HC Deb 22 July 1981 vol 9 cc310-1
8. Mr. Latham

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement on the intended progress of the European Economic Community diplomatic initiative over the Middle East; and what steps he is taking to co-ordinate any action with the Secretary of State of the United States of America.

Sir Ian Gilmour

I cannot predict what form European efforts will take, but we shall continue to seek general acceptance of the Venice principles which we and the other members of the Ten believe represent a just basis for lasting peace. The European Council statement of 1 July makes it clear that the Ten will consult the United States. My right hon. and noble Friend held talks with Mr. Haig on 17 July, and our contacts will continue.

Mr. Latham

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the aim of bringing a settlement to the Middle East must be pursued jointly by the Western Powers under willing American leadership? Would it now be helpful if Mr. Haig, Mr. Gromyko and Lord Carrington, in his EEC role, met to see whether they could broaden the Habib mission?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I agree with my hon. Friend that the search for peace in the Middle East has to be shared by all the Western Powers and by the United States and Europe in particular. My right hon. and noble Friend will certainly consider my hon. Friend's interesting suggestion.

Mr. Hooley

Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that if the Western Powers supinely allow Israel indiscriminately to attack any State in that part of the world, they are undermining the possible effectiveness of the United Nations as a peace-keeping or law-making organisation? Is it not high time that they threw their authority and weight behind the United Nations peace-keeping force in the Lebanon and made that force effective, as they are perfectly able to do?

Sir Ian Gilmour

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have given our full support to the United Nations force in the Lebanon. We have also made our views on the recent violence perfectly clear to the Israeli Government both on behalf of ourselves and on behalf of the Ten. Our representative to the United Nations, in a debate there yesterday, said: My Government deplores resort to armed action. We have frequently criticised PLO violence, but the scale of recent Israeli actions and the resulting deaths, particularly civilian casualties, can in no way be justified".

Sir Frederick Bennett

Reverting to the European peace initiative as far as it has gone, can my right hon. Friend make a simple statement on the question whether Israel at least accepts that the Palestinians have a right to a homeland of their own, or does he believe that Mr. Begin's view is that the West Bank is an intrinsic part of Israel?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I cannot say what the whole Israeli view is, but, as my hon. Friend hinted, Mr. Begin, in Washington immediately after Camp David, said that he would see that Israeli soveriegnty over the West Bank was preserved, and during his election campaign he said that while he was Prime Minister no part of the Israeli-occupied territories would be given back.

Mr. Moyle

Surely the right hon. Gentleman regards his answer to that question as totally inadequate. Is he aware that the Government allowed a tremendous sense of anticipation to build up in this country and in the Middle East about what they would do to develop the European initiative when Britain took over the Presidency of the EEC? If he intends to do no more than he said, does he not realise that there will be a tremendous sense of anticlimax in the Middle East which will add to the instability in the area?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I do not think that that is a very well considered question. We have occupied the Presidency for about three weeks, the Israeli Government is still being formed, and there is a great deal of violence in the Lebanon. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that this is the moment to produce a cut and dried plan to settle the problems of the Middle East, he knows very little about foreign affairs.