HC Deb 22 July 1981 vol 9 cc301-3
1. Dr. M. S. Miller

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress has been made in the discussions to achieve a just solution of the Palestinian problem; and what steps have been taken to involve the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

The European Council decided that the Ten's efforts should be pursued energetically and without respite. We are considering the next steps carefully and shall continue to do our best to make a genuine contribution to peace. We keep in close touch with Jordan, and I had talks with the King and several of his Ministers over the weekend. Jordan has a key role to play in a settlement, but the Jordanians are clear that the Palestinians and their representatives cannot be bypassed if lasting peace is to be achieved.

Dr. Miller

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply, to which I cannot take great exception. But does he not agree that, as Jordan has such a key role to play, it would be advisable to bring it into the peace negotiation process, along with Israel and elements of the Palestinian Arabs who may renounce their avowed intention to destroy Israel? Does he not think that if that kind of tripartite organisation were got going there could be a just and lasting peace in the area?

Mr. Hurd

I have much sympathy with the way that the hon. Gentleman puts that point. It is precisely because it is necessary to broaden the existing discussions to include some, if not all, of those whom he mentions that we Europeans have been active in trying to create a framework in which that could happen.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Is it not time for the Government to admit that the built-in contradictions in the Venice declaration, as long as it exists, disable this country from making any contribution to peace in the Middle East?

Mr. Hurd

No, Sir. The further we move from the Venice declaration the more clearly we see that the principles laid down in that declaration, taken together, must provide the basis for any comprehensive settlement, and that without such a settlement we shall continue to see the flare-ups now being experienced.

Mr. Walters

My hon. Friend has rightly condemned the savage bombing attack on Beirut. Does he agree that Mr. Begin's irresponsible and brutal warmongering must be deterred by more than condemnation, and what steps has he in mind?

Mr. Hurd

We certainly believe, and have often said, that several parts of current Israeli policy, including that in Lebanon, need to be changed if there is to be lasting peace. We have also said that the PLO's policy and its reliance on acts of violence will not achieve its objective of the recognition of Palestinian rights.

Mr. Moyle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that as long as the Government tell Mr. Begin that he will not improve the long-term chances of Israel's survival by blasting Beirut whenever he feels like it and tell the PLO that the chances of improving its status in the international community will not be improved by shelling Kiryat Shimonah whenever it feels like it, they will have the support of the Opposition Front Bench?

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful for that support. That is exactly our position.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call one more hon. Member from each side of the House on this question, and then I hope that we shall move more quickly.

Mr. Latham

As it was Britain which set up the Kingdom of Jordan, do we still recognise Jordan's claims over the West Bank, which we and Pakistan were the only nations to do originally?

Mr. Hurd

Jordan has no claims over the West Bank. Since 1974 it has accepted the PLO as the spokesman of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Faulds

Has not King Hussein made it quite clear—I am sure that this point has been made to the hon. Gentleman, as it has been to me in private conversations with the King—[Interruption.] Some of us occasionally move in more rarefied circles than this Chamber. Is it not a fact that King Hussein has absolutely no intention of becoming involved in the Camp David process? Is it not also a fact that the increasing idiocies of the totally irresponsible maniac who is the present Prime Minister of Israel mean that eventually the moderate leadership of the Palestinians will be displaced and taken over by less responsible elements, and then there will be no hope of peace?

Mr. Hurd

I do not honestly think that the hon. Gentleman's adjectives are very helpful, but it is true that the Jordanian Government will not become involved in the present Camp David process. That is why, as the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) helpfully suggested, we need to find a way of going beyond it.