HC Deb 29 October 1980 vol 991 cc464-6
1. Mr. Adley

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the progress made with the European Economic Community initiative aimed at securing the peaceful return of Palestinian land presently occupied by Israeli military forces.

3. Mr. Woodall

asked the Lord Privy Seal what representations he has received concerning Her Majesty's Government's changes in policy towards the Middle East.

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Ian Gilmour)

M. Thorn has completed his first round of visits to the area and contacts with the various parties are continuing. Her Majesty's Government's aim is to secure the widest possible support for the balanced principles of the Venice declaration as a step towards a comprehensive settlement. Representations have been received from both critics and supporters of the Venice declaration.

Mr. Adley

Be it in Afghanistan or Palestine, will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is Her Majesty's Government's policy to uphold the right of the indigenous population to live their lives free from external domination? In the absence of an impartial United States policy, will my right hon. Friend continue to work as closely as he possibly can with his colleagues in the other eight EEC countries?

Sir I. Gilmour

As my hon. Friend knows, it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to secure a withdrawal of all Soviet troops in Afghanistan and a withdrawal from the occupied territories by Israel as part of a comprehensive settlement guaranteeing Israel's security. I assure my hon. Friend that we shall continue to work closely with the other members of the Nine.

Mr. Woodall

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that now we have another war in the Middle East, this time between Iran and Iraq, it would be far better to support the permanent peace agreement, namely, the agreement between Egypt and Israel? Would it not be better for Her Majesty's Government to continue to support the Camp David agreement rather than pussyfoot around with this European initiative?

Sir I. Gilmour

We support the Camp David agreement. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are aiming to build on that agreement rather than cut across it. He will also be aware that, although the agreement has been extremely successful between Egypt and Israel, it has been less successful in making progress over the Palestinian problem. That is why the Nine made their Venice declaration, which the hon. Gentleman will remember was warmly welcomed by President Sadat.

Sir Hugh Fraser

Perhaps my right hon. Friend will pay more attention to the excellent advice that has been tendered to him by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Woodall). Perhaps M. Thorn is now engaged in self-solving the Iraqi-Iranian dispute. What purpose is he serving? At this stage my right hon. Friend must admit that if it were not for the Camp David agreement there might be a general conflagration in the Middle East.

Sir I. Gilmour

I do not think that my right hon. Friend could have listened to what I said. I did not say that we were in any way opposed to the Camp David settlement. I said that we were seeking to build upon it. As he must recognise—I think that it is generally recognised—the Camp David agreement has so far made limited progress on the Palestinian problem as opposed to considerable progress between Egypt and Israel. We hope that things will get better.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Will the Government be careful in this and other contexts to repress the tendency of the European Economic Community to behave as if it were a State, since initiatives of this sort incur responsibilities that can only be borne and, therefore, only accepted, by nation States?

Sir I. Gilmour

I do not think that I will follow the right hon. Gentleman into that form of metaphysical assertion. The fact is that the Nine have considerable interests in the Middle East and they have a considerable interest in trying to gain a comprehensive peaceful settlement in the Middle East. It would be a dereliction of duty if they washed their hands of the matter.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that if the Israeli Prime Minister physically moves his offices into occupied East Jerusalem the Foreign Secretary will instruct all his representatives not to visit the Prime Minister at those offices?

Sir I. Gilmour

As my hon. Friend knows, we have made it quite clear that we do not recognise any unilateral actions taken over Jerusalem.

Mr. Shore

The Lord Privy Seal gave the House a very unrevealing reply to the first question. He also made some grudging comments about the great achievement of Camp David. Will the right hon. Gentleman be more specific? We know that M. Thorn had discussions in Tel Aviv and that he also had discussions with Mr. Arafat in Beirut. Is there any sign that progress has been made towards achieving the two main principles that were set out at the Venice summit? When will some type of formal report be made, or have the European Ministers and M. Thorn come to the conclusion that the timing is not right, that there are other major issues in the Middle East—which may have greater priority—and that they should wait until the American election is over, in order to have proper talks with the American Government as well?

Sir I. Gilmour

I do not agree that I was grudging about Camp David. What I said would probably receive assent from virtually all the parties to the Camp David agreement. M. Thorn did not make a formal report. Contacts are continuing and we shall consider how best to proceed. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this is an extremely difficult matter. The idea put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir Hugh Fraser) and by the right hon. Gentleman to the effect that because there is another crisis in the Middle East it is less urgent to solve this crisis, is entirely erroneous.

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