encourage forces from both sides entering that continent again.