§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Ian Gilmour)
Before we begin our debate, I wish to say how shocked the Government and people of the United Kingdom are to hear of the series of earthquakes that occurred near Naples in Italy last night. The loss of life and damage have been appalling. I am sure that the whole House will wish to convey its sympathy to the Italian nation.
Her Majesty The Queen has sent a message to the President of Italy. The Prime Minister, who was in Rome for talks with the Italian Government when news of the disaster was received, expressed her sympathy personally to the President and Prime Minister. There are no reports so far of casualties among British residents or tourists in the area, but unfortunately reports are still incomplete. We have been in touch with the Italian authorities about possible aid from Britain. They have said that they are not in need of any immediate supplies. But we shall be considering what we may be able to contribute at the reconstruction stage.
Traditionally, debates on foreign policy are less partisan than debates on most other subjects. That is as it should be. Even more than domestic policies, foreign policy requires a consistency of action and purpose for it to be effective. Obviously, full bipartisanship is usually not feasible. But in the debate on the Address last year there was a considerable amount of agreement, and so far as I can remember I did not criticise the previous Labour Government or Foreign Secretary at all. Indeed, since then, in the exchanges and debates that we have had with the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) there has been a large area of fairly common ground. The memory of office was still fresh in the minds of the Opposition Front Bench, which had not yet lost touch with the real world. But that era has evidently now come to an end. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said last week, the Opposition appear to have no foreign policy. All the observer has to go by is a series of confusing and contradictory declamations and statements.
The Government, however, have to operate in the real world. In the real world, the Atlantic Alliance and the European Community are the bases of our foreign policy. They are the indispensable framework within which successive British Governments have organised the 224 defence and promotion of our national interests. We have no doubt about their value, and we shall work to strengthen them. The Atlantic Alliance is a voluntary association of free and sovereign States. Unlike the Warsaw Pact, it is not the hegemony of a super-Power masquerading as an alliance. It has kept the peace for 30 years and is the foundation of our security. Naturally, it requires constant consultation between its members to maintain its vigour. We shall work to enhance the harmony of allied consultations. We look forward to establishing close contacts with the new American Administration.
Security depends primarily on the material resources devoted to defence. I shall not detain the House with the numbing statistics of Soviet military power—the SS20s, the battle cruisers or the giant submarines. Nor need I speculate on the Soviet Union's motives for the acquisition of military capability far beyond the needs of self-defence. Its aggression and subversive policies are as undeniable as Soviet military might. We cannot just ignore them. It is our fundamental duty to ensure the nation's security and take, together with our allies, the necessary measures to maintain a credible defence. Therefore, the Government are improving the effectiveness of our Polaris submarines by means of the Chevaline programme. That is why we have decided to replace Polaris with Trident to maintain our independent deterrent into the nineties and beyond. That is why we are introducing a new main battle tank, Challenger, to counter the growing power of Warsaw Pact forces in Europe.
These measures are not cheap. They have had to be taken at a time when there is a severe shortage of resources in many other areas. But a credible defence is not an alternative to schools, housing and social services. It is the only guarantee of our security and way of life. The Government therefore raised their spending on defence by 3 per cent. in real terms in the last financial year, in line with the NATO target. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just told the House, defence expenditure is now expected to grow by some 2½ per cent. both this year and next.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Will my right hon. Friend say what international factors have changed the position so as to justify a reduction from 3 per cent. to 2½ per cent.? When he speaks of credibility, what nuclear policy has any credibility if the Opposition, for the first time since the war, have said in the words of their Leader that the installation of cruise missiles in Britain would be countermanded by a future Labour Government?
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
I shall come to the second part of my hon. Friend's question in a minute. On his first point, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear that it is not developments in the international position that have brought about the reduction. No member of the Government relished any cuts in the defence programme, but because of the general economic position they were inevitable.
I wish to ask the Opposition a question. Are they in favour of NATO or not? The leader of the Italian Communist Party is, but I am less sure about the British Labour Party. It is true that at Blackpool the Labour Party conference rejected a resolution to renounce NATO. However, the rejection of that resolution was immediately contradicted by the passing of three other resolutions. The conference decided in favour of unilateral nuclear 225 disarmament by Britain, and it also decided to get rid of all nuclear weapons and bases in this country. And, not content with unilateral nuclear disarmament by Britain, the Labour Party conference went on to adopt a resolution opposingBritish participation in any defence policy based on the use or threatened use of nuclear weapons.This is a clear rejection of the strategy on which NATO is based, and would in a short time lead to Britain's departure from NATO.
On the very day before the Labour Party decided to repudiate the defence policy which it had supported with one short hiccup since the days of Attlee and Bevin, the then leader of the Labour Party, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), said that Labour would not vote for unilateral disarmament and that, if it did, Labour would be saying "Stop the world, we want to get off." Everything that the Labour Party has done since then indicates that that is exactly what it wants to do. To give him his due, the new leader of the Labour Party got off about 20 or 30 years ago. He was a fervent unilateralist then, as now. Of course, he clambered back on again from about 1972 to 1979. But everybody agrees that that period was a rather unfortunate experiment.
Released from office, the Leader of the Opposition has become a unilateralist again. He tells us that we should give up our nuclear weapons and that he would certainly send cruise missiles back to America.
The right hon. Gentleman's nostalgia for Aldermaston marches and Trafalgar Square in the fifties and sixties is certainly endearing, though a little self-indulgent, but it does not provide a basis of any sort for a foreign policy in the eighties. Whatever the delusions of the Leader of the Opposition, the rest of the world is not just waiting for a middle-ranking European Power to cast away its nuclear weapons in order joyfully to follow suit.
Does anyone seriously think that the Soviet Union would make concessions on its own armaments if it thought that the West was going to disarm anyway? Of course it would not. So, as I have shown, the policy of the Labour Party conference implies Britain's departure from NATO.
Is that also the policy of the Parliamentary Labour Party? Has the Parliamentary Labour Party also gone unilateralist overnight? Does it now want to leave, having held the contrary view for over 30 years? We look forward to hearing from the right hon. Gentleman shortly.
We know that adequate strength is indispensable to our survival. Of course, measures for the control and reduction of armaments are a necessary complement to this. No one in this House wishes to see an arms race. The Government remain deeply committed to pursuing arms control and disarmament. We are convinced that this is an essential part of our wider security policy. But arms control cannot be negotiated from weakness.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
If the right hon. Gentleman really means that, what precisely are the instructions that have been given to the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who seems to many of us to have been active in the capacity of a wrecker at the Madrid conference?
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
I shall address myself to the Madrid conference later. If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman has 226 made a fairly ridiculous comment. I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman can have been following the events at Madrid with his customary care and closeness.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
My right hon. Friend may not be aware that I have recently returned after sitting for four weeks in the First Committee on Disarmament at the 35th General Assembly of the United Nations. I listened for four weeks to the speeches on disarmament of the representatives of various countries. Is it not absurd to fall for the hypocrisy and cynicism of the Socialist line, as the Opposition do, when at this very moment, while Afghans are being killed daily, the Russians are about to introduce into the committee a resolution entitled "Urgent Measures for the Prevention of War"?
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
I was intimately aware of my hon. Friend's movements. I knew that he was closely involved in these matters. I value his comment.
The right course is to explain that no one can win the arms race and that the only sensible answer for both sides is to call a halt and together to decide on a step-by-step process to maintain the balance at a lower level of expenditure and armament. We are convinced that that is the only approach that stands a chance of success. We therefore welcome the United States-Soviet talks on TNF, and we shall continue to play our part in MBFR and CTB negotiations.
Greater cohesion and strength among Western nations will also reassure our friends in the Third world. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a salutary shock to many of them. The Soviet Union stood revealed as an aggressive, expansionist Power, whatever the motives that may be dreamt up to explain its actions. Its championship of the non-aligned was seen as a hollow facade. We shall continue to champion the right of the Afghan people to live under a Government of their choice. We believe that the only solution is a withdrawal of Soviet troops and a return to neutral, non-aligned status. We shall help Pakistan and other nations affected by the conflict to bear the burdens that it has imposed upon them. In all this, our policy is in common with the 110 other members of the United Nations which voted for the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly last Thursday, which again condemned the Soviet occcupation.
The House has been following recent events in Poland closely and anxiously. Our view is clear. Poland must be allowed to work out its own destiny. We have no intention of interfering, and we trust that the same is true of every other Government. Many other Governments have in fact made statements disclaiming any thought of intervention, and these we note and welcome. The internationalisation of events in Poland would mean the end of detente. I hope that is absolutely clear to all concerned.
In the troubled international situation, we must keep open our channels of communication both across the Atlantic and to the East. We in Britain can do more to develop our contacts with Eastern Europe. It is in our economic. strategic and other interests to do so. East and West are in fact meeting at this moment at the CSCE review conference in Madrid. We hope that it will reduce East-West tension and increase co-operation within Europe.
The Helsinki process brought hope to millions and should not be thrown away. But it depends on confidence 227 and trust. These cannot be built on falsehood. That is why the Western nations were united in insisting that the past record of implementation must be thoroughly examined before new proposals were considered. This is now happening. If all nations are genuinely prepared to honour their commitments, further progress can be made.
Before passing from East-West to North-South, I want to say a word about another potential arena of East-West tension—the Middle East. The search for stability in that area and the removal of opportunities for outside exploitation must be one of our prime objectives. The present conflict in the Gulf is of immediate and grave concern. It has caused a serious dislocation of oil supplies and has threatened to spread to other States in the Gulf. The action we and other Western Powers have taken in the Gulf has increased safety in the area and enabled vital shipping to continue. It is unfortunately difficult to foresee an early end to the Iran-Iraq war, but we shall assist any attempts at mediation in every way possible and meanwhile work to limit the conflict.
But the Arab-Israel dispute remains a central cause for concern in the longer run. We and our European partners will continue the search for a just and lasting settlement. The Venice declaration of last June set out principles which we believe could lead to such a settlement. This should in our view ensure that the Palestinians can determine their own future and that Israel can live in peace and security. The Nine will be considering how to continue talks with the parties concerned, with the aim of securing their agreement to these principles and creating the necessary climate of confidence between the parties. We shall also, of course, keep in close touch with the United States, whose role remains indispensable.
I come now to North-South questions and the Brandt report. We fully accept that the harmonious development of relations between developed and developing countries is vital in the common interest. We accept that the outlook for the developing countries is very serious. We accept that if mounting recession and oil prices hit us hard, their effect on the poorest countries is devastating.
We do not agree with every prescription that has been put forward either in the Brandt report or in other fora. We believe that it would be unwise to destroy viable institutions which took a long time to set up, but we believe that such institutions should adapt to take account of changing circumstances.
Thus, we have, for example, agreed to the doubling of the World Bank's capital. We support its increased lending for structural adjustment. We have also taken parliamentary action to contribute some $1.2 billion to the sixth replenishment of the International Development Association. In the trade field, after the conclusion of the common fund negotiations, a new international cocoa agreement was signed in Geneva last week, in which we took an active part. All these are measures of significant benefit to developing countries.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)
Surely, one of the dilemmas is the fact that the OPEC surpluses will reach about $100 billion in the current term. If the West continues to run down its economy, how is it possible for those surpluses to be invested beneficially for both industrialised and developing nations?
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
The problem of OPEC surpluses is, indeed, basic. As the hon. Gentleman will remember, at the Venice summit conference the participants expressed a desire for a dialogue with the energy producers. That is certainly still our desire.
Our relations with the Third world are not purely economic and technological, important as these are. We also have a contribution to make to the political stability of developing countries, and we must use our influence to promote this.
I have read that the speech of the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar today may be his swan song in foreign affairs. If so, he will be missed. He will presumably be transferring his attention to economics, in which case he will be propounding the policy of the Labour Party on import controls. Whatever else may be said about import controls, one thing can be said with complete certainty—that import controls would do great damage to the developing countries. So, as usual, the Opposition are in a wholly inconsistent position. They proclaim their desire to help the less-well-off countries and then promptly adopt a policy which will do them great harm. I wish the right hon. Gentleman luck in seeking to resolve that contradiction.
We also believe that direct private investment and other financial flows from the capital markets have a major role to play in the development process. The abolition of exchange controls is one step towards this.
However, we recognise that such flows will benefit mainly the richer developing countries. For the poorer countries, official aid will be essential for a long time to come. Our aid programme has not been exempt from the cuts in public expenditure, but it is substantial none the less. In volume it is the fifth largest after the United States, Germany, France and Japan—all countries with stronger economies than ourselves—and as a percentage of GNP we are well above the average. We shall continue our efforts to improve its effectiveness and ensure that it is concentrated on those most in need. Some two-thirds of our aid now goes to the poorest countries.
I should like to reaffirm the Government's support for the voluntary agencies, which make such an important and distinctive contribution to British efforts for the poorer nations. In the current financial year, provision of £1.85 million has been made with an additional £½ million allocated for projects in Zimbabwe.
I come finally to the European Community.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with his policies for overseas students' fees, since he said that we have a political responsibility to those countries? Is he satisfied, when the only result of his policy last year was to send vast numbers of students who would otherwise have come to Western countries to Moscow? Will be review those policies?
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
All policies are always kept under review. The figures are very much a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education, but it is my understanding that the number of overseas students entering university this year has kept up remarkably well.
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
Making a success of our membership of the European Community is essential to the future security and prosperity of this nation.
As the Community's policies evolve on major world problems, the role that Britain is now playing makes a contribution of real value to Europe, to the world and to Britain itself. The political case for full participation in the Community is overwhelming. A strong and united Europe is a focus of stability in an increasingly dangerous world. The Community's voice in world economic negotiations is already powerful. States throughout the world seek to strengthen their political and economic relations with it. Greece becomes a part of it in a few weeks. Two more States are negotiating to join and have our support.
Three years ago, at the Labour Party conference, the Leader of the Opposition had this to say on the subject of enlargement. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he has to say?"] Of course we are in favour of enlargement.
The right hon. Gentleman said:All of us know that our comrades in all those countries are very eager to become members of the European Community. Speaking as an international socialist, I do not see how I, as an international socialist, or this movement, could say that we would slam the door in the face of our comrades from Greece, Portugal and Spain.That was well said, but, of course, at that time the right hon. Gentleman was in office. Now, instead of wanting to slam the door in the faces of Portugal and Spain, he wants to leave, slamming the door behind him. There is certainly nothing very international about the Leader of the Opposition these days.
However, at least the right hon. Gentleman was a bit nearer the truth than was the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar at Blackpool this year, who talked aboutthe incompatibility with socialist policies of what is enshrined in the Common Market doctrines and philosophies of the Common Market.
In fact, there is scarcely a Socialist party in Europe that does not support the Community.
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
In Portugal the only party to oppose entry is the Communist Party, and in Spain not even the Communist Party is against accession. Obviously, like the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman believes that facts confuse his arguments.
It is the British Labour Party that is the odd man out.
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
That, I think, is true.
We know that the Labour conference wants Britain to leave the Community. So does the right hon. Gentleman, who made that clear in his speech in Blackpool, in which he said a number of things that were quite untrue. We suspect that that great international Socialist, the Leader of the Opposition, also wants to leave this international grouping. However, what is the policy of the Parliamentary Labour Party? I cannot believe that all Labour Members are prepared to change their policy on Europe every time Labour wins or loses an election.
We shall have to wait to see whether the Parliamentary Labour Party is prepared to be dictated to by all those charming, moderate and civilised people whom we saw on 230 our television screens at Blackpool. Somebody used the phrase "Left-wing fascists". Whatever they were, they did not look fit to control the destinies of a once great party.
Those who argue that membership of the Community has damaged this country's economic interests seem to me fundamentally misguided. They disregard the fact that well over 40 per cent, of our trade is now with the European Community and that since we joined the Community our exports to the Common Market have risen by 350 per cent., compared with an increase to the rest of the world of only 200 per cent. How many times do we have to point out that the Common Market now provides us with an irreplaceable and relatively stable market in difficult world trading conditions and that our trade performance in the Community since we joined has been rather better than our trade performance with the world as a whole? Moreover, investors from outside the Community are encouraged to come here to gain access to this market.
§ Mr. Marlow
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I should be grateful if in future, when he talks about trade with the rest of Europe, he could point out what has happened to trade in manufactured goods over the past three years with the Six. There was a deficit of £1,000 million three years ago, it was £2,000 million two years ago and it was a massive £3,000 million one year ago. Will he, in future, not always confuse the issue by bringing in trade in oil? Of course, there is a difference when one considers trade in oil. Oil is a currency like gold or any other commodity.
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
I tell my hon. Friend what I told him before. The issue does not confuse others, but, apparently, confuses only him. The export-import ratio in trade manufactures with all countries declined from 115 per cent, in 1978 to 105 per cent, in 1979. For the EEC it fell from 87 per cent, to 82 per cent., and for the United States from 92 per cent, to 82 per cent. We therefore did better than the rest of the world.
The European market is one in which Britain can, and must, succeed if we are to survive as a major industrial and trading nation. We can certainly do a lot better in the Community: we should certainly do a lot worse outside it.
The Government are working successfully for a Community with better balanced policies, which will further its development as well as being more in tune with Britain's interests. The 30 May budget agreement provided an important interim remedy to the inequities of our net contribution. More important, in the longer term it provided a firm Community pledge to resolve the budget problem by structural change. With our partners we shall be working for this in the coming two years. Structural improvement requires reforms in the common agricultural policy to eliminate wasteful surpluses and to reduce the policy's cost. To describe the abolition of the common agricultural policy as reform is not convincing. We reject that approach. There is nothing wrong with the objectives of the CAP as set out in the Treaty. We have to improve the manner in which they are implemented.
The Opposition have never learnt that we shall not win support for British objectives in the Community if our 231 attitude is grudging and carping. It is because the Government are seen to be committed to the Community that they have succeeded in improving Community policies, and that is how we shall continue—working within the framework of the Community Treaties to secure the reforms that we need and taking into account the fundamental interests of our partners. For, if we are not prepared to have some regard for their fundamental interests, why should we expect them to have regard for ours?
Nor am I impressed by the arguments that Parliament has in some way "surrendered" to Brussels. This Parliament, of its own free will, decided to adhere to a Treaty in common with eight other States. The Government approve Community measures and the Government are responsible to Parliament. There were no secret clauses in the Treaty. This choice was overwhelmingly endorsed on a referendum two years after entry. There is no tenable position between adherence to the Treaty and withdrawal, or any reason to think that our partners would allow us to negotiate such a position. The notion is a fig leaf for withdrawal.
The right way to further our national interests, most immediately, of course, over fisheries, is to negotiate with firmness and determination within the framework that we and previous British Governments solemnly accepted. That is what we shall do.
I have underlined the principles of our foreign policy and dealt only with the main points of present concern. I admit to grave misgivings. I wish there were more common ground between the Government and the Labour Party. There was more a year ago—and more, too, when they were in office over a decade ago. It is not the Government who have defected from the post-war consensus. It is the Opposition who have withdrawn into a neo-isolationism. In trade and European matters they ignore reality. In defence and armament policy many of them ignore history and the clear evidence of what is happening. They denounce Western defence, while complacently accepting Russia's vast rearmament programme. They treat the military security of the West as of no importance. Nothing could be more damaging to the British people.
Now is not the time to retreat into our shell. British interests demand that we should be a respected and reliable ally and a country strong enough to help solve the difficulties that beset the world. The Government intend to see that Britain lives up to its history.
§ 5.5 pm.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney and Poplar)
I shall deal with a number of the points made by the Lord Privy Seal in what I thought was a spirit of almost frivolous partisanship in an otherwise almost customarily dull and lacklustre speech.
First, however, I join him in expressing to the Italian Government and people the sympathy and sorrow that we feel as a result of the great earthquake disaster, about which we have heard so much in the past 24 hours. One is horrified at the earthquakes that have hit so many areas during the past few months. Perhaps they should reinforce our belief that when nature inflicts so much damage on so many areas it is the duty of those of us who have some 232 influence on affairs to see that in our conduct of those affairs we at least spare mankind from the disasters which are controllable.
The debate takes place at a time of great uncertainty in world affairs. Since last November major events—notably the seizure of the American hostages in the Teheran embassy, the further escalation of nuclear weaponry with the introduction of the Soviet SS20 and the NATO decision to answer with the cruise and Pershing missiles, the failure of the United States Senate to ratify the SALT II treaty, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan—have produced a chain reaction that has heightened tension and threatened peace and security throughout the world.
Meanwhile — no less important, but so often overlooked—there has been a major deterioration in the world economy, a further doubling of oil prices, the growing impoverishment of many developing nations, and spreading unemployment throughout the Western world. In the course of the four or five months since we last debated external affairs, there has been no lightening in the international scene. On the contrary, as we were reminded, no serious progress was made in the United Nations committee on disarmament in Geneva in August on such vital matters as a comprehensive test ban treaty, the banning of chemical and radiological weapons or a comprehensive programme for general disarmament.
The second review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which followed in September failed even to agree a final communique. The non-proliferation treaty still stands, but, unless progress can be made under article 6, which calls for the five nuclear Powers to halt the nuclear arms race and to begin nuclear disarmament, it is difficult to believe that the growing number of non-nuclear nations—those which have signed the treaty and those which have not — which have the capacity to manufacture nuclear devices will continue indefinitely to feel bound by the treaty's constraints.
The Gracious Speech contains a mention of the Iran-Iraq conflict. The Lord Privy Seal referred to it. It is surprising to me, however, that the Government do not link that conflict with the immense build-up of weapons in those two countries, weapons which, I agree, have been supplied to Iraq by the Soviet Union but to Iran, as with so many other countries in the Middle East, as a result of a kind of continued competition between the countries of the West. It is essential if we are to make progress and minimise the existing dangers—not only between East and West but in many other parts of the world—for us to reach agreement among ourselves and, and if possible, with others on limitation on the supply of arms.
It is remarkable that in the Gracious Speech there is no reference to that, to the non-proliferation treaty or to the world disarmament conference and the further objectives that we should still hold. These matters should unite not only both sides of the House but many nations. With the non-proliferation treaty there is a strong East-West bond upon which we should build.
There are two major uncertainties upon which I shall dwell. First are the policies yet to be announced of the American Administration to be formed when President-elect Reagan takes office in January. Second are the continuing events in Poland, to which I am glad that the Lord Privy Seal referred, and the still uncertain response to them of the Soviet Government.
233 The first of those events—the policies of the Reagan presidency—will be anxiously awaited in many parts of the world, and, indeed, in many areas of policy. It will be awaited in many countries of Latin America, where there are strife, civil war, oppression and the most horrible abuse of human rights and where American influence may be of decisive importance. One has only to recall the areas where the greatest problems have arisen in the last 12 months — Nicaragua, El Salvador and Bolivia — to recognise at once how important the stance of an incoming American President is.
My hope is—although I do not necessarily feel very confident about it—that the United States and the new presidency will, as I think President Carter had increasingly begun to recognise, look not just to short-term stability and to the backing up of conservative and apparently anti-Communist regimes but to orderly progress in those countries so that there is some chance of human rights being protected and of advancement for the peoples of those countries and, therefore, for internal peace.
In Southern Africa, I suspect that South Africa is hoping that the new United States Administration will adopt a different policy and depart from the efforts made by President Carter, with others, particularly in relation to Namibia. The Gracious Speech refers to Namibia and to the Government's efforts in that area, but the Lord Privy Seal had nothing to say about that. I had hoped that he would tell us the stage which the negotiations had now reached. The almost endless delays cannot be allowed to continue much longer. A framework of agreement has been worked out and presented to the parties involved. I strongly press upon the Government and, through them, on the South African Government that they should now accept what is inevitable, namely, that there will be a free election in Namibia, that it will be externally supervised and that South Africa must abide by the result.
In the Middle East, the impact of a new American President can and will be of major consequence. I hope very much that in the Palestinian and Israeli dispute the American President will strongly reinforce the policies of his predecessor. I believe that the next step that needs to be taken, if there is to be the chance of a settlement on the West Bank and in Gaza, is the carrying out of the full autonomy proposals which were in the Camp David agreement but which have not yet been negotiated and achieved.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
I have just returned from a visit to the United States. Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is general acceptance among the more enlightened politicians that the Camp David initiative is as dead as the dodo? Some of us had the sense to tell the House that this would happen many months ago when it was first initiated. Will my right hon. Friend qualify his comments on autonomy as being sufficient for the Palestinians, because it is not, by accepting that many people in his own party do not go along with his view on this matter?
§ Mr. Shore
I understand my hon. Friend's point, but I believe that there is great advantage in carrying out the proposals for full autonomy. The words "Camp David" perhaps have other associations, but, to me, full autonomy under those proposals means the genuine election of representatives of the Palestinian people on the West Bank 234 and in Gaza who will be able to speak for their people in subsequent dealings with the Israelis. It means the withdrawal of the omnipresent Israeli military presence on the West Bank and in Gaza to base camps. It then leaves entirely open the question of the third and ultimate step in the whole process, because it will be then, with representatives of the Palestinian people, that negotiations about the long-term future of the West Bank and Gaza can proceed.
I do not believe that those proposals and arrangements provide the full answer to the question, but I believe that they carry the issue forward in a very helpful way. I ask my hon. Friend to recognise that.
§ Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)
I do not wish to press my right hon. Friend too closely, but I think he missed the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) was trying to make. An ingredient is missing in the autonomy talks that everyone recognises must be there if they are to succeed in any way at all. Even at this stage, if one asked the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza they would say that there are people whom they see as their representatives and who should be involved, namely, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Until my right hon. Friend accepts that, Camp David or any other discussions cannot move forward.
§ Mr. Shore
The role of the PLO is a separate matter. But I believe that the elections—I am sure that we can think of arrangements to ensure that they are free and fair elections—of representatives from the West Bank and from Gaza are bound to give a new and more authoritative voice in any subsequent negotiations.
I have mentioned some of the areas in which I believe that the new American presidency will wish to declare its policy and will be of profound importance. But there is no area so important as the policy of the new Administration on the question of the limitation of nuclear weapons and the continuation of the SALT I and II process begun by his predecessor. In spite of the serious deterioration in East-West relations which followed the invasion of Afghanistan, it remains the clearly expressed intention of the Carter Administration to reintroduce the SALT II treaty into the Senate because it was and remains in the interests of the United States and its allies and of the Soviet Union that that treaty be ratified. The Lord Privy Seal expressed support for SALT when the question was last debated in the House. Unfortunately, the treaty became part of the presidential election campaign. It is now unclear whether the new Administration are seeking clarification, assurances, minor changes, minor revisions or major changes or whether it is to abandon the whole process.
This matter is crucial, because, if we are ever to get nuclear disarmament, we must first achieve nuclear arms limitation. If the SALT II process broke down or was aborted, it would be replaced by an open-ended nuclear arms race of the most dangerous kind which neither side could seriously expect to win and which both sides know would add nothing to their own security or to the maintenance of peace. I hope, therefore—I did not hear the Lord Privy Seal address himself to this subject—that Her Majesty's Government will make appropriate contacts in Washington and express plainly to President Reagan and his advisers now the overriding importance that we attach to an early resumption of the SALT II process.
235 Equally important are the SALT III negotiations, to which the Soviet Union has agreed, involving Euro strategic weapons, including the SS20 and the cruise and Pershing missiles. The offer of negotiations on both those systems was made not just by the United States but by NATO collectively and was part of the decision in principle to locate American missiles in West European countries, including our own. There is no inevitability about the introduction of those missiles, but it is crucial that negotiations take place with energy and speed. Three years as the period before the first United States missile is due to arrive in Europe may seem a long time, but the complexity of these arms limitation negotiations is such that only the most determined efforts will bring them to a conclusion even within a three-year period.
I turn now to the dramatic and continuing events in Poland. Like most hon. Members—certainly all Labour Members—I have watched with admiration and anxiety the mounting pressure of the trade unions, the human rights movement and, indeed, the people of Poland on their inefficient and oppressive regime. Under the pressure of strikes, first in Gdansk and later nationwide, the new leadership of the Polish Communist Party has been forced to make substantial concessions. These have included the creation of genuinely independent trade unions — the Solidarity movement—the right to strike, access by the Church to the news media, public recognition of the rights agreed in the 1975 Helsinki accords and a relaxation of press censorship. There is much still to be settled, but I have no doubt that left to themselves—here I echo the Lord Privy Seal's sentiments—as they should be, the Polish people can secure changes in their Communist State which are satisfactory to them and beneficial to their country.
However, the question is whether they will be allowed to do so and whether the ideological policemen in the Kremlin will permit such a shift of power within the Polish Communist State. It is almost incredible that we should have to ask such a question in the 1980s. Almost everywhere else in the world, except in the countries both occupied and liberated from Germany, by the Red Army in 1945, has the right of self-government now been conceded, and by no country as wholeheartedly as by our own, as the size of the New Commonwealth presently testifies. Yet in Eastern Europe advanced peoples and developed nations are under permanent supervision and threat. That is no exaggeration. Germany and Poland In 1953, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 have all experienced direct military repression by Soviet armed forces. The Russians judge, and Dr. Luns, the NATO secretary-general, has again affirmed, that the West will not intervene militarily in Polish affairs. They are right. But they should draw no comfort from that.
The Russians should understand that if they were once again to play the tyrant and the bully in Eastern Europe there would indeed be a price to pay. As the Lord Privy Seal said, detente has already been battered by Afghanistan, and it would grind to a halt. The Russians would find themselves totally isolated and condemned by the world community. Further, all that the Russians sought to achieve in the 1970s, culminating in the Helsinki agreement, would be lost.
Let me remind the House of the Helsinki declaration—the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co- 236 operation in Europe — which was signed in August 1975. Pride of place in the various agreements which were then recorded in the Final Act was given to the declaration on principles guiding relationships between participating States. It stated:The participating States will refrain in their mutual relations, as well as in their international relations in general, from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations and with the present Declaration.It went on to say quite specifically:No consideration may be invoked to serve to warrant resort to the threat or use of force in contravention of this principle.There is here a major commitment to non-intervention and to accepting the right of nations to govern themselves—a commitment to which Mr. Brezhnev is himself personally involved because the document carries his name. The key question is whether that commitment overrides or is itself overridden by the Brezhnev doctrine of 1968—the statements which were then made and which sought to justify the Soviet occupation of Prague on the grounds that in the Communist world the sovereignty of States is limited; that the Soviet Union has the right to intervene in the affairs of other Communist countries not only to prevent change from Communist to non-Communist forms of government but to intervene to prevent what the Soviet Union considers to be deviations within the Communist system from the only correct form of Communism itself.
In my view, that Brezhnev doctrine and the uncertainty of the whole Russian approach to its Communist neighbours, are one of the fundamental causes of instability in the world today. No doubt the Madrid conference, at last under way, will review the whole complex of European relationships, including the major question of mutual security and the observance of human rights, but I do not think that we shall get far until this great question is solved. Sooner or later we must engage the Russians not in a propaganda dialogue or in an accusatory and public forum, but in a serious discussion of the future of Eastern Europe.
The Russians have a long and, indeed, all too recent history of insecurity and invasion from powerful countries of the West. That must be recognised and understood, because it still greatly influences the thinking of the men who dominate Soviet policy, in spite of massive changes in power relationships. They are old men who have lived their lives through the double invasion, near-disaster and disintegration of their country. Russian forward bases in Eastern Europe and the Warsaw Pact are, therefore, likely to exist for many years to come. Unless and until there is an improvement in the whole East-West relationship, both NATO and the Warsaw Pact will continue, with the presence of American troops in the West and of Russian troops in East European countries.
The question for the Russians to consider is whether the Warsaw Pact—which at least in the light of history we understand — is in future to be buttressed by the Brezhnev doctrine. I believe that the whole system in Eastern Europe is dangerously unstable. The desire for national freedom and self-government is a strong and abiding force in human affairs. Therefore, the assertion of the right of self-government will arise again and again until eventually it succeeds and wins the freedom and national self-expression in which all men believe. I do not think that it is in the interests of the Soviet Union itself to 237 continue to sustain so outmoded, old-fashioned and imperialist a relationship. In the years ahead we must find ways of reaching understanding that combine the abandonment of the Brezhnev doctrine with the acceptance of Soviet strategic and security needs. I believe that that should be one of the major tasks of the political strategy of the West.
My reflection on Eastern Europe and Afghanistan leads me to many conclusions. Desirable changes that will assist the maintenance of world peace cannot be brought about by military means alone. Certainly, if Eastern Europe and, I suspect, Afghanistan, too, are to be free to rule themselves again, it is through negotiation and economic and political pressures, not military force, that desirable change will be achieved. The further proliferation of nuclear weapons on either side will contribute nothing to this end. We agree that the balance of military power must be sustained, and, of course, we shall remain members of NATO. That balance can be achieved at a higher or a lower level of armaments, and it is the lowest possible level that all sense surely argues for.
Indeed, the over-emphasis on military response, which was so clear in the Lord Privy Seal's speech, is in my view a principal failing of Western policy today—a failing certainly shared by the Government, whose policies include a massive new expenditure on Trident, of which we are not persuaded and which we shall certainly oppose. Although we cannot, and do not, ignore military dangers, in a large part of the world military solutions will not work, and there is a far greater threat to political security and stability, as well as to the friends that we have, through economic disorder than there is through external military forces.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
As always, I find myself in agreement with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman has so eloquently said. He has said plainly that the party for which he speaks will oppose the Trident missile purchase. Will be say plainly—it is a matter of interest to both sides of the House—whether the Labour Party would send home the American cruise missiles if they were already installed here when a Labour Government took office and whether, if they had not been installed here under NATO's strategy, a Labour Government would prevent their being installed?
§ Mr. Shore
I have said what I have to say about Trident. On the question of cruise, we have three years before the first cruise missile will even be manufactured and available. We have the time, but we must also have the will to use those three years to ensure that we do not have cruise missiles in Western Europe and that the Soviet Union's SS20s are dismantled and removed. That is the joint objective that we must sustain.
§ Mr. Shore
No, I shall not give way at the moment. I know what the hon. Gentleman will ask me, and I say to him straight away that I have no right, nor has anyone else the right, to say at this stage what our reaction will be if those negotiations fail. I know what I shall say if those negotiations fail, but I do not start on the assumption that before negotiations have started I have to state what I shall do or say.
It is on the outlook for the world economy that I have the deepest forebodings. Last Thursday the OECD met in 238 Paris and updated its forecasts for economic growth. It stated that in 1981 the economic growth for the OECD member countries—Japan, America, Western Europe and Australia—isunlikely to exceed 1 per cent.Even in 1982, 2 per cent, is considered to be the top range of the achievement. In 1980, we shall be lucky if growth reaches one half of 1 per cent.
The immediate effects are all too obvious. Unemployment in the OECD area continues to rise. The 24 million who are now out of work will rise to at least 25 million by the end of next year. The loss of production and the output of wealth is simply staggering. The occasion of this further downturn in the world economy is the further doubling of oil prices 12 months ago, which will leave the oil exporters with a surplus of no less than $150 billion this year and $175 billion in 1981. Consequently, the balance of payments deficit in 1981 of the OECD countries will be no less than $95 billion, and for the non-oil developing countries it will be no less than $89 billion.
The danger of the world slump should be in the forefront of our minds. The nearest the Gracious Speech comes to the problem is when it states that the Governmentrecognise the serious economic problems … and will continue to work with other countries and international organisations in seeking to alleviate them.In their response to the Brandt commission report, in their cuts in overseas aid and in their pricing out of higher education poorer students from overseas countries, the Government have shown an incomprehension and indifference, and they have done so in an appalling way. At the Venice summit of the Seven last June, the influence of the British Government was placed wholly on the side of deflation and on the West's passive acceptance of the consequences for the developing world of the deflationary results. The British attitude was immortalised in a non-attributable briefing: "They have their problems, we have ours."
The folly of that approach is that the problems relate to each other. About 14 percent, of United Kingdom exports and 12 per cent, of United Kingdom imports go to and come from Third world non-oil countries. It is a substantial part of our trade, and if those countries can no longer finance imports from us—most of them are now having to spend up to 70 per cent, of their export earnings in order to finance minimum necessary quantities of oil—we shall not be able to export to them.
The political consequences are likely to be even more serious. In the West, unemployment and recession are politically destabilising. During the past few months we have seen the collapse of a representative Government in Turkey, and extremist parties of the Right and Left are drawing new support in Spain, Portugal, Italy and elsewhere. In many developing countries the fall in living standards, added to political repression, will lead to conflicts of the most dangerous sort. In Latin America—Nicaragua, E1 Salvador, Bolivia and Guyana—revolution, civil war and repression have already taken place. In many countries in Africa, too, regimes are undergoing pressure. I shall mention only one—Zimbabwe, where our direct recent involvement is fresh in our minds. That country needs more aid, and it needs it now. The resettlement and demobilisation of the separate guerrilla armies are the most pressing problem. 239 It would be a tragedy if, through lack of short-term assistance, that country were to be plunged into further and ruinous strife.
Worse, as we all know—I take the Lord Privy Seal's point here—protectionism is growing. The OECD area could, if present trends were reinforced, relapse into a trade war in which North America, Japan and the Common Market awere ranged against each other. Much of the discussion in Strasbourg now is precisely about how Japanese imports into the EEC can be limited. This is a major problem for us all. To solve the problems, and, above all, to reach a stable arrangement with the OPEC countries so that every time oil prices are raised the rest of the world is not plunged into deeper recession, requires a major and imaginative initiative. Yet all we have are the stalest platitudes from the Government about inflation.
It is the mention of platitudes that brings me inevitably and necessarily to the last subject on my agenda today—the European Economic Community. The Gracious Speech refers to the Government'sstrong commitment to the European Community".I sometimes think that it would be more important to see a commitment by the EEC to Britain. I need not speak at length on this subject because our position has been stated on many occasions in the past year in previous debates. But we remain profoundly dissatisfied with the continuing arrangements of the EEC, and in particular with the package of measures which the Government agreed in May last year.
I wonder how much in the past few weeks departmental Ministers have lamented the fact that the Prime Minister has abandoned her original objective of a broad balance in Britain's contributions and receipts from the EEC budget. I have a feeling that there cannot be many Ministers who would not have found the £371 million to be paid this year and the £445 million to be paid next year a useful addition to their own programmes.
We all know that the Government hope that the forthcoming discussions will lead to changes in the CAP and in the Community budget on a long-term basis. I am entirely sceptical about that. Changes in the CAP have been on the agenda since the days of Dr. Mansholt in the mid-1960s. Whatever chance there may be of change, it will not have been assisted by the encomium delivered on the CAP by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food last week. We all know that the Cabinet, from the Prime Minister downwards, decided to engage in what I can only call a Community love-in. What I fear, however, is that the right hon. Lady's wooing will be no more successful than was her scolding 12 months ago. I am not surprised at the recent formation of a Conservative European reform group—not at all.
§ Mr. Cormack
As somebody who is not a member of that group, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? He talks about President-elect Reagan and about the need for the world to know what his policies are. It is even more necessary that we in this House should know where the right hon. Gentleman stands. Is the Parliamentary Labour Party now committed to coming out of the EEC or to staying in? Can we have a clear and unequivocal statement on that?
§ Mr. Shore
Before the hon. Gentleman intervened, I was going to say how warmly I agreed with the reform 240 group's points, including the ending of the common agricultural policy and the restoration to national Governments of control over agricultural policy, the reform of the system of financing the Community budget to ensure that no State has to carry an unfair share of expenditure and the right to take action against dumping by third countries—and, I would say, in regard to trade generally. The final point is the reassertion of the powers of national Parliaments.
I was asked to state my position. We, too, have come to the conclusion that a fundamental change in our relationships with the EEC—broadly on the lines that commend themselves to the Conservative European reform group—is required. I look forward to the emergence—which I have always sought to build—of a great consensus in this House, stretching across the House, on the propositions that I now wish to put forward.
This is why we are determined—and I use a phrase that has become current in a Canadian context—to insist on patriating the British constitution. That is the word—"patriating". It means restoring the legal and fiscal powers of Parliament from Brussels here to Westminster, where they properly belong. With the repeal of the major part of the European Communities Act 1972, we shall face the European Community in an entirely different way—as equals. From that point we shall proceed in the way that discussion and events dictate, and I have no fears as to the outcome of those discussions.
The Queen's Speech and the speech that we heard from the Lord Privy Seal this afternoon are dangerously deficient on the key questions that face us. First, there are an all too obvious obsession with the military aspects of security and far too strong an emphasis on the nuclear weapons as part of that approach.
Indeed, looking at the totality of Britain's external policies, there is now a growing and gross imbalance between military expenditure and expenditures on aid, overseas representation and other expenditures which could contribute to our external influence and our external policy.
Furthermore, we are committed to absolute levels of defence expenditure which I do not believe we can sustain—certainly not with the declining national income that we are experiencing and to which we yet can foresee no end.
Towards the Soviet Union there is as yet no sign of serious thinking about this Government's policy or, indeed, about a contribution to a co-ordinated Western policy which has the prospect of influencing the Soviet Union towards new and more hopeful courses of conduct.
In the Third world—by far the most dangerous and unstable part of the world, where the opportunities for destabilisation and for the growth of Soviet power are greatest—there is a total failure by the Government to understand what the problems are and how their own policies are contributing to the deepening of what could be a catastrophic recession. What we have to do is to devise an economic strategy that will give some hope of once again restoring sustainable growth to the world economy.
It is very disappointing to me that I am faced with a Queen's Speech that is so lacking in real remedies to the very great problems that I deeply understand and deeply worry about.
§ Sir Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I am sure that the whole House will have listened with great attention to the powerfully long speech delivered by the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore). I must confess that I find myself in agreement with quite a considerable amount of it.
In the past few days we have had a large number of historical allusions concerning the disasters which face us, among them 1931, the slump of 1929 and the bankers' crash of 1882. It is fair to recall to the House that perhaps the most apt historical analogy is the year 1919, although history never repeats itself, except in speeches by politicians, as the late Professor Hal Fisher remarked. The position in 1919 was not entirely different from the desperate position in which the world finds itself today.
In 1919 the Soviet Union was engaged in a civil war. In 1919 there was a complete breakdown of peace in the Middle East. Many of the Western countries, including Germany and Hungary, were suffering from the ravages of a most desperate inflation. That is the sort of situation which could face the world today.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the answers to these problems should be not military but political and economic. That is a dangerous thing to say when the Gulf war, threatening oil supplies, has broken out in the last 10 weeks and when we have seen the ruthless invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. The debate is rightly couched, therefore, in terms of both foreign policy and defence.
In one area I totally agree with some of the things to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred and to which there has not been sufficient reference by the Government. The root of the problem today is oil. It is not just the increase in the price of oil but the fact that the oil revenues are largely in the hands of Governments who are unable or unwilling to recirculate that money into the economy of the developed or undeveloped world.
The only area in which there has been major investment, I regret to say, by the dictators or sheikhly families—or those few hundred groups who at the moment hold the economy of the world at threat and at risk—has been in armaments. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is appalling to think what the West is still doing in pouring armaments—even at this moment—into the Middle East. The French Government especially are pouring Mirage fighters into Iraq.
Eighty thousand million dollars has been spent on armaments by the Arab Powers—other than Egypt—in the last seven years. This is still going on and the orders are there today. That is why we must consider this central problem very seriously. The price of oil will go up again this year. That will mean that the unspent surplus will rise, even after they have bought all the F14s and F15s that they can. It will be running at $200 million or $300 million unless there is a world crash and a world slump. That is the problem to which the Government should apply their mind. Western leaders and those who meet in Brussels, Venice or wherever should give it top priority. It is the biggest problem facing us.
I should like to run through some of the mistakes that the West has made in the past few years in the Middle East. There are two general categories. First, the Americans betrayed the man whom they thought could hold the balance, namely, the Shah. Perhaps they thought that by 242 doing so they could find an answer to such problems. Secondly, in 1973, after the great meeting of the Nine in Copenhagen had been suddenly invaded by OPEC chiefs, the Nine thought that the answer to the flow of Middle East oil was to be beastly to the Israelis. They thought that in return for attacking the Israeli position they could get a free flow of Arab oil. Both of those accounts are, in general, true. Perhaps they exaggerate the position and make it seem more ludicrous than it appears to the holders of those policies. However, the Americans and the British Government should reconsider their policies.
If the Gulf war, which is now in deadlock, spreads or if, as a result of the deadlock, the regimes in Iraq and Iran collapse with a further increase in instability in the Gulf, a grave military problem will have to be faced. I disagree with the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar, because he claims that such matters can be solved by diplomacy and politics. There is a point at which such problems cannot be solved in that way. That is why I am convinced that the British Government should consider protecting our interests, and those of our friends overseas, through military means, if needs be. It is no good asking NATO to do that. It is the very essence of NATO that it cannot, in the short term, operate outside Europe.
It is no good asking EEC Ministers to operate outside Europe, however bold their declarations at Venice may have been. Those Ministers may gather together, but the EEC has no military power. When the Ministers hold a conference, they do not meet at a conference of war. The EEC is a coffee shop above a bazaar. That is its strength. It is no more than a restaurant run by the French Government and by Emperor Bokassa's hunting companions-in-chief. If NATO has no power to undertake operations outside Europe, the EEC has even less. Those great Ministers who assemble in Venice or wherever cannot take action unless they are prepared to send out a Luxembourg army, in all its glory. That is the military power and strength of the EEC.
Unpleasant though it may be, the time has come for the Government to consider how they can protect our interests. The British Government have acted well in the past. For example, the operations in Zimbabwe and Belize were conducted brilliantly by British forces. If we assume that the United States of America will continue to protect the sea lanes and the oil of Europe for ever, we shall be challenging the Americans — particularly after Camp David—to say that they have had enough and that we must do something ourselves. That is why we must turn our attention to the difficult problem.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has done very well, because he has retained most of his budget without a cut. The Germans will reduce their budget by around half of 3 per cent, and other NATO Powers will carry out even greater reductions. That will upset NATO's balance, particularly as there is a new President in America.
The Government will face two problems. The NATO commitment of 3 per cent, per annum for three years will mean that it will prove almost impossible to afford the Trident missile. That element in the budget will have to go.
We have spent a great deal of money on Chevaline, and Polaris will remain effective until the 1990s. I shall not go into boring military arguments, but Trident is not an accurate military weapon. It is, essentially, an inter-city terror weapon. In the next few years we may find 243 something more effective. Perhaps some of my right hon. and hon. Friends will be shocked by such a declaration. However, if we wish to safeguard world peace, we must have the capacity to do something major outside Europe, and that must mean a major reallocation of funds.
I turn to a subject that I have raised before. If we wish to mount an expeditionary or emergency force, such as the Americans are deploying in Egypt at this very hour, and if we wish to maintain our NATO commitment, our home base will be desperately depleted. About eight months ago, I asked the Government to reconsider some form of national service. Perhaps they should consider it even more seriously today. We are now faced with a new factor, namely, massive unemployment among the young. Although some of the schemes that are put forward are admirable, there is a touch of the spirit of outdoor relief about them, such as one might have found in the Victorian age. Some of the young people who join those schemes will see it as a mark of failure. If we wish to maintain the morale of the population and to make people feel wanted, the argument for national service of some sort, not necessarily military, must be reconsidered.
Because of the mounting cost of weapons, we shall have to consider a system in which manpower costs are not so high. Our new aeroplane will be 30 per cent, more expensive than the F14. It will be six times more expensive than the fighter-bomber that the Israelis are building. Everywhere, one finds that the mounting cost of equipment is almost impossible to meet from a normal budget.
Lastly, in this situation, which I can compare only with the situation which faced the world for those few desperate months in 1919 when the world teetered between collapse and massive revolution, bank crashes and so on, the people of this country must make a full contribution, in line with our NATO allies, as the Americans will soon have to do, to the sustenance of the peace and safety of the world.
§ 6 pm
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
Some of my disagreement with the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) will emerge during my remarks.
At the beginning of the 1980s the prospect for ordered progress throughout the world seems rather less than at the end of the 1960s. If I were to pick out the one great change for good, it would be the shift in Chinese policy and the new openness of the Government of that great and potentially enormously powerful country. Everything that can be done to improve contact, understanding and trade with China should be encouraged.
The lesson of the 1970s is that while Britain retains considerable good will in the world at large, not least in the Commonwealth—as was constructively demonstrated in Zimbabwe—it is an illusion for us to think that we can do things by ourselves. That point came across in the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone.
Britain can make her most effective contribution in dealing with the world's economic issues, of which the most dominant in the 1970s was the oil price explosion, to which the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone referred, which had devastating effects on us and even 244 more on the underdeveloped oil-importing countries, together with political stresses, in conjunction with allies who have similar aims and outlooks.
In this regard I would go a long way to agree with the Lord Privy Seal that the two essential pillars of our foreign policy should be our relations with the United States—whatever our judgment of President-elect Reagan may be, we must work to influence him as we are bound to have a 75 per cent, better chance of success with him than with Mr. Brezhnev—and with the European Community.
Since the summer we have seen a variety of statements, by Ministers from the Prime Minister down, pledging commitment to the European Community, and this rhetoric has found expression in the Queen's Speech. I use the word "rhetoric" not pejoratively or sarcastically but to record, from my point of view, a suspension of belief in their seriousness, because there has been little evidence of it so far.
The mass media continue to concentrate on the negative aspects of the undoubtedly enormous difficulties of knitting together disparate economies and political outlooks. It has in the main been left to Liberals, to some Social Democrats in the Labour Party, to those of the Heath persuasion in the Tory Party and to our two Commissioners in Brussels to stress two fundamental issues. The first is that if we cannot succeed economically in the European Community we are unlikely to do so anywhere else. The second is that the European Community is crucial to the political stability of the Western Alliance and offers Britain the only real chance of an effective political voice in world affairs. The Government have not given any genuine political lead.
Roy Jenkins, in his Winston Churchill memorial lecture in Luxembourg on Thursday 20 November, presented the only viable scenario for progress. He spoke of the need for a sharing Community. That means, as I have said many times in the House, a larger budget. Roy Jenkins spoke of 2 per cent, of the Community's GNP and of the need to make more effective the supranational character of the Community.
I do not believe that Western democracy can advance unless at the same time it can turn its back on nationalism, which is all too evident these days on both sides of the House, and within the European Community allow communities such as Scotland and Wales to have a larger say in running their own affairs. That can be done by federal institutions.
We cannot solve any of our major problems alone, but they can be solved by joint action. It makes no difference whether we are talking about unemployment, regional decay, environmental pollution or financial instability. I should like to know the up-to-date view on EMS. Are we moving towards it, ignoring it, or considering it? Surely, we are not going to opt out of the European Court of Justice and the right of individual appeal to it.
Any acceptance of further integration, if it is to be democratic, must mean an extension of the European Parliament's powers to check, regulate and initiate. The next election for the European Parliament is due to take place in 1984. The Treaty states that it should be carried out by a common system. I understand that the political affairs committee of the European Parliament will be meeting today and tomorrow to discuss the inability of its sub-committee to reach any agreement on this matter. I also understand that a large part of the responsibility for 245 this disagreement rests with the Tory members of the committee. An earnest of the Minister's belief in democracy and fair play—it is unfair to say this to the Lord Privy Seal, because I suspect that he holds this view—would be to ensure that the next election to the European Parliament does not deny the 4 million or 5 million Liberal voters in Britain a voice in that Parliament because of a weighted and unjust system.
I complained of democratic injustice. The complaint of millions in the underdeveloped world is of the ferocious and cruel economic injustice, to which Brandt drew inspired attention and about which the member States, acting together, can do far more than Britain alone, although our experience could be of great value.
The British response to Brandt has not been adequate. Indeed, far from there being an advance, there has been a reversal. The cutting of support for overseas students, as was pointed out in an intervention, seems a particularly mean and retrograde step. Since Gladstonian morality has been the mainspring of the Liberal Party's approach to foreign affairs, many people have said that we are idealists, not practical people. But, from a practical point of view, to cut off grants for overseas students seems incredibly stupid for a trading nation desirous of maintaining links with developing countries. The Lord Privy Seal said that it was necessary to have some concern for the fundamental needs of others. If that view is fair in the context of Europe, it is equally important in the context of the Third world and the relationship between the developed and the underdeveloped world.
I turn now to the Middle East, some of the countries of which I visited in September and October with my right hon. Friend the leader of the Liberal Party and my hon. Friends the Members for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) and Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton). The Middle East provides grievous evidence of the unpredictability of events in the undeveloped and semi-developed world. There seems to be an almost ineluctable movement towards their going through similar stresses, wars, conflicts and mistakes to those through which Europe went in the first half of this century and before.
The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) referred to the West fuelling the Iraq-Iran war and the whole potential of conflict in the Middle East. I entirely agree with him that we need a very real new effort towards arms sales limitation.
With regard to the basic Israeli-Arab dispute, I would only say that it was our impression, in meetings with, among others, Mr. Yasser Arafat, King Hussein and President Assad of Syria, that there is some prospect that there are conditions in which the rejectionist States would recognise Israel and forswear violence, which is a fundamental of any agreement. Likewise, we saw some encouragement in Israel for our belief that if this were possible there could be a move towards enabling the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza to choose for themselves what their future might be. That goes, frankly, beyond autonomy. It is almost certainly true that Camp David as originally envisaged would not go much further. But this is surely not to disparage what it achieved.
In parenthesis, as a Liberal, while I would be the last person to defend the Shah of Persia, I must say, on a personal level, that the consistency of treatment shown towards him in defeat as in strength by President Sadat said much for Sadat's loyalty and honesty. He is a key figure in solving the Middle East conflict. In speaking to him, 246 one is speaking to a man of courage and optimism, which really sets a standard that many of us in the so-called advanced countries would do well to follow.
Finally, on the question of defence, we still spend too little time, energy and money—so far no one has spoken of this very much—looking at ways of improving the international machinery for stopping conflicts. What was achieved in Zimbabwe, which has been rightly referred to by a number of hon. Members with approbation, is still proceeding most successfully. I think that the contribution that the British Government are making through the Armed Forces in integrating ZANLA and ZANU forces is worthy of the highest praise. It makes evident the fact that we have expertise here, and I do not think that we are using it in any general way.
The International Peace Academy, of which, I understand, both the Minister of State and the deputy leader of the Labour Party are patrons, is doing a lot of hard practical work and deserves much more encouragement than it gets.
When we visited the Middle East, we went to see the United Nations in the Lebanon. We came away with the impression that its mandate is too restrictive to allow it to carry out its tasks successfully. One wonders how its experience is monitored. How do the Government evaluate the performance of United Nations peacekeeping forces? Are the Government working on any proposals to make their performance better—for example, through some sort of permanent command structure, which has been spoken of many times before?
The basic Liberal position on defence was clearly set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight in the House on 24 January, as reported at column 755 in Hansard and confirmed at the Liberal Party conference in Blackpool this autumn. We reject the need for this country to possess an independent nuclear deterrent. We opposed Polaris. Indeed, if we had been told that Polaris was being updated, which we were not—though, presumably, the present Leader of the Opposition was told, when in Government—we would have opposed that. We certainly oppose most strongly the Government's intention to proceed with Trident at so phenomenal a cost that no one seems to be able to estimate it to the nearest billion pounds, although it is somewhere between £4 billion and £10 billion.
I do not think that I need remind the House again of the arguments deployed by Field Marshal Carver in another place, but, quite simply, it is my view that Trident would not contribute constructively to our defence and it would be an intolerable burden. I was glad to hear the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone expressing that as his opinion, too.
To reject Trident, however, is not the same thing as unilateral disarment. I should like to take the opportunity to correct the rather muddled remark made immediately following the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) in the debate on the Address on 20 November by the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn), when he suggested that the Liberal Party supported unilateral disarmament. We do not support unilateral disarmament; we support our membership of NATO. We recognise that this implies the siting of cruise missiles on British soil, under shared control, if that becomes necessary. I quite take the point made by the right hon. Member for Stepney 247 and Poplar that we have three years to work with and we may be able to bring some pressure on the Soviet Union in that time.
Basically, there are those who hold that the best way to defend democracy, whether at home or abroad, is not to defend it physically—they are the "no defence" lobby—but, rather, by disarming unilaterally, to avoid at all costs a war that they say, in these days of nuclear proliferation, is, win or lose, the equivalent of collective suicide. That policy is perfectly respectable but, I suggest, misguided, for, if applied, a loss of freedom—perhaps a permanent loss of freedom—would be certain both for us and for some of our friends, and a general nuclear war, waged, as it were, over our heads, would still be quite possible.
On the other hand, a reasonable defence posture, if adopted, would not necessarily result in war and could well be the one way of preventing it. It is even arguable that a policy of no defence might actually promote a nuclear war, this country being fought over by Powers that might otherwise have been restrained from fighting. Unilateralism, by destabilising the present balance, would in my judgment increase the danger of war and decrease the opportunity of a settlement. Afghanistan has sadly confirmed the continuing capacity for aggression of the Soviet Union where it feels that it can safety act without serious response.
Liberals would press the Government as strongly as possible to do everything they can to further multilateral disarmament. Perhaps the most succinct expression of our view was contained in a speech by Hans Genscher, the German Foreign Secretary and leader of the German Liberals, on Thursday last, 20 November, when he said:A realistic policy of detente and co-operation is possible only on the basis of an assured equilibrium. Striving for superiority undermines this. We want to fix this equilibrium at the lowest possible level of armaments. For this reason the Western defence alliance made significant proposals in December 1979 for arms control, arms limitation and disarmament. Despite all setbacks and disappointments I am convinced that we still have the opportunity to make the 1980s a decade of disarmament.He continued briefly:The Madrid follow-up conference should therefore decide on a concrete mandate for a European disarmament conference with the participation of all signatory states".
In conclusion, as a Liberal I believe in peace. I get very annoyed by people who say that because I do not believe in unilateral disarmament I am some sort of warmonger. That is far from the case. I believe in peace. I also believe in justice. Justice sometimes requires one to take difficult decisions. I hope that the two aims will be the basis of Government foreign policy.
§ Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)
I am happy to endorse the last points made by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston). I regret to say that I was left a little unclear about the policy of his party on cruise missiles. The Liberals seem to be falling into the standard Liberal Party trick of sitting resolutely on top of the fence, but I hope that the House will later be vouchsafed a clearer view of the Liberal Party's stand on that issue.
I think that all of us in the House are clear and agreed on one thing—that we live in a world, which is very much more dangerous than it has been for very many years. That is a point about which I would even be 248 prepared to agree with the Leader of the Opposition and his friends in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. That must be common ground among all of us.
We must examine the factors that have brought us to this newly dangerous position. There are basically two. First, there are the threats posed to the stability of the world, and, indeed, to the interests of this country, by the expansionist actions and ambitions of the Soviet Union. This is an area where we can find a broad measure of agreement. I need not detain the House over the actions in Afghanistan. They are well known and well elaborated. Less well appreciated, or steadily forgotten, are the actions of the Soviet Union and its surrogates and proxies in Africa. There are still about 50,000 Soviet mercenaries in 12 or 13 countries in Africa. If such a position were maintained by Western Governments, what would the Opposition be saying?
We must take account of what the Soviet Union actually says. One is reminded of the history of the 1930s when Adolf Hitler wrote "Mein Kampf" and no one paid much attention. He tried to carry out the policies he had put forward. Moscow makes no secret of the fact that the ideological offensive must continue. During detente, the propaganda war and political warfare must continue. The Times of 18 November contained an article translated from the Soviet weekly New Times, which stated, in affirmation of the Soviet policy,:It is quite legitimate for the Russians to encourage the spread of communism throughout the worldandcountries that have become communist cannot be allowed to change their systems because that would constitute counterrevolution.This is one main contributory factor to the dangers of the world in which we live. A second factor was spelt out by Dr. Henry Kissinger a few weeks ago. I have not always been in agreement with Dr. Kissinger. I am sure that gives him little cause sleepless nights. Many of the things he is now saying are true and must be listened to. He suggested that the Powers in the West had forgotten, and become afraid of, the exercise of power. Governments exist for the exercise of power. We, in the West, have shied away from that exercise.
Those two factors have led to the dangerous world in which we live. However, the opportunity is now presented to us to improve that situation and to improve the prospects for peace. This comes from the results of a series of elections throughout the world culminating in the result of the American election on 4 November. However many excuses one may try to make for Mr. Carter and however many charitable allowances are made for the curious logic of our former Ambassador in Washington, who, in two recent articles in The Times extolling the virtues of Mr. Carter's presidency reflected only, I think, the fact that he played tennis too often on the White House lawn, there is no doubt that the Western world has been badly led.
The fact that President Carter was obliged to say last January that he had undergone a drastic change in his perception of Soviet attitudes was a sad commentary on President Carter and his advisers. Now we have a new situation and new hope. I believe that President Reagan and his advisers have a much clearer perception of the world and the possibilities for peace in the world. This offers an opportunity for all of us. We need to have the courage to exercise power. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, whenever she trusts her basic 249 instincts, has the courage to exercise power. I believe that she will find an ally in President Reagan. There is now the possibility of reconstructing really effective Western unity and co-operation. Of course, there will be differences of perception and differences of interest between us. The Germans have their problems of a divided country. France will always be France and seek a special relationship.
Britain has its own problems. I make no further reference to our problems as some of them are present. However, those issues which unite us are much stronger and more powerful than those which divide us. We believe passionately in the principles of liberty and democracy, the expansion of economic trade and non-interference. These are the areas where we can build. We shall make mistakes. People and commentators will seek anxiously to capitalise on those mistakes. If, however, we concentrate on unity, we can achieve a great deal, not necessarily in military adventures. I agree with the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) that we are not necessarily talking about military adventures, although I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) that some rapid deployment capability is necessary. Much more necessary is the courage to go back into the ideological warfare field to launch a counterattack against the attack that we have constantly suffered.
We have many great advantages. We need only to consider the lessons of the Helsinki negotiations and their subsequent history. Many people in the West were worried about what was involved in the Helsinki accords. We seemed to have accepted the negotiation of the status quo, the sanctification of the expansion of the Soviet empire which took place after the end of the Second World War, settling, in return, for some fairly uncertain deals in the greater flow of information, improved commercial exchange and possibly confidence-building measures in security.
What has happened? That negotiation has blown up in the face of the Soviet Union. The Helsinki accords can now be turned to our advantage in the war of minds being waged and which we must continue to wage. The discomfiture, to put it at its lowest, of the Soviet Union, which has been obliged to oppress its own citizens, and even more the citizens of East European countries, brings home clearly how truth and freedom are on our side. This gives us the opportunity of many actions.
I had thought one idea too dangerous. We understand the difficulty of the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar — I am glad to see that he has entered the Chamber—in portraying any foreign policy on behalf of his party. It was, however, fascinating to hear the right hon. Gentleman suggest that we must engage the Soviet Union in a dialogue on the future of Eastern Europe. The Helsinki accords seem to put that out of court. It seems to me a dangerous and destabilising area to enter. Not being a bellicose and aggressive man, but a cautious man, I look forward to the Opposition expanding this theme and stating clearly how they would get this dialogue going and work for the change in the balance of relationships in Eastern Europe. Much more modest ambitions can be achieved in other areas.
For example, the recent vote in the United Nations reminded us of the strength of the West and the non-Communist world. We should say to the Soviet Union and Mr. Babrak Karmal "Remember the example of Zimbabwe". Bishop Muzorewa had gone through a form of election and was holding the reins of power, but the 250 international community did not accept his Administration as a legitimate Government and it insisted that the voice of the Zimbabwe people should be heard and that elections should be held under international supervision.
Surely, what was right for the people of Zimbabwe must be right for the people of Afghanistan. That is one area where the voice of freedom must be heard and where we can develop our counter-attack if only we have the courage to use our power.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I may have misunderstood his point, because I had to be absent from the Chamber for a moment, but do I understand him to be saying, in criticising the Shadow Foreign Secretary, that he regards the suggested renegotiation of Eastern European politics as being too dangerous, as I do? In shorthand, is he saying that he favours the stablisation in concrete, as it were, of the old Yalta frontiers as delineating the two spheres of influence, which should be regarded as immune from interference on either side for all time?
§ Mr. Whitney
As a cautious man and a member of the Conservative Party, I am less aggressive in my intentions towards the present situation than the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar appears to be. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is a highly desirable objective that a different regime should obtain in Eastern Europe, but I believe in a step-by-step approach—a policy which we adopt in other spheres. It is not an area that we should go to first. It is a dangerous area at present.
One area where we must start to believe in ourselves again is in our negotiations with the Third world. We must understand that, as my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal said, our community of interests is deep. There is a danger of slipping too easily into "Brandt-speak". It is a temptation that even the Archbishop of Canterbury seemed to fall for recently.
In 220 pages of the Brandt report there is a tremendous depth of knowledge and there vital contributions to policy, but there are also tremendous gaps. The shorthand of Brandt is dangerous. I welcome the importance that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal attached to trade. I hope that the Opposition will accept the points made by my right hon. Friend and will understand that the most damaging thing that the West could do would be to sink into protectionism.
When we deal with our friends in the Third world, we must do so on the basis of reality and the crucial fact for the world economy that OPEC has surplus overhangs of $150 billion a year and the oil importing bill of developing countries is $70 billion a year. That factor was not adequately dealt with in the Brandt report.
§ Mr. Maxton
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the protectionism of the EEC in terms of agricultural products from the Third world is one of the most damaging factors in relation to trade with the Third world?
§ Mr. Whitney
No. We all accept that the CAP needs revising, but if the hon. Gentleman looks at it product by product he will find that the situation is not as simple as he suggests.
The third area where we must work much harder is in the offensive for peace. We must not yield to the unilateralists and the extreme Left in this country. Of course, we understand the dreadful dangers of nuclear war 251 and we are all for peace, but we must also understand the threats that exist. What would be the result if we told the Americans that they must take their cruise missiles out of this country? What would be the consequences for NATO, and without NATO where would Britain and the West be?
I recognise that the Government accept that we must press hard for multilateral, effective disarmament. The areas where the Government work are not known. Not only are there talks on strategic arms limitation, but there is action on the comprehensive test ban, the non-proliferation treaty, theatre nuclear forces, radiological weapons and a whole gamut of areas where we work hard day by grinding day to achieve satisfactory results. The problem is that we are blocked nearly every step of the way by Soviet intransigence. That does not mean that we should stop trying, but it does mean that we should go on telling our people, who are genuinely worried, that our determination to achieve satisfactory, comprehensive arms control is sincere, deep and penetrating but that it cannot be achieved in the face of intransigence. When we face a country that will not even accept its own Helsinki document, the process will clearly be difficult.
It is sad that the Labour Party is now led by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), who in his book "Guilty Men" told the nation of the dangers of appeasement and of being unprepared. The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten the lesson that he knew 40 years ago. We need peace, and the way must be through the unity and strength of the Western Alliance.
§ Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)
I do not intend to follow Mr. Speaker's proposals on the theme of the debate. I sat right through Friday's debate, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) knows, and I should like to direct the attention of the House to some other matters in the Gracious Speech that should greatly concern us all and are relevant in the context of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement this afternoon.
I find no joy, hope or optimism in the Gracious Speech. The Prime Minister is rapidly turning Britain into an industrial wasteland, using more and more of our precious resources on palliatives for those who are thrown out of work instead of using those resources for the creation of new jobs and new industries based on new technology, where we shall be rapidly left behind unless we are prepared to inject new resources.
The consequences of the Government's idiotic policies are plain to see. We have an unprecedented level of unemployment, combined with short-time working. The social and political consequences of the Government's determination not to turn could be devastating. Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned earlier the dread figure of 3 million unemployed. We could easily see such a situation before long.
In the West Midlands and in my constituency the results of the Prime Minister's wrong-headedness are plain to see. In the Wolverhampton travel-to-work area, from the date of the election to October this year, almost 15,000 redundancies have been created, affecting 276 workplaces. This year, from January to October, 12,500 redundancies have been created, affecting 238 work- 252 places. So this year the decline and the level of unemployment have been much more severe than during the first year of this Government.
It is quite clear that the unemployment level is not "bottoming out", as the Chancellor nicely called it this afternoon. In fact, it is rising. I have been notified by the Manpower Services Commission of a further 6,080 redundancies from May 1979 to October 1980 at 73 workplaces, and 3,745 redundancies from January to October 1980 affecting 53 workplaces. For the people now in that unpleasant situation we have 160 vacancies plus another 58 at the careers office. So the prospects are grim indeed.
We have 273 skillcentre places in Wolverhampton, which can cater for about 500 people per annum. We have another 196 training opportunities scheme places and 540 youth opportunity programme places — nowhere near enough for the massive unemployment that we now have.
The most up-to-date figure given to me by the Department of Employment for registered unemployed young people aged 18 and under shows that from October 1979 there were 1,175, and from October 1980 there are 2,089 young people who have had no job since completing full-time education. What sort of prospects do those young people have? I hope that the Conservative Party is concerned about this.
The effect on industrial output—the means whereby we create the wealth of the country, about which the Chancellor spoke today—of such high unemployment is extremely serious. The Central Statistical Office figures show that industrial output from June to September was over 9 per cent, lower than in the same period last year. In fact, the CBI estimates that output is now 11½ per cent, lower than in 1979. That figure is much more serious than the Treasury forecast of a 4½ per cent fall for the whole of 1980. Of course, the CBI is very worried about the Government's obsession with monetarism. At the CBI's recent jamboree, one member said that we were suffering the worst depression in 50 years. He said that people were being put out of work in pursuit of false dogma. We all second that. The message of Mr. Stan Husbands, the managing director of Seddon Atkinson, to the Prime Minister was:For God's sake, do something — if it is only to say 'Goodbye'.That must be the quote of the year.
This industrial depression has far-reaching effects on the physical and psychological well-being of families, as we all know. The inequalities brought about by unemployment, poor diet and the appalling economic situation of the poor emphasise and accentuate longstanding inequalities in health. Differences in mortality rates between the social classes, especially the perinatal and neonatal rates; the death rates from heart disease and lung cancer, for example; the poor health of the aged poor compared with the better-off aged; the inadequacy of health education in all its aspects, lack of informaion about the human body and how it works; sex education and human relationships; and the unwillingness of successive Governments to tackle these problems—all these matters show how badly we have served our people and how we have undermined the National Health Service by our lack of courage in many directions, by our constant refusal to lay down targets and above all, by our refusal to monitor performance, so that successive Ministers and 253 Departments are able to get away with it year after year. No one knows how effective the resources are and how they are being used.
Poverty is a main factor in the level of disease. To eradicate it is clearly not this Government's objective. The National Health Service and personal social services are suffering under this Government, and the Health Service will continue to bear a growing burden of neglect and indifference. Scientific innovation, new discoveries, new techniques and developing skills are available in abundance. A mass of dedicated, talented men and women are working at every level of the National Health Service. But how are they served by Governments? No Government have given the National Health Service the priority it deserves. Defence expenditure and research into ever more deadly weapons of mass destruction are the priorities of this Prime Minister and this Government.
We are demanding more resources to be used to improve the health and social services for our people, but these are being sidetracked into defence research and expenditure. We are demanding more resources for the regions where mortality and morbidity rates are high. We are demanding better health care for women from adolescence onwards, with a much more determined effort to eliminate the social and economic disadvantages that perpetuate an unequal society.
The Chancellor's statement this afternoon clearly demonstrates how the Government intend to keep poor people poor. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the national insurance contribution would be increased. I do not know how he can make that statement when the national insurance fund has been in considerable surplus for 22 of the past 30 years. We are not talking about a surplus of a few million pounds a year. Three or four years ago the figure was over £900 million. There must be billions of pounds salted away in that fund, yet the Chancellor has the nerve to ask for an increase in workers' contributions.
The Royal Commission on the Health Service and the Black report — which have been pushed aside by the Secretary of State for Social Services — and Select Committee reports have all shown what needs to be done and what resources, human and financial, are needed to deliver a good Health Service. Investment is necessary to provide a better service and to improve the general standard of living and the health of ordinary working people. The Social Services Select Committee recently examined proposals on the method of paying child benefit allowances, for example. The Secretary of State, presumably egged on by the Chancellor, has mow decided that the benefit should be paid monthly in arrear, with all the consequences that that means for sub-post offices. The evidence given to the Select Committee was that many families relied on child benefit to keep the family solvent, but the Secretary of State did not believe that this was important.
The change will enable the Chancellor to cook the books at the end of the financial year, because there will be a month's arrears of payment, which will be carried over to the next year. Therefore, he will be able to try to persuade us that the balance of public expenditure is much better this year than it has been in the past.
For working people and their families, for poor people, for the unemployed, for those working short time and 254 those still living in bad conditions, there is no prospect of improvement as long as the present Government remain in office.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
Should Britain, as the Leader of the Opposition proposes, follow the example of Mr. Trudeau of Canada? That is a question that ought to receive a reasoned answer, for Canada is the one example of unilateral nuclear disarmament on the part of a nuclear Power and a Power that remains a member of NATO.
The leaders of the CND call for unilateral nuclear disarmament, but they do not call for a strengthening of NATO's conventional capability. The reverse, in fact, is the case. But the question that unilateralists must answer is whether the renunciation of nuclear weapons on the part of the United Kingdom would be of any value in reducing the dangers of world war.
It is a fact that the Canadian example has not been followed. It has had no effect on the nuclear Powers. Certainly it has had none on the United States or the USSR. While no one would follow our example, either, history and geography make the role of the United Kingdom in the defence of freedom very different from that of Canada. We are part of Western Europe, whose defence against a powerful enemy is indivisible. The weight of nuclear and conventional armaments of the Warsaw Pact today is so much greater than that of the Atlantic allies, including Britain, that there could be no hope of repelling or preventing a major offensive from that quarter and, therefore, no hope of deterring it without the assurance of instant and massive assistance on the part of the United States. That is why even the supply of facilities for American nuclear submarines, cruise missiles and air squadrons is in itself vital to the operation of the Alliance.
Were Britain to abandon its nuclear role—and my arguments have nothing to do with the future of Britain's strategic nuclear weapon, the Trident replacement—the result inevitably would be a disastrous weakening of the Atlantic Alliance and the rupture of the link between Europe and America. A vital staging-post would have been lost. Such a weakening would make a stable situation less stable and increase, not reduce, the risk of war.
What, then, remains of the moral case of the CND? In order to render, ostensibly, the risk of war for Britain less likely, its supporters would increase the chances of war breaking out for others, leaving aside the vitally important question whether we would escape unscathed. The logic of unilateralism leads inevitably to neutralism, for there is no point in our remaining a member of a defensive alliance when we have seriously weakened it by withdrawal in nuclear matters—and who is to say whether a neutral Britain would escape the consequences of a war in Europe fought with nuclear weapons? We have already seen that unilateral disarmament sets an example that no other nuclear Power is likely to follow. The route to security lies through multilateral and not unilateral disarmament. It is a long and a hard road, but it is the only route available.
In conclusion, I mention one aspect of British defence policy on which, in my view, we should focus, especially as in recent weeks we have had all the nonsense about whether our defence expenditure will or will not be cut in accordance with the dictates of the Treasury.
The real truth, I think, is that sooner or later Britain will have to make very difficult choices in defence matters. If 255 our economy is not to grow—and there is little evidence that it will grow throughout the 1980s—the choices will become inescapable. There are four aspects of British defence policy for which we are responsible: first, the United Kingdom air defence; secondly, the British Army of the Rhine; thirdly, the function of the Royal Navy in the defence of the Western Approaches; and, fourthly, the strategic independent nuclear deterrent. I forecast that before very long there will be yet another fundamental review of our defence functions and that, as part of that fundamental review, one of those four will have to go.
The question is which one of the four would be the most convenient to get rid of. The answer, of course, is that none would be easy and none would be convenient. But the logic of events suggests that the last of those four—the independent nuclear deterrent, the Trident replacement—is the one that a middle-ranking European Power, as my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal described Great Britain earlier, would have to look at very hard and that in the long term we shall have to rid ourselves of that aspect of defence policy.
It is not easy for middle-ranking Powers to afford to do everything that is desirable. In the Financial Times on Saturday there was an extremely interesting article that illustrated the various proportions that are spent on defence of the gross national products of all the allied countries. It linked our defence expenditure with our overseas aid. We came second after the United States and far above the French, Germans and Italians in that league table.
When we decided to get into the nuclear business under Attlee and Ernie Bevin nearly 40 years ago, Britain was the third-ranking world Power. Now that we wish to stay in that business, we are the sixteenth, seventeenth or eighteenth, depending always on how we measure our power and economic influence in the world. I am afraid that this leads this Government, and would lead any Government, to hard choices in matters of defence. But if we were not to continue to be a strategic nuclear Power, that would not be the same as unilateral nuclear disarmament. There is all the difference in the world between these two concepts, and it should be understood clearly.
It is not enough for the Labour Party to fudge the issue by talking about the Trident and not wanting it when it faces all sorts of more difficult decisions about the sort of foreign policy that a future Labour Government might adopt. When one discusses unilateral nuclear disarmament, one is discussing not defence policy but foreign policy. The logic of unilateral nuclear disarmament is a neutral Britain in the context of the cold war. What the CND is never asked to explain, because no member of the Conservative Party ever bothers, is the sort of neutrality that it seeks. Does it seek an armed neutrality such as Sweden's—and Sweden spends almost as much on defence as the United Kingdom—or does it seek an unarmed neutrality as between East and West?
The real truth is that for Britain to get out from under because we fear uniquely the consequences of a nuclear war upon ourselves would render a stable situation in Europe less stable and make war more likely than less likely. If that is so, so much for the moral case of the CND.
§ Mr. Tom Ellis (Wrexham)
I was fascinated to hear the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), but I am afraid that time does not permit me to take up any of his arguments. Instead, I shall address my remarks essentialy to the issue of Europe.
The Lord Privy Seal began his speech by making two points. First, he said that the European Community and the Atlantic Alliance were pillars and that together they formed the foundation upon which our foreign policy rested. We all agree, of course. But that simple statement conceals a great deal of the complexity underneath. It conceals the relationships, for example, between the Community, ourselves—in or out of the Community—and America.
The right hon. Gentleman's second remark was that, apart from a slight hiccup, for a number of years we in this House had had a bilateral foreign policy and that this was good because it provided continuity, which was even more essential for foreign affairs than for other matters.
Again, I agree. But, taken together, the two statements mean that our foreign policy is fairly new. After all, we have been in the Community for only seven years. I do not think that any of my right hon. and hon. Friends will argue that during the period that my party was in Government ours was the most enthusiastic membership of the Community. So it is clearly a changing relationship. I hope that I use the word correctly when I say that there is a dynamic relationship between this country and the European Community.
It is important for us to grasp the scale of this relationship. The hon. Member for Aldershot said that we had gone from the second or third to the sixteenth, seventeenth or eighteenth ranking Power in the world. I put it more graphically in terms of foreign affairs by saying that only 16 years ago the Conservative Party, under its then leader, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, fought an election with the main plank in its platform the slogan "A seat at the top table." Russia, America and Britain jointly were to determine the destiny of the world and all its peoples. That was absolute rubbish. Even though that was only 16 years ago, we can now see that that was rubbish.
I wish to keep the party balance right. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is not here. He was Foreign Secretary in 1977, when the North-South dialogue was taking place. He argued that he would not enter the dialogue as-part of the Community. He intended to speak on energy for Britain, as Britain. Essentially, he was claiming his seat at the top table, and that was only three years ago. That shows our lack of imagination to grasp what is happening in the world and how fast the world is moving. I refer not only to "we in Britain" but to "we in Europe"—I like to use that phrase. We in Europe failed to grasp it. Only seven or eight weeks ago, in an article in The Times, Abba Eban remarked that he found it bizarre that European statesmen should argue among themselves whether to support American policy on Afghanistan and the hostages in Iran, as if they were American issues that were not relevant to Europe. That is a measure of our failure to grasp the reality of what is happening in the world in foreign affairs.
That is not to say that we should always rely on America and hide behind her skirts. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) said that 257 Dr. Luns had said that the West would not intervene in Poland. I was intrigued to see an article in this week's Christian Science Monitor in which Mr. Joseph Harsch made the point that had the West, meaning America, intervened it could have precipitated a direct military intervention by Russia. He pointed out that because France and Germany had close economic relationships not only with Poland but with Russia that, more than any other factor, might have meant that they were able to prevent possible precipitate action by the Russian military. That is an intriguing position. We are in a position of considerable flux, moving away from the old nineteenth century Europe of separate nation States into a world that is bipolar but is rapidly becoming something less than that.
I wish to speak about our position in the EEC, how I think it should change and what it should become in relation to what is happening in the world today. Currently, we are dependent on the Americans. We are sheltering behind America. I agree with many of the remarks of the hon. Member for Aldershot about cruise missiles. Two separate issues are involved. There is the question of the strategic nuclear balance and the separate question of being able to wage tactical nuclear war. The military people tell me that we are essentially concerned with the second question, because the cruise missile is a counter-force rather than a counter-value weapon—I think that that is the right jargon. It is evident that we in Europe—and the tactical nuclear war will be in Europe—must ensure that we are in position to do something for ourselves. Although we are dependent upon America, we can see clearly the way that things are going. Henry Kissinger, who has already been mentioned, himself brutally spelt that out in the past. Nothing stays the same for ever. The world is small and dangerous, and it is becoming smaller and more dangerous.
I was a little disappointed to hear what my right hon. Friend said about the way in which the Opposition sees our membership of the European Community. The Labour Party conference passed a motion committing us unequivocally to leaving Europe. I hope that we shall not leave Europe. If we do so, Europe will be made up of eight member States, but in January it will again be nine. Following that, Spain, Portugal and even Turkey will make its membership 10, 11 or 12. Whether or not we like it, the European Community is here to stay. There is no question about that, especially in foreign affairs, simply because of the exigency of circumstances.
I was heartened to read that the Foreign Secretary has put forward proposals to establish a permanent secretariat to give a fairly quick response to affairs as they develop. It is important that the Opposition should make their position clear on these important issues—for example, unilateralism. Are we in or out of NATO? I must say to my right hon. Friend that I found him less than persuasive in his reply when he was pressed to explain precisely what he meant. He was asked whether we intended to leave Europe. It is a fad in the Labour Party to say "This is what we say in Opposition, but when we are in Government we shall have to face the realities of circumstances." That is a fundamentally sick attitude. We should spell out precisely where we stand on major issues. No political party is entitled to say one thing when in Opposition and another when in Government. That is bad. It breeds cynicism. I deplore the fact that we have not had a clear- 258 cut statement tonight from the Front Bench on where our Shadow Cabinet stands in relation to Europe. I deplore that. I cannot put it more strongly.
No one can say that I am throwing stones in glasshouses. I enjoy being in the House. It is a marvellous place. I hope that I shall stay here for many years. However, I must say clearly that as long as I am here—and I say this to my party, my constituency party and my constituents—I shall fight tooth and nail not only to ensure that we stay in Europe but to ensure that Europe becomes ever more politically homogeneous.
§ 7.8 pm
§ Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis). I pay a heartfelt tribute to his courage. As a relatively new Member of the House, it appears to me that the Opposition party presents a curious spectacle, especially when talking about foreign affairs. It is a pleasure for me to be able to support a Government who give so prominent a place in their deliberations to foreign affairs. It is also a pleasure to be able to see further evidence in the Gracious Speech that the Government intend to continue in that conviction.
When we examine the Opposition party we see a curious amalgam. It has often been said that the Conversative Party is a broad church. I think that the Opposition church is rent with schisms of an unheard of kind. We hear sensible speeches such as that of the hon. Member for Wrexham. We hear expressions of opinion from the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) which appear to vary depending on whether he is in or out of office, whether he is a young man or an old man, whether he is writing books against Hitler or considering the reactions of the Russians.
We hear some remarkable pieces of analysis from the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore). He said many things this afternoon with which I profoundly agree. He gave an analysis of the dangers for the world presented by the instability of Eastern Europe—with which I largely agreed. When he addressed himself to the question of what on earth the Opposition party would do about it, he swallowed a solution that consisted of two words. I made a careful note of it. His two-word solution to the Russian threat was "serious discussions".
We often have serious discussions in the House. They are part of our parliamentary way of life. They are part of the way of life that is led in the Western world in discussions with our allies. Would the right hon. Gentleman—I am sorry that he is not present to enable me to ask him directly—have recommended the 1968 inhabitants of Prague to hold serious discussions with the Russian tanks as they rumbled into their capital city?
We would welcome serious discussions between the nationalists in Afghanistan and the Russian hordes as they start another cruel offensive in Afghanistan to try to wipe out the few nationalistic feelings that they have allowed to remain alive. There should be serious discussions before the helicopter gunships drop their napalm. Of course, those reasonable gentlemen in the Kremlin will always listen to reasonable discussion. What a remarkable solution from a right hon. Gentleman who has shown a great deal of good sense in these matters on occasion.
Whatever the breadth of the Labour Party church and whatever the schisms that are beginning to appear in it 259 when we debate foreign affairs, the different analyses and the different attitudes reach one conclusion, a curious isolationism that sits ill on the shoulders of a party that describes itself as Socialist, a creed that in my innocence I have always assumed to be bound up in internationalism. Such an attitude is totally absurd in the world as we know it.
In almost any area of human endeavour, the world is becoming increasingly closely knit. That applies in matters of trade. For example, the OECD countries have seen their exports grow at almost double the rate of their collective GNP over the past decade. There is an increasing interdependence of a sort that not even those who advocate import controls could possibly undo.
In science, technology and finance the international agencies have become increasingly important, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) found to his cost some years ago. I am pleased to be able to support a party that recognises the facts of life. There are those on the Opposition Benches who might scoff. It is true to say that the Conservative Party's attitude in matters pertaining to foreign affairs and defence recognises reality in a way that they should envy.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I have already given several examples. I can assume only that the hon. Gentleman was not listening, for which I am sorry. I always assumed that good manners were part of his make-up.
Nowhere is interdependence more important than in defence and in the interests of our allies. When faced with the threat of that curious imperial regime, the Soviet Union—perhaps the most dangerous sort of entity in any international situation is a poweful military power which is backed by an increasingly weak economy, which is therefore more and more tending to indulge in foreign adventure to divert the attention of its population from the dangers of what is going on at home—the position of our allies and our relationship with them become of paramount importance.
I was therefore all the more heartened to read the press report of an interview with my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs that he gave to the New York Herald Tribune on 14 November. If I read the article correctly, my right hon. and noble Friend undertook to ask our European allies to delay the start of their initiative in the Middle East, foreshadowed after the Venice summit, until we had had a chance to consult the incoming Administration of Governor Reagan. I hope that that impression is a correct one.
In some parts of the United States and among some of the more stable countries of the Middle East, the Venice initiative was regarded as a slap in the face to the efforts made by the Americans at Camp David and afterwards The only way to succeed in the Middle East and bring peace and a settlement along the lines that are so greatly desired by all hon. Members is by consulting our allies and ensuring that the foreign policy that my right hon. and noble Friend would like to see pursued is complementary to United States policy and in no way conflicts with it.
That is why I welcome the emphasis on foreign affairs that has been so much underlined in the debate and in the 260 Gracious Speech. I welcome the implications in that interview with the New York Herald Tribune by my right hon. and noble Friend. I hope sincerely that these matters will be brought to a speedy conclusion. The only way of doing so is to ensure that we have the fullest consultation with our allies upon whom we so greatly depend.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)
It is not my intention to take up the broad body of the remarks of the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne). I was somewhat intrigued by his reference to reality. I shall return to some of the apects that I consider to be fundamental in economic and defence issues as they relate to foreign affairs.
It is not carping criticism of the Gracious Speech to note the omission of any direct reference to OPEC. The Lord Privy Seal has done a little to repair that omission. No discussion of the issues faced by us in Western industrialised countries can go far without some analysis of the behaviour of the OPEC countries and the impact of their behaviour on our economy.
Events in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, together with the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict, serve to remind us of the vulnerability of our economies to events in the Middle East and in South-West Asia. These events have been softened for us by our indigenous resource of North Sea oil and the fact that we alone among the Western industrialised nations are self-sufficient in oil.
Let me look now at some of the implications of OPEC. We have a paradox in the supply of oil. It is, in economic terms, a backward-bending supply curve. That means that we can no longer depend on the OPEC nations to increase their supplies of oil to meet rising demand or cater for supply accidents like the present conflicts. Additionally, alternative resources have a long lead time of between seven and 10 years. Thus, we can expect the demand for oil and energy to come close to availability of supplies throughout the 1980s, even on the basis of low growth and energetic steps to conserve energy.
The significance of that is an additional paradox. The oil producers have surplus revenues in 1980. There is some dispute about the figures, but I took my figures from the Governor of the Bank of England's recent speech, when he said that the OPEC surplus in 1980 was in excess of $100 billion, and that may be prolonged beyond 1980. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) and the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) gave a figure of $150 billion. I hope that this is not another case of the Governor of the Bank of England getting his figures wrong. However, they are substantial sums. Such sums can wash through the international monetary mechanism. However, because of our declining economic growth and activity in the West, we lack worthwhile investments for those OPEC surpluses.
The present position is that these surpluses will continue to grow. Against that background, we must see what can be done to enable us to overcome the difficulties of continually high oil prices. The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) indicated that the likely intentions of the OPEC nations when they come together in a few weeks' time will be to have a further oil price hike.
We have economic difficulties in the West. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) pointed out that against a background of economic growth it is feasible, if 261 not excusable, to increase defence expenditure. However, against the background of economic decline, questions will be increasingly raised about the ability of a nation such as Britain to furnish the defence requirements that the Government place on it.
Let me make one thing indelibly clear. I am not a unilateralist. I do not believe that such a posture by Britain would have any effect on the Soviet Union. It would have nothing other than a negative effect on the United States. It would be counter-productive for us to renounce nuclear weapons at present. It would accelerate a regrettable tendency to isolation not only on the part of the older generation in the United States. What disturbed me even more on recent visits to the United States was a tendency to isolationism on the part of the younger generation, who are becoming increasingly inward-looking.
However, it is necessary to recognise that the burden on our economy of these competing defence requirements may become insuperable. A recent article in The Economist — "By land or sea" — points that out. It suggests that the United Kingdom cannot both pursue a nuclear strategy and continue to have a large conventional commitment in Europe. Government Members have alluded to that fact. I do not expect direct answers tonight. However, the Government have a responsibility to tell us whether they are committed irrevocably to the pursuit of the Trident programme.
I represent a constituency with a naval base. If there is to be a long-term flow of work in a naval base, it is essential to get the requirements of a dockyard like Rosyth and the loading of the base into close proximity. It is also helpful to British Shipbuilders to get clear which yards will be used.
Some of my hon. Friends renounce nuclear weapons, and in particular a strategic nuclear deterrent. If they do so, they have a concomitant responsibility to let the people who are employed in naval dockyards know what their future is, and not merely in amorphous terms. The bills that the workers have to meet do not appear in amorphous terms the Monday after the Friday.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
How many people in the Rosyth dockyard are engaged in manufacturing nuclear weapons?
§ Mr. Douglas
Not many are engaged in manufacturing nuclear weapons, but the latest statistics that I have show 2,500 people engaged in the repair and maintenance of the Polaris fleet. That is a substantial proportion of the total of 8,000. I do not suggest that my right hon. and hon. Friends decide how to employ those people over the weekend, but as Members of Parliament we have a responsibility to them. If we wish to abandon such enterprises, what will be available immediately after?
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Would the hon. Gentleman apply the same thinking to those employed, for example, in East Anglia in the preparation and maintenance of United States air force bases, who are already looking to the site preparation and undergrounding of the the expected cruise missiles for employment?
§ Mr. Douglas
That leads me too far from my point. I accept a responsibility where a Government are directly involved in an enterprise, be it a defence or other public sector enterprise. We cannot blame the vagaries of the market.
I am not complacent about the return from defence expenditure. It is suggested that too much of our 262 innovative effort is taken by defence on the aircraft industry, whereas a large number of our competitors devote much more of their expenditure to consumer durables.
Our manufacturing base has been declining for 20 to 30 years. I do not attribute the blame for that to any particular Government. However, the present Government bear a heavy responsibility for accelerating the decline. Only today I was told in a written answer by the Secretary of State for Industry that there has been a decline of over 11 per cent, in manufacturing output this year compared with last year.
That decline is not inevitable. Our position is eased by the presence of North Sea oil, but, as the Governor of the Bank of England pointed out in his Ashridge lecture, it does not follow that the presence of oil means that industry will have to contract. The Governor illustrated most clearly that the nations that import oil have taken steps to pay for it by extending their manufacturing bases.
Here I cross swords a little with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar on the European Community. It is often suggested that our difficulties arise from our uncompetitiveness in Europe. That is true, but much of our imbalance of trade comes from our inability to compete with countries such as Japan, the United States and—surprise, surprise—the Soviet Union. We have an adverse balance of trade with the Soviet Union, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. They are not in the European Community. We therefore have a responsibility to build up our manufacturing base.
I share the Governor's view that the doctrine that a substantial decline in our industrial base is inevitable is needlessly depressing and misleading. The maintenance of our industrial base will, however, require a substantial adjustment within our non-oil economy. I take it that these later remarks are common ground. What is not common is an acceptance of the Government's policies to bring that about. Almost without exception, the Government's policies are designed to deepen the economic recession and to make it more difficult for our economy to fit itself for the re-entry problems that the country will face in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century, when the flow of oil begins to diminish. The proposals in the Gracious Speech to deal with these issues are inadequate.
Let me, in parenthesis, deal with the proposal to privatise the British National Oil Corporation. There is a tendency for other oil-producing States to create national oil companies. However, our Government are intent on denying themselves the expertise of this unique instrument and on injecting private capital into it for reasons of pure doctrinaire Toryism. For the Government to dilute their role in this oil company now is stupidity of the highest order and they should desist from doing so.
It is against that background that we have to judge the Chancellor's announcements today, designed, we an; told, to get the Government's strategy back on course. I can see nothing in the proposals to give reason for any degree of optimism apart from the one small concession to lower the minimum lending rate. There was no indication by the Chancellor that they will do anything to extend our manufacturing base or safeguard the people who are unfortunately left in the growing army of the unemployed.
Unless we can increase our manufacturing base, the strain created by our defence expenditure could become unbearable. The Government cannot claim to be defending all aspects of the British economy while they are presiding 263 over a declining manufacturing base. In viewing our posture in international affairs, it must be recognised that others see us with respect not only because we possess a range of weapons but because we are able to stand up for ourselves as a leading manufacturing country and cope with the technological problems not just of the 1980s but beyond that to the early years of the twenty-first century.
§ Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser), my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) and the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) were in a measure of agreement in discussing the causes of world instability. They all mentioned Russian aggression of one sort or another. I go beyond that to say that a greater cause of instability is probably the failure of Marxism. Events in Poland are causing instability throughout the Russian empire. The plight of the boat people is also causing misery, hardship and instability. In Russia the failure of the grain harvest this year may be causing great problems, too. Whether they are to our advantage I cannot yet say. Only time will show.
The same can be said about China. My intellectual friends had a great admiration for that country, an admiration that I shared to some extent. However, if we are to believe the reports, it now appears that events in China were somewhat akin to what happened under Stalin in Russia.
Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) have spoken about oil. The rising price of oil was much of the cause of the recession. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe and the hon. Member for Dunfermline referred to the OPEC balance of payments, which enjoys a surplus of $100 billion or $150 billion. Meanwhile, the developing countries have to meet an oil bill of some $70 billion, when aid to them totals perhaps $25 billion. This problem was not dealt with to any great extent by the interesting Brandt report.
The third area of instability, which was the core of the Brandt report, is the disparity between rich and poor. I am prompted to consider that issue in relation to aid following remarks by his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury which were described in The Times as hismost outspoken contribution to political debate.Speaking to a London seminar, he made four principal points. He said that it was "hardly encouraging" that British development assistance was being cut faster than other expenditure in Whitehall.
Secondly, he said that current British policies seemed to be more preoccupied with British needs than with the vital requirements of the developing world. He went on to say that self-interest on our part should dictate a wiser course when every £100 in aid to developing countries brought back £60 to £70 in orders—a reference to tied aid. He concluded that as a consequence "some of our policies" did not help our international respect and standing.
I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Dr. Runcie several times. I have a very great respect for him and the position he holds. However, I am sure that he would never dispute my right to speak on theological matters, and I certainly do not dispute his right to speak on political matters, if, as The Times called it, aid is 264 political. I think that his views were perhaps one-sided and did less than justice to the generosity of the British people and this country as well as to the Government's determination to proceed with a developing aid programme as outlined in the Gracious Speech.
As my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal said, the United Kingdom's performance on aid is something of which we can be proud and of which we can continue to be proud. [Interuption.] If the hon. Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody) listens to me for a moment, perhaps I shall be able to convince her. As my right hon. Friend said, last year the United Kingdom was the fifth largest donor in terms of absolute sums given. We were beaten to the post only by the United States, France, West Germany and Japan—all countries with larger economies than ours. This year, the present target is £960 million gross, which represents just over 0.5 per cent, of our GNP, whereas the average for the Western donors together is 0.35 per cent. Therefore, we are contributing considerably more in aid as a percentage of our GNP than the average of the Western donors, and in total amount given we rank fifth in the world.
§ Mr. Maxton
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that his use of the term "generosity" of itself spells out what the Conservative Party means by aid—that it is a charity which is given out of the goodness of our hearts and not something which is there as of right? Does he not also accept that as a major ex-imperial Power our responsibility to a large part of the Third world is something that we should bear in much greater weight than other countries which were not the imperial power that we were?
§ Mr. Shelton
I would far rather use the term "generosity" than "self-interest".
His Grace the Archbishop may well have been right to say that aid has been cut faster than other expenditures in the Departments of State. Frankly, I do not know. It is difficult to measure one against the other. But I still believe that we are doing very much better than most other countries.
He also accused us of being more preoccupied with our own needs than with the vital requirements of a developing world. I believe that it is the duty of a Government to be preoccupied with the needs of its own citizens. Nevertheless, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development said:Our ability to support development overseas is dependent on the state of our economy."—[Official Report, 20 February 1980; Vol. 979, c. 464.]That must be true; no one can deny it, and no one can deny it who thinks about it. But, as has been fashionable over the past decade, it is all too easy to believe that Governments somehow have money of their own and that if they do not spend as much as someone wishes on a certain project it is either through malice or miserliness. In fact, Governments do not have money of their own. It comes from the people and the wealth-creating sectors. Aid must take its place within the framework of Government expenditure.
It is true that if the money given in aid is used to purchase goods from this country, one gives a sigh of relief and says "That is all right." I agree that it is advantageous in some ways in terms of self-interest. Nevertheless, that is equivalent to the Government giving away the goods, so it cannot be regarded as a completely painless operation.
265 I am dubious and slightly cynical about gifts of large sums of money to help the Third world, the developing countries or the poorer nations. For nine or 10 years, I lived in a developing country in the Third world. I worked there and had an interface with the business community in that part of the world. If a disaster occurs, money should, of course, be given—I am sure that our sympathies go out to the people in Italy who have suffered so recently—but the transfer of massive resources from nation to nation is something that I view with a certain amount of cynicism.
I am not necessarily referring to the graft and corruption for which purposes aid moneys have been used—aeroplanes, cars, roads leading to the palace, Swiss bank accounts, arms purchase, or the unintentional bolstering of regimes which might be better not bolstered. I believe that the best way to give aid is a far more direct way. There is a Chinese saying that if one meets a hungry man, one does not give him a fish; one gives him a fishing rod. To me, that sums up our approach with regard to aid.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Crewe is aware that the United Kingdom is the world's second largest overseas investor. That is one way of giving aid. Whether or not she agrees, the multinational companies give aid. I do not believe that the inhabitants of those parts of the world in which I lived would have had access to the drugs and medicaments that they did had it not been for various large American drug companies. It is true they made a profit, but they supplied the aspirin and the drugs which those countries needed. In my experience, investment, joint partnership and international companies are of profound importance when we speak of aid.
When I lived in South America, I was enormously impressed by the work of the American Peace Corps. I am sure that hon. Members will know that the Peace Corps is very similar to the Voluntary Service Overseas organisation in this country, which I also support very much. The director of VSO is an ex-colleague of ours, Mr. Frank Judd, for whom we all had a great respect. The VSO receives from the Overseas Development Agency just under £2 million, and it receives another £1 million from overseas Governments. That is excellent, because if overseas Governments contribute they give the VSO more room, help and support. This year, the organisation will be recruiting 360 volunteers who will serve for two years. It will therefore have just under 1,000 volunteers serving in 20 or 30 markets.
The House knows what those people do. They work on the spot, teach, train, dig latrine ditches and do an outstanding job. Again, that is the sort of aid that I view favourably. It is absolutely first-class. Not only is it helpful to the countries involved, but it is also excellent training for the volunteers. I understand that discussions are at present continuing about a VSO grant, and I very much hope that it will be increased rather than cut. We are talking about £2 million out of a total of just under £1 billion which this country is giving in aid. Whatever his Grace the Archbishop may think, our international standing is higher than it has been for a number of years and we have much to be proud of in our aid record.
§ Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)
I should not like to allow the remarks of the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) to go completely unchallenged. It is wrong to assume that all developing nations are incapable of receiving and utilising aid ethically and competently, 266 although some may fall into the trap to which he has referred. I have just returned from Botswana, a country that is genuinely multi-party and multi-racial. There are many countries in Africa that are struggling to maintain or create a viable democratic system either on the Westminster model or on an American model, or developing their own forms of African democracy. Many countries are capable of assimilating aid and using it for the benefit of their populations.
Two problems confront any hon. Member in a debate of this sort. First, will we catch Mr. Speaker's eye, and, secondly, to which of the many subjects should we address ourselves in a field as vast as defence and foreign affairs? I shall resist commenting on defence and gloating over the Government's predicament, and saying "I told you so." There is no way in which we could have a viable, conventional defence and a "nuclear deterrent". I do not wish to comment on and reiterate my regular pleas to the Lord Privy Seal on the future of democracy in South Korea and the need to get over to that country the fact that it will be regarded as an international pariah if it continues to pursue its present policy.
I should like to mention briefly the future of Anglo-American relations as a result of the election of Mr. Ronald Reagan. What will be the future for European, American, East-West and North-South relations as a result of his election? As a schoolboy, on the way to school I used to pass a church outside which there was a sign saying "Do not worry; it may never happen." I am afraid that hope is running out on that score. It will happen, and we should hope that Mr. Reagan turns out to be different from my and many of my colleagues' initial expectations.
I propose to talk about a subject that was not included in the Queen's Speech—a subject that will engulf and envelop this House over the months ahead, namely, the patriation of the Canadian constitution. A delegation of Canadian-Indian chiefs warned us 18 months ago of what would happen. That has now happened. Even though there has been no formal request by the Canadian Government, we know that it will shortly be made. It is a minefield, both politically and constitutionally. A googly is being bowled by Mr. Trudeau, which means that one thinks that the ball is going one way and, in effect, it turns the other way and goes past and often knocks the wicket down.
The Canadian Prime Minister has warned people against speaking about the Canadian constitution. In a speech in Winnipeg, he said that he understood that some Members of the British Parliament wished to meddle in his country's affairs and that they had better not try. I do not think that any hon. Member in this country will be warned off talking about a subject that is legitimately within his competence. If the Canadians had wanted their constitution back at any time since 1867, they could have got it back. The fact that they could not agree on its patriation is not our fault. Members of this House and of the House of Lords have every right to comment on what Prime Minister Trudeau is seeking to do.
When I was in Canada, I put forward a view on behalf of the people who were there 20,000 years before the French or the English—the native Canadians. Just after I left, a Liberal Member of Parliament, a Mr. Gus Cullen, sought unsuccessfully to have me censured by the House of Commons in Canada and suggested that unless I minded my own business I should be patriated back to England. As it happened, I was already back in England. He accused me of being a colonial, but my definition of a colonial is 267 a person who exploits indigenous people. I do not think that Britain can be castigated for exploiting indigenous people, namely, the Indians of North America.
A few weeks ago, the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail said:Who's interfering in whose affairs?If the Canadian Prime Minister is trying to ramrod through his legislature and the British legislature a proposal that is not agreed by the provinces and the federal Government, he is interfering in our affairs rather than the other way round.
A document that was sent to me marked "For Ministers' eyes only"—their capacity to keep secrets is matched only by ours—said that the fight in Parliament in Canada and in the country would be "very, very rough". I am not anti-Canadian—I am far from it—but my opposition to what Mr. Trudeau is doing is based on genuine constitutional arguments. If the Canadians want their constitution, let them have it, but it must be done in the right way. I have considerable reservations as to the way in which Mr. Trudeau is pursuing his—one may say—"obsession" to patriate the Canadian constitution. I also have reservations that I express on behalf of the indigenous peoples of Canada, who still have a claim on the British Crown. That claim was not extinguished in 1867 or in 1931. The obligation is still there.
If the British Government accede to the demands of Mr. Trudeau, we shall be proceeding wrongly. In Canada there is opposition from the official Opposition, from at least six of the 10 provinces, from the original Canadians, from many other Canadians and from many constitutional lawyers. The Globe and Mail states:If the Prime Minister of Canada were to ask the British Government to submit to Parliament a bill that provided merely for the patriation of the Constitution—that is a bill that put the power to amend the BNA Act into Canadian hands, according to a formula to be settled by agreement between federal and provincial governments—then the only course open to the British Government would be to act on that request… But the resolution that Mr. Trudeau's Government is attempting to ram through Parliament in Ottawa asks for much more than patriation. It sets out to entrench in the constitution a bill of rights… In plain words Mr. Trudeau is asking Britain to make changes to the Canadian constitution that go far beyond the changes he could make himself if the constitution had already been repatriated. Worse, they are changes that go far beyond the changes he could make if, in addition to repatriation, the substantive constitutional amending changes he demands had already been made. For he does not have in Canada the support he would need to carry through these amendments… If Mr. Trudeau continues on the course he has chosen he will find himself asking Britain to amend Canada's constitution in a manner that the constitution as amended would show to be clearly unconstitutional. He would be asking what he has no right to ask.That is the problem that the British Government will have to face. Despite the bravado of the Canadian Government, they are not certain of their constitutional and political position.
The document to which I referred earlier states that the Government couldtake a position that it is confident of its legal position.The report continues:Obviously, the foregoing suggests that while unilateral action can legally be accomplished, it involves the risk of prolonged dispute through the courts once the possibility of adverse judicial comments that could undermine the political legitimacy, though not the legal validity, of the patriation package …268 The report says that if the matter goes before the courts it could take between one and a half and two years to settle, and thatthere would be the additional risk of an earlier, possibly critical, provincial court judgment.What certainty is that as to what they are doing?
The report goes on:There would be a strong strategic advantage in having the joint resolution passed and the United Kingdom legislation enacted before a Canadian court had occasion to pronounce on the validity of the measures and the procedure employed to achieve it. This would suggest the desirability of swift passage of the resolution under United Kingdom legislation.Who is being used? The idea appears to be to rush it through Canada and through Parliament here before the courts can get at it. If the courts get at it, they may strike down the validity of the legislation. Who is being used?
If the British Government and Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition accede to Prime Minister Trudeau's request or demand, they will be going about the problem in the wrong way. They must be cautious before supporting the federal Government.
I have looked at a variety of constitutional authorities—not just those of the provinces, which I understand will be submitting evidence to the Select Committee, but people such as Senator Eugene Forsey, an eminent and distinguished lawyer and senator. He said thatsome distinguished constitutional lawyers argue only after all, or almost all, the provinces have consented to such a requestcan the Canadian Government proceed.
Professor Forsey refers to Professor W. R. Lederman as Canada's "premier" constitutional authority, and Lederman has argued that the convention that all the provinces must agree has now hardened into a rule of law.
All the provinces have not agreed. Until now, the provinces have been consulted in the majority of cases. In 1965, a Canadian White Paper said:The Canadian Parliament will not request an amendment directly affecting Federal-provincial relations without prior consultation and agreement with the provinces.Even if in some cases this procedure has not been followed, consent is still the norm to be pursued.
On this most crucial occasion, should the principle of consultation and agreement between the federal Government and the provinces be violated, what moral authority will such a constitution then possess? What must we do? If we accede, we shall be wrong. Shall we say "Let them get on with it"—simply pass a Bill to give them the right to work out their own future within Canada? If that is done, I hope that there will be consent, if not consensus, with compromise on the part of every group. Or should we allow the Canadian courts to decide before we act? That course of action attracts me very much.
This Government should encourage the Canadian Government to seek to solve the problems within Canada, otherwise we shall have jet loads of lobbyists coming over here. If the Indians can find me, Quebec can find somebody else, and the fishermen of the provinces can find somebody else. Then this House will be the battleground for a contest between proxies of groups in Canada who ought to be fighting it out over there. Let them solve their problems in Canada.
I do not want to get involved in any fist fight—perhaps I should not use that phrase—with the Canadian Prime Minister, but the problems should first be resolved in Canada. If they are resolved, I hope that it will be with the co-operation of the native Canadians.
269 I speak not on behalf of but in support of the three native Canadian groups—the National Indian Brotherhood, representing a quarter of a million full-blooded or "status" Indians; the Native Council of Canada, representing 800,000 people of mixed blood, or Metis; and the ITC, representing some 25,000 Inuits or Eskimos.
Distinguished lawyers such as Gordon Bennett and Professor Douglas Sanders have argued thatIt is not widely appreciated that the UK retains a residual responsibility for the native peoples of Canada".They go on to argue that Parliament and the Crown could refuse to patriate the constitutionif persuaded that the proposed constitution adversely affected Indian status".This may appear to be a rather novel, almost unique, interpretation of the Canadian constitution. That is not so. A relationship was established between the British Crown and the Indian nations two centuries ago, and that relationship still exists. The British Government and the Canadian Government may choose to ignore this. It has not been tested in the courts, but that relationship still exists.
The duties set out in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 have never been extinguished by the passage of time, and the Crown still has an obligation.
The report of the House of Commons Select Committee on aborigines in 1837 said that in return for receiving lands in Canada Great Britain pledged to the Indians protection and guaranteed that changes would occur only by negotiation and agreement.
The British North America Act was not passed in 1867 with the co-operation of the native peoples. One cannot simply transfer legal responsibility, having signed treaties in perpetuity. The Indians, when they signed, thought that the terms were to apply for ever.
There were hundreds of treaties signed by Indian tribes and the Crown. The Statute of Westminster does not refer to the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Treaties continued to be negotiated with aboriginal nations after the British North America Act, as before, and we still have the legal obligation. The obligation of the Crown has never been transferred to Canada, although both Canada and the United Kingdom act as though there had been a transfer.
I shall not talk about the case that the Indians—Inuits and Metis—are putting. They will put their own case. Briefly, they are calling for a collective recognition of themselves as distinct peoples. They are asking for the protection of their traditional cultures, life styles and aboriginal rights. They are asking for political rights, for a certain degree of self-government within the confines of the Canadian State. They are asking for certain economic rights to lands and resources—the lands that they had originally but were signed away.
I hope that the British Government will realise that they still have an obligation and will not be dragooned by the Canadian federal Government into taking a course of action that would renege on constitutional responsibilities signed not only with native peoples but with the provinces. The Queen is not only the Queen of the federal Government. The Crown has responsibilities for each of the provinces, and we must never forget that.
The leaked document to which I referred ended with a quotation from Machiavelli. Having read the document, I can understand why Machiavelli was cited, because "Old Nick" would have been proud of the document that was submitted to the Cabinet in Canada. One must note that 270 "The Prince" Machiavelli's principal tract was intended to bring about the unification of his country, but he did not succeed. Indeed, unification came 400 years after the initial document was written. I trust that the desires of the Canadian peoples will not have to wait that long.
Machiavelli said—to quote again the leaked document—thatIt should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult to arrange more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through, than initiating changes in a State's constitution".One can underline that statement. It is bound to be a complicated process. There are people in this House and in the House of Lords who, far from being anti-Canadian, will want to see that the patriation, when it eventually takes place, is done properly. That means not only a close examination by the Select Committee; it should also mean a reference to the Canadian courts, before the British Parliament, the British Government and the British Crown are asked to put their collective heads on a chopping block.
If that is done we can proceed, as many would want us to, as a rubber stamp, but a warning must go out from this House. We are not desirous of "meddling" in Canadian affairs—no one doubts that Canada is an absolutely sovereign nation—but this House has responsibilities. I, as an hon. Member, did not ask for them. No one in this Chamber is old enough to have participated in the initial legislation, which was enacted more than a century ago, although some of us may seem old enough to have been around at that time. Nevertheless when the constitution is patriated it must be done properly.
I hope that this legislature will then pass the necessary measures swiftly. I do not want relations between Canada and Britain to be endangered. However, if we accede to Mr. Trudeau's request we shall not be acting in a neutral manner. If we accede to his request we shall be taking the side of the federal Government against the provincial Governments. There is a need for more discussion. I hope that wiser counsels will prevail in Canada and that the British Government and Opposition will not be railroaded into supporting a position that many regard as unconstitutional and untenable.
§ Mr. Peter Fraser (South Angus)
In the course of this debate hon. Members have ranged widely over the matters contained in the Queen's Speech. I shall restrict my remarks to the sentence in the Gracious Speech which deals with the Government's continued support for the Government of the United States of Americain their efforts to find an early and peaceful solution to the prolonged illegal detention of the United States' diplomatic hostages in Iran.It was riot without hesitation or reservation that the House agreed initially to the imposition of economic sanctions against Iran as part of the pressure to secure the release of the hostages. That decision was not taken easily, and was not taken without some commercial and trading sacrifices by this country when we could, perhaps, ill afford them. I am sure that no hon. Member would wish to do or to say anything that will prejudice the early release of the diplomatic hostages. Indeed, hon. Members must be as anxious as the American people that those hostages should be freed and reunited with their families as soon as possible.
Although the sanctions that the House imposed were specifically related to the seizure of the American hostages, we should be equally concerned about the fate 271 of the British citizens who have been detained without charge or trial and denied access by any member of the United Kingdom consular staff, by any other consular staff in Iran or by legal advisers or friends. One of the four detained in Iran is a constituent of mine, Miss Jean Waddell. I am acutely aware of the distress and anxiety that her continued detention in Iran causes, not only to her family and friends in my constituency but also to her Church.
The detention of Miss Jean Waddell, together with that of Dr. and Mrs. Coleman and Mr. Pike, is an affront to all that we hold to be fair in a judicial system, and, indeed, an affront by any international standard. The fact that they have remained in detention without access of any form being allowed must be unlawful. The character of Miss Waddell's detention may be different from that of the diplomatic hostages, but it is no less reprehensible. It is now an unconscionable time since she was first detained by the Iranian revolutionary authorities, and there is no justification for failing to provide any information about her health, the charges that might be preferred against her or for failing to provide any information about her wellbeing.
It is rumoured that investigations into the extraordinary allegations of spying—they refer to a lady who went to that country to serve the Anglican Church—have been completed. The Foreign Office has discovered that the documents on which the allegations are based are patent forgeries, and anyone with English as his first language could tell that.
It appears that Miss Waddell has been moved by the revolutionary authorities from Isfahan to Tehran. Given the conclusion of investigations into the allegations, it is difficult to understand why nothing has been said about her whereabouts or what is to be done about her. If she were in similar circumstances in Britain, she would have been charged and have seen legal advisers, or she would have been released from prison.
Miss Waddell is a middle-aged lady who went to work in Iran as a secretary to the Anglican bishop. Earlier this year she was seriously wounded in an incident. She was still recovering from that when she was arrested by the revolutionary authorities. Prior to her detention, our embassy in Tehran did all that it could to secure permission for her to leave the country. I make no criticism of the activities of the embassy staff while they were in Iran. Nor can any criticism be levelled against the Foreign Office for its decision to withdraw diplomatic staff from Tehran. It was clear that events were moving in such a way that we might have found ourselves in much the same situation as the American diplomats.
It is worth recording that the staff of the Swedish embassy have been tireless in their efforts to secure some access—on humanitarian grounds—to Miss Jean Waddell and the other prisoners. They have attempted to find out something about her. Despite their efforts, the prospect of securing her release is increasingly bleak. Judging from the correspondence that I have received, there is a mounting sense of anger about her continued detention.
It would be wrong to attempt to heighten ill feelings against Iranians who are studying or working here. It goes without saying that the Government should not contemplate any form of military intervention to secure the release of our hostages. However, before the release of the 272 American hostages, or in the event of their release, the Government should ensure that our own fellow citizens in detention in Iran do not become forgotten prisoners.
I have been considerably reassured by the public statements made by the Minister to the effect that there can be no question of resuming full and friendly relations with Iran as long as these prisoners are held without charge, trial or access. Nevertheless, that may not be all that is required. I urge the Government to take every step to let the new American Administration know and appreciate that we consider an early solution to the prolonged, equally illegal, detention of our citizens to belong to the same category as that of the illegal detention of their diplomatic staff.
I hope that our partners in the European Community will be apprised of our resolve to ensure that our prisoners in Iran are accorded their rights. As long as Iran is at war with Iraq, and as long as it is difficult for the Government to determine exactly where the base of power lies as regards the detention of these prisoners, the opportunities for mounting fresh initiatives to secure their release will be difficult and scarce. I ask only that the Government ensure that, however difficult our relations with Iran may be, and although the location and the charges against those prisoners are at present unknown, these people are not forgotten by the House.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I am sure that the House shares the concern expressed by the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Fraser) about his constituent, Miss Jean Waddell, and the other British people who have been detained in Iran. We pay tribute to him for the work that he has done on behalf of his constituent. From the press, we know of the frustrations that he has experienced when trying to put his point of view fairly and squarely to representatives of the Iranian Government. I am sure that the House hopes that not only the British detainees but the American hostages will soon be released. I hope that such happy events do not have to wait until the end of the conflict between Iraq and Iran. If they do, that is an added reason why the conflict should be ended as soon as possible.
There is one sentence in the Gracious Speech to which I should like to devote considerable attention:Negotiations to find an internationally recognised settlement in Namibia in accordance with the United Nations' plan will continue.I apologise to the Lord Privy Seal for having missed his opening remarks. However, I have heard with astonishment from some of my hon. Friends who were present that the right hon. Gentleman made no mention of Namibia. This is surprising considering the reports in today's press which suggest that South Africa and the West have agreed a formula for a conference on Namibia.
I think that we are entitled to ask forcefully why no statement was made today about these discussions and the possibility of such a conference taking place. We are entitled further to ask, following from the single sentence in the Gracious Speech, how long the negotiations will continue. How long will South Africa be allowed to defy world opinion and the United Nations? How long will South Africa be allowed to prevent free elections in Namibia?
If there is to be an all-party conference, or however it may be dressed up, such a conference will have no hope 273 of success unless a firm date is set for the holding of elections. South Africa has prevaricated for many years on the holding of free elections in Namibia. Each time South Africa is pressed to implement the United Nations plan, which apparently is accepted in principle, the response is "Not now; sometime tomorrow"; and tomorrow never seems to come.
It is generally believed that an election must take place in 1981. That is the only way to get the basis for a conference. If the conference is to decide on the nuts and bolts, given a firm commitment to an election as early as possible next year, I would go along with such a conference. Without such a commitment, I would not support the conference. The only way that we can get South Africa finally to bite the bullet, so to speak, and to make clear that it must accept United Nations—supervised elections next is for us to say that the West will no longer veto any sanctions resolution in the United Nations Security Council. It is important that that should be said as early as possible. With the General Assembly beginning its debate on Namibia tomorrow, the Government should have said today that they would not rule out sanctions.
I do not expect the Government to say that they will support sanctions. I know how much one can ask for if one hopes to get a reasonable response. However, the Government should make it clear that the day has passed when they can hold out against the implementation of sanctions on South Africa. Only South Africa is holding back elections in Namibia. SWAPO has for many years said that it is willing to put itself to the test of opinion in a free election. Why is South Africa holding back? The front-line States surrounding that part of Africa have said that they want to see free elections in Namibia. Almost all in the United Nations have said that they want free elections in Namibia. Only South Africa is unwilling to commit itself to free elections in Namibia.
I appreciate that the Government have convinced themselves that they solved the Rhodesian problem and brought Zimbabwe to independence. The truth is that the impetus for a resolution of the conflict in Rhodesia was the position within that country. Resolution of the Rhodesian conflict came only when the Smith regime, South Africa and the West realised that the Patriotic Front armies were winning and that a fight to the finish could lead only to a major cataclysmic result. Must we wait until the number of lives lost in Namibia reaches Rhodesian proportions before the Government act publicly to demonstrate their opposition to South Africa's prevarication?
We know that Tory Members would not listen to us during the many years of UDI. I beg them to listen to us now. They took refuge, in the days of UDI, by saying that those who were opposed to the Smith regime and supported the Patriotic Front were the supporters of murderers, guerrillas and so on. They sought to blind themselves to the reality of the situation. If they had listened to us 10 years ago, if they had given the 1966–70 Labour Government the necessary support, we might have saved 10 years of bloodshed and achieved a much better future for the new country of Zimbabwe. I do not want to go into the difficulties now facing Zimbabwe. However, we could have saved many lives from being lost. We could have saved a great deal of destruction of people's bodies. We could have saved a great deal of loss of property. We could have achieved a much better economy if the Conservative Party had listened to us.
274 I hope that people will realise that SWAPO and the Namibian people will not give in on their fight for freedom. If it has to go on, it will go on, and we shall support it. The Government must learn the lesson of Rhodesia and realise that they must act with resolution.
Conservative Ministers complain about lack of elections in Afghanistan, and there ought to be elections in Afghanistan. But it is no use complaining about Afghanistan or the lack of democracy in Eastern Europe—there should be greater democracy in Eastern Europe—if within the boundaries of our own influence—no one can deny that we have influence in South Africa, because economically South Africa is part of the West—we do not act to achieve elections in Namibia. Unless we commit ourselves to freedom in South Africa, our pleas to the Russians will carry little weight. If we have a commitment to freedom, we must show that we are willing to do more than talk about the issue. There must be a greater willingness to understand what is happening in the whole of Southern Africa.
As time is short, I shall not go into the matter in great detail. However, one of the best things that has happened in Southern Africa during recent years has been the establishment of a series of conferences of the South African Development Co-ordination Committee, the second of which has begun today or will start tomorrow in Maputo. Certain countries are now beginning to realise that they are over-dependent on South Africa. They now realise that they must develop their own economies in cooperation with each other. I hope that the Minister for Overseas Development, who has gone to Maputo, has gone with a specific commitment to put money into the first of the proposals worked out for transport communications, which I think will cost about $800 million. That is the figure that I have in mind. We must put our money where our mouths are on this issue.
I turn briefly to an issue which constantly arises these days—where we stand on nuclear weapons. More and more, the question has been posed as being that of nuclear weapons versus jobs. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) is not in his place, because he posed this question very strongly. He said that those of us who are unilateralists must answer the question of what we shall do about the people who work in Rosyth dockyard if we have unilateral nuclear disarmament.
As I have said, apart from the fact that nuclear weapons are not made in Rosyth dockyard, that is carrying the argument too far. In a sense, what my hon. Friend was in great danger of arguing was that the best provider of jobs is massive rearmament, not disarmament. In many respects, one could argue—although I certainly do not argue this—that the best provider of jobs and a booming economy is war itself—preferably a local war far away from one's country, such as fighting a war by proxy in Vietnam or Kampuchea.
It is not a question of unilateralism losing jobs, because, in a sense, the biggest danger to jobs is multilateral disarmament, as one would not then be speaking about doing away with only a few highly sophisticated nuclear weapons; one would be doing away with a very large and very job-consuming part of the defence economy. I hope, therefore, that we shall not have that kind of argument about things versus jobs. At the end of the day, we must draw the line somewhere. Some of us believe, as I do, that nuclear weapons are such evil things 275 that, although in their building they provide jobs, jobs should be the last possible reason for having such weapons.
One could move to the other extreme and say that, after all, heroin is a dreadful thing through what it does to people, but, if it provides jobs, why should we not license the providers of heroin, and why should we not license cigarette companies to provide cannabis cigarettes? It is all an extension of the argument.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
If we follow that line of argument, and if we are serious about multilateral disarmament, should we not have contingency plans for jobs anyway? That is the crucial point. It is perhaps a measure of our lack of seriousness about the issue that we do not have contingency plans.
§ Mr. Hughes
There are two great disadvantages in giving way. One is that one may get an irrelevant interruption, and the other, as more often happens, is that the person to whom one gives way steals one's best line. I was about to make the point that if there are to be multilateral or unilateral disarmament or cuts in defence expenditure demand, we must provide a strategic plan for the provision of peaceful jobs. That contingency plan should be worked on now.
I want to refer briefly to a very curious argument that is beginning to be advanced in some very strange quarters but very widely and publicly. That argument against unilateralism is as follows. We are told that if the nuclear disarmers would only realise it, there would have been no Hiroshima or Nagasaki if Japan had had nuclear weapons. That may well be so. I do not know. However, one can extend that reasoning. One might argue that if Nazi Germany had been a nuclear Power, Germany would not be a divided country between East and West and that the geographical line where the Iron Curtain now rests, according to the Conservative Party in particular, would be much further back. Possibly Poland would have still been under German domination instead of under Russian domination.
Is that really the concept that we are arguing? If we are arguing that, we must ask ourselves whether those who lost their lives in destroying the heavy water plant in Norway gave their lives in vain. Were we mistaken in holding back Germany's nuclear weapons capacity? I wish sometimes that people would answer that question. I do not pretend to know what the answer is. I think that people would concede that if Japan had been a nuclear Power, Japan would still hold the large parts of South-East Asia which it held at one time.
It is an obscene argument, because we know that there was no need to use nuclear weapons. It is an obscene argument against unilateral nuclear disarmament to say that there would have been no Hiroshima or Nagasaki if Japan had been a nuclear Power. The truth is that probably the atrocities carried out by the Japanese and the Germans would have continued apace and no one would have been able to do anything about it, although I suspect that at that stage of the world's existence we would have seen people using up what nuclear weapons they had on a much wider scale.
In our discussions on defence and foreign policy generally, I hope that we shall not continue to blunt our power of reasoning by an irrational hatred of the Soviet 276 Union. There are very great signs of that happening—that anything is possible just as long as one thwarts the Soviet Union. One finds all kinds of strange reasoning being adopted in foreign policy if we let reason go out of the window. One example of an action for which there was no reasonable support but which was still done was this Government's support in the United Nations for the accession of the Pol Pot regime. There can be no rationale for such action. It is done because people are blinded by other considerations.
I hope that the Government will say that the visit that Mr. Botha, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, made to Mr. Luns of NATO does not represent a change of policy. I understand that, apart from that one meeting, which it is now admitted took place, although there is some argument about whether it was held at NATO headquarters or at Mr. Luns's private residence, there have been three such meetings within the last 18 months between prominent NATO personnel and South African Foreign Ministers. I hope that we can be given an assurance that there have been no policy changes regarding South Africa's integration or non-integration with NATO.
I hope that I have time to refer to one or two issues beyond foreign affairs which are of great importance to my constituents and, I believe, to the whole of our industry. On fishery negotiations, there is great suspicion, constantly repeated by fishermen, that we face a sell-out. The French constantly repeat that the so-called agreement on a rebate of British contributions is contingent on an agreement being reached on fishing by the end of this year and that, unless there is such an agreement, no rebate will be available. I know that the Government have denied this, but we are getting ever closer to the end of the year, with no agreement. If there were a chance to go into detail, one could say that what we are offered under a fishing agreement is worse than what we were offered two years ago.
Industry is being destroyed in this country. We are seeing the decimation of British industry in almost every single field. There has been a modest reduction in interest rates today, which will help, but it will be of no value to the paper industry, facing massive energy costs. We must use oil revenues for investment and not simply for cutting taxation and such like matters. We must use this resource from the North Sea in the best possible way. The Government are to take more revenue. It will be used simply to cut the public service borrowing requirement. At the same time, the Government are cutting local industry and causing tremendous damage to the economy.
Some people may feel that it does not matter that the Government have broken almost every pledge that they made before coming to office. People may feel that it does not matter if the Government fail in their economic policy. Perhaps, they feel that it does not matter that within this country there is deep resentment simmering below the surface. I find that resentment disquieting. The failure of successive Governments to tackle our economic problems and to show that we can resolve the difficulties of ordinary people is breeding a contempt for politics and all its works. It is not only the Government who will suffer. Opposition parties will also suffer.
Unless we have a clear policy for the regeneration of British industry and a clear policy for solving the deep-seated problems that we face, it will not be only a matter of inter-party difficulties, but the very fabric of our democracy will be under threat. If that is the case, the only 277 people who can repair the damage to that fabric are the Labour Party following very strong Socialist policies. We must not merely fight the Government. We must make clear our position for the future of our country and of our people. We must stand firm for human rights, whether in this country or abroad. At the end of the day, the only people who can speak for Britain and speak for freedom with any conviction and any degree of success are the Labour Party wedded to a Socialist policy.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St Edmunds)
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will not expect me to agree with his concluding remarks. My main theme is that the Opposition, by their slide towards neutralism and unilateralism on nuclear weapons, are in danger of putting at risk the most important single element in the security of this country, namely, the American Alliance.
With deep regret, I have to say that the Government too, to some extent, have rubbed the shine off one of their greatest assets in Washington—the Prime Minister's reputation for saying what she means and doing what she says on defence. The Government have gone back on their commitment to NATO to increase our defence expenditure in real terms by 3 per cent. a year. I believe we shall live to regret that.
The main threat on today's world scene is the readiness and ability of the Soviet Union to project its armed forces outside the Eastern bloc. I have seen at first hand the projections of this armed power into member countries of the Warsaw Pact. I was in Budapest and in Prague. I hope we shall not to see similar events in Poland, but no one can be sure of that.
But the new development over the past decade is the Soviet Union's willingness to reach outside its own perimeters. We saw this in Angola, where the Soviets had the help of the Cubans. We saw it in the Horn of Africa, where help was given by the East Germans. Above all, we have seen it, in full force, in Afghanistan.
On every occasion, the Western response to these aggressions has been "Next time we shall not be caught napping." Whenever a new Soviet adventure takes place, we are always going to do better next time. After Afghanistan, it is time the West took strong action. There was the ban on the Olympics, though it turned out to be a wash-out. There were the limits on Western supplies of capital, credits and technology to the Soviet Union, and the United States imposed a grain embargo. Above all, there was to be a 3 per cent. increase in arms spending by NATO.
But what has actually happened? The attempt to isolate the Soviet Union diplomatically was broken almost before it began by the President of France rushing off to Poland for bilateral talks with Mr. Brezhnev. The attempt to limit credits and technology to the Soviet Union has been smashed to smithereens, not least by the West German Government's offer of $10 billion in credits against Soviet oil and gas supplies. As for the 3 per cent. increase in defence spending, first the Germans and now Britain have gone back on it.
What are the consequences of the Western failure effectively to resist one Soviet adventure after another? The first is to encourage the hawks in the Kremlin to 278 believe that they can get away with it. The second is to impair the credibility of the European side of the Alliance in the United States.
I spent nearly 16 years off and on in America. I have taken careful note of the evolution of Mr. Reagan, first when he was head of the Screen Actors Guild in Los Angeles, later as a very effective governor of California and a considerable crusading politician, and, most recently, as President-elect. I, for one, am glad that he has won. But it is enormously important that we in this country should understand that there is now a new dispensation in Washington.
As a Californian, Mr. Reagan, understandably, is apt to look more towards the Pacific and perhaps more towards Latin America than any American President for a number of years. In the present-day circumstances of the United States, he will be right to do so. His Administraion will also be politically more sef-assertive in international affairs. We shall not like everything that this new selfsenstiveness may mean for this side of the water. I believe that there will be much more emphasis on building up America's armed strength. For my part, I shall welcome that, though it will certainly bring howls of protest from the weak sisters within the Alliance, if not from within this House. There will also be greater pressures from Washington for its European allies to do more to help carry the common burden of Western defence. The Germans will be expected to pay more to meet the costs of the United States Army in their country, and it would not surprise me if pressure were put on this country, with its new-found, strong oil currency, to bear a greater share of the cost of the United States Air Force stationed here.
Overall, I believe that there will be greater emphasis in Mr. Reagan's America on hemispheric self-sufficiency. The word "isolationism" was used earlier. I do not believe that isolationism is possible for the United States. American business and industry are far too inextricably involved in the entire world. The national interests of the United States also require that she adopts a global strategy, involving allies in both Europe and in the Pacific.
However, I have no doubt whatever that this new Administration, with the support of very many Americans, will seek a greater measure of what I can only describe as North American continentalism. There is a view that the United States, together with its immediate neighbours—Canada to the north and Mexico and the Latin American countries to the south—has within its own hemisphere the ability by the end of the century to be self-sufficient, both in armaments and in energy. The wall-to-wall carpeting of coal that is waiting to be tapped in the Rocky Mountain states and the oil and gas of Canada and the Arctic and, indeed, of the Caribbean and South America can certainly enable the United States to rescue itself from its "dependence on the undependable" of the Middle East, as President Carter put it. This theme, I am sure, will be repeated by his successor, only more so.
In the face of these changes towards a more robust, more self-assertive, more continentalist America, I believe that we shall see some of the strongest pressures within the Atlantic Alliance leading towards divergence rather than convergence. There will be tensions between the Americans and the Europeans and only the Soviets will gain. Nothing is more likely to exacerbate those tensions than the shift in the British Labour Party towards something very close to neutralism and unilateralism.
279 Let me put it in practical terms. Faced with the Soviet deployment of SS20s—not the threat; the reality of that deployment—at the rate of two a week, the NATO Alliance agreed that it was necessary to deploy into the European theatre the American cruise and Pershing Missiles. Reluctantly an agreement was arrived at, signed and sealed in good faith. The United States is now making ready to produce those missiles, to put in the serial production orders for a vast array of expensive equipment, some of which I have seen in the factories in California. It is having to make provision in the fiscal years 1982–83 and 1983–84, as required by the Congress, for the site preparation work, for the undergrounding of the equipment, for its delivery, and for the purchase of the British Rapier missiles which are to help to protect the existing United States bases in this country.
Against this background of hard practical commitments, what is the United States to do if the present Leader of the Opposition comes close to taking office? I do not think that he will, but it is a contingent possibility that any prudent American Administration must take into account. So, if that were the case, or if it were the likely prospect, no American could possibly doubt that there was at least a very good chance of the heavy expenditure on the British-based cruise missiles and on the preparation of the bases proving to be abortive. It would be a total waste.
So, what are the Americans to do? I believe that some of them will be saying to the President that they might be better off relying on the German alliance. I do not think that that view will prevail in Washington. Others will recommend to the President a continental strategy based on the long-range ballistic missiles and on the great submarine fleet which the United States is capable of building and operating, largely on her own.
It may be that Opposition Members will say "So be it." But I am just old enough to remember Churchill's greatest achievement as well as his wise advice. His greatest achievement was not the Battle of Britain. It was, in his own words, tocall in the New World to the rescue of the Old.Ever since that time, when the Americans helped Britain to avoid defeat and thereafter to liberate Europe, we have enjoyed the benefits of the Marshall plan, the reconstruction of Europe and, within NATO, the sure arm of the United States in helping to secure the freedom and prosperity of Europe. It would be a sad day if now, through the internal evolutions of the Labour Party, we were to put at risk that one sure guarantee of the security of our nation, through the alienation of our American allies. That would be a historic turn of the gravest consequence to the British people.
I conclude with a simple plea to the Government. No British Prime Minister for a long time has stood so high in the estimation of the American people as our present leader. None has enjoyed more confidence in the Congress, in the Democratic Party and in the Republican Party. Her reputation stands high. But it depends to a great extent on the belief, shared by most Americans of all parties in positions of authority, that, when my right hon. Friend identified before anyone else the main threat from the Soviet Union and when she undertook in Opposition that a Conservative Government would devote to our Armed Services the resources needed to ensure their efficiency and our common security, she would do what 280 she said. I believe that she has done so. But the Government's shift on defence in the main will take the shine off at least some part of that reputation. I ask my right hon. Friends to guard it from further damage.
§ Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)
The debate was opened by a typically languid, disinterested and bored—I use the word "bored", not "boring"—speech by the Lord Privy Seal. His speech reflected the Queen's Speech. The most languid and disinterested part was that in which he dealt with the Third world and the developing countries. He put in that part—or it was put in for him—because somehow or other he felt that it should be included. Perhaps it is fashionable to talk about developing countries. However, he and his Government have no commitment whatsoever to the problems of the Third world. That is reflected clearly in the Queen's Speech, which states:My Government recognise the serious economic problems that affect both developed aid developing countries and will continue to work with other countries and international organisations in seeking to alleviate them.That commitment is less than the commitment that they gave last year, when the Queen's Speech stated:My Ministers will have regard to the need for trade with, and aid to the developing countries.The Government mentioned aid last year—although all that they did was to cut it. This year, they have not bothered to mention it at all.
During his speech, the Lord Privy Seal said that aid to the developing countries had to be cut along with other Government expenditure. I find it obscene and appalling that a Government can link aid to developing countries with that sort of terminology and use financial terms to describe it. We heard such expressions from the Conservative Benches during the debate. When public expenditure is cut—and I oppose that as violently and as strongly as anybody else—it creates unemployment, poor education facilities and poor health facilities. We do not want to see that happening. But when overseas aid is cut it may cause the death of children and adults in developing countries. It is a matter not only of lowering the standard of living but of actually causing death to individuals in other countries.
Despite what the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) said, it is an obscenity that a Government can increase defence expenditure by 3 per cent. —and they will increase it by 2½ per cent. this year, which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds may abhor but which I think is a step in the right direction—and while doing so they are cutting aid to developing countries and causing increasing problems in countries that are already hard hit by poverty. That is immoral. It is time that hon. Members on both sides talked more about the morality of policies and less about the economic effects.
It is not only aid that matters, because we do not help Third world and developing countries only through direct financial aid. The disastrous decline in our industries and the high interest rates that are sucking money into Britain have an effect on the economies of the developing countries. If the spending power of people in Britain is reduced, as is happening, inevitably that affects the spending power of people in the developing countries, and much more drastically. They cannot take the cut in spending power as easily as we can.
281 That is happening. For example, there has been a 10 per cent. reduction in the sale of sweets in our shops as a result of the economic depression. That may be regarded as marginal or minor, but it can have an effect on the ACP sugar-producing countries in terms of EEC quotas and on the standard of living of those in the Caribbean and African countries that produce cane sugar.
It is important also to bear in mind the effect of the Government's public expenditure cuts. The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) said that we are in an interdependent world when it comes, for example, to science and education. The hon. Gentleman is a Back Bencher who is supporting a Government who are cutting education provision. In Scotland, that has led to the closure of two colleges of education and the amalgamation of a third. It may be argued that the population no longer requires those colleges to train teachers. However, when large parts of the world have populations that are illiterate and are crying out for education for their people, it is wrong that we should be closing any education institute, especially when all the evidence suggests that the closures, far from saving the Government money over the next two or three years, will cost them more than if they were to decide to keep them open.
It would be a much better use of the buildings, the equipment and the highly trained staff in our colleges of education to bring in students from abroad or to train some of our people to teach in developing countries. That would be a correct use of education resources. It would not cost the Government much more and we could do a great deal for developing countries by that process.
We are finding that research programmes are being cut back in the universities because of the Government's cash limits. That applies to some programmes in agriculture that have allowed developing countries to expand their development of agriculture and agricultural produce. For example, the development of crop research has allowed them to harvest two or three crops a year instead of one, to produce new strains of seed and to introduce new strains of cattle. That research has not disappeared, but it is being threatened by the cash limits that are being imposed upon our economy and the universities. It must be wrong if public expenditure cuts are having that effect on Third world countries.
There have been tremendous cries from Conservative Members that we in Opposition are isolationists. They are saying that we are trying to retreat into ourselves by attempting to leave the EEC. I must disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore). I should find it extremely difficult to join with the gang of 39 on the Conservative Benches in their task of trying to come out of or reform the EEC. My objection to the EEC is different from that of the gang of 39. I object to it because it is a supranationalist organisation that damages the international work that Britain could be doing. In particular, it damages our relationships with developing countries.
Sugar agreements have been developed with the EEC. The African, Caribbean and Pacific countries that grow cane sugar are allowed to send to Europe 1,300,000 tonnes of sugar a year. Nearly all of it comes to Britain. Only one-tenth goes to the remainder of the EEC. It is sometimes said that we are extremely generous to take that amount of sugar, However, in 1973 two-thirds of the sugar 282 consumed in Britain was from cane sugar and one-third from beet. As a result of EEC policy, one-third comes from cane sugar and two-thirds from beet.
European beet farmers are overproducing. The free market for sugar is small compared with total world consumption. The price of sugar on that market is going up. There is at present a marginal shortage of sugar because of the poor summer in Europe, which lowers the sugar content of sugar beet, and because of the hurricanes and bad weather in the Caribbean. However, that is short-term. Over the next two or three years, sugar will probably be in surplus. That is certainly so in Europe.
As a result of that surplus the ACP countries, whose economies depend on sugar, unlike Europe, will be affected in two ways unless there is a change in sugar production quotas in Europe. The ability of the cane sugar-producing countries to sell on the world market will be damaged by the export of the European surpluses. European farmers will get EEC subsidies to keep sugar at a reasonable price, which will affect the opportunities of the cane sugar-producing countries to sell their sugar at a reasonable price.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, as well as responsible departments in other countries, is holding up a cut in the quotas of sugar beet. It was suggested that Britain should take a 30 per cent. cut in its sugar beet quotas. However, unless we have a solution to the quota problem, the quotas under the Lome convention for ACP countries will be cut.
It could happen by accident. For instance, if Tate and Lyle closes its Liverpool refinery, there may not be sufficient: cane refining capacity in Britain to take the entire quota. The ACP countries could suddenly and that we were no longer able to take in the quantities previously allowed. However, it is more likely that there will be a cut in the quotas from ACP countries. The CAP could damage dramatically whole economies in the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific. That is the effect that the CAP can have on developing countries.
What is required from us is development of long-term trading agreements. Conservative Members are right to say that trade with developing countries is essential, but it has to be trade not merely on a free market economy basis but on a long-term basis, in which the countries that are selling to us know that they can sell us a certain amount at a guaranteed price. Those are the sorts of trade agreements that we have to work out. If we do not, the economy of the Third world can only decline, and we need the Third world as much as it needs us.
If the wealth of the developing world does not increase, the economies of the industrialised countries cannot hope to improve. We depend upon them. Equally, they depend upon us to give them a start, which in turn will get the world economy going again. The Government have been guilty of sheer hypocrisy in talking in bland terms about the extent of their aid and how they are fifth in the league. It is not enough. We have to develop a proper policy towards the Third world if we hope to develop our own economy.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I shall deal briefly with our defence position and then speak of our relations with the EEC, the United States and the Third world.
283 A new factor is emerging in defence matters at home in the form of the rise of an anti-nuclear movement that is more formidable and sinister than anything this country has seen over the past 30 years. The movement is all the more dangerous because the Leader of the Opposition heads it. It is dishonest, in that the country cannot disarm its nuclear forces without undermining its whole defence policy, including, of course, conventional arms. It is also dishonest because unilateral disarmament is an impractical proposition that would make the Soviets laugh and of which they would take immediate advantage.
The Government rightly give defence first priority. However, I deeply regret the cut in the increase in defence spending from 3 per cent. to 2½ per cent. It will be ill received by our allies. Nevertheless, the Government must spell out the dangers of the anti-nuclear movement in the clearest terms at every opportunity.
Those of us who have sat through much of the debate have been disappointed in the fact that so few Labour Members have spoken in wholehearted defence of NATO and the Western Alliance. Where are the so-called moderates of the Labour Party who are supposed to hold those views?
Our relations with the EEC are improving, but they are by no means satisfactory. The Government now have to contend with public opinion that is sceptical of, if not outrightly opposed to, the EEC. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is playing the position just right by maintaining the national interest, as France always does, while proving herself a good European.
We must improve our relations with France and Germany by good old-fashioned diplomacy. That means secret diplomacy rather than our trying to bring a so-called European initiative into effect. I approve of the sentiments behind the recent European initiative on the Middle East, but I do not believe that it has been helpful to the United States, to Israel or even to the Arabs, because they do not know what weight to attach to such a proposal. The proposal has no more weight behind it than the proposed new-fangled EEC passport would have. Diplomacy must be about nations' interests. In the end, there must be some force to back those interests. I therefore believe that the time for a European foreign policy, like the time for the so-called European Parliament, has not yet arrived. That may be sad to some people, but it is a true fact. Surely, the Tory Party has people in the Foreign Office who understand what foreign affairs is all about—what Disreali called "real politics".
I believe that our main job in the EEC must be to improve relations with France. I served with the French forces under General de Gaulle for most of the last war. Unfortunately, France and the French Government still have a chip on their shoulder about the United States. We must try to wean Germany away from giving too much emphasis to detente, which, in the terms in which they talk about it, is a complete chimera. I still look upon the first task of the EEC as that of underpinning the NATO Alliance and as acting as a bastion of the West—if one likes, of Christendom. Progress in this direction has so far been disappointing, in my mind far outweighing disappointments over the CAP or fisheries policy.
With Mr. Reagan as President, we have a chance of improving our relations with the United States. He believes in the West being strong, and we must support 284 him in that. We must devoutly hope that he will increase the fighting efficiency of the United States armed services, which gives cause for some concern among our allies.
Much breath has been expended on the Brandt report and the Third world, including that of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton). The Brandt report is, in my view, treated with exaggerated respect, as if it were some sort of tablet of stone handed down to Moses from Mount Sinai. I believe that the whole basis of the report is misconceived. Indeed, I feel like using the words of Lord Castlereagh about it, which he used in respect of the Holy Alliance:A piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense".The nations of the Third world not only differ from each other but they differ profoundly from Western nations. They have other ideals and goals. They do not all wish to become exactly like modern Western capitalist nations. In some respects, some of them are less materialistic than we are in the West. Trade with them is, of course, vital, but the whole concept of aid in itself is doubtful and can be self-defeating.
From my own direct experience of countries in the Third world, I believe that the best thing that we can do to help those nations is to encourage some of our best young men and women either to go out there and trade, to start businesses and manufacturing concerns or to help the local people as specialists in the skills that they do not always possess, such as skills in agriculture, medicine, industry and so on. Above all, they can help the local people to help themselves. That was exactly what I saw in Dominica recently.
It is easy for the do-gooders among us to say to the Government "Give them all more money", by which they mean that we should impose greater taxation on our own people so that aid can be sent out to the Third world. That is usually the worst sort of aid. People are wanted to help the Third world—good, educated, energetic and devoted people, preferably young, who can show the way to the new nations. [Interruption.] The hon Member for Cathcart laughs. No doubt his experience of the world is vast, but I can tell him that there are many such young people in voluntary and other such services who are doing a good job. I fail to understand why he finds that amusing.
§ Mr. Stokes
Since the Government came to power less than two years ago, British prestige abroad has improved enormously. I noticed that recently when I took a delegation to the Government and people of Portugal. However, that prestige can be soundly based only if we overcome our economic and industrial troubles and have a sound base here. That is the best possible gift that we can give to our Foreign Office. We are enormously respected throughout the world for our experience of world affairs and for our stable institutions at home, which are the envy of many other nations. Wherever they go, our Armed Forces are marvellous ambassadors for us and we should be deeply proud of them. But all those precious possessions will be put at risk if we do not get our economy right. The world is watching to see whether we succeed or fail. I do not believe that we shall fail.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
I always listen to the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge 285 (Mr. Stokes) with interest, because he represents what I describe—I do not mean it disrespectfully—as a dying breed of people.
§ Mr. Soley
I am sure that the hon., Gentleman believes what he says. But the speech that he has just made is in no way an example of moderation. I regard it as a speech of extremism. I shall try to explain that later, because I should also like to relate those comments to the opening speech of the Lord Privy Seal, to which I listened with increasing concern. I heard words and phrases that I had not heard since the cold war. To the extent that those words were so readily used, we heard today a cold war speech from the Lord Privy Seal. It is, perhaps, a measure of the deterioration of international relations that the Lord Privy Seal made such a speech.
An incredible assumption was made: that the Soviet Union automatically has aggressive intentions. I do not stand here as a defender in any way of the Soviet Union. I have many things to criticise that country for, not only in its international relations but in its internal affairs, but I do not believe that the great Satan in which the Ayatollah Khomeini believes exists in Moscow either. If the Lord Privy Seal is to have his great Satan, he will make the same profound and foolish mistakes as the Ayatollah Khomeini is making in Iran.
The theory that has been put forward suggests that the tension in international relations is in some way due to an evil State or an evil group of people who run the affairs of the State. I do not believe that that is so. The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge also suggested that, which is why I described his speech as extremist. The Soviet Union does not represent a group of evil men with the aim of disrupting world peace. I suggest that the two dominant world Powers have lost control of an increasingly complex balance of power in a way that is reminiscent of the period immediately prior to the First World War. I put it to those who condemn, as I do, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that we put ourselves in a curious light, because only a few years ago we defended the United States' intervention in Cambodia, now Kampuchea, during the Vietnam war.
If it was wrong for the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan, it must also have been wrong for the United States to attack Kampuchea—unless, of course, we fall back on the theory that there is virtue in fighting for what we believe to be right and that it is not a virtue to bow down in the face of extremism. The problem with that argument is that if we believe it so strongly that we are prepared to fight and die for it, the people on the other side might also be prepared to fight and die for what they believe to be right.
When I hear Conservative Members referring to the words of the Soviet Union about Communism ruling the world, I tell them that I also do not want that to happen in the form in which it is practised in the Soviet Union. But when people in the West talk about democracy, or the world being made safe for democracy, what we are saying to the Soviet Union, in a different language, is "We shall defeat you." That is how it is seen in their language.
Conservative Members who cannot put themselves into the culture, experience and history of the Soviet Union are in danger of blinding themselves to the beliefs, ideas and fears of that country. If the hon. Member for Halesowen 286 and Stourbridge had been born and brought up in the Soviet Union, I suspect that he would be making speeches very similar to the one that he has just made. I get no pleasure from describing the reason for that, but I put it to him that the reason is quite simply that nationalism is still the dominant force in the world. Nationalism is stronger than religion, stronger than political ideology and stronger than individual leaders and their personalities. I do not get any satisfaction out of that. I would far rather have a more rational world in which we worked things out in a different manner. But I have to accept that the evidence before my eyes is that nationalism is the driving force.
If the hon. Member and any of his colleagues, including the Lord Privy Seal, believe that it is right to fight and die for their country, one of the things they have to understand is that other people in other countries will believe exactly the same and be prepared to act in exactly the same way. The problem for humanity now is that whereas previously that was a tolerable way of living, inasmuch as wars could be contained, because our technology has outstripped our understanding of human behaviour nuclear war must necessarily represent the end of civilisation as we know it.
I put it to Conservative Members that if we condemn the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, as I do, we must understand that in the West we at times do what we consider to be in our vital interests. The reason why the United States attacked Kampuchea was precisely because she believed it to be in her national interest to do so. The reason why the United Kingdom attacked Egypt in 1956 was precisely because we believed that the Suez canal was vital to our interests. It is worth suggesting that in those two examples, and also in the case of Afghanistan, history will prove that in none of those cases was it in the interests of the country concerned to attack another country in the way that it did. In other words, we perceive our interests to be something that is not a true representation of the world. I did not rise originally to speak on that matter; I rose because of my concern at the way in which we are slipping into yet another cold war.
I should like to direct my closing remarks to the EEC. I do so because I think it is becoming an increasingly important issue in broader political terms. When I look back at the history of the United Kingdom since the Second World War, I notice that it has often been a case of trying to make our defence capacity meet a foreign policy that was becoming increasingly unrealistic. In the last 10 to 15 years, the shift by the United Kingdom has been massively towards a European role. The problem is that we have not said what we want Europe to be.
I stand here unrepentant. I believed from the word "go" that it was a mistake for Britain to join the European Community. Whether we like it or not, the EEC is developing into a nation State. We are discussing foreign policy. Representatives of the EEC countries meet to discuss the policy that Europe will support at the United Nations. I could cite many similar examples, but if such things happen the EEC must be acting as an individual nation State.
The EEC does many things that lead one to the inevitable conclusion that it will become a nation State. As Brussels takes more power to itself—as it has done for many years—people in this country rightly ask where our democratic control has gone. The European Parliament 287 was invented and given limited powers. However, as soon as we send people there, they want more power. That once happened to the House of Commons.
Many people from both political parties have said—some of them recently—that they want the EEC to become a nation State and they want to see a united Europe. There is a good case for that. In my bleaker moments, when I feel that it is inevitable, I think of two good examples.
First, if a united Europe to act as a nation State it would do more to solve the problen of Northern Ireland than anything else. Secondly—this is a factor on which I love to dwell—a united Europe would remove the Royal Family from any significant role in the British constitution. I believe that that would be a good thing, for reasons that I shall not go into now. Those are some of the advantages of a united Europe, and I am sure that there are others.
I must make clear that we should not be members of the European Community. In the interests of other speakers, I shall paraphrase my remarks. What is happening to the United Kingdom is almost poetic justice. Something similar happened to Ireland and Scotland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when those countries were linked to Britain. In those days, the centre of the economic market was primarily England, and to a lesser extent Britain. That demanded a price from Scotland, Ireland and, perhaps, parts of Wales. Today, the centre of the market is in Europe.
It is not surprising that many of the most profitable companies in Europe are British. They find it more profitable to move to where the market is. If I were an investor and if I were interested only in improving my return on my investment, I would seriously consider investing my money in Europe first and then in Britain. The only part of Britain that will do moderately well from the Community in the short term is the South. In the long term—20, 30 or 50 years—Britain may do well. Perhaps we shall return to the role that we had before the Industrial Revolution, namely, that of being a primary producer and a service industry for Europe. That might be a comfortable position.
Although we have a population of 56 million, we lose some of that population, particularly the skilled part, to English-speaking countries. Now, however, people are increasingly turning to Europe. Unless we take action to protect the economy and our people who live here, our future will be gloomy.
I shall nail one other lie. I accept that the majority of European parties—both on the Left and on the Right—believe that the EEC is a good idea. I shall not lecture them on what is best for them. Perhaps they are right. However, we are necessarily the odd man out in Europe. Despite the Government's new clothes, we still behave as bad Europeans. We inhibit the possibility of European unity—we do not encourage it—whilst we behave as we have behaved in years past.
Basically, my message is that we should come out of the European Community. It is clearly in our interests and, I would argue, in the interests of a united Europe that we should come out. However, we are getting dangerously close to the stage when we shall not be able to come out.
288 If we cannot come out, the price that the people of this country will have to pay will be very high, and I cannot see that prospect being reversed for many years.
§ Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn and Hatfield)
The Queen's Speech rightly draws attention to the seriousness of the international situation. With that in mind, I should like to ask the House to consider the essence of British foreign policy in this new decade.
Leadership is essential. There can be no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is providing this, as her Soviet accolade "The Iron Maiden" has clearly illustrated.
Sound defence is essential. There can be no doubt that the emphasis laid on this by the Government shows that there can be an iron fist rather than a limp wrist as we had before. Determination is essential. There can be no doubt that the country wants to see an iron resolve in its international dealings.
Britain's interests are the interests of the West. If we truly believe in a way of life based upon freedom—in other words, democracy—determination is called for in ensuring that the case for its existence and development is made throughout the world. If we regard the type of society for which this country stands as worthy for ourselves and our fellow man, sound defence is crucial in ensuring its continued survival. If we accept that ideology based upon repression, dictatorship and force of arms must be resisted, leadership is vital in ensuring that such resistance is firm and constant.
It is, perhaps, significant that the word "relations" is always used in the context of East and West. We in the West seek good relations on terms that recognise the rights of individuals and nations to self-determination. But our opponents seem to prefer the role of bad relations—for ever undermining those rights but overlaying all with a veneer of hurt pride when the mask of sweet moderation slips, and they falsely wear that mask of sweet moderation as in the invasion of Afghanistan.
Reality must be the key factor in the approach adopted by the West when dealing with the Eastern bloc. We must not be left with our guard down. We have to be prepared to stand up for what we believe in. We should rally the countries of the free West to ensure the survival of democracy and to bring about its extension.
The actions of Her Majesty's Government must be seen to reverse the trends of recent years. The Soviet Union, rather than the Western democracies, has enjoyed the spirit of resolve and a sense of mission. That is why the maintenance of military strength, the working for steady progress towards greater democracy and urging closer cooperation amongst Western nations in developing a common policy are essential. Only in these ways can the West successfully begin to counter the growth of Soviet power and influence.
Britain is now in a better position than for many years to exercise influence over the Western Powers and throughout the world. I believe, however, that Britain must take particular advantage of its links with other nations to achieve these ends.
The need for Britain to build upon the latent strengths of the Commonwealth and to convert this potentially powerful grouping into an organisation to further those 289 aims is, I fear, sometimes overlooked. Therefore, I particularly welcome the Government's emphasis on the Commonwealth in the Queen's Speech.
Commonwealth affairs need to be given a higher priority. Efforts must be made to put more political purpose into the Commonwealth, and a greater sense of commitment to agreed ideals in the Commonwealth has to be achieved. Of course, one recognises that some Commonwealth countries are not as dedicated as we are to the tenets of democracy, but those nations still reject the all-pervading power of Soviet might.
The principal Commonwealth member States would welcome such commitment from the outset, for they already speak up in support of the Western approach in their several ways. The smaller and more newly emergent Commonwealth countries need to be encouraged in their political purpose so as to become leaders in geographical regions which face common problems. They need to meet under Commonwealth auspices to discuss such difficulties. They also need to take united action. It thus behoves the United Kingdom to give that higher priority to the Commonwealth, because it can readily become a more successful instrument for pursuing the goals of the West in both political and material terms.
Many nations have learnt in recent years to act together to pursue common aims — through treaty obligations, through efforts in the United Nations and other world bodies, and by grouping together as non-aligned States or in political blocs. With the Commonwealth we have a historic link and a wide-ranging association, and one which could have a far stronger voice in international affairs with increased British guidance. The Lusaka conference pointed towards a new recognition of the value of the Commonwealth, and this framework waits to be built upon.
East-West relations will continue to be of fundamental importance in our foreign policy. The West has shown undoubted weakness in recent years—a situation that the present British Government are clearly determined to rectify by an activist approach to foreign affairs. In terms of national freedom and human rights, the scales of justice rest upon the balance of power—a balance between East and West. We have a duty to ensure that those scales come down firmly in favour of democracy and of the individual.
§ Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)
I find myself inadequate to follow the lecturette on leadership by the hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy), which made the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) look positively progressive. However, in following it I shall be bold enough to make a prediction about the Queen's Speech. After the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon, prediction is a very dangerous occupation. However, at 70p for two and a half pages of turgid prose, I predict that the Queen's Speech will not join the list of best sellers.
Also, something very important is missing from the Queen's Speech. I am glad to see the Leader of the House in his place, because he will be very much involved in this matter. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) said, the Queen's Speech contains no mention of the duty that is to be thrown upon this House to patriate the British North America Act. I should have 290 thought that we should have had some discussion of that subject in this House long before now, because we are being forced into a corner.
§ Mr. Foulkes
Everyone else outside the House is talking about the subject. It is only the House that seems unable, until now, to talk about it.
When I was in Canada in July, the whole question of patriation seemed remarkably simple. It seemed that, following discussions, the federal and provincial Governments would be thrashing out an agreement and putting something to us on an agreed basis. There would have been reasonable expectation that that would go through the United Kingdom Parliament on the nod. We could have put pressure upon a few eccentric elements to persuade them to agree.
However, in Canada there has been no agreement on this matter, and we shall be faced by a unilateral approach by Pierre Trudeau. Seven of the 10 provinces are actively opposing what is being suggested. Six of those seven have taken the matter to their provincial courts. Some people have questioned whether we can proceed with discussion of this matter while it is before the provincial courts. I think that we can do so, but it raises serious doubts.
I must confess that the situation in which we find ourselves places Socialists in a dilemma. On the one hand, we have an unwanted colonial legacy in the British North America Act. The first feeling is to get rid of it and to send it to Canada as soon as possible. On the other hand, we are being asked to interfere in Canadian affairs. We are being asked by the federal Government of Canada to interfere. We are being asked to enact a Bill of 59 clauses with a charter of rights and an amending formula that is causing great controversy in Canada.
We cannot forget—they are being pressed upon us—the rights of the minorities and the rights of the provinces. It has been said to me that what Mr. Trudeau asks is unacceptably Socialist. I do not think that it is. I believe that it is simply unacceptable. I wish to make clear that I have great understanding and sympathy with the provinces and with the minorities in Canada.
We are being asked to enact a charter of rights that deals with relations between the provinces and the federal Parliament. Relations between the provinces and the federal Parliament are vital. Yet we are asked to agree changes that have not met with the agreement of more than a fraction of the provinces in Canada. I am afraid that many Members of this Chamber do not understand the sensitivity that exists within a federal parliamentary system.
We are being asked to introduce a controversial amending formula that ultimately enables a referendum to be called by the federal Parliament to change the whole basis of the relationship between the provinces and the federal Government. It is a referendum that can overrule the rights of the minority. By its control of the media, the federal Parliament can make sure that the minorities—not just Indians and Eskimos but those on the East coast and on the West coast—can be overruled by the vast majority in Ontario and Quebec.
Another point is that we are being asked to enact a Bill that gives an expanded role to the Supreme Court at the 291 expense of Parliament. One might say that a slogan suitable for that situation is "Denning rules OK." It may be all right for Lord Denning to say that the Supreme Court has more power at the expense of Parliament. In doing so for Canada, we are creating some dangerous precedents.
Many people will ask what Trudeau is up to. I think that he is blackmailing us and asking us to amend the Act in his way, saying "Send it to Canada or else", meaning that he will attack the United Kingdom for unwarranted interference. I was greatly disturbed to read in the Canadian press following discussions between Mr. Mark MacGuigan and the Lord Privy Seal a report that Trudeau was getting his own way on patriation as the United Kingdom backed down.
The Government seem to be backing down and letting Trudeau have his own way. We should say that he is not going to get his own way. That message should come from the United Kingdom Government and the United Kingdom Parliament. We should say to Trudeau "Think again" and ask him to have discussions with the provinces and produce an agreed formula, which we can then enact easily
I should like to deal with one other point to which most contributors in this debate have addressed themselves, namely, the question of defence. Most of the debate is concentrated on the question whether there should be a 3 per cent. increase. As soon as that is mentioned, we get Orwellian muttering and champing from the Government side as if it were something thrown down from heaven. These are meaningless statistics to people outside, who are becoming increasingly aware of the frightening reality of nuclear and chemical weapons.
There is now a great ground swell of public opinion against these weapons. Those who do not want the United Kingdom to have an independent power of annihilating the world 10 or 100 times over when many people in our own country, let alone the Third world—as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said—live in poverty.
I know of disabled people who are prisoners in their own homes because they cannot get adaptations and help with mobility from this penny-pinching Government. As was highlighted in Glasgow today, families and old people are living in squalid housing conditions. The election of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) as leader of the Labour Party is a recognition of the ground swell of opinion.
Far too much of our huge defence budget is spent on Trident and the nuclear deterrent. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) referred to jobs, and there is great pressure for us to spend money on more conventional weapons, which can genuinely be used to defend our country rather than to annihilate other countries or destroy the whole world 10 times over.
Let me give the Government two examples. The first is the replacement of the ageing Devon and Pembroke aircraft, which are used as communications aircraft by the RAF. In Prestwick we have a superb new plane, the Jetstream 31, which has been accepted by the Ministry of Defence as a replacement and which the Prime Minister said should be bought if the money was available. But, because so much is being spent on the useless nuclear deterrent, none is available for replacing the outdated communications aircraft.
292 The second example follows on the farce of Operation Crusader. I heard from someone who was involved in the operation and whose vehicles broke down, got stuck in the mud and were totally incapable of dealing with the modern conditions that our defence forces have to face. It was a veritable Dad's Army. Yet there is an all-terrain vehicle that could have made the British forces mobile and effective in Operation Crusader. The truck was designed and built in Scotland, it is approved by the Ministry of Defence and the troops would like it. It is the Stonefield vehicle, made in Cumnock, in my constituency. The reason why the Government cannot provide the money for that truck is that they are spending so much on Trident missiles.
I hope that the Ministry will give in to the gentle pressure that is being put on it to make some money available for Jetstream and Stonefield. Those projects will provide jobs. They are vital equipment for defence and not weapons for destruction. There are many thousands of reasons for voting against the Queen's Speech. I hope that I have given two.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) did a grave injustice to the Queen's Speech by suggesting that copies of it will not be in great demand. I advise him to buy in bulk and cash in on its undoubted appreciation by the British people. I believe that it will be a sell-out, because it marks the second Session of a Parliament in which, unlike any previous Parliament of the past 20 years, the Government will stick to the policies on which they were elected. When we look back on the first 18 to 24 months of any Government of the past 20 years, we find that at the end of that period they have panicked. The Labour Government reversed their policies and started producing prices and incomes policies in a way that was never suggested in their manifesto. The previous Conservative Government did the same thing, and the earlier Labour and Conservative Administrations also reversed their policies after about the same lapse of time. I advise the hon. Member for South Ayrshire to make certain that he has enough copies of the Queen's Speech. I am sure that they will appreciate in time.
This debate is on foreign affairs. I think that the House will agree that since we last debated a Gracious Speech the greatest threat to world peace has been the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. We have also seen the massive clampdown in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe on people campaigning for more human rights and fundamental freedoms. Now, there is the evolving situation in Poland, which may yet lead to tragedy.
In matters of foreign policy and East-West relations, it is wise in any event to remind ourselves how much the West has aided and abetted the Soviet Union in achieving the position of military superiority which Mr. Kruschev was determined his country should achieve after his humiliation over the Cuban missiles crisis in 1962. For example, since the end of the Vietnam war the West has supplied the Soviet Union with technical aid and equipment worth £25 billion, including engine assembly lines, chemical plants, oil drilling equipment and computers. American superiority in missiles accuracy has been eroded because the Russians have been able to purchase 164 centre-line machines which manufacture the miniature ball bearings which enable missiles to alter 293 direction during flight. Another example lies in the fact that the Red Army in Afghanistan is riding into battle in lorries produced at American-designed plants turning out 150,000 lorries a year.
Let me give another example. An Austrian company is supplying forging equipment which produces high-quality gun barrels for the Soviet Union. There is another example: the entire Soviet computer system is based on two IBM models bought by the KGB, no less. At the time when President Carter was applying trade sanctions in January this year in retaliation against the Afghanistan invasion, the United States Government approved a contract to supply technology for producing hardened drill bits which would enable Russia to mass-produce more effective projectiles.
The irony of all this is that not only has the West supplied the technological know-how but it has paid for it. That aid and equipment has cost the Soviet Union £25 billion, yet the total debt of the Soviet bloc to the Western world stands at about £40 billion. Not only has the West contributed to the rapid build-up of the Soviet war machine; it has paid for it, perhaps bearing out Lenin's prediction that capitalism would sell the rope by which it would be hanged.
I do not object to the principle of aiding the Soviet Union, but let us provide that country with the right things. Food is an obvious example. The Russian people are starving outside the cities. We cannot ascribe to the Russian people the same ambitions as their Soviet masters. We should give them food not only for sound humanitarian reasons but for sound strategic reasons. People whose physical needs are satisfied are better motivated to seek higher ideals, including freedom of expression.
When will the West learn its lesson regarding the supply of trade and technological aid to the Soviet Union? Fortunately, there is one lesson which apparently the West has now learnt, as it is now showing at the Helsinki review conference in Madrid. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal together with his team and our NATO allies in Madrid on their firmness, which resulted not just in one and a half day's debate, not just in one week's debate, as the Soviet Union wanted, but now, apparently, in a full six weeks' debate on the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act.
In remaining united as we have, we have shown that we have learnt the lessons from the last Helsinki review conference, which took place in Madrid in 1977. We now are provided with the opportunity to hold the Soviet Union to account for having violated every one of the 10 principles of the 1975 Helsinki accord. But let us appreciate also the reason why the Soviet Union accepted that it would have to go through what will be for it a humiliating review of its appalling record on human rights. The reason is that it wants a detente and disarmament conference to follow that review.
It is not difficult to understand why they want that. Until now, the Russians have done very well out of detente. For them it has been a "Heads we win, tails you lose" situation. It has meant the recognition of the acquisitions which they made during the Second World War in Europe, thus, for example, burying the hopes of the Baltic States which looked to the West for help and support in regaining their independence—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.