§ 11.11 a.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Ian Gilmour)
In his speech on Tuesday the Leader of the Opposition was much less partisan on foreign affairs than he was in the rest of his speech, and I certainly think that British foreign policy should be as bipartisan as possible. But obviously full bipartisanship is not feasible. There are genuine disagreements between the parties on quite a large number of subjects.
Our conduct of foreign affairs, therefore, will not be the same as that of our predecessors. One difference—an important one—will be that we shall actually have a foreign policy. This is something that, owing to the rifts in the Labour Party on so many issues, our predecessors were not able to have. In some areas there will be—indeed, there already have been—distinct changes, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary have already made clear.
Before coming to those changes I should like, if the House will permit me, to dwell on the elements of continuity in British policy. Since we joined in 1973—a decision decisively reaffirmed by the British people in the referendum of 1975—membership of the European Community has been central to the conduct of British foreign policy. This European commitment has gone hand in hand with the continuation of steadfast relations with 556 the United States and with our membership of NATO, the cornerstone of Britain's security.
There are other more diffuse but equally important areas of continuity. The Commonwealth links together people from many parts of the world, with the Queen at its head. The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Lusaka at the beginning of August offers an excellent opportunity to develop this role, and Her Majesty's presence will ensure that the opportunity is well used. The Commonwealth is a unique organisation which we believe could—and now will—play a more central role in international affairs and in British foreign policy.
The United Nations likewise has been a cornerstone of British foreign policy since 1945. We shall participate fully in the work of the United Nations, despite its frustrations, accepting in particular the special responsibilities of Security Council membership to play an active part in the prevention and settlement of international disputes. Nor shall we neglect the economic and social areas of the United Nations work.
Another element of continuity in foreign policy is the recognition of the fact of international economic interdependence. The world has still not recovered from the setback to economic growth and the boost to inflation and balance of payments deficits provoked by the massive increase in oil prices in 1973. The new round of oil price increases, which followed the revolution in Iran, has exacerbated those problems. We all need to husband the world's scarce energy resources and to reduce our consumption of them.
These developments have brought home the essential lesson of international interdependence and the need for consultation in such forums as the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Community, and the periodic economic summits. The next of these will take place in Tokyo at the end of June, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will attend.
But economic interdependence is not limited to the developed countries. As a major trading nation, Britain needs secure access to raw materials, outlets for exports and stable conditions for investment. Hence the importance of our relations 557 with the developing countries. Our prosperity helps them and their prosperity helps us. There is thus a mutual self-interest in creating stronger links between developed and developing countries through the North-South dialogue. So much for the continuity. Now for the divergence.
I open with defence and the East-West balance, because virtually everything else in our foreign policy flows from this. That is something which our predecessors insisted upon ignoring. Year after year, in their defence white Papers, they acknowledged the fact of growing Soviet military might, and year after year they responded to that fact by cutting, instead of increasing, British defence spending. Then, when at last they were converted to the view that their cuts had gone too far and that defence expenditure should be increased they suddenly suffered a de-conversion. They underwent a deathbed irrepentence, if that phrase may be permitted.
In the last debate before the Labour Government fell, their Defence Ministers confirmed that they were committed to increasing defence expenditure in 1980–81 by 3 percent. in real terms. Yet the Labour Party manifesto said:We shall continue with our plans to reduce the proportion of the nation's resources devoted to defence.It will be generally agreed in the House that it is not easy both to increase defence spending and to decrease defence spending at the same time, yet that, during the election, was evidently the policy of the Labour Party. Now that the election is over, I presume that the party has reverted to its pre-election policy that increased defence expenditure is necessary.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
I recall that the right hon. Gentleman had responsibilities, when in Opposition, for defence. Will he tell the House whether the Government will uphold the decision that was taken in the Air Force department to increase substantially the number of air defence fighters? That is one promise that we would have fulfilled and I hope that his Government will have the guts to do it as well.
§ Sir I. Gilmour
I am confident that we shall do very much better. As far as 558 I remember, the hon. Gentleman made rather an odd intervention in the middle of the last defence debate which was not taken up by his superiors in the Department at the time. In any case, the Government are firmly committed to strengthening Britain's defences, which have been allowed to fall dangerously low in recent years. We shall work with our allies to protect Western interests in an increasingly threatening world and against the backdrop of Soviet actions which have called into question the very meaning and value of detente. Detente is nonsense if it means no more than something preached by the Russians and practised only by the West.
Yet this Government will also persevere without respite in attempts to improve relations between East and West. There is no contradiction in this. It is a dangerous delusion to imagine that we can obviate the need for strong defence by swaddling ourselves in the vague, comfortable language of international good will. It is equally wrong to think that strong defence is incompatible with genuine co-operation, arms control and disarmament. The two are complementary. Indeed, they are inseparable. Only from a strong base can we work to make East-West relations more stable, more predictable and more fruitful.
The Presidents of the United States and the Soviet Union are to meet in Vienna next month to sign the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition urged the importance of Government support for the signature and ratification of the treaty. I assure him that the Government welcome the signature of the treaty and hope that it will be ratified before long. We shall wish to examine the text in detail when it becomes available. We shall work for the successful conclusion of the comprehensive test ban talks. We also attach great importance to preventing nuclear proliferation, and we shall play a full part in the review conference of the non-proliferation treaty next year.
Our concern to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, however, will not delay our examination of ways in which NATO's theatre nuclear forces should be modernised. This work is among the most important now before the Alliance and the United Kingdom will play its full part in the search for decisions. We believe that 559 we must modernise NATO's nuclear forces to preserve the spectrum of deterrence in the face of the continuing buildup in Warsaw Pact theatre nuclear forces. Moreover, we need to demonstrate the political will to ensure NATO's collective security. The United Kingdom has an important responsibility in this area, and I assure the House that the Government are resolved to do all that is necessary to maintain the continuing effectiveness of Britain's nuclear deterrent.
The Alliance is also examining whether those nuclear weapons not at present covered by SALT should be included in future arms control negotiations. We intend to play an active part in these important discussions.
But the modernisation of Europe's nuclear forces will not in itself restore the military balance in central Europe. The Warsaw Pact has twice as many aircraft in that region as NATO, two and a half times as many tanks and three times as many guns. As the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe put it, there has been "an explosion" in the Soviet Union's military capability. Unfortunately, as the Warsaw Pact has grown much stronger during the last few years, this country has grown weaker.
It is a prime objective of the Government's policy to stop that process, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has already taken steps to stem the highly dangerous and damaging drain of many highly skilled and very experienced trained men from the Armed Forces which was caused by the previous Government's failure to pay them properly. What he did last week was essential.
We have long made clear that our attitude to Europe is very different from that of the Labour Party. It was an eccentricity of the previous Government—or perhaps it was intentional—that most of those Departments that had most to do with Brussels were given anti-European Ministers. In consequence, when Ministers got to Brussels they seemed too often to be pirouetting about and striking public attitudes in order to gain the applause of their anti-European supporters in this House rather than securing benefits for Britain by negotiation.
560 Britain has been seen for too long as a reluctant partner in the EEC and as slow to co-operate with our fellow member States. Those days are now over. The Government are firmly committed to the Community's success. We welcome, for example, the prospect of its enlargement. The Government warmly welcome the prospect of Greek accession at the beginning of 1981 and hope that the Community will now press on with its negotiations for Portuguese and Spanish accession. We attach great importance to the efforts of the Nine to co-ordinate their foreign policy in the framework of political co-operation, and we expect to play a leading role in pursuit of such co-ordination with our partners.
But the Community is an organism which has developed and must continue to develop in line with the interests of its members. The Government do not underestimate the difficulties which we and the Community as a whole face. We believe that a long, hard look must be taken at the operations of the common agricultural policy. The aim on CAP prices should be that in future they are set at levels, applied in real terms throughout the Community, which do not produce surpluses but offer security to reasonably efficient producers. A first priority will be to eliminate the costly, wasteful surpluses, and that must be done by freezing prices.
At the same time, we are determined to protect United Kingdom interests. In particular, we intend to devalue the green pound within the normal lifetime of a Parliament to a point which will enable British producers to compete on level terms with those in the rest of the Community.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of surpluses, which is a difficult problem, will he make a statement now, or in the winding-up speech, on precisely who owns these surpluses? The Commissioner told the budget committee of the European Assembly that the surpluses do not belong to the Community. Possibly they belong to a federal trust. This is a legal point of substance, not a pedantic one. Since considerable consequences could flow, something should be done about clearing it up and 561 deciding about the valuation of the surpluses.
§ Sir I. Gilmour
It is a legal point, to which I must confess I do not know the answer. I dare say that I am not the only one who does not know the answer. My right hon. Friend who is particularly concerned with these matters will, I hope, be able to answer the hon. Gentleman's interesting point.
The common fisheries policy has not yet been revised to take account of the move to 200-mile fishery limits. An agreement is needed urgently. We shall pursue the negotiations as a matter of priority and in a co-operative spirit. But the United Kingdom's legitimate interests must be appropriately recognised if a settlement is to be fair and lasting.
Of even more fundamental importance is the need to reduce the size of our net contribution to the Community budget. Although we are one of the least prosperous members of the Community, we made the largest net contribution in 1978. This is unfair and is contrary to the Community's stated aim of achieving greater convergence of economic performance between member States. We shall be engaging in bilateral and multilateral discussions with our Community colleagues in order to find an equitable solution.
I should make brief mention of the European monetary system. The question whether we should join the exchange rate mechanism requires careful consideration. The Government will be looking at all aspects of the system afresh over the coming months and will make their decision known by September this year when the review of some aspects of the functioning of the system is to take place.
There will also be a marked difference of emphasis in the Government's approach to the Community's role in regional competition and industrial policies. We shall put greater emphasis on policies which encourage conditions in all parts of Britain so that British industry can flourish and the British people can benefit from the growing prosperity of the Community as a whole.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, although the EMS is concerned with exchange rate policy, its purpose also is 562 to ensure that Government influence on financial parameters, such as interest rates, money supply and so on, is transferred from national authorities to those of the central banks of the EEC? In that event, does that not proscribe the potential independence or choice of any British Government in relation to the industrial and regional policies to which he referred?
§ Sir I. Gilmour
I do not think that it does. I have not noticed that countries which have joined the EMS have significantly or, indeed, any less freedom than Britain to pursue their policies.
We are determined that Britain should match the economic performance of other Community members. We look to British industry as a whole to treat the immense and diverse market of the European Community as a home market and to play an expanding part in it. A more successful and competitive economic base is the best way to raise living standards and provide new jobs.
Our approach to public spending on a Community basis as well as at home will be rigorous. But where there are activities which can be better supported at a Community than at a national level we shall adopt a positive attitude to new proposals.
The Government welcome the direct elections to the European Parliament to be held next month. The directly elected Parliament will be better able than its nominated predecessor to subject Community business and expenditure to scrutiny and thus give individual people a greater say in European affairs. That can be a change only for the better.
Turning finally to the Community's relations with developing countries, the current negotiations for a new convention between the Community and 57 African, Caribbean and Pacific States party to the Lomé Convention are coming close to a conclusion. Our present aim is that all outstanding points should be settled at the ministerial negotiating conference due to take place in Brussels on 24–25 May. We attach particular importance to this negotiation because two-thirds of the States of the Commonwealth are among the participants, and I have alreary stressed the importance that we shall attach to our Commonwealth links.
I now turn to Rhodesia, where political progress has taken place in the last year 563 of a kind and on a scale which previously would have been unthinkable, culminating in the emergence of a black majority in Parliament, and soon in Government. In the Government's view this represents a fundamental change in circumstances inside Rhodesia. There has been an impressive demonstration of wide support for Bishop Muzorewa in Rhodesia. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already told the House, we welcome the change which has taken place and we look forward to building upon it.
The basis of our approach will be to place first and foremost the rights of people living in Rhodesia and their desire for peace. That is our pledge to the House, and that is what we shall be saying to our friends in the Commonwealth and elsewhere. We wish to take them fully into our confidence and to associate them to the fullest possible extent with the task that we have set ourselves. Our objective is to return Rhodesia to legality and achieve the lifting of sanctions in conditions of peace and in a context of wide international recognition.
Our first response to the new situation has been to send a senior official of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Salisbury for meetings with Bishop Muzorewa and others. His task has been to make clear the new approach which the Government will be adopting in dealing with Rhodesia.
Then next step will be for us to discuss the problem with our friends in the Commonwealth, our partners in the Nine and other allies. We have begun that in recent discussions with the Federal Chancellor and Herr Genscher and through my right hon. and noble Friend's exchange of views with all his colleagues in the Nine. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and I will be continuing this process in the course of our meetings with Mr. Vance on 21 and 22 May. We shall naturally continue to consult closely with African leaders.
It is high time for a new approach to the problem. We have to start by taking fair account of the progress made inside Rhodesia itself. Of course, what has now been achieved in Rhodesia could and should have been achieved years ago. However, what concerns us in the House now is the present position.
564 The House will wish to take into account the report produced by my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Boyd of Merton, to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred in her opening speech on the Address. The Government are grateful, as I am sure the House will be, to Lord Boyd and his colleagues for the way in which they carried out their task. His report, which we received on 16 May, is long and thorough. We are still studying it, and I shall hope to make copies available to the House in the usual way as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
If the report of a body of Conservative Party politicians is to be produced as a Government document, will the right hon. Genleman give an assurance that Lord Chitnis's document on the same issue will also be produced? It was an equally impartial document.
§ Sir I. Gilmour
I have not decided exactly, but I think that I shall place it in the Library. I am not sure whether that necessarily makes it a Government document. However, I think that it is a perfectly reasonable procedure. If the hon. Gentleman does not want me to put the document in the Library, I dare say that he will find himself at variance with his hon. Friends.
As I have said, we are still studying the report. We shall make it available as soon as possible. It is right to tell the House now that, although he makes certain reservations, Lord Boyd's broad conclusion is that the election in Rhodesia last month was fair, in the sense that the electoral machinery was fairly conducted, that it was as free as was possible in the circumstances, and that the result represented the wishes of the majority of the electorate of the country.
The election and its aftermath have helped to demonstrate again the need, which we have long advocated, for a more effective and permanent means of communication with the authorities in Rhodesia and better information about developments in that country. We need to keep in close touch with the unfolding of events. We have special responsibilities in Rhodesia but no way of informing ourselves directly or making our views felt in Salisbury. That is an absurd state of affairs, which the Government propose to set right. We shall be 565 making permanent arrangements for continuing consultations with Bishop Muzorewa. Senior officials will visit Salisbury as often and for as long as may be necessary for the purpose. I repeat that, as we have made clear, we shall also seek close consultation with the African Governments principally concerned.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the various American observers who went to Rhodesia to observe the elections have come to the same conclusion as that expressed in the report of Lord Boyd of Merton? Is it possible for the House to have a sight of the American conclusions?
§ Sir I. Gilmour
I have seen reports that American observers came to the same conclusions and I shall consider my hon. Friend's request. It is true that Mr. Drinkwater has produced a report that came to a similar conclusion.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House, we shall recognise the present realities of the situation in Rhodesia but we shall not lose sight of the wider international considerations. International support and recognition, and co-operation with other African States, must be vital to a landlocked State in central Africa, above all one that is still engaged in a cruel civil war. We are bound to consider whether any way can be found, even at this stage, to heal the divisions and bring an end to the war. We must take due account of the need for consultation with the countries whose friendship Rhodesia will need in turn if it is to prosper. However, our overriding objective is clear—a return to legality in conditions which secure wide international recognition.
In Namibia a number of problems still stand in the way of the implementation of the proposals of the five Western Powers for a settlement. We shall continue our efforts, together with our Western partners, to resolve those problems so that elections may take place under United Nations supervision and control, leading to internationally recognised independence.
South Africa's continuing acceptance of the objective of a peaceful and internationally recognised solution in Namibia is important and encouraging. Its policy of apartheid, on the other hand, is a 566 continuing cause of unrest in that troubled country and one that we deplore. Our task, as I see it, is to encourage by all available means the peaceful dismantling of that system.
The House will be relieved to hear that I do not propose to cover every aspect of British foreign policy in one speech. Britain has many other important interests and valuable friends across the globe—from Latin America to Asia. I would, however, like to mention specifically three further areas of particular concern and interest to Britain: the Middle East, Iran and China.
The Middle East is an area of major importance for Britain, both for our economic interests there and because the long-standing political tensions in the area remain a threat to peace. The Government will give a high priority to the search for a Middle East settlement that will enable all the peoples of the area, including of course the Israelis and the Palestinian people, to live in peace and security. Such a settlement must deal satisfactorily with all aspects of the dispute.
President Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem and the successful conclusion of negotiations between Egypt and Israel have given a new impetus to efforts to achieve peace. The treaty between them has shown that patient negotiations can produce far-reaching results, even in the face of the hostility and mistrust of decades, and it reflects great credit on all those who worked so hard to bring it about.
However, as President Carter himself has said, the treaty between Egypt and Israel is only a step towards full peace. It represents only a partial implementation of Security Council resolution 242. Major issues have still to be tackled, most important of all the question of the Palestinians. A start will be made to solving this problem in the negotiations which will shortly begin on the future of the West Bank and Gaza. There is no doubt that they will be very difficult because the objectives of the two sides are very different. If the momentum established by the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel is to be maintained, it is vital that they result quickly in full and genuine autonomy for the areas concerned. Only if this can be achieved will 567 the Palestinians have grounds for hope that their legitimate aspirations can eventually be achieved and resolution 242 implemented in all its parts.
The Government stand ready to help in this process in any way they can. My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has already had discussions with his colleagues in the Community on ways in which the Nine can contribute, and will shortly be discussing these problems with Secretary Vance.
In the same context, I would also like—
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of the Middle East—
§ Mr. Price
Well, perhaps I could make this intervention now. Does the omission from the right hon. Gentleman's speech and from the Queen's Speech of any mention of Cyprus and of a solution to its problem, which has been in the Queen's Speech each year ever since the Turkish invasion, indicate a change in Government policy in terms of finding a political solution in Cyprus?
§ Sir I. Gilmour
No, it does not represent a change of policy. We do, however, think that it is for the parties most closely concerned to try to reach a settlement. As the hon. Gentleman knows, a meeting is taking place today in Nicosia.
As I have not left the question of the Middle East, I should also like to take the opportunity to put on record the Government's firm opposition to Israel's policy of settlement in the occupied territories. These settlements are not only contrary to the provisions of the Geneva conventions; they are a truly major obstacle to the building of trust in the area, and, therefore, to peace.
A decision by the Israeli Government to halt all settlement activity during the forthcoming negotiations would be a major contribution to creating a climate of confidence.
We also look forward to a return of stability and confidence in Iran. We hope that the Iranian Government will prove 568 faithful to the spirit of justice and human rights in which the revolution was launched, and welcome the calls that have been made by leading figures in Iran for the exercise of moderation and due process of law. I am bound to express the shock that people in this country have felt at the continuation of political trials and executions. The Government share those feelings. The Iranian authorities are aware of our views and of those of the international community on this matter.
Finally, I wish to refer to our relations with China. The longer-term interests of our two countries may not always coincide, but we have important interests in common. China's leaders wish to modernise their country and to make up for lost time, and they want to do so with Western help. Because of Hong Kong, and because of our early recognition of the new regime in 1950, we are well known to the Chinese and well placed to respond. A stable and prosperous China has a major contribution to make to international stability. We therefore welcome the positive and outward-looking role that the present Chinese leadership is adopting in international affairs, and we shall be looking to extend the range of our co-operation on international and bilateral issues.
We shall be looking for a major expansion of our trading relationship. British industry is well placed to contribute to China's modernisation programme. We shall seek to build on these shared interests to improve our mutual understanding and build a fuller political relationship. As part of our overall trade relations with China, we hope to sell Harrier aircraft. We look forward to a visit by Premier Hua Kuo-feng later this year.
Fundamentally, our differences with our predecessors stem from our readiness to face facts and our willingness to respond to changing circumstances, whether in Europe, in the military balance or in Southern Africa. That explains the changes in policy that we are making. But, as I have said, there will also be a good deal of continuity in British foreign policy.
We shall endeavour to improve our relations with the Soviet Union and to help China take its proper place in the international community. The essence 569 of our policy will be to defend our people and promote their welfare by restoring Britain to a respected and more influential place in the world. We shall do this principally by strengthening our existing alliances and partnerships. We shall maintain the Atlantic Alliance, increase our defence capabilities and preserve a credible nuclear deterrent. We shall play our part in the strengthening of Europe, and we shall fulfil our traditional role in the Commonwealth. We aim thereby to create a more peaceful and prosperous world. This will enable us to pursue genuine detente and the improvement of relations between the developed and the underdeveloped countries. These are the prime objectives of the Conservative Government.
§ 11. 44 a.m.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
First, I welcome the Lord Privy Seal to our debates on foreign affairs. In his speech he stressed the elements of continuity in foreign policy. Certainly, British foreign policy since the Second World War has undoubtedly benefited from a broad measure of agreement between the parties in this House. This is why I believe that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary should serve in this House.
Apart from entry to the EEC, which was divisive within the parties, the main differences between the parties have been over the handling of the Suez crisis and in our attitudes to South Africa. Over the last few years, however, there has developed a much more identifiable Right-wing attitude to foreign policy, both in this country and in the United States, though to a much lesser extent in the rest of Europe. It has not yet—and certainly the right hon. Gentleman's speech showed no signs of this—been adopted by the Conservative Government. However, the Opposition's concern is that the Prime Minister has allowed herself to become, when in Opposition, clearly identified with many of those Right-wing attitudes.
On East-West issues, instead of pursuing a balance between the triad of détente, disarmament and defence, a Rightist foreign policy is identifiable by an openly expressed cynicism about the process and value of détente, about the absence of any commitment to disarmament and by its overriding belief in the priority for greater defence expenditure. 570 On North-South issues, a Rightist foreign policy demonstrates a cynicism about the value of any dialogue with the Third world. It has no commitment to increasing aid and development expenditure, and it despises and downgrades the United Nations. It tolerates, at best, and derides, at worst, the Commonwealth, and it treats non-alignment as weakness and prefers instead a sharply polarised world.
Those are not the views of the right hon. Gentleman. I am well aware of that. Nor are they the views of some Conservative Members.
§ Mr. Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler (Norfolk, North-West)
The right hon. Gentleman was clearly not listening to the speech of my right hon Friend, who told the House quite clearly how important the United Nations and consultations in it were to the continuance of our foreign policy.
§ Dr. Owen
The hon. Gentleman clearly did not listen to what I said. I dissociated his right hon. Friend, in his speech, from these Rightist attitudes.
What I am warning about is the attitudes that lie on the Conservative Benches, and I could name a few hon. Members. They are attitudes with which, at various stages over the last few years, the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister has all too closely identified herself. I want to make it clear that while the Opposition have no desire in foreign affairs to undermine the pursuit of common ground between the parties, we shall oppose any drift towards the identification of Britain with the sort of Rightist attitudes which I have mentioned. We believe them to be wrong and ill conceived.
I welcome much of what the right hon. Gentleman said, particularly about the Middle East, where I detect no difference of emphasis in policy. I also support what he said about Iran, his anxiety about the continuation of trials in that country and his urging of living up to the principles of human rights on which the revolution was based.
Before I deal with the EEC and Southern Africa, I should like to deal with three areas of concern—SALT, the comprehensive test ban and the aid budget.
571 On SALT II, we are worried—and it was noticeable that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned it not at all—that there should be any equivocation by the Government on the need for ratification of SALT II. If there were to be any, it would only feed the doubters in the military and the United States Senate.
§ Dr. Owen
I am sorry. I did not catch that. I very much welcome it, because I do not wish to have a difference of opinion on SALT, and I think that early ratification is in all of our interests. I withdraw any suspicion that there is not to be wholehearted support for it, because there is no doubt that it will help President Carter's task, and I believe that it is in all of our interests.
On a comprehensive test ban treaty, I believe that there is a great need for a political involvement, both by the Prime Minister and by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, to ensure that the military and nuclear scientists do not emasculate any further the comprehensive test ban treaty, and that it ought soon to be completed.
Nuclear weapon proliferation is now a reality. India, Pakistan, Iraq, Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, Israel and South Africa all have the technical ability to produce nuclear weapons. What these countries demand before accepting curbs on their own horizontal proliferation is a curb on the vertical proliferation from the nuclear weapon States. A test ban treaty which offers a real prospect of continuation after the initial few years, and then imaginatively used, could well become the catalyst for persuading some of those countries to forgo clandestine nuclear weapon development. There are very few issues of greater importance facing the world, and Britain, as the only non-super-Power in the negotiations, must ensure a treaty that addresses the concerns of the non-nuclear weapon States.
I hope that SALT III will start as soon as ratification of SALT II is completed, and since it must inevitably involve European nuclear weapon systems we believe that there is a need for the British Government to be directly involved in any negotiations that touch 572 upon or involve British nuclear weapon systems. We urge the Government to bring to the House of Commons all the information so that we can have an informed and public debate on the implications for this country of the SALT III negotiations.
The Prime Minister has indicated that the overseas aid budget is not to be exempt from the search for economies, so we have been warned. But the right hon. Lady will be well aware of the mounting new financial pressures on even the existing budget. Uganda, in the aftermath of General Amin, will need a substantial injection of new money. The plight of refugees all over the world, particularly from Vietnam and Cambodia, will require more money. This is an easy programme to cut into. It may even be popular in the country, and certainly we shall not see the effects of a reduction around us day by day, but the Prime Minister should not overlook the moral outrage that many in this country will feel if this programme is singled out for a particularly savage cut. It was a courageous and right decision of the previous Labour Government to protect this programme and to plan for it alone to expand at 6 per cent. per year. We shall resist very strongly any mean-minded and selfish approach to the problem of world poverty.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
On reflection, does not the right hon. Gentleman regret that British aid was used to subsidise terrorist camps in Mozambique and to support Vietnam, a country which has invaded its neighbour, which has an atrocious record on human rights and which is totally against all that the Western world stands for? Did not that do great damage to this country's aid programme, and could not the Government make a start by reducing those sorts of areas of aid?
§ Dr. Owen
When the hon. Gentleman looks, he will see that we have never spent money in Mozambique in the way that he has suggested. It has been spent only on humanitarian assistance. As to Vietnam, it will be interesting to see whether the Government, when looking at the problems that we faced, decide to cancel the shipbuilding order.
On defence, the right hon. Gentleman has sought, as he has done for the last 573 four years, to try to demonstrate a massive difference between the parties and to draw attention to what has happened to the defence budget. He did not tell the House that when he last held office in the latter months of 1973 and 1974, and was in the Ministry of Defence, he was responsible for one of the most savage cuts in the defence budget as a result—and I have no objection to the decision—of the fourfold increase in the price of oil, and the consequence was that this country had to adjust its defence budget to the realities of our economic difficulties following that increase in oil price.
As to Europe, I welcome the Prime Minister's statement that she sees no contradiction between vigorous and effective membership of the European Community and vigorous and effective pursuit of British interests within that Community. That has been our practice and policy for the last few years. When the current wining and dining of Ministers in Europe is over, I predict that it will not be long before they find themselves in a minority of one. But one thing is that there will be a change of tone. Unlike the Conservative Party when in Opposition, Conservative Ministers, when they return in these circumstances, will not be subjected to carping criticism if they find themselves isolated. We shall not complain that they are too abrasive. Our fear is that they will be insufficiently zealous in protecting British interests.
The position over agriculture and fishing will be dealt with in detail by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) this afternoon. I must warn Ministers that there is very little room for compromise. They inherit a position of negotiating strength, from which any backsliding will gravely weaken our future ability to redress the major budgetary imbalance to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. That must be redressed. Success in all these negotiations is vital to Britain and is in all our interests. We shall support them. Without success, whether we wish it or not—I certainly do not wish it—our membership will, once again, become an issue in British politics.
On energy, I hope that the Government will ensure that there is no erosion of British control over our continental shelf and no extension of Community 574 competence in relation to North Sea oil. I should like an assurance that they will continue to insist that North Sea oil is exported only to the markets of our EEC and IEA partners, many of whom are now facing severe shortages. I hope that the Government will not sanction any new commitments outside these markets and that they will ensure that North Sea oil is not exported to South Africa by swap arrangements or by other ingenious ways of diverting oil from Europe, which is already very short of oil.
The Prime Minister has promised a decision by September on the Government's attitude to entering the exchange rate mechanism of EMS. I hope it will not be forgotten that for the next decade we are in serious danger of catching the "Dutch disease" and maintaining an unrealistically high exchange rate merely because of North Sea oil. The Government should beware of any institutional arrangement which could serve to reinforce that tendency, and they must avoid exchange rate rigidities which impair our export potential and hold back our industrial growth rate. The previous Conservative Government's experience with entry into the "snake" was pretty unhappy, and the existing EMS is little different. It needs to be changed and geared to aiding the convergence of the economies of member States and to be linked up with achieving greater dollar stability.
It is, however—and the right hon. Gentleman recognised this in his speech—in Southern Africa that the Government face their most serious immediate challenge. The support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary for the proposals made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations over Namibia, as being the most likely way of achieving a solution for that country, is a welcome development, as is his commitment to do everything in his power to see that these negotiations continue.
In her remarks on Rhodesia in the opening debate on the Address the Prime Minister was much more cautious than in the past, and we welcome that change of tone just as we welcome the decision to send Sir Anthony Duff to Rhodesia. So far so good—and I assure the right hon. Lady that she can expect every assistance from the Opposition in achieving a 575 genuine settlment, provided that it does fully take account of the realities inside Rhodesia and the wider international implications.
Speaking at the Conservative Party annual conference debate on Rhodesia in October 1977, the noble Lord, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, said:There are four essential factors in any settlement. First, there has to be a ceasefire before the transitional period takes place. Secondly, a constitution must be devised acceptable to black and white … Thirdly, before a new constitution takes place, there must be true and fair internationally supervised elections … Lastly, there must be the reassurance to all races of a security force capable of keeping law and order.When questioned at a press conference on Monday whether any of those four principles had been achieved, he said:This is exactly what we want to examine before we go any further.He is right to do so. He went on to say that he thought the recent elections had altered the situation. Before considering the result of these elections, it is important to be clear that those four essential factors that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary thought so important in 1977 have not been fulfilled. Far from there being a ceasefire, the fighting has got progressively worse, and there has been an increase in the death rate over the last few days.
Although the Patriotic Front was unable to fulfil its boast that it would disrupt the election—and to this extent it received a rebuff—a total mobilisation of all able-bodied men and women was required in order to conduct the elections. Despite this, incidents occurred throughout the elections, with casualties continuing to run at about 30 persons killed every day. Although over the next few weeks or months we may see some defections from Patriotic Front forces, it would be very unwise to assume that the tempo of the war will abate. It is more likely, although no one can be certain, that the long-term trend will be one of continuing deterioration and even greater loss of life.
I turn to the noble Lord's second essential factor. There is no direct evidence that the internal agreement's constitution is acceptable to the black population. Whereas a referendum was held amongst the 90,000 predominantly white electorate, 576 no test of the constitution's acceptability was ever taken amongst the black population, such as was conducted by the 1972 Pearce Commission.
The proposed constitution entrenches 123 out of 170 articles, which is without parallel in the history of the Commonwealth. By the manipulation of the Civil Service, the senior posts in the Armed Forces and the courts, the constitution virtually ensures white domination of the key power centres in Rhodesia for many years to come.
I welcome the opportunity for everybody to read the reports from Lord Boyd, Lord Chitnis, Professor Claire Palley and others. Observers have commented that the elections were not about the settlement proposals or the constitution but were a popularity test between four black parties in which Bishop Muzorewa showed that he has considerable support and a genuinely large popular following, but not necessarily, in an election involving all the parties, the majority of followers.
The noble Lord's third essential factor involved a true and fair internationally supervised election. There was no international supervision. No Government sent observers. Even those observers who attended the election are divided about whether the election was free and fair, as are the participating parties in the election. The Rev. Ndabaningi Sitole has still refused to accept the result and has called for an independent inquiry into allegations of "gross irregularities".
The extent of the continuing security problem is illustrated by the regional variations in turnout. There was about a 100 per cent. turnout in the three Mashonaland provinces. There was a much lower turnout in the outlying provinces and in most of the tribal trust lands. The 30 per cent. poll in Matabeleland South shows Mr. Nkomo's strength. Mr. Mugabe's strength is shown in the relatively low poll in Victoria and Manicaland.
I turn to the fourth essential factor. There can be no doubt that since the security forces which supervised the election were exactly the same as those which have sustained the illegal regime since 1965 the necessary reassurance to all races, to which the noble Lord referred, was not present.
577 The noble Lord now argues that things have changed since 1977. They have, thank goodness. However, the noble Lord argued as recently as November last year that the Security Council shouldappoint a contact group, consisting not just of the Western members of the Security Council as it was in the Namibian situation, but also others from other parts of the world to try to narrow the differences and achieve what we seek, meeting the parties separately, acting as a go-between; honest brokers, without anything to gain but a peaceful solution.He argued that as the prelude to a summit conference presided over by the then Prime Minister with, he hoped, Mr. Vance, the United States Secretary of State, present. He said:if, at the end of it, it was abundantly plain that there was one individual or one party holding out and making a peaceful settlement with elections impossible, then a situation would be created whereby Britain and America, and indeed the United Nations, would radically have to rethink their attitude to the problem"—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 November 1978; Vol. 396, c. 439–40.]We accepted that suggestion, and with a large measure of all-party support in the House the former right hon. Member for Anglesey, Mr. Cledwyn Hughes, went to Africa in December to see whether the basis for such a summit conference existed. Sadly, he had to report in January that he did not see at that time the basis for such a conference, although he was careful not to preclude a successful conference at a future date. One of the factors in forming that judgment was that the parties involved with the internal settlement were determined to pursue their planned elections.
There is now a unique opportunity for a successfull negotiation. Neither the internal nor external nationalists are in a position to impose their dominance over the other. This position may not last for longer than a few months.
The overriding responsibility of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and of Secretary Vance is to try, as we made clear we would try, to bring all the parties together, perhaps setting up a contact group to work actively before the Lusaka Heads of Government meeting.
It is no answer to the realities inside and outside Rhodesia to argue that because an election has taken place and there was a high turnout with a claimed 64 per cent. vote this is itself sufficient for Britain to accept the legality of Bishop 578 Muzorewa's Government and to lift sanctions. To do so would be a grave error—as grave an error as was made over Suez, but perhaps this time with graver consequences, because we are weaker internationally. Such a decision would mean abandoning any British influence in achieving a ceasefire. It would mean the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary abandoning his own four essential factors for a settlement. It would mean ignoring the fighting inside Rhodesia and the long-term adverse trend of the war. It would mean that Britain would be rightly accused of a breach of faith by each Commonwealth country, not only in Africa, but by Australia and Canada.
The United States Senate has a pretty deplorable record in terms of the sanctions-busting of chrome in the early 1970s. More important than that is the view of the United States Government. It is unlikely that they would acquiesce in such a British decision. If they did, they, too, would be accused of a severe breach of faith. However, they can dissociate themselves in the the eyes of the world from any Senate decision and seek refuge in the separation of powers. We in this House can take no such refuge.
It would also mean that the eight other member States of the EEC would either have to disavow the Government's decision or turn their backs on numerous statements made in the framework of political co-operation—some as recently as a few months ago. It would mean that many countries would either have to disavow past votes in the United Nations or dissociate themselves from the actions of the British Government. Many countries would retaliate against Britain through our commercial interests, and we should recognise that we are vulnerable, not only in Africa.
Recognition now of the internal election, far from checking Soviet influence in Southern Africa—which concerns many right hon. and hon. Members, including many of my right hon. and hon. Friends—would increase Soviet influence. It would confirm all Soviet propaganda about the racialist, colonialist Western Powers. Our friends in Africa would feel betrayed and look to the Soviet bloc for support, including greater military support.
Over the last few difficult years and months, because Britain and the United 579 States have been trying to achieve a settlement on lines acceptable to most African States, we have been able to prevent the Soviet Union from acquiring the degree of political influence that would normally come with its supplies of arms to the liberation movements. In recent months South Africa has shown an alarming tendency to support openly the internal settlement, not, as before, only economically and politically, but also, I fear, militarily. As happened in Angola, the possibility of a polarised military struggle between East and West in Rhodesia—which is always a nightmare—draws ever closer. It could become a reality if Britain recognises the election.
The task of the British Government is not to sit back doing nothing until after the Lusaka meeting, and then cynically to recognise. Their task is to persuade Africa to face up to the undoubted support inside Rhodesia that Bishop Muzorewa has demonstrated and to persuade Africa to face the fact that the Patriotic Front's belief that it can win the war quickly is unrealistic.
The British Government's task is also to use the good will that they now have of Bishop Muzorewa to convince him that he has no future tied to Mr. Smith and to South Africa. The Government should use the Commonwealth and the United Nations to support a genuine attempt to open negotiations quickly on a viable settlement that will bring a ceasefire and internationally supervised elections. There may be only a short time before irreversible deterioration sets in.
Far from it being, as some urge, a course of strength to recognise the Rhodesian election, it would be a course of weakness for the Government. Despite some criticisms of our alleged bias towards the Patriotic Front, the now Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary gave support when in Opposition to the strategy of negotiation that we adopted in Government. We shall stick with him and support a similar strategy if he will have the courage to stick with a negotiated settlement now that he is in Government.
If he resists the blandishments of those who urge taking the easy way out and resist his own Right wing, he will gain respect and, perhaps more important, the 580 necessary leverage from African countries which he will need at any conference to ensure the compromises that must be wrung from all the parties. Understandably, all the parties want power. His task is to create a climate for an election in which all will participate. If any party does not attend the negotiations, or attends and acts unreasonably, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will be in a far better position to carry the world with him in any decision that he may recommend.
This is not a time for opting out of the search for peace, or of choosing one side, which will be seen as choosing not Bishop Muzorewa but Mr. Smith. This Smith-Muzorewa combination may look superficially viable now, but it could be very weak within a few months, even with South African support. A peaceful solution acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole must remain the objective of us all. The Opposition will support the Government as long as they pursue that objective honestly.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Before I call the next speaker, I must point out that I have a long list of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. I appeal for short speeches. In that way we may be able to fit in most of those who wish to speak before the debate closes at 4 p.m.
§ 12.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
In deference to what you have just said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall confine my remarks to Rhodesia. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his positive approach to the problem. I am sure that we all understand that until he has had Sir Antony Duff's report, and has studied fully the Boyd report, he cannot go into detail. However, the tone of his approach was a refereshing contrast to anything that we have heard from a Foreign Minister for many years.
I thought that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) might have been a little more generous in recognising how the events of the last few weeks have almost totally contradicted the basic assessment on which his policy was based. The new constitution has been promulgated and it embodies five of the six principles. There has been 581 a test of acceptability. It is no good saying that the general election, which the Patriotic Front sought to prevent by every possible means in its power, does not constitute a test of acceptability, because it does.
Shortly, Bishop Muzorewa will form a Government, who will have the majority of members in the Parliament behind them and at the back of that the majority of votes in the country. In fact, he has achieved a degree of democratic legitimacy, and, in so far as his party has achieved that, and the Government that the Bishop forms has achieved that as well, the opposition—the Patriotic Front—must be accepted as the minority. If it persists in trying to achieve its aims illegally, it is an illegal opposition.
The Patriotic Front has been put in that position by its refusal to co-operate in the election and its defeat in the process. Its weakness is further reflected to a considerable extent in the military situation. It failed to disrupt the electoral process. Such has been its impotence, indeed, and that of its backers, that it has consistently failed to prevent intrusions into Zambia and Mozambique by the Rhodesian forces, undertaken with impunity. In the future a black-led Government may feel justified in stepping up these intrusions.
There is, of course, still a serious security situation in Rhodesia; but it is not only in Rhodesia. It is not only in Namibia; it is in Mozambique and Angola, and also in Lusaka, where internal security seems to be almost non-existent—nonexistent to a point where there must be grave concern for the safety of the Queen if she goes to the Commonwealth conference.
On the diplomatic front, as the right hon. Member conceded, the South Africans are now giving much greater support than before to the new Rhodesian Government. The vote in the United States Senate is indicative of a complete change of mood in Washington. These two facts should deter the Soviets from any attempt to escalate the conflict.
My right hon. Friend, like the Prime Minister the other day, spoke of two aspects of the Rhodesia problem—what might be called the Anglo-Rhodesian aspect and the international aspect. It 582 may be that the way ahead lies in trying to disentangle these two aspects.
Before UDI, Rhodesia was a self-governing colony with almost no checks upon its sovereignty except for the power of the Secretary of State to disallow anything which might have led to an increase in discriminatory legislation. With UDI we took back—although we really never had it before—direct control of the colony, in theory. I submit that the new constitution that has been promulgated and adopted and the subsequent electoral process mean that Rhodesia has returned to legality, not yet as an independent country but as a self-governing colony. As soon as the Muzorewa Government has been formed, we should recognise that Government, and Rhodesia, too, as a self-governing colony. There will be no need for any reserve powers now, as all discrimination is abolished in the new constitution.
Recognition could be effected by a simple Order in Council as the right hon. Member for Devonport told us in March of last year. Once it is accepted that Rhodesia is a lawful self-governing colony, clearly it would be absurd to continue with sanctions. I am not a lawyer, but I do not think that there is much substance in the argument that this would be unlawful. The Supreme Court of the United States rejected an attempt by Congressman Diggs to establish that the Boyd amendment, exempting chrome from the United States sanctions list, was unlawful. I do not think that any court in this country would rule unlawful an Order in Council passed by Parliament.
Nor do I think that we would be in breach of obligations to the United Nations. The relevant resolution in the United Nations claims that the "rebellion" in Rhodesia is a threat to peace, and calls upon the United Nations to impose sanctions to bring that "rebellion" to an end. But it is not a rebellion against the United Nations; it is a rebellion against us. If we say that the rebellion is over, it is over; and therefore justification for sanctions falls away.
There has been much talk in the press about incurring reprisals if we lifted sanctions. I wonder. From whom would these reprisals come? From Zambia, which is 583 already trading extensively with Rhodesia? From Zaire, which is doing the same? Both those countries are dependent on Western aid. From Tanzania, which is deeply involved in a conflict with Uganda and requires aid? From the new Uganda regime, which is very dependent on aid? From Nigeria, which has been mentioned a great deal? Nigeria is a most important market and a great supplier of oil, but on the other hand the Nigerians have vastly overspent and depend very much for their finance on access to Wall Street and the City of London. Certainly, it would not be in their interests to take reprisals. The only danger that I can see is that if we delay too long African statesmen may be inclined for internal political reasons to commit themselves to threaten reprisals from which they might have difficulty in withdrawing afterwards.
Independence is a more complicated issue. It requires legislation from this House and the other place. Since the Muzorewa Government will not be installed until after we have gone into recess, I do not see how we could find time to legislate for independence before the autumn. But it would be wise for us, as soon as the Muzorewa Government has been formed, to declare that it will be our intention, provided that there is no withdrawal from the six principles between now and the autumn, to legislate for independence then.
The timing is very important. The sooner we make up our minds and inform our allies and the world at large, the better. We may well be of service to the President of the United States if we declare our intention of bringing Rhodesia back to legality as a self-governing colony and lifting sanctions. It may help him to follow our lead, which he has always implicitly recognised, and spare him embarrassment with Congress.
There is danger in delay—the danger that other countries, particularly in Africa, will take up positions to try to influence our policy. To take a decision now instead might well defuse the situation before the meeting in Lusaka; otherwise there is a real risk that it could be made a carnival for Mr. Nkomo. That will be far more embarrassing for Her Majesty's Government, and for Her 584 Majesty herself, than if we declare our intentions now. Once our intention is declared, we are free to exert all our influence to lobby for the recognition of the independent State by other countries when we give it independence.
I wish to add a word of caution. There will be siren voices urging us to try to chip away at the constitution which has been agreed, with great difficulty, by the different elements inside Rhodesia. That is not our job. By all means let the Patriotic Front and its backers seek to negotiate changes with the Administration in Salisbury, but it is something that it would be better for us to leave them to do directly.
I turn finally to the problem that worries us all—and that I know worries the right hon. Member for Devonpor—tnamely, the human problems involved in peace. The Patriotic Front has been enabled to wage war, thanks to Soviet support and the support of the front-line Presidents; but that has not been its only source of strength. The Patriotic Front has been encouraged in its struggle by the virtually open and one-sided support that it has been given by the Labour Government and by the United States Administration. With the whole world behind it, how could the Patriotic Front be expected to accept anything except total victory, either by surrender of the Salisbury regime or by victory?
Once the decision has been taken by us to recognise the Muzorewa regime and to lift sanctions, however, the Patriotic Front will have to make up its own mind whether it is more likely to gain any of its objectives by talking or by shooting. There have been about 10,000 deaths since the civil war began in Rhodesia. A good deal of responsibility for this rests with the Labour Government, and the blood is on their hands. But, if we are honest, we must agree that some of the responsibility rests with the Conservative side of the House, because we did not oppose the Government more actively: and the killing continues.
I believe that the best chance—it is only a chance but it is the best one—of bringing about a speedy end to the killing is by a rapid declaration, as soon as the Muzorewa Government are formed, that we will recognise them as a 585 lawful Government of a self-governing colony, that we will lift sanctions and as soon as possible will introduce legislation to grant it formal independence.
§ 12.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
I do not apologise to the House for turning its attention to an area that is much nearer home than the areas that we have traversed in the last hour or so. I believe that, unless we face facts very much nearer home, there is little doubt that within the next year we shall be in severe and serious conflict with our American allies.
Recently, when in Dublin, Mr. Tip O'Neill, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, made what I regard as a wise and perceptive speech. That speech was intemperately criticised both by the present Prime Minister and, in my view, by Mrs. Shirley Williams—both women apparently being seized by a bout of tetchy jingoism.
When in Dublin, Mr. Tip O'Neill quoted James Joyce's yearning that Ireland should awaken from the nightmare of history. Britain, too, needs a jolt to awaken her. Britain, and in my view particularly the Labour movement, has to emancipate itself, as it has not yet done, from the dreamy delusions of Imperial grandeur. Self-deception by nations, as by individuals, brings disaster, as reality ultimately shatters all the deceits. The policy of successive Governments in Northern Ireland bears the impress of our imperial pretentions.
Our empire was not abruptly ended, as was Holland's, by a disastrous war that compelled the Dutch to pursue a new and constructive role becoming to its new station. The dissolution of our empire into a Commonwealth provided us with a dangerous balm for our narcissistic wounds. For overlong—I detected some of that theme in the speech of the Minister this afternoon—we have affected the capacity to assume an Imperial role and dodge the compelling necessity to recognise our genuine rather than our inauthentic capacities.
Coming to terms with themselves helps nations as well as individuals to make mature decisions. The theme that I wish to put to the House is that it is time to acknowledge the brutal fact that Ulster is our last colony. In the interests, moral 586 and economic, of our people as well as the people of Northern Ireland, Britain should once and for all complete its process of decolonisation.
Holding this view makes it clear that I do not concur with the opinion expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that the tragedy of Northern Ireland is not to become a party issue. Bipartisan policy, founded upon Sunningdale, genuine partnership and power sharing is one matter, but a bipartisan approach based upon the consequences of the blackmail of a group on a minority Government—in other words, blackmail by Unionists—is another.
All the anguished protests made by the press and the politicians against Tip O'Neill's assertion that Northern Ireland had become a political football in this country and had not received its proper priority are too overdetermined to convince any objective observer from overseas. The decision to give extra parliamentary seats to Northern Ireland was a squalid deal, made in order to obtain temporary support from Unionists. It was no less squalid that other defenceless minority groups should be sacrificed to gain the obscene support of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and his ilk. The failure of the Labour Government to implement the homosexual reform order in Northern Ireland in order to buy off the hon. Member for Antrim. North and his cronies was a shabby and shameful episode, exposing to all with eyes to see, as Tip O'Neill rightly accused us, the fact that Northern Ireland had become a political football here in Westminster.
The sooner that Labour sloughs off the slime of the political football ground upon which the murky game was played, the sooner will it gain its self-respect. It is important for Tip O'Neill and the five distinguished Congressmen who accompanied him on his Irish visit to know that his speech finds resonances in this House and that there are some in this country who hope that they will continue with their pressures. Certainly they have no less right to criticise our policies in Northern Ireland than we had to criticise American follies in Vietnam. We here, as did the Americans over Vietnam, have placed ourselves in danger because of continued stubborn entanglements that have debased our values. We have been 587 arraigned before international tribunals, accused of torture, and have passed legislation that is an affront to all our libertarian traditions. We are now being presented by the present Prime Minister, as her response to the Northern Ireland position, with a few platitudes in the Queen's Speech and her announced conviction that the rope must be brought back to deal with terrorism.
Thus, we reduce ourselves to the same level of brutalisation as that of our opponents. This "hangwoman" Prime Minister is strong on conviction and coarse on sensibility. If she pursues her threat to provide parliamentary time to debate State strangulation and persists in her intention to incite the House to State-sanctioned murder, not only is there a guarantee that yet more violence will be imported into Britain; it is certain that American opinion will be so inflamed that no United States Congressman or Senator will any longer be able to condemn financial aid being given to the IRA.
Of course we receive not only good advice from abroad; we also receive bad advice. Senator Conor Cruise O'Brien from Dublin, or from his editorial chair at The Observer, never ceases to inform us that Britain must remain enmeshed, since the alternative is a bloodbath in Ulster. In private life sage men learn not to respond to a hysteric, seeking to convert others to his or to her will by threatening suicide.
If the people of Ulster are hell-bent on turning the Province into a Lebanon, that is their grim choice. My experience, however, in meetings that I have had in the past both with the UDA and the Provos make me sceptical of Senator O'Brien's gloomy prognosis. But if he is right and I am wrong, certainly I am not prepared to tell my constituents in Wales that they must pay not only the moral price but the economic cost of buying off Ulster's unnecessary self-immolation.
That cost is grimly mounting. Whatever complaints the Government spokesman has today about the cuts in defence that may have taken place under the Labour Government, he can have no complaint about the military costs that have been incurred in Northern Ireland.
588 In 1969 the cost of military operations in Northern Ireland was £1½ million. By 1972–73 it had reached £29 million. By the year 1975–76 it had reached £60 million, and now, for the year 1978–79, it has mounted to £81½ million. In the meantime, economic subventions to Northern Ireland—paid for by my constituents and those others in England, Scotland and Wales—are becoming colossal. Ten years ago those subventions amounted to £70 million a year. Now, for 1978–79, the official estimate has accelerated to £845 million. The needs of my constituents and of the Principality of Wales, as of Britain, are too great for us to tolerate such a draining of resources in order to indulge tribalisms in Northern Ireland.
By what right have the Senator O'Briens of this world, and, indeed, the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), to lecture us that we must continue with an open-ended commitment, military and economic, to this turbulent Province? In Wales we, too, have passionate differences, but we resolve them, as we have recently, by debate and referendum, in a civilised manner.
Senator O'Brien would no doubt claim that Britain's historical responsibility means that we must nevertheless continue to pay. The years, however, go on. There are limits to what can be wrested out of Britain by way of reparative guilt, and that limit has been reached. It is better that the people of Ulster are bluntly told that. The generation of young British soldiers being cruelly slain in Ulster is not, by some immutable law, required to bear in perpetuity the cost of the follies of their great-grandfathers.
I have observed when visiting Belfast that the citizens of that by no means impoverished city are certainly not less attracted to the benefits of the consumer society than are the citizens of Birmingham or Cardiff. They should be told that the party is over and that if they choose to bring up their children in segregated schools, and so nurture continued hostility, that is their option. We are not prepared to pay the cost of the consequences. The same message should be spelt out to workers in the shipyards and to the business and professional men in the Province.
If they choose to vote by their thousands to support the divisive policies of 589 Unionists, we in Britain are not prepared any longer to pay for their self-indulgences. It is time to end the economic subventions caused by their wilfulness, not by their genuine need. The Senator O'Briens of this world need to be told that if we took the course that they commend we would still be in India, Palestine and Cyprus. Of course there was bloodshed there when we withdrew, but of what avail would it have been, in terms of life and economic expenditure, if we had been insane enough to attempt to linger on? We would have become, as we have in Ulster, the scapegoats for every paranoic complaint, and we would then have provided the opportunity to all who prefer to whine rather than to resolve their own problems.
Our continued presence in Ulster provides a hundred spurious alibis to all the elements who are obstructing bridge-building in the Province. Britain does not owe Ulster a living. Our largesse, by way of hapless troops and economic subvention, is creating a sick dependency relationship, corrupting in values both to donor and donee.
The declaration of President Carter reveals his readiness to assist by way of economic aid to enable Ulster to be self-reliant. The initiative of Fine Gael, in contrast to the tongue-tied attitude of the Irish Government, with its constructive suggestions that could aid Ulster's agriculture, and the continued readiness, I do not doubt, of the people of this country to give constructive help, if they know that they are not pouring money down the drain as at present, all mean that Ulster has alternatives.
It is the duty of a Labour Opposition not to trail along colluding with the Government on the continuance of direct rule, importing as that inevitably does tragic violence into this country and imposing an unnecessary and grevious economic burden on all our people. Ulster must realise that the Labour movement will not continue to be manipulated for the benefit of Unionist MPs, and that the "Brits" are not indefinitely to be suckers doling out money and receiving death and destruction in return.
The time is drawing near when we should bring down the curtain, and Ulster should understand that. Unless the people of Ulster come together themselves, 590 ere long the so far suppressed majority belief of the British people that the troops should return and the subventions end will become so overt and compelling that no collusion of the leadership in the established parties will be able to resist the legitimate pressures of our people.
It is to be hoped that, for the sake of the people of Northern Ireland, they will not be deceived into believing that the patience of the people of Britain is infinite. It is not, nor should it be. Some of us hope, indeed, that by the pressures that will be exerted it will soon be demonstrated that that patience has come to an end.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
Although it is as impossible to make a second maiden speech as to swim in the same river twice, I shall this afternoon make the customary courtesies of a maiden speech without asking any of the indulgences that are normally given to maiden speakers in this place. As I return after five and a quarter years, I find that there are more unfamiliar faces than there are familiar ones on the Benches.
But at least today we have heard some of the best performers in the House. We have been greatly impressed, as ever, by the wisdom of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and have been struck by the convinced eloquence of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). One difference is that I do not remember, from the early 1970s, that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) was quite as acerbic about Rhodesia under the Government of Mr. Ian Smith as he is now after the constitutional progress that has been made.
I made my first speech in the House just after the death of lain Macleod. I speak today two days after the memorial service for Airey Neave. I said about Iain Macleod:Those of us who are new Members on the back benches took great inspiration from lain Macleod's example, and, above all, from his physical courage"—[Official Report, 21 July 1970; Vol. 804, c. 254.]I say exactly the same about my late friend Airey Neave.
591 When we take inspiration from the example of others, it is fitting to pay tribute to our constituency predecessors. In my constituency there was only one predecessor. Petre Crowder represented the constituency for 29 years until last month. As you will remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, his father, Sir John Crowder, represented the Prime Minister's constituency of Finchley from 1935, and father and son sat in the House for a total of 44 years.
Petre Crowder gave us a fine example of a military upbringing and the education to be derived at the English Bar. He possessed in full the qualities of loyalty and bearing which many of us admire, but he also brought to his public work a fine analytical mind and a determination to speak out and to express his convictions clearly. I never detected any humbug about him and I was grateful for the support that he gave me during the time that we worked in harness in the constituency.
Ruislip-Northwood is, despite the efforts of the planners under the previous Labour borough administration, one of the most attractive parts of greater London in which to live. It is an example of the importance of maintaining green belt policies. Unemployment is extremely low, and there is a diversity of residential areas in which to live.
When I was adopted as prospective candidate for the constituency in 1975 I was immediately struck by the warmth and friendliness of the people there, and I was even more impressed by their warmth and friendliness when they returned me to the House with the biggest majority ever seen in the constituency.
This is an appropriate debate in which to speak from a constituency point of view. There is located in Northwood HMS "Warrior", the headquarters Eastern Atlantic—which is the prime NATO headquarters in this country—the headquarters C-in-C Channel, the headquarters of No. 18 maritime group, Royal Air Force—formerly Coastal Command-and the No. 1 maritime headquarters unit of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. The constituency also has Royal Air Force Northolt, which is the only Battle of Britain sector station in the London area still operational as an RAF 592 flying station. Many people know that they have reached my constituency when they see the Polish war memorial, and we do well to recall that it was intervention by the gallant airmen of Poland that turned the tide at a critical stage in the Battle of Britain.
I am proud to represent the Ruislip-Northwood constituency. This occasion is a fitting one for me to speak, particularly as the Queen's Speech presaged the announcement to increase Service men's pay to parity with their civilian counterparts. That brought great rejoicing to the Service men of Northwood, RAF Northolt and, elsewhere in the borough of Hillingdon, RAF Uxbridge and RAF West Drayton.
When I entered the House in 1970 it seemed that in the nine years since I had left Cranwell as a cadet the international world had already greatly altered. I remember rushing to the postings board as a young pilot officer to see where my friends were to be posted—Masirah, Changi, Khormaksar, Akrotiri or elsewhere. By 1970 many of those stations were already closing or had closed.
Returning to the House this time, I find that the worldwide system of collective security arrangements, such as the SEATO alliance and the CENTO alliance, are no more. Only NATO remains from the collective security system that Foster Dulles so farsightedly instituted. It is wholly admirable that the Government have made clear in the Queen's Speech that our commitment to NATO remains absolute and that we shall, indeed, improve our contribution to the Alliance.
In that respect, I suggest that it is important for the new Government to improve the system of arms procurement in order to get better value for money. We should make resolute efforts to work out a genuine two-way street with our friends and American partners in the Alliance and, at the same time, create a more effective European identity in arms procurement. I welcome our participation in the independent European programme group.
I should like to see our contribution to the sea power of the Alliance strengthened. I like to give credit where it is due, and the last Labour Administration must 593 be given credit at least for their decision to build three Invincible class cruisers and to equip them with Sea Harriers. I trust that we shall build on that and improve our amphibious forces, which were much reduced by the last Government, and press ahead as well with the new anti-submarine warfare helicopter.
I am sure that it will please you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I say that our airborne forces, which suffered under the previous Administration, should be strengthened again. I should like to see the deployment of a fully operational paratroop brigade.
On the nuclear side, we must do something about Polaris. I am glad that that is also presaged in the Queen's Speech. It may be timely for us to restore contacts with the French to see whether a European approach to the replacement of our strategic nuclear force is appropriate. Certainly something must also be done at a theatre level in Europe to counter the deployment of the SS20 and the Backfire bomber by the Soviets.
I reiterate what I said in my maiden speech:I hope that the Government will also seriously consider an increase in Reserves for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force as well as for the Army on whom we equally depend"—[Official Report, 21 July 1970; Vol. 804. c. 258.]The Queen's Speech refers to East-West relations, and it is right in this matter to judge the Soviet Government's intentions by their internal policies. If they still imprison without trial and put dissidents in psychiatric hospitals, that does not augur well for their attitude in international affairs. I hope that we shall not see too many more exchanges of individuals who have campaigned for human liberties within the Soviet Union for convicted Soviet intelligence agents who have been detained in the West. That does not seem an equitable exchange.
With regard to the East-West balance, I ask the House and the Government to bear in mind that NATO has allowed itself to become denuded in advance. First, there was the decision not to deploy the enhanced radiation weapon. Then there was the decision not to deploy adequately the cruise missiles that NATO now, thanks to the Americans, possesses. Moreover, President Carter decided to abandon the development of the B1 strategic bomber.
594 All those matters taken together have weakened in advance our negotiating position. Although of course I welcome the commitment of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to support the United States in the ratification of SALT II, we should bear in mind that there are difficulties of inspection and verification of nuclear weapons. We should also bear in mind what is clearly evident from the 14 May 1978 edition of Aviation Week and Space Technology, that in all aspects of nuclear weaponry except heavy bombers—and in heavy bombers the United States is reliant on obsolescent B52s, whereas the Soviets are building the supersonic Backfire—and total warheads, the Soviet Union has moved from a position of parity to one of advantage. These matters should be remembered.
We have heard much about Rhodesia. I trust that, following the Senate's decision, this House will say much more. I welcome my right hon. Friend's clear statement that the Government's priority will be to uphold the rights of those living within Rhodesia and their desire for peace. Our commitment to return Rhodesia to legality and to lift sanctions is to be welcomed.
In advance of Mr. Vance's visit, I suggest that he could be asked "What more could the Rhodesians themselves reasonably be expected to do?" The people outside, led by Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe, have shown themselves unwilling to participate in the democratic process. Therefore, as my right hon. Friend said, it is high time for a new approach.
When looking at constitutional progress in Rhodesia, we should do well to bear in mind that the liberties we enjoy here and the constitution under which we serve in this House evolved over hundreds of years, gradually and with great difficulty. Why should we expect to see in Rhodesia in a decade things that took hundreds of years to take place in this country?
I end by drawing attention to an excellent article by a former Minister whom I much admired, the Earl of Crawford, whom we knew as Robin Balniel. He wrote in The Daily Telegraph on 27 April about Rhodesia and the elections that had recently taken place:Every effort was made—and successfully made—to ensure that the mechanics of the election, secrecy of the ballot, security of the 595 boxes, etc., were properly conducted. Indeed, it is very difficult to think of many countries in Africa—if any—where the democratic election process is so well conducted.We all remember my noble Friend as an exceedingly fair-minded, just person, whose judgment can be respected. Therefore, we should support him when he argues:What is needed now is—building on the remarkable elections—a comprehensive effort led by Britain and America and moderate African States, working through the Commonwealth or in meetings of southern African States and through every diplomatic channel, to set in train a recognition of the fact that a democratically elected government has been established. Its claim to recognition as an independent sovereign State is fully as good as that of any other State in Africa.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Roper (Farnworth)
All those who took part in debates on defence and foreign policy during the period 1970 to 1974 must be pleased to see the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) back with us. His well-informed contributions, particularly on the Royal Air Force and aviation generally, were respected, and he has shown again today that he will maintain that tone. The hon. Gentleman will know that he will not find total agreement with all his propositions, but for what he said about the need for a genuine two-way street in defence procurement and more effective European defence co-operation there will be a great deal of support on both sides of the House.
The debate today has a very wide scope. I should like to begin by referring to the most worrying foreign policy matter, which must be the situation in Southern Africa. Anyone who has tried to study the problem will have a great deal of sympathy for those Ministers who are now shouldering the heavy responsibilities in that part of the world. We have direct responsibilities in Rhodesia-Zimbabwe and we have other heavy responsibilities, for economic and other reasons, in Namibia and South Africa.
I do not want to say much more this morning than that the decisions affecting the area are critical not only for that part of the world but for the whole balance between the East and the West in the world as a whole. The wrong 596 decisions taken hastily in that part of the world can play into the hands of the Soviet Union. Therefore, I hope that the cautious tone which we heard this morning from the Lord Privy Seal, and which we heard from the Foreign Secretary earlier in the week, will be maintained and that judgments will not be made too quickly on this difficult matter.
I should like now to say a few words about the problems of the European Community. This will be the last debate on the subject before we go into the election campaign for the European Parliament. I do not want to reopen the debates that we have had in the past on the value or otherwise of direct elections. I believe that that direct election will have an important function in focusing the attentions of our people on the possibilities and the problems of the European Community.
As the right hon. Gentleman said this morning, there has been in the Labour Party, as in other parties, disagreement on this subject. I do not think that I need to repeat my views. I was anxious to see us as a member of the Community, and I am anxious to see the Community's fullest development, but we must make it absolutely clear that there is agreement throughout the Labour Party, and I believe throughout the House, that there are problems which must be resolved and dealt with as essential national interests if the Community is to develop.
I refer particularly to the problem of agriculture, about which we shall hear more this afternoon. The problems of agriculture and the budget are closely linked, because if it were not for the large sums spent on agriculture and on the common agricultural policy the problems of the budget would be much smaller. Therefore, it is essential that the policies which the Commission has put forward for a freeze on food prices, and which were supported by my right hon. Friends when they were in Government, are maintained and supported by the new Administration. We shall listen with great care to what the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food says about that this afternoon.
We must make clear to our partners in the Community that, whatever view people in this country may have taken about membership, whatever view they 597 may take about the Community's development, the present position of agriculture and its consequences for the Community's budget cannot provide a basis for any further development. We cannot make progress in developing the Community in the way that I should like to see without first dealing with these problems.
That leads me to go on to say something about the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) about the European monetary system and the Government's pledge to review before September the question of the exchange rate mechanism. The previous Government published a most useful Green Paper setting out the arguments on that subject. My right hon. Friend the former Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear that the EMS must be seen as part of an attempt to reform and restructure the world monetary system. When we are experiencing more and more significant world economic problems, a European monetary system that is not properly related to the major world currencies will create more problems rather than resolve them. Therefore, I hope that in the promised review careful attention will be given to the links between the EMS and the major world currencies.
Reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman to the Tokyo conference of the industrialised countries. This will be a critical meeting. The relations between the major industrialised countries, and the trading policies which they adopt towards each other and towards the rest of the world, will provide the basis for world economic prospertity or world economic decline. Therefore, I trust that Ministers will make very careful preparations for that conference in an attempt to find solutions.
When the Prime Minister goes to Tokyo I hope that she will take advantage of the opportunity also to have bilateral discussions with the Japanese Government. Our relations with Japan are not easy. Obviously there are grounds for economic disagreement. There are many economic problems between this country, the whole of the European Economic Community and Japan. In the interests of the world, not merely economically, and not merely of the industrialised 598 world, but in the security interests of the world, it is important that our relations with Japan are developed and, where possible, improved. I hope that the recent agreement between British Leyland and Honda will be in turn approved by the Government and will give an example of the sort of partnership that can be achieved. We must find new and constructive ways of building on our relations with that part of the world.
The issues of defence and disarmament are also being considered in this debate. In paying concern to the balance of forces we must not consider merely the central front to which attention is frequently given. We must also pay special attention to the southern flank of the Alliance. A little more than a week ago, I had the opportunity to hear the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Bulent Ecevit, answering questions for more than an hour at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He gave a most impressive performance. Many of us disagree with the policies which he and the Turkish Government have carried out with regard to Cyprus, but the question at issue now is the future and stability of Turkey. I have been concerned this morning to read in the press that the discussions between Turkey and the IMF have run into further difficulties. It is of great importance that British Ministers play their part in attempting to solve the difficult problems now being faced by the Turkish Government. I hope that attention will be given to that, both because Turkey is a fellow European country and because of the critical importance, for the defence of the West, of the southern flank of NATO, which includes Turkey.
The other part of the triad of security concerns detente and disarmament. I was pleased that the Lord Privy Seal referred to the early ratification of the SALT agreements. This is imperative for more than one reason. It is imperative because if it were to go wrong it would be a serious setback to the improvements, such as they have been, in East-West relations in recent years. It would also lead to rapid increases in American expenditure on strategic weapons, which would mean that they would have fewer resources available for the other parts of their defence policy which are of critical importance to us in Western Europe. Therefore, I trust that there will not be 599 any undue delay before the Senate of the United States ratifies the SALT II treaty.
However, I am concerned about the progress to be made on the comprehensive test ban treaty. This is one of the areas where we play a major part. We are one of the three countries taking part in those negotiations. We know that in this country, as in the United States, the defence scientists are always anxious to try out their new devices and inventions. There will always be pressures on the Foreign Office against continuing the negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty. But, for precisely the reasons cited by my right hon. Friend—the need for effective measures of non-proliferation—I believe that we should take every step that we can to ensure that the comprehensive test ban treaty is brought to an early conclusion, presumably shortly after the ratification of the SALT II agreement.
I comment finally on the other set of negotiations which are going on. They are going on at length, but they are negotiations to which we must give important consideration. I refer, of course, to the negotiations going on in Vienna on mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe. They have taken a very long time. There was hope a year ago that some progress could be made, and I know that Chancellor Schmidt and Foreign Minister Genscher are extremely anxious that progress should continue to be made on those negotiations.
I hope that in the bilateral conversations which took place last week that matter was considered and that Ministers will continue to give attention to it. They are difficult negotiations, but agreement on this issue would be an important step on the road to a real measure of arms control in the most critical area of central Europe. I hope, therefore, that the matter will not be overlooked.
The responsibilities in the area of foreign policy and defence which the Government are shouldering are particularly heavy, but it will be on the critical issue of their decisions on Rhodesia which they will have to take in the weeks and months which lie ahead that their credibility will be judged. For the sake of the country as a whole, I hope that they will listen to the experienced 600 advice of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport and not take early decisions which will make the situation more complicated.
§ 1.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)
I also join in welcoming back to the House my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). He made a most interesting and? well-informed speech both on defence and on certain aspects of our foreign policy, especially Africa. I hope that it will not embarrass him if I say that my approval and appreciation of it were greatly increased by the fact that I agreed with every word of it. I hope that he will make many more speeches in the months ahead and that I shall be able to say that of every one of them.
The Gracious Speech covers a wide range of subjects, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and you have asked for brevity. Therefore, I shall concentrate upon only a few aspects of the Speech.
I realise that my views on the Common Market may not be entirely those of everyone, and that it raises problems that need our careful attention. I am sure that, in the Gracious Speech, the length of the reference to the Common Market, which was one of the longest paragraphs, compared with the half sentence given to the Commonwealth, in no way reflects the relative importance of these in the mind of Her Majesty's Government. But, during the coming months, I shall do what I can to make more explicit than that the appreciation that I know they have of the importance of the Commonwealth.
The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) made a speech with which I imagine the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) did not agree. Nevertheless, they were basically saying the same in their two speeches, which is that the opinion of the people living in the territory concerned is not the prime consideration. In effect, the hon. Member for Pontypool was saying that the clearly expressed view of the people of Northern Ireland about wanting to remain in the United Kingdom should be brushed aside. The right hon. Member for Devonport, in the part of his speech devoted to the problems of Rhodesia, was, in effect, saying that the express wish 601 of the people living there should not be the governing consideration.
§ Mr. Abse
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that if there were a common theme between my speech and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), it was our view that if people want to belong either to the United Kingdom or to the Commonwealth we expect them not merely to have a majority opinion in favour of what they are seeking but to observe the rules of law, to have respect for civil liberties and, in short, to come up to the standards and values that we in the United Kingdom appreciate as one of the members of the Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Bell
No doubt all that is true, but the people of Ulster are people of the United Kingdom in the same way as are the people of Pontypool or Buckinghamshire, or anywhere else in this country. Although I strongly disagree with the majority political opinion in the Pontypool constituency, I do not suggest that it should be decolonised upon that basis. But I do not want to get involved in the details of the Irish matter, because I want to talk about Africa.
I say only to the hon. Member for Pontypool that when he talked about segregated schooling—and there I entirely agreed with him—it was not fair to suggest that the Protestant majority in Ulster wants its children to go to religiously segregated schools. That is a characteristic of the Catholic community. It is a difficult problem for that community, but it is one that I hope it will resolve, and I agree with the hon. Member about its cardinal importance.
I return now to the question of Southern Africa. The right hon. Member for Devonport many times repeated charges of cynicism against my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and many other Conservative Members. The cynicism is all on the other side. The people of Rhodesia have made clear what they want. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood made a telling reference to that. The sanctions which have been imposed upon Rhodesia have been based upon the argument that Rhodesia did not have or propose to have a democratic dispensation. Majority rule was the key phrase. I do not mind into how many principles all that was elaborated. The key to the matter 602 was that it did not have majority rule or a democratic dispensation.
That in its very origin was a somewhat cynical approach to the subject because the nations surrounding Rhodesia did not have democratic dispensations. They had majority rule only in the sense that the rulers were black, as was most of the population. But if one gives any other connotation than that to majority rule one is bound to recognise that it was rule by a very small oligarchy which in some of those countries is a military or, occasionally, a civilian dictatorship.
In no sense, therefore, did democracy and majority rule prevail in those countries. That is no argument against its prevailing in Rhodesia, but to impose sanctions against that country on that ground was, I believe, cynical. Further, it was done in a mood of cynicism. For example, when the Central African Federation broke up, the refusal of technical independence to self-governing Rhodesia when it was given to the other members of the Federation was not because of any thoughts about democracy but because it was thought that such a move would upset certain newly emergent African States. On each subsequent occasion before Mr. Smith came on the scene—under Winston Field, or who you will, Mr. Deputy Speaker—it was refused for reasons of political expediency and not reasons of principle.
This is all brought out very clearly now because elections have been held in which 64 per cent. of the people voted. They went cheerfully to the polls and they voted overwhelmingly, as anyone who knew Rhodesia knew that they would, in favour of the Shona leader, Bishop Muzorewa. There is no doubt what the majority of the people in Rhodesia want. They are more than 80 per cent. Shona. They wanted a Shona leader, they voted for one, and they will be happy with one. Whether that is a meaningful kind of democracy is another matter. Anyone who knows Africa knows that those people want that, and that the last thing that the Shonas in Rhodesia want is a Matabele ruler. They may be right or wrong about it, but that is the fact.
Let us consider what the former Foreign Secretary and the former Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Opposition, were, in effect, saying. I have had 603 it in writing from the Leader of the Opposition. I wrote him a letter and he wrote back to me when he was Prime Minister. I asked him whether I could use the letter in public, and he said that I could. He said that they would not accept a settlement unless it had the approval of all the front-line Presidents in Africa. In effect, that meant that unless one could please Nyerere and Kuanda and the rulers of Mozambique, any proposition would be vetoed. What is the point of talking about majority rule and democracy in the same breath as one talks of that issue? One stands either on principle or on expediency.
I do not mind someone consistently saying that one must adopt an expedient approach to these matters. Possibly the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition is a keen student of "The Prince", that great book which was one of my special books when I read Italian at Oxford. Machiavelli was a great man. But he pointed out that when a prince defers strong action for fear of consequences he will always incur the consequences at a time less convenient to him than when he deferred the action. My noble Friend the Foreign Secretary may like to look up that passage in "The Prince" when he is considering how he will proceed in the next few weeks.
I understand that the political argument now perhaps beginning to take shape is that we must go cautiously, but not on principle. We are all quite clear about the principle. We all know that the elections were as fair as African elections can be. We all know, for that matter, that the people voted on tribal lines. I have never asked for universal adult suffrage democracy immediately in an African State. I think that it is lunacy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood said, it is an attempt to portmanteau into a decade something that has taken us 750 years. To put that in terms of those who are alive and thinking about this matter now, I suppose that when my father was in his twenties the natives of Rhodesia were in the new Stone Age. Hardly any of them had seen a white man. They had no skill in metals. They had polished implements and they had fire, but they did not have the wheel. All 604 that happened in my father's early adult life, and yet it is suggested that as a matter of deep principle that community must be compelled instantly to adopt universal adult suffrage. It took us up to 1951 to achieve it.
I remember Mr. Harold Macmillan saying, in 1960 or 1961, that it remained to be seen whether it would work in Britain. He said that we had not had it for 10 years at that time and we had still to see whether it would work. Here we are imposing sanctions upon Rhodesia in that ludicrous cause.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us clearly whether his principles now embrace the idea of democracy, or whether he has serious doubts about it in this part of the world as well as in Rhodesia? In our dealings with Africa, does he believe that our principles should be based on Machiavelli?
§ Mr. Bell
Those are very interesting questions. The doubts that I was expressing about universal adult suffrage in this country were not mine; they were those of Harold Macmillan. They were the reasons that he gave for turning towards the European Community, where, as he put it, some of these awkward economic decisions can be handed over to bodies which are better insulated from democratic pressures. The hon. Gentleman will know that I have always been a little doubtful about the merits of that step, so that I will, with permission, leave it there, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and return to the immediate practicalities.
It is being suggested that we ought to take this matter along very slowly, not, as I was saying when I was interrupted, on principle—we are all clear enough about that—but upon expediency. The expediency in question is the possible reaction of Nyerere, Kaunda, Nigeria, Mozambique and the United States Government.
I can forecast the reaction of President Kaunda. He will express bitter indignation in public and immense relief and joy in private, because it is crucial to him that this settlement should come about and that his very necessary large trade with Rhodesia, which is already in train, should have the blessing of legitimacy.
605 As for Nyerere, we shall get his blessing neither in public nor in private, but he has been described by Dr. Banda—who must know him better than I do—as the evil genius of Africa. He may be the evil genius of Africa, but he is the darling of some people in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. If we wait for Nyerere, we shall indeed be lost, and Southern Africa will be destroyed.
As for Machel, in Mozambique, we need not worry about him. Shall we leave the South Africans to persuade him to be happy about it? We shall not have any trouble from Dr. Banda. I can promise my right hon. Friend that.
As to the American Administration, how foolish we shall look if we potter along in a scared way about all this and find that in this British territory it is the United States Administration who have beaten us in lifting sanctions and recognising the provisional Government. That is the very definite risk that we take.
As for the Commonwealth conference, there is obviously some worry about the reactions of that conference, and I put this question to my right hon. Friend. If we dilly-dally until the first week of August, everybody in the world knowing by then—they know now—that we have been dilly-dallying in order to get the conference over first and to recognise the Government afterwards, is it to be imagined that the conference will then be a harmonious operation, with everybody praising us for our caution and moderation and all the rest of it? If we dilly-dally, there will be one hell of a row, and after that there will be the danger that the Minister who has attended the conference will come back and say "The atmosphere is so hot that I think we ought to delay our decision a little longer".
When there are difficult things to do, there is much to be said for doing them boldly. There is nothing so bad for drawing upon ourselves disagreeable consequences as advertising our apprehension of them. It almost produces them out of thin air. I say to my right hon. Friend—I hope that he will pass it on to my right hon. and noble Friend—that this is a time when Britain must lead and not follow. I hope that we shall lead on principle and not on expediency.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
You have enjoined us, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to be brief. All I will say about the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) is that I think that he is as wrong about Rhodesia as he is right about the EEC. I remind him that the last time a Labour Government went out of office leaving a problem in Central Africa—I think it was in 1951—the Conservative Government then wrongly created, on the wrong basis, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which appeared to them at the time to be a sensible thing to do. History has shown that that was not so. Had the alternative policy been followed, perhaps the present position would not be what it is.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
I promise not to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but he will know that the policy that we began to implement in 1951 was one that had been cooked up by our predecessors—I think by Mr. Jim Griffiths. All the reports were already to hand, and the pointers were all going in the direction in which we went.
§ Mr. Spearing
Whatever the hon. and learned Gentleman says, I think that the legislation itself, and the tone of the subsequent Administration, took its ethos from this point of view.
There are two strange things about the debate. This is an important change of direction, perhaps, in certain respects of British foreign policy, but we have not had the Foreign Secretary here for this debate. Unless there is a change in the office, we shall not have him present in any foreign affairs debate. Whatever may be the views in this country, the fact that our Foreign Secretary is in another place and is not an elected Member—and, indeed, if I am correct, has never sat as a Member of this place—will be remarked upon abroad and will not be to the advantage of negotiations. I bitterly regret the fact that in a democracy as mature as the United Kingdom we have to put up with the Lord Privy Seal, gracious though he may be.
The second strange thing is that the debate is to be concluded by two agricultural personages. That seems strange, but on second sight it may not be, as I 607 hope to show in the few remarks that I have to make.
The Queen's Speech, in relation to the Commonwealth, says:My Government confirm their commitment to the Commonwealth and the United Nations.I should like to refer to the important United Nations conference now going on in Manila—UNCTAD V. It was referred to at length by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) on 15 May, and his questions remain unanswered. I hope that they will be answered appropriately this afternoon.
One of the proposals at that conference was that there should be a so-called third window of credit available to less-developed countries to develop their production of the commodities which might become the central features of a common fund. I understand that the representatives of Japan and the United States have not gone along with this. We have not had Ministers at that conference, and I should like to know from the Government whether, in pursuit of their policy in supporting the United Nations, the British officials at that conference supported or disagreed with those Japanese and United States representatives.
I turn now to the Commonwealth. As was mentioned by the Lord Privy Seal, there will be the Lome convention negotiations in a few days' time. But associated with the Lome convention there was another agreement, which replaced the Commonwealth sugar agreement. The link is again present. That agreement was that we should be able to import into the United Kingdom 1.3 million tonnes of cane sugar a year. This is very important, because the EEC exports to the world over twice that amount. The expected exports from the EEC this year are 2.6 million tonnes of beet sugar, and there is great pressure, for the obvious reason, on our Commonwealth suppliers.
I should like to know what the Government's view will be at the second negotiations. We already spend about £500 million a year in dumping surplus sugar on the world market, to the detriment of the Third world, and I should like to know the Government's view about the continuation of the agreement. 608 Of course, this £500 million of support for sugar pales beside the £2,000 million support for milk products. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was right to ask about its ownership, because these enormous tonnages of surplus food—this is not a matter of mountains, but of dumping on the world market—are put on the market by the EEC intervention boards. It may be that they own these surpluses and that we can find out during the debate. Whether we do or not, I draw to the attention of the House the fact that these intervention board funds and activities have not properly been audited for the last three years.
I made a speech on this matter at the end of the last Parliament and I draw it to the attention of the Government. If they are concerned about the CAP, let them look at the report of the board of auditors set up by the EEC, at the state of the accounts and the possible difficulties, to put no finer point on it, which are going on inside the disposal of surpluses.
The surplus dumping of sugar on the world market has upset the world sugar agreement. The surplus dumping of wheat has interrupted the world wheat agreement, in which the EEC is a major participant. Great differences have arisen between the United States and the EEC on this matter. It is not surprising, because the EEC now spends about £1,000 million a year on the disposal of surplus grain on the world market. We pay import duties of £72 million on bread grain from North America. If the green pound is to be devalued, I suspect that that will go up to about £100 million in equivalent 1978 figures. If the cost of grain is double in the EEC and we double that amount to bring the equivalent costs above world prices, about £200 million a year extra will go on the bread bill of housewives in this country due to our membership of the EEC. The duties and levies are between 50 per cent. and 100 per cent. above world prices. The EEC levy on imported wheat from third countries was no less than £67 a tonne on 30 March.
It is against that background that farmers in this country are saying that they must expand their own production. The agriculture policy of the Government will be in considerable difficulty in the face 609 of this demand for expansion. If we are to have a common market across the EEC—that is the aim with devaluation of the green pound—we must allow expansion wherever it is economically most advantageous. If we are to do that—any British Government must face this major factor—the most likely areas for expansion in the EEC will not be in the United Kingdom. We have already passed through our period of scientific expansion in agriculture. There are other areas of the EEC where expansion is more likely, given common competition, which is the Government's aim.
I suggest that there is a paradox in saying "Yes, we want to devalue the green pound" and at the same time trying to reassure our farmers that there will be expansion. If they get expansion, it will only add to the surpluses that the Government are committed to destroy. Therefore, internally within these policies there is a paradox which I do not believe they can reconcile.
That is not the only paradox in the EEC as a whole. The Gracious Speech refers to the further development of the EEC. It says:My Government affirm their strong commitment to the European Community. They intend to play a full and constructive part in its further development and enlargement, and in the co-ordination of the foreign policies of Member States.I suggest that in doing that they are again following the biggest paradox of all—that the ostensible purposes of the EEC do not operate when it comes down to the pounds, shillings and pence and the nitty-gritty. The real motives of those behind the operation of the EEC are rather different. All the time the secondary effects of apparently commonsense policies have grave consequences for the United Kingdom and are in themselves a ratchet mechanism. I believe that their attitude to the EMS may be one of those.
I intervened in the speech by the Lord Privy Seal concerning the EMS. I again suggest to him and to the Government that it is not so much a means of co-ordinating exchange rates as co-ordinating the total economies. Central banks, with the Bundesbank to the fore, would have the major say in the macro-economic controls of money supply, interest rates, expansion and so on.
610 I do not often quote Barclays Bank, but last year, in an international survey, it suggested that Britain's adherence to the EMS would expand the German economic hegemony. Of course it would, because the German mark and the Bundesbank go together. The mark is one of the strongest and, up till now, dominant currencies within the EEC. Once having adhered to it, that would be that. Parallel policy, as pursued by the Labour Government, is another matter. The degree of parallelism is within the choice of the Government. But, if we go in, I suggest that, as with many other matters within the EEC, the practicalities will mean that we cannot get out.
I have shown that the EEC, in its attitude to the world and foreign policy, has to deal with surpluses. It has smashed up the world sugar agreement and the world wheat agreement. Acting within a single economy, aided by the EMS or its elder brother EMU, it would be acting as an economic bloc on the world scene. It has already clashed with the United States on economic policy. If the EEC continues along this path, with the support of Her Majesty's Government, it will be acting on the world scene rather as the nation States of Europe acted upon the European scene in the immediate pre-1914 situation. If we are to contribute to world peace, security and understanding, it is not for us to align ourselves with an organisation which, on the world scale, is doing what those nation States of Europe did before that terrible war.
We are all against bad nationalism, but we are all in favour of international co-operation. I suggest that the Government, in dealing with these matters concerning the EEC, will have to deal with them at two levels. Unless they do, the famous pose of the Tory Party as the defenders of Britain's national indentity will be worn away, because the real nature of the organisation to which they ostensibly wish success is very different from its public face to date.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I make another appeal for brevity. Many hon. Members have been sitting patiently waiting to catch my eye. I hope to be able to call them all if speeches are short.
§ 1.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn and Hatfield)
As the newly elected Member for Welwyn and Hatfield, I am conscious that my election has resulted in the absence from the House of a well-known personality, Mrs. Helene Hayman. She was a unique Member of Parliament, being both the youngest lady Member and the youngest mother in this place. I am sure that many hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber will miss her presence in the Palace of Westminster.
My predecessor had the privilege, which I now enjoy, of representing a unique constituency. It is the only one in Britain containing a district authority covering two new towns. The first is Welwyn Garden City, which was planned and developed after the First World War. It was one of the pioneers of its sort. The second one, Hatfield, has grown up more rapidly since the Second World War alongside its older and historic counterpart, which is known today as Old Hatfield.
My constituency is fortunate in having many attractive residential areas and villages. It contains lovely tracts of unspoilt Hertfordshire countryside, river valleys, farmland and woods. Welwyn and Hatfield has a diversity of industry ranging from aerospace to pharmaceuticals and chemicals, from printing to light engineering, from food manufacture to a multiplicity of small businesses, and all parts of it contribute to the wealth of the district. Its communications are fast, its shopping facilities are plentiful and its leisure provisions are outstanding.
There is a sense of both our past, crowned perhaps by Hatfield House, and of our future, encouraged by good schools and a forward-looking polytechnic. There is a feeling of civic pride in our unique contribution to life in Hertfordshire. There is a feeling of civic responsibility, which the record turnout of voters, 85 per cent., clearly showed.
There was nothing unique about the outcome of the vote in my constituency, for the electors clearly endorsed a way of life based upon freedom. The country now has the opportunity to benefit from a Government who understand that freedom is the essence of what every person wants. Every person is important in our view. Our policies are about people, they are designed for people and 612 they understand people both here and abroad.
Freedom embraces many facets. There is freedom of the individual, freedom to pursue his or her own life in his or her own way, not having a straitjacket imposed as some would desire. There is freedom under the law, a constitutional freedom which ensures that people living their own lives do so in a manner which prevents harm to others, not an instrument of the State as some would desire. There is freedom of equal opportunity, never to be confused with freedom to be unequal, and to be different, not a levelling down to the lowest common denominator as some would desire.
There is freedom for enterprise and for business which creates prosperity and advancement through competition, not State-controlled and limited as some would desire. There is freedom of choice, be it in housing, education or hospital treatment, not restriction to one choice and one choice only as some would desire. There is the freedom of our country as a bastion of the free world, not a prey to Marxist pressure from within and without as some would desire.
Her Majesty's new Government have as their basis a fundamental belief in the principle of freedom. I have every confidence that their policies will clearly be seen to bear that out. However, in a world growing more hostile, the principle of freedom must be safeguarded not only on these shores but throughout the Western world it true civilisation it to be maintained.
It becomes increasingly evident that there is a need to show by example, by diplomacy and by due attention to the importance of foreign policy that there is a true and successful alternative to the creeping forces of Marxism in all parts of the globe. The case for democracy and the Western way of life must be presented, argued and supported. It must not be allowed to fall by default, inaction and incapacity. Our way of life and the fundamental concept of freedom reflect the commonsense attitudes of our country. The philosophy of common sense is the acceptance of the primary beliefs of mankind as the ultimate criterion of truth. Normal understanding, good practical sense in everyday affairs, and the general feeling of the community are all natural 613 examples of that, again both here and abroad.
Common sense believes not in change for change's sake but only in orderly change that benefits us all. It listens to the instinctive wisdom of the British people. It applauds personal and national pride because it still runs deep. It is profoundly conscious that human nature is the most powerful force in society. Common sense stands for stability, for responsibility, for standards, for choice and for self-fulfilment. It stands for the people of Britain.
Her Majesty's new Government have a deep-rooted understanding of the commonsense views of our countrymen, but it is an approach that must be taken to a far wider audience for it to appreciate if our free world is not to shrink the faster from the shadows of oppression. Thus, the driving force of our foreign policy must be to bring to international counsels the knowledge and evidence that there is a better way of life than our foes will permit. We can show by our success in the United Kingdom over the next five years, and much longer, what benefits a nation can enjoy, so that other countries and other peoples can have hope rather than despair.
The first Elizabethan age can be said to have begun in my constituency, for under an oak tree in Hatfield Park the young princess learnt that she had become Queen. I am certain that my constituency will have helped to ensure that the second Elizabethan age will proceed with greater glory. Her Majesty now has a Government who are dedicated to ensuring the recovery of the nation's prestige and its positive influence abroad.
§ 1.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) on his maiden speech and on his magnanimous tributes to his predecessor, Mrs. Helene Hayman, who was an outstanding Member and well known to us all. As the representative of another new town not very far away—Harlow—I shall be deeply interested in the hon. Gentleman's future contributions, as will the rest of the House. I say that despite the fact that I do not agree with a number of the views that he expressed, any more than I agree with the views of his right hon. and hon. Friends.
614 During the time that I have been a Member of this House I have heard repeatedly a range of Conservative spokesmen projecting their real aspirations in international affairs for their party and Britain. Today I have heard some of those views repeated. The Conservative Party has demonstrated, with a few honourable exceptions, that it has a fundamental and continuing distrust and dislike of movements aiming to achieve the political, economic and social liberation of peoples in the Third world. Nowhere has that been more clearly spelt out than in its attitude to Southern Africa. The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) made that clear when he said that he has serious doubts about the possibility of providing democratic rights in Rhodesia at present. It is quite clear that many of his right hon. and hon. Friends share these doubts.
The Conservative Party has in the past always been reluctant to take a clear stand against the institutionalised racialism which has existed in Southern Africa. The right hon. and hon. Members who have sat on the Conservative Benches have argued repeatedly that we should not intervene in what they regard as the internal affairs of the States of Southern Africa. They have argued that British interests demand that we should not condemn practices clearly stemming from racist principles, and they have put forward the view that Britain should enter into so-called defensive arrangements with States whose policies at home have been utterly contrary to United Nations principles.
I remind the House that it was members of the Conservative Party who raised their voices in defence of Smith in the early days of UDI. It was members of the Conservative Party who opposed any ban on the supply of arms to South Africa. It was members of the Conservative Party who repeatedly attacked the policies of the States which have freed themselves from Portuguese colonial rule. [t was members of the Conservative Party who floated the idea of some sort of South Atlantic Treaty Organisation, allegedly to protect Cape routes.
Now that the Conservatives have achieved power again, these policies may be less stridently voiced by those who sit on the Government Front Bench. But a large section of the Conservative Party 615 have made it clear on numerous occasions that they still have sympathy with these views.
It is fortuitous that so recently a new attempt has been made to give a new face to the effective continuation of minority dominance in Rhodesia by the so-called internal settlement and the so-called free elections based upon it. I want to remind the House of some of the features of the settlement. Of 100 Members of the House of Assembly in Rhodesia today, whilst 72 are black, elected on a common roll, the remaining 28 are white, elected by electors on a white voters' roll or by an electoral college from nominees put forward by an all-white electoral college.
In the constitution there are a number of specially entrenched provisions involving the following areas: the composition of the legislature, the procedure of Parliament, the Executive Council, the declaration of public emergencies, the judiciary, and the constitution of public services. None of these entrenched provisions can be changed without the affirmative vote of 78 Members of the Assembly, which means that at least six of the white Members, not elected on a common roll, would need to join the other 70, even if the other 70 were agreed on this, for any change in these entrenched provisions. The key posts in the police, the army and the public services are effectively safeguarded for the white minority for at least the next five years.
In those circumstances, recognition of those elections as valid, and recognition of the internal settlement, would be tantamount to recognition of the continuation of white minority privilege in Rhodesia.
I hope that the Couservative Party, now in Government, will face up very clearly to that reality, particularly when it comes to consider whether it intends to lift sanctions. I think that we should recognise here that if the Conservative Party gives backing to the present internal settlement, this will not stop the civil war continuing for many years in Rhodesia, draining the resources of that country and destroying any long-term hope of reconciliation between the different races. Recognition of that settlement will also involve the gradual isolation of Britain within the United Nations and a serious 616 threat to the survival of the Commonwealth.
The new Government are now hesitating, but they should be under no illusion about the dire affect of the consequences of the action of recognising the present internal settlement in Rhodesia, because it would not merely be the reputation of this country which would be at stake, but British interests in trade with other parts of Africa and other parts of the Third world would also equally be affected.
The members of the Government must come to terms with the realities of the modern world. They must face the fact that we cannot return to the days of great Power domination. Even the United States and the Soviet Union will have to recognise this. We in Britain are by no means in a position to vie with them.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) held forth once again today. In the last Parliament he openly criticised British withdrawal from Aden in the light of the Iranian revolution. Frankly, it is a very pathetic state of affairs that a right hon. Member of such obvious brilliance and intelligence should have failed to drag himself into the modern world and to face up to the realities of the present time.
Britain will have to come to terms with these realities. We are hiding our heads under the bedclothes if we fail to recognise that. This is true not only in respect of Southern Africa but in our international relations as a whole. In the Third world, as the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister made clear the other day, we plan, under the new Government, to review the question of the aid that we provide. I believe that we should face the fact that many of our trading competitors are already providing aid to finance contracts made with Third world countries by firms in their countries, which is frequently to the disadvantage of British-based companies which are seeking to export to the Third world. In other parts, there are actually restrictions on the provision of British aid in addition.
The new Government ought to consider that some of the private enterprise firms that they claim to be anxious to encourage are fundamentally dependent upon the supply of aid to Third world countries for the development of new 617 markets. If the new Government decide to cut off aid in those circumstances, we shall be handing over to many of our competitors, who will certainly give support to firms in their countries in securing a great deal of trade on which we are vitally dependent if Britain is to prosper.
The new Government will, therefore, have to consider whether they will come to terms with this state of affairs or stick to the doctrinaire reactionary myths which they have so frequently embraced while in Opposition.
The same is true concerning the new Government's consideration of their attitude towards peace and the need to achieve world disarmament, to which reference has already been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper). If the Conservative Party implements the views that have been so frequently voiced in this House in the past, a new impetus will be given to the arms race. If the Conservative Party embarks upon building up defence forces in Europe, replacing Polaris with a new generation of nuclear weapons, supplying China with arms and a general round of sabre-rattling, we should consider the fact that the long-terms effects on the prospects for world disarmament will be serious indeed.
I only hope that the new Government will consider this matter very carefully, now that they are in a position of responsibility, before they embark upon the sort of policies which were voiced previously when they were in Opposition.
I have often been critical of policies on international affairs that were pursued by the Labour Government in the past. I make no apology for that today. But the advent of the new Conservative Government in my view represents a vast retrogression and a step backwards, which many people in other parts of the world will greatly regret. My right hon. Friend the former Foreign Secretary took a brave stand on Southern Africa and Rhodesia, which was very much in the interests of this country. It will be very sad if, under the new Government, we retreat from that policy. The effects will be very grave indeed.
Those of us who in the past have never hesitated to raise our voices on behalf of the peoples of the Third world, and for human rights in all countries, including 618 the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia just as much as Chile and South Africa, will none the less continue to speak out in favour of steps towards a new world order in which those sections of humanity at present sunk in poverty, oppressed and denied will have a real opportunity of leading a better and fuller life. That, I believe, is the real meaning of our attachment to freedom, to which the hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield referred. That is the only way to implement that freedom to which he gave praise today.
Those who accept my point of view will continue to argue that Britain should not pursue a path which will eventually leave it isolated with reactionary countries such as South Africa and Chile, but that it should play a real part in helping to create a new world free from racism, tyranny and war, in which I believe the true interests of this country, as well as the peoples of the Third world, actually lie.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler (Norfolk, North-West)
My first happy duty, apart from congratulating you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) on his fine maiden speech. I think I can say without contradiction that he spoke thoughtfully, clearly and to a very important theme which concerns all of us on both sides of the House who are interested in freedom. We look forward very much to his further contributions with great interest, because clearly he has many to make in the near future.
Secondly, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) on his second maiden speech in a number of years. If I may say so, it was an unmaidenly maiden speech. He raised his voice to good effect between 1970 and 1974, and clearly he has lost none of the skills that he displayed then. Obviously, he is likely to display those skills again during this Parliament, and we look forward to that.
It has become unfashionable to regard foreign affairs as a subject of vital importance to the nation. The cynics say "There are no votes in it", and, judging from the empty Opposition Benches today, the Liberal Party subscribes to that 619 view in its totality. It is undeniably true that Britain's power has declined throughout the post-colonial era, but despite that foreign affairs continues to be a sphere in which our influence, if not our power, can make a vital contribution to our security and to our access to markets and sources for the supply of raw materials which are absolutely necessary to our material prosperity. We are still a great trading nation, and our success depends to an unusually large degree upon the quality of our relations with the outside world.
For these reasons, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on her choice in appointing my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, as well as my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, who in my judgment form the strongest team of Ministers on this subject that we have seen for many years. It is well that we are to be served so well, because we face a series of formidable problems in which all our diplomatic skills will need to be deployed if we are to serve the nation's real interests.
Behind the veil of detente, welcome though that is in its own way, lies the prospect of increasing pressure by the Soviet and the Eastern bloc generally on our traditional pattern of trade. They use the most sophisticated combinations of political, military and economic weapons to undermine the Western position. From time to time they acquiesce in international agreements such as Helsinki and SALT II—who knows, perhaps even in SALT III—in order to impress the world with their peaceful motives. But their underlying purpose remains the same—to undermine and eventually to destroy Western civilisation. We must not hesitate to defend our interests with similar political and economic skill, backed up by credible military deterrents within Western Europe, the Community and the Atlantic Alliance, whose united purpose is quite simply the survival of Western democracy.
Within this scenario, the Gracious Speech recognises the particular problems in the Middle East and Africa and, to the chagrin of the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday, the need for trade with, and aid to, the developing world. On those subjects, I welcome most 620 warmly the Prime Minister's statement in her fine speech on Tuesday regarding Rhodesia, as well as my right hon. Friend's confirmation today.
Although the path to majority rule has been stormy, and the present state of the country falls short of the ideal, it would be wise of us to take account, as the Prime Minister has, of the real achievements of the last few months, which have been made despite the extremely unhelpful attitude of the last Government and the previous Foreign Secretary, and to build on them in a constructive way. I welcome the decision to observe the internal elections, to send Sir Anthony Duff to Rhodesia, and to continue discussions with the United States to work for a return to legality.
I believe that hon. Members in all parts of the House, particularly the former Foreign Secretary, whose policies failed, would be wise to remember the history of tribal wars which ravaged Central and Southern Africa in the nineteenth century, and which would surely return if the Patriotic Front were to succeed in imposing the rule of the gun over the rule of law, imperfect though that law may be.
I now turn briefly to aid. I am sorry that the reorganisation of ministerial responsibilities has led to the loss of our separate Question Time on that subject, but I am glad that the Leader of the House, in reply to me yesterday, has agreed to re-establish the Select Committee on Overseas Development. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) will accept that Select Committees can be useful in drawing his attention to particular aspects of development policy. I am glad to see that he nods assent. I have had the pleasure of serving on previous Select Committees, and it has been my experience that previous Ministers have from time to time found them helpful. I hope that I shall again have the pleasure of working with my hon. Friend.
I recognise that any Government returned on a popular mandate to cut taxation must scrutinise expenditure in every department. Where there are to be widespread cuts in expenditure the aid programme must bear a share, as it did on two occasions during the last Labour Government.
Nevertheless, aid plays a vital part in opening up new markets for British 621 manufacturers. Manufacturers increasingly look for growth to the developing world. It could be said that Britain's economic survival and well-being depend more and more upon our skill in assisting developing countries to succeed. It follows that I hope that any cuts will be restored as soon as our fortunes improve.
A particular aspect of the aid programme has caused me recent anxiety. Last night's excellent programme "Betrayal", on Thames Television, drew attention to the massive human tragedy in South-East Asia. In Kampuchea, with a population of 7 million, 75 per cent. are displaced persons or refugees. Many of them have attempted to cross the border from Kampuchea into Thailand. Those who arrived in Thailand before 7 January have been allowed to remain and are receiving succour from international relief organisations. However, those who arrived after 7 January—an arbitrary date—are being allowed to remain within Thailand for only a week or two before being driven back across the border in truckloads into Kampuchea. Many of them are suffering serious illnesses or starvation. They are being handed over to the armed forces of Khmer Rouge. That is an affront to all that is best in international behaviour towards refugees. It is inhumanitarian behaviour of the worst kind.
Many of us understand the anxiety of the Thai Government to defend their own natural borders and to maintain their territorial integrity. We should bear in mind that Thailand is to receive £2½ million from the British aid programme in the current year, part of a package of £7 million over three years. It will receive much more from the United States and the World Bank. Will the Government work with others to encourage Thailand to play a fuller part in providding succour for the refugees and to enable the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to administer assistance from the substantial funds which have been made available separately by our Government for that purpose in South-East Asia?
Last year our contribution to the High Commissioner for Refugees was about £1 million. This year we have contributed £500,000 and a further £500,000 remains available. It would be helpful for discussions 622 to take place with other donors to ensure that the Thai Government co-operate with the High Commissioner even though Thailand is not a signatory to the appropriate United Nations convention.
§ Mr. Dalyell
In happier times I visited Cambodia. Will the hon. Member say precisely what he is asking of the Thai Government? It is unrealistic to ask them to take on such a long-term commitment, much as we sympathise with the refugees.
§ Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler
I did not spell out in greater detail my proposal because I know that many of my hon. Friends wish to contribute to the debate. Administrative assistance should be given to the Thai Government to help them disburse within the camps the funds already available. The camps could be evacuated over a period as a wider-based international relief effort gets off the ground to find some of the people homes in other countries but should be kept open to give them support during the final months of the war that is ravaging their country. Certainly no refugees should be sent back across the border until proper arrangements for their health and safety are certain.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
I have undertaken to be as brief as possible. However, may I first congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) on his admirable maiden speech, which we all enjoyed. May I then congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) on his return maiden speech, which we also greatly enjoyed. Finally, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal on his first speech as our main spokesman in the Commons on foreign affairs. As we all expected, it was an impressive performance.
The House will warmly endorse the Prime Minister's emphasis on the importance of the European Nine speaking with one voice in foreign affairs. One area where that is exceptionally important at the present time is the search for peace in the Middle East.
Washington must now have serious misgivings about the wisdom of the course that its peacekeeping has taken. As so 623 often happens when Governments have committed themselves, American policy makers seem to be saying "We must stick it out and see what happens. Perhaps, in spite of the many danger signals, it will turn out well. But if it does not we can always think again and change direction".
That is a dangerous attitude. It is more likely that by persisting in the Camp David approach the policy makers in Washington will make matters worse for themselves and their friends. It is also more likely that by the time they recognise that they are in a blind alley and may have to turn back the quest for peace will have been made more difficult than it is.
Friendship and self-interest both require that we make plain to our American allies any doubts that we may have now while there is time for them to return to safer ground. To leave them to blunder on into the kind of trouble that they are now causing for themselves in the Arab world is not the way for their European friends to help. Now is the time for a European initiative, designed to bring America and the Arab world together in a search for peace.
From the United States Government's view, no doubt it would be easier to manage a withdrawal from their present "almost impossible position"—to use King Hussein's words—if the Palestinians and the other Arab Governments were to come up with a constructive, positive alternative plan for peace in the Middle East to which they were all prepared to commit themselves. There are strong arguments in favour of taking such action.
The present concentration of Arab effort on condemning Camp David, the Israel-Egypt treaty and the conduct of President Sadat, although understandable, because the terms agreed have deeply offended the Arab world and particularly our moderate friends, is a negative attitude which will not by itself put the search for peace back on the rails.
What the Arab opponents of Camp David should be developing at this stage is a two-pronged attack—criticism combined with a constructive alternative in concrete terms. It will not do simply to avow adherence to United Nations resolutions and to call for a reconvening of the 624 Geneva conference. That is not an effective answer to the specifics of Camp David.
Perhaps the essence of such a constructive Arab alternative should be the acceptance of a transitional period and a progressive approach to peace, provided that during that transitional period a form of international administration is substituted for the present unacceptable Israeli-dominated transitional arrangements envisaged under the Camp David agreement.
However, the reality is that the Arab world, even with the closing of ranks which has occurred in reaction to what is seen as Egypt's defection, is probably still incapable of coming forward with any concrete alternative to Camp David. That is not because a large measure of agreement does not exist in favour of the kind of settlement which has now emerged with wide international consensus, based on resolution No. 242 plus the right of the Palestinians to establish their own State on the West Bank and in Gaza, but because, in present circumstances, Arab leaders cannot volunteer their readiness to accept such a settlement without provoking yet more internal dissension. We should remember that Arab leaders have their problems with their constituents just as Western leaders do.
Therefore, this is a classic case for third party intervention. Someone needs to come forward with an alternative plan for peace, having sounded beforehand both American and Arab leaders and, if possible, having secured their blessing for it. The nine members of the EEC could and should undertake this task as soon as possible. First, they need to know that Washington is prepared to modify its present attitude and then to produce a peace plan. The essence of such a plan should be a period of international control for the West Bank and Gaza, with the commitment that at the end of that period the Palestinians would be granted the right of self-determination. This proposal has already acquired a wide measure of world support. The setting up of an independent Palestinian State should be accompanied by cast-iron military guarantees to Israel and to the border Arab countries, including the new Palestinian State.
In conclusion, I must point out that if there is no initiative soon we shall almost 625 certainly continue to blunder forwards towards chaos and ultimate tragedy. This would be a disaster for the area and immensely damaging to Western interests. Here is an opportunity for a new and a bold approach. We should take it, and take it soon.
§ 2.23 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)
First, let me congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your new responsibilities. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). Unfortunately, the luncheon room called me when my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) was speaking. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood entered the House in 1970, at the same time as I did, and I remember with respect the contributions that he made in those days to defence and foreign affairs matters. Therefore, it was with special pleasure that I listened to his excellent speech today.
I am also pleased to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) to the Government Front Bench. His association with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for many years gives him a special knowledge of the Commonwealth. I also welcome the remarks of the Lord Privy Seal about strengthening our relationships with the Commonwealth.
I wish to speak about the Middle East and the problem of oil, following the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters). There are some problems which confront us in life which are so grave, so imponderable and so large that we are inclined to pass on from them. One such problem has been the build-up of Russian armaments. One feels well nigh helpless in the face of such a monolithic endeavour proceeding in the East. Another such problem, and one to which I wish to draw the attention of the House, is that of the instability of the Middle East and our extraordinary dependence on oil as a source of energy.
No man is an island to himself, and similarly no country is an island. God has smiled on this country, because He has built us on coal and surrounded us by oil, but nevertheless there is an international economic dependence which we 626 must accept. The Western world is walking a tightrope across an abyss. We have already seen the effects of the oil price rises and the effects of the developments in Iran. We have seen specifically what has happened in Calífornia and is happening in Southern Ireland. We know that we must expect a winter shortfall of heating fuels in this country. This will have grave consequences for all our citizens. I can see the situation improving, getting worse, improving and getting worse again. However, the long-term trend is one of deterioration.
Mr. Schlesinger, the United States Energy Secretary, has said:Increased production by Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela and the United Kingdom has made up half the Iranian export shortfall. This still leaves between 2.5 million and 3 million barrels a clay effective crude shortfall in the world.In the Middle East, in the third quarter of 1978, Abu Dhabi and the other United Arab Emirate countries, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, accounted for about one-third of all the OECD imports of crude oil and natural gas, with Saudi Arabia providing about one-fifth of that total. That third quarter also showed Iran as accounting for 16 per cent. If we reduce the Iran supply to its present 3 million barrels a day, the importance of the remaining States becomes apparent.
Saudi Arabia has increased the off-take from 8 million barrels a day to 10.5 million barrels a day. However, its policy is to limit production to about 8.5 million barrels a day, and therefore one must ask how much longer that country will be prepared to exceed its limit. We also know that there are problems with the loading facilities at Ras Tanuri; therefore, even if Saudi Arabia wished to increase its output above 10.5 million barrels a day, it would probably be impossible.
Abu Dhabi's production is very close to maximum. Until the new field in the Upper Zakum is ready, it is doubtful whether production could be increased. Kuwait raised its production to 2.4 million barrels a day even though it has declared a maximum of 2 million barrels. So once again one must ask how much longer these countries will be prepared to exceed their maxima.
In Africa, there is not much potential for vastly increased production. There 627 may be in Mexico, but that country is limited at present by installations. Nigeria, which provides about 7 per cent. of OECD imports, has increased its output by 160,000 barrels a day.
In speaking of Nigeria, one must refer to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), with whom I very much agreed. However, if we examine the oil production in Nigeria and the fact that in 1978 its imports from us amounted to over £1,100 million, and that we had a favourable net balance of trade with it amounting to over £800 million, it is clear that any negotiation on Rhodesia must involve close consultation with Nigeria.
The front-line States—Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia—have total imports from this country amounting to over £200 million. They are of course important, but of much less importance to this country than is Nigeria. Therefore, when we examine oil requirements, Nigeria is an element to be considered.
There was a meeting yesterday of EEC Ministers to discuss energy conservation. We all welcome energy conservation, but the possibility of political instability in the Middle East cannot be overlooked. Although we must pursue the road of conservation, I believe that one of the first considerations of the new Government is to look ahead at the possible consequences of further instability in the Middle East and at ways in which this may be averted. We know what has happened in Iran and in Afghanistan. The problems of the Middle East must take first place among our counsels if we are to avert what in the next five or 10 years might well be a catastrophe for this country and for Europe, the like of which we have not seen since the last war.
We know that all the Middle East oil-producing countries are members of the League of Arab States. A subsidiary of that league is the Arab Defence Council, formed in 1959, and the Unified Arab Command, formed in 1964. However, there is no doubt at all that the peace initiative of the United States has gravely shaken the Arab Defence Council and the League of Arab States. Although introducing stability between Egypt and Israel, that initiative has possibly opened 628 the door to further instability in the remaining Arab countries. If what happened in Iran should happen in some of the other Middle East States—and who thought that it would happen in Iran?—the consequences for our nation would be grave. It would be difficult to overstate how grave they might be. The lights would go out, literally and metaphorically.
What must we do? It seems to me self-evident that the interests of this country are identical to the interests of our friends in the Common Market. The interests of Britain in regard to Middle East oil and energy are identical to those of Germany, France and all the other Common Market countries. Would it not make sense—if this is not already happening, and I pray that it is—if confidential discussions were to take place between Her Majesty's Government and the other EEC Governments to see what plans and efforts may be made and what initiative taken to avert what could be a major catastrophe of the twentieth century?
We may consider guarantees of integrity in respect of Governments, or pressures towards forming more treaties for mutual aid among those countries, but it should be one of the first calls on the energies of the Foreign Secretary and the Lord Privy Seal and their colleagues to see what should be done to guard against a situation which would be catastrophic to this country—namely, the major problem posed by instability in the Middle East, which would cut our energy supplies.
§ 2.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)
I wish to convey to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, our most warm wishes on your election to your high office. Those of us who were very much involved in defence debates in the last Parliament remember your contributions with great respect and admiration.
I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) are on the Government Front Bench. I mention particularly the latter, with whom I have had a certain amount of disagreement in the past about European matters but for whose involvement in Commonwealth affairs I have always had the most profound respect. Also, although I am 629 delighted that the electors of Oxford followed the admirable example of the electors of Cambridge, I regret the absence from our debates of Evan Luard. I remember with great regard and gratitude the manner in which he responded to the House when he was on the Government Front Bench.
This debate takes place in a difficult context, namely, that of facing up to world realities which in many ways are hostile to us. It takes place in the context of a situation in which our own power—military and economic—has declined. Although we hope that under a Conservative Government both those situations will improve, we recognise that any improvement cannot be rapid and that we operate in a situation in which peace is fragile and in which our own safety is not ensured.
Among those world realities the dominant themes are as follows. First, there is the vast economic gulf between the few nations that are affluent and the very many that are poor. We also live in the realities of what I would term the politics of energy, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) has just referred so ably and carefully. We live in a world in which the capacity for armaments and their military use is greater than at any time in the world's history.
We live in a situation in which the military strength of the Soviet Union, in particular, is awesome and increasing. The debate about capabilities and intentions begins to assume a somewhat unreal nature when we see how vast and significant are those capabilities. We also confront a situation to which many other speakers have referred, namely, the developing situation in Southern Africa, particularly Rhodesia. One sees problems everywhere.
There is one aspect of the Gracious Speech which made an impression on me—one of its most important and positive aspects. It recognised, in my view for the first time with true realism, the vital significance of the role of this nation in international co-operation and international organisations. I refer particularly to the Commonwealth. We are all thinking very hard about the Commonwealth conference that is due to take place in Lusaka in August. I refer also to NATO and the Common Market, and 630 to my own particular interest, the United Nations. I was glad that the Lord Privy Seal laid particular emphasis on that aspect. Although I emphasise the importance of those international organisations, I wish to point to the crucial importance of close links with the United States.
I have seen with a certain amount of regret, in my own party as well as elsewhere, a desire to denigrate not only the United States Administration but also their culture and their politics. I believe passionately not only in the future of the United States but also in the link between that country and ours. I believe that we do ourselves a very grave disservice in not recognising the intense difficulties facing the United States Administration and the courage with which they have attempted to resolve them, and the fact that we are bound together not only by language and history but by common interest. We, together, represent the strength of Western Europe and the Western Alliance. We likewise represent hope for a great number of people who are at the moment living under enslavement or tyranny.
On the Rhodesia question, I strongly welcome the very cautious approach of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and of the Foreign Secretary. Although there is obviously a great desire on the part of many of my hon. Friends for a rapid, bold step, I am convinced that it is through relatively careful, cautious, progress that we may achieve what the Lord Privy Seal was talking about. That is an agreement whereby our true friends and allies in Africa and elsewhere will support us in the advancement towards legality, the end of conflict and a peaceful resolution.
The dominant concern of all of us, and certainly of this Government, is peace through strength, and I believe that our ambition is that we shall, in the words of my predecessor as hon. Member for Cambridge, Lord Palmerston, reach a situation in which, once again, the name of England counts for something in the councils of the world.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am happy to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) in offering my felicitations on your election. It 631 gives great pleasure and will, I am sure, be of benefit to all Members.
It is customary to believe in, shall I say, London circles, and not only in this House, that foreign affairs play little part in the thinking of the general public, certainly during election campaigns. During the election there were many vital issues which rightly concerned the British people, but I found, and I should be surprised if other hon. Members did not share my experience, that among the economic and domestic concerns there was a surprising degree of anxiety about the state of international relations, and in particular about the threats to British interests in the world.
I am delighted, therefore, that in the Gracious Speech and in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal there has been a positive response to the needs that were expressed to all of us during the weeks running up to that decisive vote of 3 May. I found throughout the country a clear perception of the dangers which threaten British interests and values. There is an understanding of the extent of the Soviet military build-up and a recognition of the efforts of the Soviet Union and its proxies—particularly the Cubans—throughout Africa, the Middle East and the Far East.
People read in their newspapers of the hundreds of thousands of refugees leaving Indo-China, and they also look at the disturbances in Iran. They are conscious of the significance of these developments not only for the people of that country but for Britain and Western interests. It is therefore most encouraging that the opening speech of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal echoed so well the realisation that there is a need to change course in Britain's foreign policy.
I am sure that there will be a positive response among Britain's many friends in Europe and other parts of the world, because there is a clear realisation that things have gone too far. There is a realisation that for too many years decency has been in retreat. We all stand guilty of accepting with too much apathy, with too much resignation and perhaps with too much cynicism the steady decline and erosion of those values of freedom, liberty and democracy which 632 have been so powerfully built up over the centuries by our ancestors. Those values were referred to very ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson).
We have a duty, therefore, to respond to these anxieties and threats which come not only from weapons, whether they are handled by the Cubans in a dozen African countries or in Indo-China, but from words. An ideological war is being waged, and no one else makes a secret of it. It is important for us to recognise that such a war is in progress and to take appropriate action to deal with it. This war is waged with words and with a debasement and distortion of our own currency, the English language. For example, the phrase "cold war" was seized upon by the Soviet Union in 1949 and turned into a brilliant propagandistic coup to its own advantage, which it has continued to use ever since.
Subsequently, the Soviets took the concept of detente and continued to use that, once more to their own advantage.
We are all interested in ending both hot and cold wars, and we are all interested in real detente, but we must understand—and I hope very much that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who has just rejoined us, will in future understand—the realities of those words and those terms as used by the Soviet Union. As both Soviet leaders and their propaganda machine frequently make very clear, detente for them means what they are pleased to call the world revolutionary process. The Soviets want that process to continue, and we must take cognisance of that. However, anyone who takes cognisance of that and suggests that action should be taken to counter the march of this world revolutionary process is immediately accused of waging a cold war.
We must have the courage to face this challenge and defeat it, because vital issues and vital Western interests are at stake. We must not fall into the trap into which the Left in many Western countries has fallen. That of misusing and abusing our own language. The right hon. Member for Devonport, for example, today used the phrase "non-aligned". It is right, and it must be welcomed, that in this ideological struggle—if there has 633 to be such a struggle—a number of countries should be, and indeed are, nonaligned, but let them be truly nonaligned. At present, the countries using that title operate increasingly under the tutelage of Communist Cuba. When they do that, they have to forfeit the accolade of non-alignment.
We have seen other dangerous distortions of our language by the previous Government. The phrase "liberation armies" was written into a document produced as part of the Anglo-American proposals on the future of Rhodesia. What are these liberation armies? They are groups of 10 or 12 young men, some only 15 years old, holed up in villages in Rhodesia's tribal trust lands. Those are the armies on which, according to the Anglo-American proposals, the new army of Zimbabwe was to be based. That is a distortion of language and does great harm to clarity in the political thinking of this country. I am sure that the new Government recognise that and will counter it effectively. Without that, we are lost.
Another attack on our language is the use of the word "responsible". If we are to take seriously some of the contributions of Labour Members, it seems that it is responsible to be as unco-operative as possible with our allies and partners in Western Europe—the countries with which, in all the fundamentals and in the beliefs of Christian and Western principles, we have so much in common. It is, apparently, responsible to be ready to ignore British interests and values in our dealings with other countries.
My message to the new Foreign Office Ministers is that we must get back to reality. I wish to refer briefly to two fundamental issues on the immediate agenda, namely, the SALT negotiations and the future of Southern Africa, particularly Rhodesia.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal said about all of us desiring an early ratification of the SALT proposals. Of course we do, but reality demands that we must look carefully before finally accepting all that SALT II implies. We must look carefully at what is involved and be prepared to ask ourselves, the Americans and our other allies some fundamental questions. There is just as much danger—indeed, there may be even more—in a solution that 634 increases the strategic and military disparity between the Soviet Union and its allies and the West as there is in a continuation of an arms race.
The sort of questions that we must ask concern, for example, verification. Are we satisfied that, given the changes in Iran and what is happening in Turkey, the verification arrangements for SALT II are satisfactory? Are we satisfied that the treaty should leave the Soviet Union with weapons such as the SS20 missile and the Backfire bomber, which are able to attack Western Europe?
Are we satisfied with President Carter's proposition that if SALT II is not signed in its entirety there will be much greater pressure for nuclear proliferation among other countries? Do we believe that, even if SALT II were accepted totally in its present form, it would act as a firm brake on nuclear proliferation among other countries? I hope that the answer is "Yes", but it is a question which we must not shirk, and it would be irresponsible to duck it.
President Carter and his Secretaries of State also tell us that we must not worry, since any imbalance that may arise from SALT II will be corrected by increased United States military spending in other spheres. Obviously, that is primarily a matter for the American people and their Government, but surely we are all looking, nationally and internationally, for reductions in military spending. If it turned out that the new SALT agreement increased the resources given to military spending, could we regard that as the right agreement?
I urge Foreign Office Ministers that, although it must be right to have a SALT II agreement, we must answer the questions that I have posed to the satisfaction of us all—and that means going slowly.
The same principle applies to the problems of Rhodesia and Southern Africa as a whole. We must recognise reality and go slowly. Of course we have to deal with our Commonwealth partners. We must recognise that they may have their own individual and democratic problems, but the reality is that Rhodesia has a majority Government. I could not follow the explanation of the right hon. Member for Devonport about why he found the vote in Rhodesia on 20 April so bad. It represented a popular vote 635 in favour of the black politicians who will lead the country. As a democrat, I regard that as a base from which we must start. It is difficult to understand the reasoning behind the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that that is not the case. The reality is not that we must take account entirely of what the Soviet Union does. I found the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about bringing Communism to Southern Africa a little baffling, until I remembered what he was reported as saying in Moscow in October 1977. He told the Soviet UnionYour interests are the same as ours in Southern Africa".If that is the right hon. Gentleman's perception of reality, I am glad that we have to part company and that the bipartisan approach on Southern Africa has ended. We cannot proceed on that basis. We must, of course, proceed carefully and with circumspection and subtlety, but we must proceed in the direction of majority rule, democratic rule and the constitution that has been accepted, not by Hampstead parlour-pink Socialists who have never been near Africa but by black political leaders who have struggled for their independence for decades.
It is those political leaders who are now telling us, the Western world, and their fellows, the other leaders on the African continent, "This is the new Zimbabwe. Come and support us" I am delighted that this is the direction in which the Conservative Party and the Government are now moving.
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
First, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment. I wish you well in that role. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) on his very clear and eloquent maiden speech, with the contents of which I totally agree. I assume that he will not have the same family feeding problems as his predecessor experienced on these premises.
It seems to me that the sigh of relief in Britain when the election result was known was shared by the rest of the free world, and with good reason. I believe that the world has now entered some very choppy waters in an uncharted sea and is likely to remain in them for several 636 years. We in the West shall be wise to be vigilant and increase our military and economic strength to withstand the tests to come. This is a role in which the new Government should aim to give a clear lead, and the Gracious Speech gives every indication that they will.
No matter what the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) suggested, my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) was right to say that the entire existence of our free world, particularly the continuation of our Judaeo-Christian-based Western society, remains under threat for as long as atheistic Communism, as epitomised by the Soviet Union, maintains its oft-repeated ambition, backed up on so many occasions by its actions, of total world domination.
Five years ago this month, Saigon fell to the Viet Cong, and a corrupt regime was replaced by a far more terrible regime, as the continued exodus of the boat people testifies. The dominoes have been falling fast ever since. After Vietnam, there were Laos and Cambodia. Thailand and Burma are now threatened. Afghanistan has gone. Nepal is in trouble. The Palestine Liberation Organisation is fast developing a new base provided by courtesy of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran to raise havoc in the name of Islam in the Persian Gulf and Pakistan. In Africa, tens of thousands of Cuban mercenaries, with East German and Russian advisers, continue to threaten Angola, Zaire, the Horn of Africa and possibly Rhodesia too.
As Alexander Solzhenitsyn asked just a few months ago, how many more countries can the West allow to fall under Communist influence before we run out of countries and have only ourselves on offer? The time has long since passed for the partners of the Atlantic Alliance and the European Community to decide that the role of NATO needs to be reassessed to reflect the Soviet naval threat worldwide and to discourage Marxist-inspired adventures in Africa and elsewhere.
In Europe, the signs can be regarded as more encouraging and more alarming at the same time. I believe that we are today witnessing the slow but sure collapse of the Soviet Union as its authority comes under increasing strain both in Eastern Europe and within its own 637 frontiers. Its satellites in Eastern Europe are growing ever more desperate and restless to emulate the prosperity of the West. Because Russia refuses to allow them to recognise the European Community through formal trading links with COMECON, individual Eastern European countries are now seeking their own arrangements with the West to achieve the standard of living being demanded by their people.
The proposed enlargement of the Community and the introduction of the European monetary system, which I believe Britain must join at the earliest possible opportunity, will encourage this trend. It is vital that we in the European Community maintain our insistence not to enter into formal economic ties, and especially political ties, with Eastern Europe unless and until the Helsinki final act is implemented. That is why I look to the new Government to take a much firmer line in the forthcoming progress review conference in Madrid next year than the previous Government did at the last conference two years ago in Belgrade.
Let us also not underestimate the long-term effect on Eastern Europe of a Polish Pope. The election of Pope John Paul II last year will, I believe, prove as revolutionary as Lenin's arrival in Petrograd after the abdication of the Czar—the right man at the right time. The Pope has already made it clear that his message on human rights, social justice and the role of his Church is non-political. But to the Communists it is highly political. His papal letter, which was read in Hungary earlier this year, and his visit to Poland next month have the Marxist leaders in Eastern Europe very worried. As he is young enough to outlive them all, I believe that his influence will be profound.
We should also be aware of the enormous potential threat to the internal stability of the Soviet Union provided by the 40 million-plus Muslims who live along its southern borders and in Central Asia, among whom there is evidence to suggest that there is now taking place the same religious revival as is occurring throughout the Islamic world. Their birth rate is such that, by the turn of the century, one-third of the population of the Soviet Union will be Muslim, and they 638 could provide the most serious challenge yet to Soviet colonialism.
Already there is discontent. Last year a minister of police in Azerbaijan was assassinated. Muslim counter-movements are infiltrating local Communist Party organisations. It is interesting to speculate whether the present power struggle in Iran will trigger off problems within neighbouring Russia itself.
How will all these trends affect the old men in the Kremlin who are attempting to impose an obsolete and humanely-repugnant regime through a constipated bureaucracy with a stagnant economy—or, more importantly, their successors once they have emerged after the traditional and inevitable power struggle?
Of one thing there must be no doubt. The West must maintain its military and economic strength during this period if we are to influence the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe towards a smooth and peaceful transition to responsible, adaptable and stable democracies.
I have talked about the threat of atheistic Communism in many parts of the world and the violent and military means adopted to attain its ends. Let us never forget that for Britain Lenin advocated a much more subtle approach. In 1922, he told his followers:Resort to all sorts of illegal methods and subterfuges to get into the Trade Unions to control them, to carry out Communist work within them at all costs. Let society destroy itself by letting inflation destroy the currency and you will take over.Who can deny the evidence of recent years that his advice has been followed with considerable success?
The result of our election on 3 May was a battle won for freedom. But let us never forget that the world war still goes on. The next battle takes place in just 20 days, on 7 June.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)
The final words of my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) were right, to remind us all of 7 June. It was the first occasion that reference had been made to it in the speeches today. However, throughout the future conduct of foreign affairs in this country, one main theme is central to it. It is that we must be in close consultation with our European 639 partners and that it is the European theme which will solve most of the problems overseas, not only in Europe but also in the Middle East, in Africa and in Asia.
The first of the matters that arise—it has been much discussed today—concerns the problems in the Middle East. I mention Israel first. I had the pleasure of being in Israel in January, with the Conservative Friends of Israel. Whilst we were there we were able to make a considerable appeal for the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Britain to play an effective part in securing agreement between Israel and Sadat of Egypt. Following that, we were delighted to hear that the President had taken up the initiative and achieved that peace. It is certain that there is further work to be done here—again, with our European partners and, it is to be hoped, with the assistance of the United States—to try to ensure especially that there is a developing pact between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan.
Since I have a special interest in the matter, I want to turn my attention to Cyprus. I am not at all sure that we do not need a fresh initiative from our own Government on this issue. Today, the parties are meeting in Nicosia, and it is patently right that the Greeks should take a lead in the matter. But I feel sure that if our own Government are to take an initiative and recognise the importance of containing Turkey and the needs of Turkey in the future, it means that the Turkish Government must arrive at a peaceful solution in Cyprus and be able to withdraw their troops and enter into constitutional arrangements of an effective nature. It will require an initiative from our Government, and I hope that that will be taken fairly early on after the discussions in Nicosia have been concluded and after the Government have been able to weigh up the circumstances.
I turn now to the situation in other parts of the world. The picture in Africa is very much better, and is more likely to be solved effectively if the Germans, the French and the Belgians are brought into the deepest and closest consultation. After all, they are former colonial Powers, just as we are in Africa, and they have a fairly extensive knowledge 640 of these matters. The Labour Government, unfortunately, failed completely to get any effective co-operation with our European partners in these third countries.
In opening the European election campaign for East Kent, on the adoption of the candidate there, I made the point which I believe is the essence of that election. It concerns not merely the question of trade but the peace of the world. It involves the development of a totally corporate policy among the partners of the EEC to try to solve some of the problems of peace and development in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It is concerned also with obtaining in due course a joint defence policy and with saving a considerable amount of the cost of defence through common use of the same weapons. These are matters not merely of defence policy but of foreign affairs, and they will be particularly close to the heart of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal.
It seems that if we can secure that development and if we can work for the acceptance by President Giscard d'Estaing and others of our policy for Rhodesia, we can then move on to deal with the other problems in Africa. That would mean the erosion of Communist influence in that part of the world.
There will, without doubt, shortly be what was recognised as likely many years ago—three currency empires in the world. These will be the rouble empire, the dollar empire and, in place of what we hoped would have been the sterling empire, the EMS. I hope that we shall join the EMS at the earliest opportunity, because of the co-operation that that involves within Europe. If that emerges, the real position of power in the world will be Europe, located in the centre and working with its neighbours, which include Greece and Spain after their entry. Then we shall be dealing with the true issues of the European election—the peace of the world and co-operation on foreign policy between member States on issues of peace and defence.
Since that arises, it will involve effecting a just solution to many problems, whether it be the Israeli problem of the West Bank, the difficulties between Turkey and Cyprus, or the problems in the Far East involving refugees and others.
641 There is a further problem, which is not the concern either of the United States or of other countries in the manner in which they have dealt with it recently. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) spoke about this earlier in a way with which I am in complete disagreement. Ulster is not an area in which we should brook the interference of Kennedy or, indeed, of any people from America or elsewhere, with their unrealistic understanding of the problems that arise.
It is now slightly more than 10 years since we had a really serious outbreak of disorder in Ulster. But it is true, as has been said, that the position there today cannot be tolerated on a permanent basis. I have felt that for some time past the world as a whole and the Ulster people in particular have been sick to death of the position in the Province and its continuance. It will be necessary fairly soon to introduce emergency powers in Ulster to enable the military to take over and eradicate completely the IRA from the areas which are known full well to contain the IRA.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I do not think that it is impossible. There are areas in which it will be possible to take this attitude. Immediately after there has been what I would call a Malaysian type of operation, we shall then have to enable the Ulster people themselves to have their own Government.
There is one particularly important thing that I am convinced the Unionists will accept today. Indeed, they have indicated it again and again. There will have to be a proper and separate body set up to ensure that Roman Catholic rights are properly preserved, particularly in terms of employment and occupation. This should be set up, with an independent committee, with a Law Lord or some other person in charge, to ensure that those rights are fully and absolutely protected. Clearly, we cannot continue with the present position. If we continue with it, we shall find an increasing desire among the people of this country to pull out of Ulster altogether. Ulster is just as much a part of Britain as is Kent or any other county.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
It is an integral part of Britain as a whole and has to be treated in that way. If we do not solve the problem of violence in Ulster, in time the whole country will turn sour, and we shall not then be able to achieve any purpose at all.
It is for that reason that it will be necessary to increase at some stage, fairly soon, the military endeavour, for after 10 years there is not the slightest indication of any improvement in the position in Ulster. This is the one matter that we have to decide. It is not a matter involving consultation with our partners in the EEC or, indeed, with America. It is a matter that we have to decide in this House of Commons. We have to decide what is the right moment at which to ensure that we absolutely eradicate the forces of the IRA in Ulster. I hope that we shall recognise that sooner or later we shall have to tackle the problem in that way. If we do not, we shall have to withdraw the troops. If we withdraw the troops entirely and leave the problem to the Ulster people themselves, in the end they will have to do it in exactly the same way, with a military operation.
I invite my right hon. Friend to set the scene in order to make sure that we have a really big turnout in the European elections on 7 June, and to make it plain that we intend to take the lead in getting the maximum co-operation with the members of the Community in matters of foreign policy and defence. I hope that we shall ensure that those two issues will be given the greatest prominence, although I know that we shall hear now from the Opposition protagonist about the agriculture issues.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)
First, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I offer the congratulations of Opposition Members on your appointment. It is at least reassuring to know that you will be able to sit down for some little while between one 90-mile walk and another.
A Leader of the House of a generation ago gave the ultimate advice on winding-up speeches when he said "I never reply to any speech that has been made. I do not think that hon. Members are grateful for having their points answered". That piece of wisdom emerges very much 643 in a foreign affairs debate because it covers so wide an aspect that it becomes impossible to deal with every point that has been made. Therefore, it will come as no surprise to the House to hear that I propose to deal with our relations with the EEC, particularly the common fisheries policy and the common agricultural policy. After all, those policies will directly and almost immediately engage the interest of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
I offer the right hon. Gentleman my good wishes. He has got what I regard as easily the most agreeable job in the whole of the Cabinet, and he has easily the ablest and nicest staff in the whole of Whitehall. I shall be very surprised if he does not make the best use of those advantages.
The right hon. Gentleman has some problems ahead of him on the common fisheries policy. The first problem is to keep our own industry together. That is very important, because it is a disparate industry, or perhaps a series of industries. He will have to see that no part of the United Kingdom gets out of balance and that the whole industry goes forward together.
There may be occasions when the Scottish, the Northern Irish or the English fishing industry sees advantages in a particular settlement. The Minister must keep the line for all of them, and that is very difficult. He also has to keep the balance between inshore and deep-water fishermen, and sometimes their interests conflict. An obvious example arose in the South-West over mackerel fishing. We have there the elements of both international and inter-industry difficulty. We have fishermen from Scotland, Grimsby and Hull—deep-water fishermen—going to the seas off Cornwall because, understandably, they have been deprived of much of their fish. At the same time, the interests of local fishermen must be safeguarded.
The right hon. Gentleman inherits an industry, to which I pay tribute, which realises the difficulty and understands that unless it remains united it will be utterly and completely destroyed. The Minister's job—I believe this to be right—is to keep the industry together and to show that if it keeps together the best possible opportunity will lie ahead. As 644 I said, it is remarkable that it has done so well in the past. That is the internal problem.
The Minister or his hon. Friend, or both—I do not know—will also face—I should think within the next month or so—the difficulty of the Fisheries Council, in which there will be an inevitable desire to achieve a settlement, certainly on the part of those in the Common Market, but equally perhaps on the part of some in this country as well, regardless of what the cost may be. I beg of him—I hope that he will take this carefully to heart—not to yield too much to those who say "Take what you can now. Let us not bother about the future".
There is no doubt that there are things on offer. We could have had a settlement at any time during the past two years. Let us see what is on offer. When I occupied ministerial office I spent some time saying that there should be a formula in our waters—after all, two-thirds of the fish that we are talking about swim in our waters—that where conservation has provided growth the preferential share of that growth should come to the United Kingdom. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that that is basically accepted now. The right hon. Gentleman will also find that a basic quota, which was ludicrous about 18 months ago when first offered, is now only slightly ridiculous. It has been increased quite a bit. He will find that more is waiting to be offered to him. He will find, too, that it is agreed that the coastal State should have the right to police, manage and enforce fishing in its own waters. That has been accepted. There will be no argument about that.
I say to the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour)—I do not know whether I call him the Lord Privy Seal or the surrogate Foreign Secretary, but in future I shall use whatever title he likes—that there are those who believe and have stated that defence includes fisheries protection. I am sorry that he did not mention that. Anything done to ensure that fisheries protection is kept up to date will receive the overwhelming support of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
I have referred to the various matters which the right hon. Gentleman will find 645 waiting for him. He may even find—he should do—an acceptance of limitation of effort as a means of enforcing quotas. That is all to the good. We fought for that for some time. If the truth be known, we learnt it the hard way. The Icelanders applied it to us during the cod war. However, we learnt that it was the only method of ensuring that a fishing quota was properly kept.
What will not be on offer to him is an exclusive zone of 12 miles. He will have to fight for that. Secondly, there will not be available a dominant preference in terms of access up to 50 miles. He will have to fight for that. If he does, he will have the support of the Opposition. Let him believe me—I am sure that he does, as he and I have stood facing each other at the Dispatch Box over the years representing at different times both Governments and Oppositions—that the support that I shall give him, if he is willing to fight for the items that I have mentioned, will be given not ungraciously or grudgingly but wholeheartedly. That I believe to be right, and that I think he will understand. There is no question but that there will have to be a fight.
We must preserve the national right to take conservation measures. That is vital. Let him not give that right away, whatever happens. If he does, conservation will become a political weapon in the hands of some of the other eight members. Some of the other member States are not interested in such matters. If the right hon. Gentleman gives away that right, he will give away the ultimate card that he possesses.
If he acts with the industry behind him—it is a fact that there are other countries which require funds and other aid to reconstruct their fishing fleets—and does so with courage and a cool head, he can win through on fishing policy. I have always believed that to be right. I wish him good luck. He will be fighting in the national interest. As he will understand, I warn him that if he fails through lack of the qualities to which I have referred, and not for any other reason, he will find no greater critics than Opposition Members.
I address myself to the common agricultural policy. The argument that was regarded as heresy when I first advanced it two and a half years ago is now a 646 feature of Conservative orthodoxy. No doubt there are hon. Members and others who have played their part in ensuring that at least the words in the Conservative mouth have changed somewhat over the years. I remember that in March 1977 it was said from the Conservative Front Bench, when the Conservative Party was in Opposition, that it did not really matter if there were a butter mountain. It was said that it did not amount to so much anyway; that it amounted to only 4 kilos, approximately, per head of the population and that it was rather a good thing.
The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was in the Chamber earlier today, and I refer to him. I shall make no criticism of him. I should have alerted him if that had been my intention. I noted that in his general election campaign speeches he advanced much the same argument. He said that this talk about mountains, and so on, was really rather irrelevant. I do not believe that to be so. Let me explain why.
First, there is a question of the cost. The cost of the farm budget has risen from £4,614 million in 1977 to £6,700 million this year. The Commission has made predictions. Perhaps I may say this in all friendliness to the right hon. Gentleman: never, never take too much notice of the Commission's first predictions; always take its second predictions, as they are always the ones where the tooth begins to come in.
The Commission talks about a budget of £9,700 million in 1982. Of that, by then we shall be responsible—and here is the difficulty—for 20 per cent. About £2,000 million of our money, across the exchanges, will be spent in propping up the farm budget itself, though that does not include those moneys that we shall be spending in our own country. I think I am right in saying that at present—one loses touch with actual figures when one loses office—the figure is about £350 million. We already spend that per year in our own country on structural support of one sort or another.
This figure of £2,000 million arises because about £8,500 million will be spent in the storage, denaturing—as the quaint term has it—disposal or subsidised dumping overseas of surplus foodstuffs. In other words, it will be a figure greater than we can hope to make out of North 647 Sea oil across the exchanges. This is what the whole question is about. As I have said, this is only the Commission's first prediction.
I noticed an article in The Guardian the other day in which it suggested that the figures were probably wrong and that one could add about 50 per cent. I think that that was about the conclusion. I noticed also a singularly halfhearted denial on the part of the Commission of those figures. So this is rule No. 2 with the Commission: never actually believe the figures until the Commission officially and half-heartedly denies them; then one knows that they are the right figures.
If that is so, we really are talking of large sums of money indeed, sums which can be a total embarrassment to our country. Therefore, somehow or other, the right hon. Gentleman must see that these costs do not arise. The only way in which he can do that is by attacking the surpluses. Here he is in the same difficulty as I was in. It is that he is only one of nine, or perhaps, basically, only one of 11, because one has both the President of the Council and the Commissioner.
However able the right hon. Gentleman is, he will not persuade his fellow Europeans to reduce their support costs. It just will not be possible for him to do so. Yet that, obviously, is the answer. If he cares to go back and consider speeches that were made by members of the Conservative Government in 1973, I think he will find that it is what they were saying then. It was what we were saying. But one cannot do it. One cannot get them to agree to a reduction in support prices.
So what can one do? One can say "No". One can freeze prices. I am interested here because the Lord Privy Seal, in opening the debate today, said that it was Conservative policy to freeze prices. I am grateful for that. It took me a long time to convert the Conservatives, but I do not think that I have converted them far enough, because they are talking only about freezing the prices this year. That would not do very much good, even if one froze all the commodity prices. One must do it for at least four years. Why four years? Because that figure is based on the predicted 648 European inflation rate over the next period. It is the shortest period of time for it to have any effect.
It is not good enough to think in terms of frozen prices of this or that commodity. One must include all foodstuffs, otherwise it will not be effective. I can give an illustration of what I mean. I do not mean just the odd package. This has sometimes been said, and I have sometimes given that answer to Conservative Members. I mean realistically. The difference between support prices in Europe and prices at which foodstuffs can be obtained in the world at large is very great. We all know about butter and skimmed milk. The right hon. Gentleman and I are in total agreement that that is a real candidate for working on. The price of those products is four times more expensive inside the Community than it is outside. Cheese is three times as expensive, as is sugar. These are obvious ones for the right hon. Gentleman to be going for, especially sugar. He may even find the French agreeing with him, for technical reasons which are not obvious at this moment. The right hon. Gentleman will find great opposition over beef, yet that is twice as expensive inside the Community as outside. Common wheat is also twice as expensive. The trouble is that what today may be only a food hillock may tomorrow be a mountain. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman must find his way around that problem.
In order to save the budgetary cost of which I have spoken, there will have to be a freeze on all foodstuffs. The right hon. Gentleman, or his successor, will have to continue that over a period of at least four years. This requires one piece of knowledge and experience which the right hon. Gentleman already possesses, and that is the ability to say "No" in English and French. It also means that he will have to say "No" in German, Dutch and Danish, and possibly also in Irish if that differs.
§ Mr. Silkin
Good. If the right hon. Gentleman does that, he will have taken the first steps that are necessary to deal with the whole problem. In the meantime, he must ensure that our own agriculture industry is capable of expansion.
649 I notice that that appears in the Gracious Speech. I agree with that, because I have always thought that that was right, but one will not achieve that merely by saying that it is so. The right hon. Gentleman will have to ensure that he does not receive letters such as the one that I received from the Agriculture Commissioner a few years ago. I said that British agriculture should expand, and I was told that I should not say that because it was for the Commissioner to decide. Secondly, I was asked whether I would allow my speeches to be vetted by the Commissioner. The right hon. Gentleman must ensure that nonsense of that sort does not recur. At the time I pointed out that I did not allow my speeches to be vetted even by the present Prime Minister, and possibly not even by the then Prime Minister. I certainly would not allow them to be vetted by the agriculture Commissioner. The right hon. Gentleman will have to make sure that that kind of attitude disappears, and he will have to fight very hard.
As to the competitive level, in which I know he is interested—so was I—he should do what he can, although I doubt whether he can do it, to get things such as pigmeat recalculated. Where there is clearly a bias on something within the existing system, that is wrong. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to achieve that, because I believe that his colleagues in Europe will prevent it.
I have at least given the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity, if he wishes, of devaluing the green pound, but I beg him to remember that the best way of dealing with that position—certainly, from time to time, British farmers will need an increase in support prices—is to ensure that the consumer also benefits. Let the right hon. Gentleman look to things such as the butter subsidy or free school milk so that he may benefit the consumer. If he does that, we shall be asserting ourselves correctly inside the Common Market.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he could not understand why the present Leader of the Opposition chose an anti-Marketeer or two for key positions in Brussels. I think he possibly did so because he thought that they would fight for the country, and possibly they did.
§ Mr. Silkin
Oh, yes, and if the hon. Gentleman knew anything about it, and if he were to talk to people in Brussels, including the European Agriculture Ministers he would find that on that at least they are willing to give credit to the Labour Government and myself. The question that now arises is whether we are willing to fight to have food imported into the Community from outside. There has been a long argument about whether the days of cheap food are over. I do not believe that they are. Everywhere that I went I found people who wanted to send us food—from New Zealand, the ACP countries and elsewhere. Supplies are not inadequate.
I end with a quotation that is totally lacking in suspicion. It is from the United States Department of Agriculture—there is no more blameless body in the world. It states:Under most of the alternatives tested, the world has sufficient capacity to meet the grain and overall food needs of an expanding and more affluent world population at real prices, well below the 1972–75 levels.If the Minister fights his corner in Europe on fisheries and agriculture on that basis, if he fights for the national interests and is prepared to stand up for them, he will receive nothing but admiration from the Opposition Benches. We shall give him all the support that he needs. If he does not do that, he is in for a bumpy political ride.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Peter Walker)
I add my congratulations to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your election. I wish you pleasure in the important task that you must now perform. I thank the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) for giving us the benefit of his experiences in a constructive and creative speech. I shall refer to a range of points that he made.
I convey the congratulations of both sides of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy), who made an eloquent maiden speech. We hope to have the benefit of his speeches and comments, not in this Parliament alone but in many to come.
§ Mr. John Silkin
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the speech of his 651 Friend the hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy). It was a confident and well delivered speech. I intended to refer to it, but it slipped my mind.
§ Mr. Walker
I was pleased to be present to hear the second maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). We have missed him in the last five years. We enjoyed the vigour and originality of his speech today. He will not consider it to be an offence if I say that I hope that I do not have to listen to a third maiden speech by him.
The debate has been wide-ranging. Much expertise has been expressed over the whole sphere of international relationships. In the 1980s there will be massive political, possibly military and certainly economic problems facing the country. Apart from the political turmoil of Southern Africa and the potential difficulties of the Middle East, a new world economic position is arising in which new economies will emerge at an incredibly fast rate. If one projects those economies another 10 years, one can see that there will be a transformation of world trade.
The United States will have to export to the world on a far greater scale than previously contemplated. Japan, with its immense production powers, not only in Japan but in other parts of the Far East, will be searching for worldwide markets. Add to that the energy problems that were dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) and one has a world order in economic affairs in which it is vital for Britain to be a part of Europe, and for Europe to have a concerted economic action.
While I appreciate the vigour with which the right hon. Member for Deptford looked after British interests, I must point out that he said himself that he did so as "a good anti-Common Marketeer". He claimed that this was an advantage, but some of us feel that at times he enjoyed the anti-Common Marketeer activities at the expense of seeking constructive and creative solutions. We detect a slight difference in attitude between Devonport and Deptford. Perhaps that difference is repeated in Stockton and Stepney, and certainly in Cardiff and Bristol. That difference of attitude has 652 perhaps had an unfortunate effect upon the manner in which our allies in Europe have listened to our representations and have tried to find solutions to suit us.
Having said that, I do not underestimate the immensely difficult task of bringing about changes in the CAP and organising a sensible and rational fishing policy. Last week I had my first meeting with Agriculture Ministers of the Community, and I welcomed the opportunity of seeing them informally for two days to discuss the problems as I saw them and to ascertain their attitude to future change. There are signs of an increasing willingness to accept the necessity of change in the CAP. While I recognise that this change might be slow and only after considerable debate and discussion, I think that there are encouraging signs. There was, for example, the report by the West German Agriculture Minister, Mr. Ertl, to the Bundestag that showed a change of thinking. He said:Although some success has been registered in reducing stocks by subsidising liquid skim and skimmed milk powder in food, public expenditure on the guaranteeing of milk prices has reached the tolerable limit This problem must be tackled urgently.He ended his report with these significant words:In view of the situation of the main agricultural markets, no one, neither Commission nor the Federal Government, can close their eyes to the fact that we shall soon exhaust the available financial means. Consequences have to be drawn, not least because it is in the interests of farmers that the further functioning of the CAP should not be questioned.I would hope that that recognition and those attitudes will develop. I shall encourage them to do so.
The right hon. Member for Deptford was correct in pointing out the astronomic costs arising from surpluses. Out of a total Community budget of £8.9 billion, £6.7 billion arises from the CAP. This shows that it is an enormous factor in European relationships. I totally support the Commission's view of the necessity to freeze prices. We shall argue that when the Agriculture Ministers meet in June. There can be no possible argument for adding still further to the surpluses in milk and sugar and creating surpluses in a number of other areas where there are no surpluses at present 653 but where there will be if the present high prices continue.
I expressed the view that this matter should be tackled vigorously when I attended my first meeting of the Council of Ministers. I shall continue to express it strongly when we meet again. I hope that the Commission will adhere to its original proposals by advocating a freeze on prices in this round. The Commission is reviewing the original figures that it put forward six months ago, when it recommended the freezing of prices. It is reviewing costs and also changes in market conditions. Although, in regard to costs, there might be arguments in favour of increasing certain prices, I believe that probably in a number of spheres there will be no such argument. Obviously we shall examine the figures when they become available.
§ Mr. Dalyell
This morning I asked a question about the ownership of surpluses. Has the right hon. Gentleman been able to unearth the answer?
§ Mr. Walker
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of that question. When stocks go into intervention, they become the property of the national intervention authority which, in effect, is an agency of the national Government concerned. It is the national Government who must find the money to purchase the stocks, although the Community pays for the actual cost of storage. The national intervention authority retains ownership of the stocks until sold, but can sell them only as and when authorised to do so by Community decision.
§ Mr. Dalyell
That means that if we are to tackle surpluses, it is national Governments rather than the Commission in whose courts the matter falls?
§ Mr. Walker
Certainly it is national Governments—and certainly this national Government, Her Majesty's Government, have a considerable interest in tackling this problem. When stocks are finally released and repayment is made, the profits or losses are met by the Community. But it is of immense interest to Her Majesty's Government to see that this position is changed.
We are concerned about the proposals on milk, particularly the co-responsibility levy that is being advocated. We would 654 have preferred to see a reduction in prices rather than the use of this mechanism, but if this mechanism is to be used, we would be strongly opposed to any exemptions. The present proposals would mean that those excluded from the levy would amount to 7 per cent. of United Kingdom milk producers, but would exclude between 20 per cent. and 30 per cent. of other nations' producers. That would be totally unacceptable to the United Kingdom Government.
In regard to the green pound, we believe that this is an important mechanism over the lifetime of this Parliament, to see that British farmers can compete on equal terms with farmers throughout the Community. Therefore, throughout this Parliament we shall be pursuing the policy advocated in our manifesto, involving devaluation of the green pound, to bring that about.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Deptford that it is nonsense to add to cost, particularly in areas where the Community cannot itself produce the food. I would like to see changes in the situation relating to hard wheat in order to avoid the absurd position where there is not enough hard wheat available in Europe and where we have to pay a levy on imports into Britain.
On the question of a possible sheep-meat regime in the Community, I am willing objectively to examine such a proposal, provided that it does not have the weaknesses of previous regimes in respect of other stocks and commodities, provided that it ends the discrimination against British exports to France, and provided that we recognise and retain the position relating to the access of New Zealand products to our market. The impending court cases make this an urgent matter in regard to France. I emphasise that we are willing to examine a regime which will benefit the efficient and cost-effective farmers in the United Kingdom.
I turn in the few moments left to me in this debate to fishing policy. I accept the remarks of the right hon. Member for Deptford on that subject. It is a most complicated subject and, as he said, there is a diversity of interest within this country involving a number of varying problems. One could go for one solution that was superb for one element in one area of fishing but disastrous for another. We 655 shall keep in close consultation with the industry in any negotiations.
It would be an advantage to have a sensible Community common fisheries policy. We shall negotiate in a spirit of endeavouring to obtain one, but, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said both before and since the election, we shall insist on obtaining recognition of our legitimate interests to achieve a fair and lasting settlement. This must, in my view, provide for effective conservation measures, fair shares of available quotas for the United Kingdom, reflecting our losses of fishing opportunities in distant waters, and the proportion of fish resources in waters within our fishing limits. Satisfactory arrangements must be made on access, including an adequate exclusive zone to protect inshore fishing interests.
We must recognise that there are problems in a long delay in obtaining a European fishing policy. We must seek a solution that covers all the points that I have made. It may not be possible, and if that is so our position will be based fullheartedly and strongly on the principles I have declared.
§ Mr. John Silkin
I am not pressing the right hon. Gentleman, but has he had time to consider that there are certain conservation measures due on 1 June?
§ Mr. Walker
I am grateful. On the question of the introduction of national conservation measures, I am convinced that further action to conserve fishing stocks is needed. Whilst we recognise that Community measures would, by definition, be wider and could, over the whole problem, be more effective in protecting the stocks than national action would be, we shall not hesitate to introduce national measures ourselves if necessary.
We will proceed with the increase in mesh size announced by the previous Government on 22 March. The right hon. Gentleman knows—because other hon. Members contacted him when he was Minister—that there have been representations in the industry about the practical difficulty of having the new mesh ready for 1 June. I shall now formally make a new regulation on mesh size to take effect on 1 July, which I think will ease the problem of a number of fishermen, but I think that the principle of bringing in 656 a conservation measure at the earliest possible time remains the policy of this Government. I shall be placing the appropriate statutory instrument for it to become operative from 1 July.
As for the general position in the fishing industry, we shall obviously attend a meeting of the Fishing Council, probably at the beginning of July or the end of June. We shall be going, having made clear to the members of that Council the basic interests that we believe it is vital to preserve for this country.
The role of agriculture in terms of the European policy is of immense financial and social importance. I recognise the problems of some of the other Ministers in the Community—the social problems which they face, with substantial numbers of small farmers who are not efficient economic units—but I do not believe that the right way to tackle that social problem is purely by using the instrument of the common agricultural policy. We must, in understanding their problems, look to wider solutions and bring in the type of regional aid that will solve those problems in a much more rational and logical way. It will certainly be my objective to discuss that with my colleagues in Europe.
There are considerable problems in British agriculture at this time. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the price of milk would be stable until October. He based that prediction upon a 5 per cent. increase in wages. By the time he had left office the increase in wages was 15 per cent. The cost of machinery and fertilisers is also soaring. I recognise the problems facing a whole range of British farming interests as we take part in discussions. My task is to see that farming interests are provided with confidence for the future, and to do battle for those interests in the discussions that take place in the Community. My task is also to see that in the economic strategy of this Government, which is one of economic expansion, they are given the opportunity to play a very full role. They have immense opportunities in import saving and have, I believe, bigger opportunities than previously conceived in exports, particularly in manufactured foodstuffs.
I very much hope that during the period of this Government we can help 657 British agriculture to play a prominent and leading role in the expansion of our economy. I am sure that it is in the interests of the industry and in the interests of the United Kingdom that these policies should be pursued within a European framework. I return to the manner in which I started my speech this afternoon by saying that for Britain the economic dangers of the coming decade are considerable, as are the economic opportunities, and I believe that it is within a European context that we can best take advantage of those opportunities.
§ Debate adjourned—[Mr Brooke.]
§ Debate to be resumed on Monday next.