HC Deb 15 April 1981 vol 3 cc311-2
6. Mr. Sproat

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the Madrid review conference.

Mr. Blaker

The Madrid conference is in recess until 4 May. Work on the drafting of the final document is under way and I hope that it will still be possible to reach agreement on a generally satisfactory outcome, including a number of the proposals which we and our partners have put forward.

Mr. Sproat

Can my hon. Friend tell the House whether earlier in the Madrid conference, the British Government drew the attention of the Soviet authorities to the promise that they made under the Helsinki agreement to make British newspapers and magazines widely available in the Soviet Union? Can he tell the House which newspapers are available, and in what numbers? Is he satisfied with what the Soviet authorities have done?

Mr. Blaker

No, I am not satisfied with what the Soviet authorities have done. The latest information that I have is that a small number of Western newspapers are available in the better, more expensive hotels in Moscow, and possibly other cities, to which the Soviet people as a whole would not be expected to have access. We have made a specific proposal at Madrid relating to the freedom of activities of journalists, which is relevant to this subject.

Mr. Hooley

Are the Government taking seriously the proposals for a European disarmament conference, which have been tabled by France, Germany and other countries? What proposals will the Government make to reinforce those suggestions?

Mr. Blaker

We have co-sponsored the proposals put forward by France.

Mr. Whitney

Does my hon. Friend accept that there is widespread recognition of the value of the robust but constructive contributions that the British delegation has made to the Madrid review conference? Is he aware that that policy points the only way forward to genuine international understanding and detente on the basis of the Helsinki accord?

Mr. Blaker

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. A robust attitude on these matters is not in any way inconsistent with progress towards arms control, disarmament and better relations between East and West.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Following the reply that the Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), is it now the Government's view—I take it that it is from that answer—that they approve of the proposals on disarmament tabled by the French, which relate to the whole of the Continent of Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals? Was that the view of the Soviet and American Governments to those proposals?

Mr. Blaker

We support the proposals initially put forward by the French and endorsed by the Western countries as a group, including the suggestion that the confidence-building measures should extend over Europe to the Urals, should be verifiable, mandatory and militarily significant.

The French proposals envisage, at a later stage, after a further review conference, a further conference on disarmament. That is part of the French package. Mr. Brezhnev recently said that the Soviet Union was prepared to accept the extension of those confidence-building measures to the whole of Europe. We are now trying to explore the Russian attitude towards the other aspects of the French proposals, which we think are equally important.

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