§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Humphrey Atkins)
It is a long time since I addressed the House on the subject of foreign affairs. However, I am glad that this debate is taking place so early in our consideration of everything contained in the Gracious Speech.
Naturally, and understandably, we here, and those whom we represent, tend to concentrate much of our attention and time on problems that are both near at hand and immediate. The problems of inflation, taxation, employment, the Health Service and so on were rightly debated time and again in the last Session, and I have no doubt that they will be debated time and again this Session.
In contrast, the Government's foreign policy seems of less immediate application to our daily lives. It seems to offer less scope for dramatic debate and fewer opportunities for instantaneous decision. But, in fact, it is just as vital to our well-being as any of the matters that I have mentioned—indeed, more so—for if over a period of time any British Government were to neglect our foreign policy or were guilty of faulty judgment or carelessness we would one day wake up to find that our security had disappeared, that our trading opportunities had been damaged beyond repair and that no domestic scheme for improving the lot of the people whom we represent could possibly be put in to effect.
It seems to me that foreign policy is a network of interlocking responsibilities. There is the responsibility, first and foremost, of the Government to this House, and through it to the electorate, for the defence and promotion of the nation's interests. We also have a responsibility to our friends and allies on whose co-operation we rely and who in their turn are entitled to rely on our co-operation. We also have a responsibility to the world, because it is our duty to work as best we can towards the prevention of suffering and the advancement of peace.
Our first responsibility as a Government must be to promote the security of the nation. In some periods of history there have been doubts about where any threats to that security might come from. I do not believe that that is true today. There are no such doubts. Peace has been maintained in Western Europe, and the preservation of our security and the maintenance of peace depend almost entirely on the Western Alliance and how it handles its relations with the Soviet Union.
120 The importance of this issue is widely understood. The march that took place in central London two weeks ago bears witness to the strength of feeling on this subject. It is one of our most precious freedoms that people should be able to express their feelings peacefully in this kind of way and to know that the Government of the day will hear what they are saying. We all know that this type of demonstration does not happen in the Soviet Union and its satellites, but not many of us in the House believe that that is because their peoples are entirely satisfied with what is going on.
The Government were impressed by the intensity of feeling in favour of peace, but although we intend to intensify our efforts in favour of peace in Europe, we are not prepared to adopt some of the solutions that were being put forward. All of us in the House share the widespread concern outside at the horror of war. Of course we do. But our strategy of deterrence is designed to prevent war. We owe a duty to the people of this country to beware of apparently simple solutions which might, paradoxically, increase the risk of war.
The unilateral renunciation of nuclear weapons or, taking the extreme, withdrawal from NATO would weaken our security by damaging our ability to deter aggression. As I said, it is deterrence that has prevented war in Europe for 36 years. As long as we remain strong and determined there is no reason why an enemy should ever wish to wage even a limited war against us, but once we appear to be weakening or flinching in our resolve to defend ourselves the temptation to threaten or to blackmail will grow. That will be a threat to our peace and to that freedom that we have defended against all corners for so many centuries.
That was well recognised by th right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) when he made the memorable statement thatonce we cut defence expenditure to the extent where our security is imperilled, we have no houses, we have no hospitals, we have no schools. We have a heap of cinders."—[Official Report, 5 March 1969; Vol. 779, c. 551.]I agree with him.
One of the things that the advocates of unilateral disarmament do not realise is that they are actually weakening the possibilities for the arms controls which they and we so much desire. It is only if each side realises that the other is able and willing to maintain an adequate military response that it will be prepared to negotiate. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, why should the Russians come to the negotiating table if they know that if they do not and just sit on the sidelines and wait the West will reduce its armaments in any case? The incentive to come and negotiate just will not be there.
That is why, in the Government's view, their so-called double decision on theatre nuclear forces was right. We had to show the Soviet Union that we were not prepared to allow it to maintain superiority in this domain, but at the same time we declared our readiness to enter into negotiations designed to avoid a costly and dangerous arms race.
The Soviet Union has been making unprecedented efforts to achieve great superiority in long-range theatre nuclear weapons. NATO's capability in that area is limited, but if deterrence is to be maintained in the face of the Soviet Union's deployment of SS20s—still proceeding at the rate of one a week—we have no choice but to modernise our own forces.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman, in all fairness, agree that the "heap of cinders" to which he has just referred is as likely to result from an escalating arms race as it is from an imbalance between the two sides?
§ Mr. Atkins
No, I do not agree. That, I think, displays the difference between us. I think that an imbalance between the forces on each side would be more likely to produce the heap of cinders. Indeed, that was the opinion—admittedly some years ago—of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East.
The modernisation that I was speaking of, with all the expense that that involves, could, in ideal circumstances, prove unnecessary. That point was made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition. There is what has been called the zero level outcome. In other words, the Soviet Union would dismantle and withdraw and destroy all its relevant long-range theatre nuclear missiles, wherever they might be, and we would not deploy ours.
I do not know—none of us knows—whether the Soviet Union would contemplate such an outcome, but discussions on the limitation of theatre nuclear weapons are about to take place. They start, as the House knows, on 30 November. On our side, we are having intensive consultations in the Alliance to prepare for those negotiations. We are agreed on our side that the object of these negotiations is to establish equal ceilings for the United States and Soviet Union, and at the lowest possible level. But theatre nuclear weapons are only one part of the problem.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I have not yet had a chance to see the full text of Mr. Haig's remarks yesterday, but, according to the report in The Times, he accepted the zero option as the best outcome of the negotiations. Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that Her Majesty's Government take the same view?
§ Mr. Atkins
I refer the right hon. Gentleman to what I said a moment ago. What we are seeking, and will continue to seek is equal ceilings at the lowest possible level. If that possible level turns out to be zero, no one will be more pleased than Her Majesty's Government and, I hope, hon. Members on both sides of the House and the British people. We do not know yet whether that can be achieved, but everyone is entering the negotiations with that idea in mind.
There are, of course, other facets of the problem. There are the strategic weapons, the numbers of which we hope to bring under negotiated control. When the American Secretary of State and the Soviet Foreign Minister met in September, they discussed that matter.
We in the House have always supported the SALT process, and we strongly hope that negotiations about strategic arms will produce reductions—I stress reductions, not just limitations—by the United States and the Soviet Union. We hope that these discussions will take place very shortly after the theatre nuclear force reduction discussions in November. We hope very much that these can go in parallel, because our objective in both sets of discussions is the same.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
The Government continue to talk about the deterrent. We have Polaris as the deterrent. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the reduction of ceilings. Why are the Government embarking 122 on the purchase of Trident, at massive cost? If Polaris works as a deterrent, why do we need Trident, which is at least 10 times more powerful than Polaris? Why should we increase that ceiling and at the same time argue that other ceilings of theatre strategic weapons as between the Soviet Union and the United States should be reduced? Should we not reduce our own ceiling?
§ Mr. Atkins
The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening to what I said, or perhaps he did not understand it. We need to demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves. The Soviet Union consistently spends enormous sums on its defences, deploying the most modern and enormous weapons against us. There are two choices in the face of a threat. One can say "Never mind. I do not think he will ever do it." Alternatively, by having a deterrent of one's own one can make sure that he will not do it. Successive Governments in this country have followed the second course, which has produced peace in Europe in a very difficult situation for 36 years. The Government do not think that this is the time to abandon that course.
§ Mr. Robert Atkins (Preston, North)
Did my right hon. Friend see a letter in a recent edition of The Economist, in which a survivor of the atom bomb dropped on Japan said that he and relatives who had gone through the experience did not believe that had Japan possessed a nuclear weapon the United States and its allies would have dropped the bomb on Japan? Does my right hon. Friend agree with that view? If he does will he propound it more strongly throughout the country?
§ Mr. Atkins
I cannot tell what the Americans would have done 35 years ago. There is no doubt that the policy of deterrence followed by successive Governments, including the Government supported by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) for so many years, has produced peace. What we seek in all these negotiations is a reduction in the levels. I do not believe that any hon. Member believes that approach to be wrong.
We are not direct participants in the SALT meetings, but we take great care to make sure that the Americans are aware of our preoccupations and points of view. The United States takes account of our views as it prepares for negotiations. We, on the other hand, have been directly involved in proposals for a conference about new measures to build confidence and security in Europe. These proposals are being discussed at the CSCE review conference, which resumed recently in Madrid. We believe that provided such measures satisfy four basic criteria—they must be mandatory, verifiable, militarily significant and applicable to the whole of Europe, including that part of Russia as far as the Urals—they could significantly enhance confidence and reduce tension in Europe.
All that adds up to a serious programme which, if successful, as we hope will be the case, will ensure our security at a lower level of expenditure and retain the deterrent effect of our Armed Forces without engaging in an exhausting, dangerous and expensive arms race. It is, in our view, the intelligent and responsible reaction to the widespread concern about nuclear weapons and the desire for peace expressed at last month's demonstration.
We intend to work patiently and persistently with our allies. We shall not engage in futile unilateral gestures, because we do not believe that they are anythng but dangerous. We note, incidentally, that our friends in the 123 world have not asked us to reduce or renounce our nuclear weapons. We note also that President Mitterrand sees no contradiction between his determination to transform French society along Socialist lines and his determination to maintain and, if possible, enhance the effectiveness of France's defences.
Arms control is one of the most important aspects of relations between East and West, but it is also important to have regard to other matters. It is vital that the Soviet leadership knows what the West thinks about international issues.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
If the right hon. Gentleman is leaving the question of disarmament, may I say how much we welcome the change in language? At least, the peace movement seems to have altered the Government's tone on these issues. That is welcome and needs support. I should like to raise a specific issue. It is one that I have raised before and to which the Government, I believe, have not addressed any attention. It relates to the prospect of a comprehensive test ban treaty at least between the Soviet Union, the United States and ourselves. I have referred to this question on previous occasions, because when the Administration that I led were in office we had detailed discussions with those other two countries. We had reached a very advanced stage.
The difficulty then was being caused by the Soviet Union, which wanted a larger number of inspection and monitoring stations than seemed reasonable. However, that was two-and-a-half years ago. President Carter's Government were not particularly enthusiastic, although they were ready to go along with the idea. I have had no indication that the Government have pushed this matter. The initiative came from us. I wish to see it followed up. Is it not clear that if nations cannot test their weapons there is much less of an attraction in devising new weapons and modifications of weapons? To get rid of the testing is therefore an important step on the way to disarmament and to a greater measure of confidence between the nations.
§ Mr. Atkins
The right hon. Gentleman has much greater detailed knowledge and wider experience of these matters than I possess. This issue is not dead. It is a subject of close discussion between ourselves and the American Administration. There are different Administrations in this country and in the United States since the right hon. Gentleman was in charge of these matters. We believe that progress on this front is important. This is not the easiest of tasks, as the right hon. Gentleman knows better than I, but all of us would like to see progress. I can only say that we are closely in touch with our American allies. We are putting forward ideas and pressing the United States to engage in this process, which must be to the benefit of all.
I had been about to say that it is important that the Soviet Union knows and understands what the West thinks about major international issues. My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary visited Moscow in July to talk about Afghanistan, and he had a further meeting with Mr. Gromyko in September. If the Soviet Union had realised in advance what would be the reaction to the invasion of Afghanistan it is on the cards that it would have thought twice about doing it. That is why we regard it as important that the Soviet Union should 124 know clearly, without any equivocation, that it is our belief that Poland should be allowed to settle its own affairs without outside interference.
A harmonious and unified Alliance depends primarily upon two things. It depends upon the relationship between Europe and the United States, and it depends also upon the harmony and cohesion of Europe itself. Some Opposition Members speak at times as if a stronger voice for Europe in the world, which they want, had nothing to do with the European Community, which apparently they do not want, although we are not absolutely sure about that.
I assure hon. Members and, if necessary, right hon. Members on the Opposition Benches that the Community is at the basis of all the progress that has been made towards making Europe once more a force in the world. Membership of the Community has been expressly recognised to be the basis of political co-operation among the Ten. There is no way in which we could renounce the Treaty of Rome and yet continue to enjoy the benefits of political co-operation with our nine partners. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] The question is asked "Why not?". Because that is what the Nine say. It is one reason why the Government intend to work to make our membership a success.
We have never said that the Community is perfect. Its policies need to be improved and developed. In particular, as hon. Members know, there is need for a solution to its budgetary problems. Because of our current Presidency of the Community, it falls to us to chair the meetings where these problems are being discussed. I do not propose to enter into details now. This topic was discussed fully in the House exactly a week ago.
One of our principal objectives will be to achieve a lasting solution to the budgetary problem which will ensure that, as one of the less prosperous members of the Community, we do not remain almost the largest net contributor. However, we do not see this as just a British problem. The interests of the Community as a whole require that there should be a satisfactory and durable settlement.
Nor is it just a matter of the budget itself. If the Community is to meet the problems and the challenges of the 80s, in particular the enlargement of the Community, it needs to reach agreement on a broad package of reforms. These must cover, among other things, the common agricultural policy. The Community's aim is that appropriate guidelines on all these elements—budgetary matters, the CAP, and policies other than the CAP—should be agreed at the European Council to be held in London later this month. It is clearly in the interests of all that progress on this matter should not be delayed, because until restructuring is completed, the Community will find it hard, if not impossible, to move forward to tackle new tasks with the vigour that is needed.
It has been gratifying for all who believe in the European Community to see that, in parallel with discussions over the budget in these matters, progress on foreign policy co-operation has been proceeding. Thanks to a series of decisions taken in London last month—the so-called London report—the process of political co-operation should in future function more smoothly, more swiftly and more effectively than before. Political cooperation can only be a complement to national foreign policies, but the more we can work in unison with our partners the more effectively we are likely to pursue our common objectives. On this, the House should note that 125 the Government have established a good relationship with the new French Government, for example at the summit in London in September, and we look forward to our bilateral summit with the Italians next week, and with the Germans the week after.
We must not forget that we have friends outside Europe and North America. Japan, for instance, in conjunction with other allies, has been contributing significantly to the promotion of Western interests throughout the world. Although there remain problems between the Community and Japan in commercial relations, we nevertheless welcome Japan's growing readiness to assume international responsibilities.
The search for a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israel problem has been much in the papers during the past few weeks.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)
Will my right hon. Friend confirm the news, which I believe came through only at lunch time, that the attempt by the Socialist and Labour Members of the European Parliament to block the payment of £840 million of EEC aid to Britain has been sensibly overturned by Conservative Members and their supporters? Thus, the Labour Party's attempt to block European funds coming to Britain will not work.
§ Mr. Atkins
That is my information, and I am delighted that it has happened. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was largely responsible for negotiating for us with the Community the terms under which we would get refunds. In my view it is extraordinary for a Member who subscribes to the Labour Party actually to vote against the United Kingdom getting its money back. I am delighted to hear and confirm that that Member's suggestion has been overturned, and that we shall get the refunds that my right hon. Friend negotiated.
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Penistone)
If the right hon. Gentleman cannot undertand why there was a vote against the payment, I shall enlighten him. The money was intended for regional restructuring, not for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Atkins
The truth is that, under the arrangements negotiated by my right hon. Friend, this country was entitled to the return of some money that we had contributed. A member of the Socialist Party in the European Parliament voted against that, and the country can make of that what it likes.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of the European theatre, will he say what hopes he has, if any, of negotiating a common fisheries policy in November?
§ Mr. Atkins
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and I have known each other for many years, and he knows that I am not a pessimist. We can make progress, just as we have made considerable strides over the past few months. The matter is not yet resolved. I freely admit that these matters take time, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, taking the chair at the Fisheries Council, made a number of advances. I cannot predict precisely when the final settlement will come, or what it will be, but we are determined to get a satisfactory outcome. Judging by the performance so far, I believe that I am justified in expressing optimism.
126 The Arab-Israeli problem is not totally removed from Europe. This is a matter on which Europe is particularly well qualified to exercise a collective influence. We are united in our approach to the Middle East. We in the Community, are all firmly committed to the State of Israel, and we can never forget the circumstances which led to its creation. However, in our view it is vital that justice for the people of Israel should be matched by justice for the other peoples of the region. That is why our efforts have been and will continue to be concentrated on the Palestinians as well as on Israel's security.
We were glad that the principles first enunciated by the Ten at Venice are now attracting widespread support. The more specific but broadly compatible principles put forward by Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia could also mark an important step forward. He, too, accepts the rights of all States in the area to live in peace. My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary is at present in Saudi Arabia, where he is discussing just these questions.
§ Sir Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
As I am sure my right hon. Friend is aware, there is a difference between the Venice declaration, which referred to specific guarantees to Israel, and the Prince Fahd declaration, which makes no specific or implicit reference. In that case, the Fahd declaration is about as practical a propaganda point in the Middle East, as was the Rogers plan which was produced some four years ago, and it will be rejected.
§ Mr. Atkins
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) is being a little pessimistic. I did not compare the Venice declaration with Prince Fahd's eight principles. They are not the same. Nevertheless, Prince Fahd has suggested eight ideas, including the recognition of the rights of all States in the area to live in peace. That is something on which we must build, and that is why my right hon. and noble Friend is there seeking to build on it.
§ Mr. Atkins
I should like to explain a little more about the Government's views on what should happen now before I give way to the Liberal spokesman.
The fact that we regard the Palestinian problem as a central issue does not mean that we do not support Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory is accordance with the Camp David agreements. We do. This is why four Governments of the Ten are considering whether to respond to the American request to participate in the peacekeeping force in Sinai. That request is being considered. The decision is a difficult one. It is our view that to participate in the peacekeeping force in Sinai would be fully compatible with the Venice principles and with Security Council resolution 242. We would consider playing a part in any guarantee designed to facilitate Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands. President Sadat has been tragically assassinated, be we can still work to restore the territorial integrity of the country which he led with imagination and courage.
§ Mr. Johnston
The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) said that the Saudi proposal did not contain any implicit recognition of Israel. I think that the 127 Lord Privy Seal will agree that the Foreign Secretary has gone on record as saying that it contains an implicit recognition of Israel. Perhaps it would advance the whole argument more if we recognised that the difference between "explicit" and "implicit" is not terribly real.
§ Mr. Atkins
I accept that. There is not an explicit reference to Israel, but I think that all of us who read what is contained in the eight principles realise that there is an implicit acceptance of that.
§ Mr. Atkins
I think that I ought to get on with my speech. I have given way about 10 times. If the hon. Gentleman is kind enough to allow me to do so, I should like to move on from the Middle East to other issues which occupy the European Community, which, although they are not to do with the Middle East, are, nevertheless, fundamental to peace.
A little while ago I mentioned Afghanistan. We intend to continue to emphasise the importance of a negotiated Soviet withdrawal and the return of Afghanistan to independence and non-alignment. The Ten, as the House knows, have made proposals which remain on the table as a practical way of achieving these ends. The world must not be allowed to forget that there are 85,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan, that there are 2½ million refugees from Afghanistan in Pakistan, and that the Government in Afghanistan exist totally dependent on Soviet support. Our fundamental objection to this Soviet military presence is undiminished, and we maintain—all 10 of us—that its withdrawal would remove a major obstacle to improved East-West relations.
In Cambodia we are faced with continuing aggression by a powerful neighbour against a weak and much tried people. We welcome the close co-operation over this issue which has taken place between the Community and the Association of South East Asian Nations. It is the Government's belief that the countries of ASEAN are destined to play an increasingly significant role in the world, and, for our part, we intend to foster our relations with them and encourage them as much as we can.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
Perhaps I may take my right hon. Friend back to the Middle East. Will he confirm that it is the Government's policy that all Israeli settlements on Arab lands, be they on the West Bank or in Gaza, should be removed at some stage, and that the acquisition by Israel of East Jerusalem is not legal and should not stand?
§ Mr. Atkins
The current apparent policy of the Israeli Government of establishing new settlements is not at all helpful at present, because we are seeking to get a resolution of all of these problems. If they continue to establish new settlements, it will be, to put it mildly, unhelpful.
I have been speaking for longer than I meant to speak. I wish to refer to Southern Africa, where our specific colonial responsibilities were satisfactorily concluded some time ago, although, not least through our membership of the Community and the United Nations Security Council, we retain a close interest in the area as a whole.
128 One of the most important current issues is Namibia. We are greatly relieved that, after a period in which there were serious doubts whether the Five would be able to make progress, there are now signs of movement. A team of senior officials has been visiting a number of African capitals, and continues to do so, on a tour aimed at presenting a set of constitutional principles to guide the Namibian constituent Assembly. The reactions have so far been generally encouraging. The exercise is intended as a first step towards building the necessary confidence so that the United Nations plan can be implemented. We believe that an internationally recognised settlement in Namibia would make a tremendous contribution to peace and stability in Southern Africa.
We have no illusions about the difficulties. There are plenty of those. But, while there remains a hope of progress in this way—and there does—it is our duty to do all that we can to further it, because the alternative is an increasing cycle of violence which we must do all that we can to avoid.
I turn to South Africa itself. Partly as a result of our long historical connection with that part of the world, we have a particular interest in seeing and hoping that South Africa will move towards a system of government based on the consent of the South African people as a whole.
Understanding between developed and developing countries is not always easy to achieve. We are lucky that the Commonwealth can provide us with a special degree of insight. Anyone who questions the value of the Commonwealth should ask himself what he would think if it were another major European nation that had the privileged position that we have in an organisation covering so many and varied countries. Just imagine how envious we would feel if it were another European Head of Government who attended meetings such as the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Melbourne. Forty-one countries attended, including 30 presidents and prime ministers. There was discussion of the world political and economic situation and on Commonwealth co-operation. There was a wide exchange of views, which greatly enhanced our understanding of each other's problems and led to a meeting of minds on many issues.
The Commonwealth is one important aspect of our relations with the developing world, but we intend also in the coming year to play our part in developing the ideas exchanged at the recent summit meeting at Cancun, in Mexico. Some people have expressed disappointment that Cancun did not lead to more spectacular results. That shows a misunderstanding of the occasion. It was, after all, a limited gathering, and the leaders present were not in a position to commit those who were not present. The purpose was to achieve a degree of agreement on priorities and objectives and to give a lead in the search for solutions to a wide range of problems. All the participants at that meeting felt that it succeeded in doing that. We hope that the constructive atmosphere that prevailed will set the tone for future developments.
It was particularly welcome that there was consensus for the need for renewed efforts to launch global negotiations in New York, in circumstances offering a prospect of real progress. Let those who criticise the performance of the developed world ponder the fact that President Reagan attended and played a full part in the summit while Brezhnev was invited but refused to come.
129 As the House knows, our national resources are necessarily limited. That is why, in the matter of aid, we rightly take great care to see that the recipients are the most deserving and that our aid gives good value for money. We have to be meticulous in our choice of priorities. It is just the same in our foreign policy as a whole. We have to identify our interests accurately and set a correct order of priorities.
For us in this coming year, our main priority will be to work in co-operation with our European partners and the United States for security in Europe, within which we can rebuild our national fortunes. The Gracious Speech, which we are discussing today, was quite clear on this point. It said:My Government regard the security of the nation and the preservation of peace as matters of the first importance. Increased resources will be devoted to defence and the most efficient use made of them. My Government will continue to play an active role within the North Atlantic Alliance.We intend to face up to this responsibility and not shirk the various duties that it will entail. Certainly we must not overestimate Britain's power and influence, but it would, nevertheless, be a mistake to act, as Opposition Members sometimes suggest, as if we were no more than a tiny, isolated island. It would be irresponsible for us not to make our contribution in those areas in which, by ourselves or with others, we can do so. Where there is a role to play and others look to us to play it, we in the Government recognise that it is our responsibility and in our interest to do so.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I congratulate the Lord Privy Seal on his first appearance in his new role. I warmly endorse his opening remarks about the importance of foreign policy. I cannot help believing that when he went through the ritual recitation of his Foreign Office brief his energy was less thrusting and his panache a little less sparkling than that of his predecessor. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) set a standard in these matters that is not easy to match.
It is six months since the House last debated international affairs. None of the major dangers that we discussed then has been reduced significantly. Indeed, some have increased in worrying ways. The House must be particularly concerned at the continuing disarray in Washington.
When I spoke six months ago I referred to the unresolved conflict between the conservative ideologues and the conservative pragmatists in the new Republican Administration. If anything, that conflict is worse today than it was six months ago. Secretary of State Haig complained a few days ago of a mind-boggling guerrilla war being waged against him by an unnamed official in the White House. It might have been the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) talking.
I fear that the result is growing confusion in the world about American policy on some major issues, such as our relations with Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Third world in general. That uncertainty and confusion is profoundly damaging and disappointing to those who believe that world peace depends upon close co-operation between Europe and a United States Administration who know their mind. I believe that all parties in the House take that view.
The British Government have a major responsibility in helping to organise our European friends to exert as much 130 influence as possible on the side of the pragmatists in the continuing argument in Washington. I shall discuss what that might imply in relation to some of the major issues in the Gracious Speech—Namibia, the Middle East, North-South relations and disarmament.
One part of the world has been ignored by the Lord Privy Seal and by the Gracious Speech. I refer to Central America. In the last six months the tragedy in El Salvador has increased. An estimated 30,000 men, women and children have been killed by security forces there since the beginning of the year in circumstances of appalling brutality. It must be obvious to us all that there is no solution to the problems of that unhappy country in continuing civil war. A negotiated settlement is vital.
The Opposition welcome warmly the decision by the Governments of Mexico and France to recognise the Revolutionary Democratic Front as a valid party to such negotiations. I appeal to the Government to ensure that Britain does the same. After all, they argue, rightly, that the PLO should be involved in negotiations on the future of Arab-Israeli relations. Similar arguments apply to the recognition of the Revolutionary Democratic Front in El Salvador as an essential party to a negotiated solution there.
El Salvador is not the only country in Central America about which there are grounds for deep concern. There is growing external pressure on the Governments of Nicaragua and Grenada. The Governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are involved in that pressure. Guatemala is also exerting continuing pressure on the newly independent Commonwealth country of Belize. Some recent remarks by Mr. Haig, particularly at a press conference on 30 October about Cuba, have a disturbing ambiguity. We must tell the Americans that if they, like us, reject the Brezhnev doctrine in Afghanistan, we cannot accept some form of Reagan doctrine as governing United States relations with its neighbours in Central America and the Caribbean.
I do not for one moment suggest that direct intervention by American forces is likely, but the United States Administration permit the training on United States soil of terrorists from those countries. Supporters of the Somoza regime, the Trujillo dictatorship, and of the extreme Right wing in El Salvador are able to train terrorists and death squads on American soil, particularly in Florida. I cannot believe that an Administration who have declared themselves to be against international terrorism and have argued, rightly or wrongly, that the Soviet Union is behind a great deal of international terrorism should permit the training of terrorists on their soil for use in countries bordering on the United States. Britain has influence in this area. France is trying to exert her influence. I hope that we shall follow that example.
In our relations with countries we cannot be indifferent to their records on human rights, any more than we can be indifferent to the human rights record of the regimes in Eastern Europe. Under the Helsinki agreement we have formally committed ourselves to being concerned with human rights in Eastern Europe. My right hon. and hon. Friends were deeply concerned about the Government's apparent strengthening of relations between Britain and the regime in Chile and particularly the recent decision to sell warships to that country. I tell the Government, and warn the Government of Chile, that when we return to power we shall restore the ban that operated when we last controlled our affairs.
131 We must be deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Turkey, and particularly the sentencing of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Bulent Ecevit, to a term of imprisonment, purely on the ground that he dared to criticise the Government. I do not know whether it is true, but this morning I read that one of the European Community Commissioners has warned the Turkish Government that £290 million of aid from the Community to Turkey might be frozen in consequence. I hope that the Minister can confirm that the United Kingdom Government are supporting that initiative by the Commission.
I come now to the major issues in the Queen's Speech—Namibia, the Middle East, North-South relations and disarmament.
In relation to Namibia, I agree that some useful steps have been taken by the Western Contact Group in recent months to repair the damage caused by the South African sabotage of the United Nations process in January. I welcome the fact that the new proposals have been endorsed by the Governments of Nigeria and Angola, and that the SWAPO has made important concessions to help the agreement along.
One must be disturbed at the prospect of long delays in phase 2 of the proposals before elections can take place. According to a statement made a few days ago, the elections have been deferred to about the middle of 1983. To be fair to my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), I can only agree with what the Lord Privy Seal said. I do not believe that the Foreign Secretary should be in the House of Commons at this moment, though I have no doubt that many of the Prime Minister's friends or enemies wish that he were.
§ Mr. Healey
That is another matter. That is not what my hon. Friend said. It seems that there will be long delays before phase 2 is concluded. The Foreign Secretary said that delay in achieving independence for Namibia could push Angola further towards the Soviet Union and consolidate the position of the Cuban forces in Angola. I hope that we shall maintain maximum pressure on the South African Government to accelerate the process.
While speaking at the United Nations Assembly the other day the Foreign Secretary said:'Within South Africa itself … virtually none of the expectations of worthwhile change in recent years have been fulfilled … Reforms promised by the South African Government, mostly still not implemented, do not deal with the fundamental problem of meeting the political, as well as the social and economic, aspirations of Black, Coloured and Asian South Africans'. Without an early move towards government by consent and the abandonment of … apartheid the trend in South Africa could only be one of accelerating conflict and violence.We warmly support those remarks. I hope that the attitude of the Government towards the South African Administration, especially on the question of Namibia, will reflect the Foreign Secretary's views.
I come next to the critical question of the Middle East. It is critical, because there is no part of the world more pregnant with the possibility of conflict that might lead to world war. Again, we must record that the United States 132 Administration, nearly a year after the election that gave President Reagan office, still find themselves without a policy in the Middle East.
The tragic murder of President Sadat, which we all deeply regret, led to many panic improvisations of new commitments by United States spokesmen in television interviews. They include a commitment not to allow Saudi Arabia to follow Iran—whatever that means—to treat Egypt as America's foremost ally in the Middle East—I do not know how the Saudis and Israelis will look at that—to give total support to President Mubarak and defence aid to the Sudan. That is not the way in which a great power should develop its policy towards such an important and complex part of the world.
The murder of President Sadat has put the problem of Palestine in the centre of the stage. The European initiative, which had been flagging over recent months, has suddenly revived in importance. Prince Fahd's eight-point plan had undoubtedly attracted wide support in the Middle East. Although in some respects I find it unsatisfactory, the plan could, with skilful diplomacy, be rendered compatible with the European initiative.
I accept that it is difficult to make progress on the Palestine problem until the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai is completed. It is vital that the withdrawal should take place as promised next spring, because the survival of President Mubarak will depend upon it. When that time comes, we must accept that a solution to the Palestine problem will become the No. 1 item on the agenda and that no solution is likely to be possible unless it involves the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
That is not simply the view of an imperialist atavist, as the Prime Minister of Israel described the Foreign Secretary the other day. It was the view of President Sadat and he pressed it strongly, in public and private, on his visit to Washington shortly before his death.
As I understand it, the PLO was party to the ceasefire in the Lebanon, along with Israel. In practice, whatever is said, and whatever the formal positions may be, the PLO was accepted by the Israeli Government during those negotiations as what the French call an "interlocuteur valable"—a valid negotiating partner.
All of us understand the deep and justified concern of all Israelis—not just the Israeli Government—over some of the statements by leaders of the PLO in the past, and even in the recent past. However, the Fahd plan—which was to some extent drafted by representatives of the PLO—implicitly opens the way to the conditional recognition of the State of Israel. Prince Saud, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, said yesterday—I heard it on the news at one o'clock today—explicitly and for the first time, that the plan implied the recognition of the State of Israel once a settlement was achieved under its provisions.
No one would support a settlement of the Palestine problem that destroyed the security of the State of Israel. I have repeatedly made that clear. However, Israel cannot rely on security for long if the Palestine problem remains unresolved. A solution must be found that is compatible with Israel's security. It cannot be found without involving the PLO in some way. Developments following Prince Fahd's proposals have at least let in a chink of light on a solution.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman with great interest, because I, too, met President Sadat, both in London and in Egypt. I have 133 met him over a number of years. He told me that the occasion of the settlement in the Lebanon, when the Israelis and the PLO were brought together—if not in the same room, in the same discussions—was the biggest breakthrough that he had seen in his 11 years as President.
He went on to tell me that he felt that a solution to the Palestinian problem should still be built on the basis of Camp David. Perhaps Camp David is now passing from the scene with the death of President Sadat. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that the settlement of the Palestinian problem, along with the recognition of the establishment and stability of the State of Israel, will be resolved through Prince Fahd's declaration, rather than through Camp David?
§ Mr. Healey
In the interests of world peace I do not wish to give too many hostages to fortune or to embarrass the Government more than is necessary. The British ambassador in Riyadh was reported as saying the other day that Camp David would come to an end with the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Sinai. I do not wish to embarrass the Minister of State by asking whether he endorses that statement. I can see that he is not anxious to be embarrassed.
It seems unlikely that a solution, certainly of the West Bank problem, can be found without the involvement of Arab Governments—for example, at the very least the Government of Jordan—who are not prepared to follow the Camp David line. The European initiative and the Fahd proposals offer a way forward that perhaps the Camp David process does not or will not offer after the withdrawal from Sinai. I go no further than that.
I wish to raise a question about the proposal to contribute British forces to the peacekeeping force in Sinai after the Israeli withdrawal. That situation is odd. The Government have said that, in principle, they are ready to produce forces. The Israelis have rejected forces contributed by any Government who do not treat their presence in Sinai as part of the Camp David process. The Arab Governments have rejected contributions from any Government who regard the presence of their troops as part of the Camp David process.
I am not clear, however, that either the Israelis or the Arabs want British forces in the Sinai. The only Government who do are the Government of the United States. That is where the pressure for a British contribution is coming from. I suggest with temerity that it would be a great mistake in that situation to offer forces for Sinai unless the United States first moved towards a more coherent and constructive policy in the Middle East.
The American desire to have friendly forces with its own forces—although only token forces—in the Sinai gives us in Europe and our Commonwealth friends such as Australia and New Zealand, which I understand have indicated a willingness in principle to contribute forces, an opportunity to get American policy more constructively focused in the Middle East. It would be a mistake to let the opportunity pass by contributing forces unconditionally before progress had been made in that direction. If the Lord Privy Seal announces to the House a contribution without an associated undertaking from the United States Administration, it will be looked at sceptically by some of us on the Opposition Benches.
Let me say a word or two about North-South relations. It will not do for the Government to pretend that Cancun was anything but a dispiriting charade. It is no good the 134 Lord Privy Seal saying that they could not make decisions for countries that were not represented there. They did not even take decisions for themselves, as the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) pointed out to the Prime Minister in the House last week.
The central problem again was that the United States Administration adopted a posture incompatible with progress. The first aspect of that was the macabre pretence that the magic of the market place—as it was called—which has already condemned millions in the Third world to starvation, could solve all their problems. The second was the persistence in the United States of an economic policy based on high interest rates and a strong dollar, which has put appalling new burdens on the Third world.
The OECD estimates that the Third world debt is up 15 per cent. to $524,000 million and that interest service on the debt is up 22 per cent. this year to $111,700 million. A burden like that is a direct imposition on countries that cannot afford to carry it. American interest rates and financial policy impose terrifying burdens on us all by increased deflation and increased inflationary pressures, but many Third world countries will find it impossible to maintain their living standards, which are already below the absolute poverty line, unless a way can be found to finance the increased burden of debt.
Private banks are increasingly reluctant to lend to many of them. They are badly over-exposed. Even some of the most robust and confident American banks, such as Citibank, are drawing in their horns. The IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development are running short of resources, yet the American Administration will allow neither an increase in quotas nor an increase in SDRs to increase their resources.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer finally and timidly alligned himself with other European critics of high interest rate policies in the United States. It is a wonderful example of Satan rebuking sin, but is welcome none the less. However, no new initiative has been taken at the bank or fund meetings by any country—although I understand that the French Government tried—because of the certainty that it would meet resistance from the United States Administration.
To turn the Lord Privy Seal's opening remarks on their head, this is an area where economic policies must be an integral part of foreign policy. The failure of the Treasury to press for useful initiatives undermines not only British foreign policy but Western policy. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will turn his attention to the problem with more vigour than he has done in the past.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
I have listened carefully to the right hon. Gentleman's strictures. Had there been a Labour Prime Minister at the summit committed to protectionism, how would that have been received?
§ Mr. Healey
No doubt it would have been badly received, but as no Labour Prime Minister would adopt a policy of protectionism towards the Third world—as we have made clear repeatedly in our statements—the question is hypothetical and does not deserve further discussion.
I turn to by far the most important problem, about which the right hon. Gentleman had a little to say—negotiations on arms control, particularly on the 135 limitation of theatre nuclear forces. I am delighted that one of the right hon. Gentleman's first actions on coming to the Foreign Office was to tell the Atlantic Treaty Association in London on 2 October:No sane person on either side wants ever-escalating numbers of increasingly sophisticated and costly weapons.We all agree with that, yet sane people on both sides are engaged in that insanity.
Although the numbers of nuclear weapons on each side are already many times greater than could be used for a rational political or strategic purpose, both sides continue to accumulate them at heavy cost to their economies. Against that background, it is easy to understand the growing strength of the unilateralist movement in democratic countries in Europe and elsewhere. As far as we know, it does not exist in any country east of the dividing line in Europe.
However, it is not only the accelerating arms race that fuels the strength of the unilateralist movement. In a long period of concern with these affairs, I have noticed that unilateralism always rises where confidence in the wisdom of the American leadership is falling. I regret having to say these things. I have had personal friends in Administrations of both the great American parties over the past 30 years and I have friends in the present Administration. However, the possession of unimaginable destructive power imposes, or should impose, special responsibilities. One must speak softly when one carries a big stick.
The theatrical belligerence of rhetoric of some American leaders in the past 12 months is particularly disturbing when allied with carelessness and confusion in discussing the question of how the weapons might be used in an emergency. Unfortunately, in the past 12 months we have seen far too often a combination of belligerence of rhetoric with carelessness and confusion in defining the roles and purposes of the weapons.
However, we must not allow a fully justified concern over what the United States has said and done over the past 12 months to blind us to certain elements in the Soviet position which are well established and which were put to me and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when we talked to Chairman Brezhnev and members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow the other day.
First, under its present leadership Russia is not and never will be unilateralist. Mr. Brezhnev stressed that point strongly. Secondly, Russia has a large and growing nuclear armoury. For example, the SS20 missile is a weapon with no present analogy on the Western side. Thirdly, we were told by a defence expert that the Russians believe war in Europe would involve the use of nuclear weapons. We were told that explicitly by Mr. Brezhnev, who wrote in the German magazine Der Spiegel that any nuclear war in Europe would become global.
An excellent article in The Guardian today states that the Soviet Government have engaged in very substantial and expensive civil defence programmes in order to give them a chance of surviving a global nuclear war. The idea that a State can successfully plan the survival of global nuclear war, in which present armouries are used, is an illusion. However, that is not an unnatural illusion in a nation which has survived occupation by the armies of 136 Napoleon and Hitler. The Russians are experts in survival. It is a part of their tradition which they are bound to be slow to abandon.
The fact that Russia clearly contemplates the possibility of nuclear war, trains her military and civil populations to deal with the consequences of such a war and accumulates such a vast nuclear arsenal must affect our consideration of the background of this issue, as must recent decisions and statements of the United States Administration—by President Reagan, Mr. Weinberger or Mr. Haig. My comments do not imply a belief by myself or anybody I know in Western Governments that Russia is planning a nuclear war in Europe. Of course, Russia is not doing that. The Prime Minister stated that yesterday. If we were to handle our role unwisely, it is not impossible that a war in Europe will occur. That is the question we must consider with all the objectivity that we can command.
Should there be a nuclear war, the United Kingdom would not escape its consequences whether she were nuclear or neutral. I have often said that strontium 90 does not respect conference resolutions or declarations of neutrality. That is why our old friend, Lord Noel-Baker, wrote in The Guardian a week or two ago:In 70 years I have never myself urged unilateral disarmament by Britain because it would not save us from extermination by the fall-out from a United States/Soviet nuclear war.That is why Lord Noel-Baker has always been a multilateralist, as I am.
The real question is whether we can now move towards effective multilateral disarmament. If we fail to move, we may find the arms race embarked on another spiral in which technological surprise may destroy some of the stability which we have enjoyed in the last 30 years.
§ Mr. Norman Atkinson
My right hon. Friend is dealing with a matter of immense principle. It is important that we understand clearly what we are saying. First, I presume that my right hon. Friend does not renounce unilateral decisions in relation to Trident. Secondly, I take it that he does not dispense with the argument that it may be necessary to take a unilateral initiative to restrict the use of British territory for the installation of cruise or similar missiles.
§ Mr. Healey
My hon. Friend knows well that, like many Conservative Members, I oppose the Trident decision. I suspect that the Government will abandon the project, having discovered that it will cost twice as much as when they took the initial decision. I also strongly oppose the deployment of the neutron bomb in Europe. I would not wish British troops to have the neutron bomb. I believe that there may be other unilateral initiatives which could play a role.
However, I do not believe that the expulsion of American bases from Britain would contribute to peace. That would destabilise the situation in Europe and increase the danger of war. My hon. Friend knows that that is my view—I have expressed it on many occasions.
We now have a chance to start the process of multilateral disarmament by an agreement on long-range theatre nuclear forces. Specifically one thinks essentially of the Soviet SS20s—175 of which have already been deployed—and the cruise and Pershing 2 missiles. In 1979 NATO decided to start deploying the cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe. Their deployment should be concluded in about seven years.
137 My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) spoke persuasively yesterday about the "zero option" as the right objective in disarmament negotiations. I believe that that is by far the best objective to set ourselves. I am delighted that the German Government have supported that objective.
As for Mr. Haig's notorious remarks, The Daily Telegraph quotes him as saying:The aim of these Geneva talks is a verifiable agreement bringing significant reductions on both sides leading to equal ceilings at the lowest possible levels. Levels which ideally could be zero. In other words, NATO would be prepared to abandon its plan to deploy Cruise and Pershing missiles in Western Europe if Russia dismantled its entire force of SS20 missiles aimed at the West.I cannot understand why it was necessary to drag out of the Lord Privy Seal an admission that such an objective was sensible. If that is the objective, it must be proclaimed. Western Governments must start now to argue for it with their own people and with the Soviet Union. The zero option raises difficult problems for both sides, but fewer obstacles for the West, which, after all, does not yet have any weapons deployed, as does the Soviet Union.
One problem that the West has faced continually on the armaments argument has been the genuine uncertainty among those who study the matter. I hope that I am one of those. The uncertainty is whether the deployment of the proposed cruise and Pershing missiles would strengthen or weaken the credibility of the American deterrent. I have often felt, as I said on one occasion, that in some aspects one can see the Western proposal as another form of artificial dissemination. That was the description used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and me when we went to Washington to bury the MLF in 1964.
The multilateral nuclear force was a similar proposal which appeared to give the Europeans a nuclear deterrent of their own without actually giving it. That had one great advantage over the current proposal, in that the weapons were based at sea. If the weapons became targets for Soviet pre-emption, fewer people on the Western Europe territory would be involved.
Mr. Haig was in difficulties, when giving evidence yesterday, in explaining why it was good for the Americans to deploy cruise missiles in submarines, but not good to deploy them in submarines for Europe. Perhaps the Minister of State will explain the inwardness of that distinction when he replies. Nevertheless, the fact is that a decision to deploy them has been taken and I can see that the political implications of changing that decision unilaterally could be damaging for the West, although it is important that we should think honestly about the strategic role of those weapons before we become so committed to them that we cannot withdraw.
§ Mr. Healey
Let me finish this point. The Soviets have a major problem. They have deployed the weapons and the West cannot be satisfied with redeployment. We would have to insist on their being dismantled, as were the SS5s and SS60s which they are replacing. In addition, we must admit that the Russians believe that they have a problem with China to which some of those weapons may be relevant. There seemed to be some scope in Mr. Haig's words yesterday for allowing something there.
I believe that the Russians are deeply concerned about the trend of American policy under the new 138 Administration. They desperately want to get back to what the see as the golden age of co-operation with President Nixon and Secretary Kissinger, and they might be prepared to pay a price to achieve that. That is why believe that the zero option is a practicable objective, provided the thrust and pressure on Governments on both sides is in favour of reaching agreement on disarmament, rather than allowing the whole pocess to dribble away in logic chopping about the precise number of weapons to be counted and the balance on each side in one set of negotiations as against another.
There is a chance of making genuine progress, provided the West goes all out for the zero option. However, we must admit that agreement, even on long-range theatre nuclear forces, would be only the first step. We must have a resumption of talks on strategic arms limitation as it is defined by the Russians and Americans. I hope to goodness that we can also get talks on mutual and balanced reductions in conventional forces. I have much sympathy with those who argue that all the dilemmas could be overcome if the West's conventional position in Europe were capable of balancing the Soviet conventional position.
We must support action in those areas by progress on confidence-building measures. Again, I cannot understand the delay here. President Brezhnev made it clear to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and myself that the Russians are prepared to extend those measures to the Urals, provided we extend them to the western frontiers of Europe and the seas immediately adjacent.
§ Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex)
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and I appreciate the authority and experience with which he speaks on these matters. However, does he not believe that in talking about the zero option as a real possibility he is holding out a fantasy which he must know is incapable of achievement? Why should the Russians agree to the zero option when, as the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, the number of SS20s has increased from 40 or 50 to 200 in the past two or three years?
§ Mr. Healey
There are three reasons. The first is that the Russians offered in October 1979—before the West decided to deploy and when they had only about 20 SS20s deployed—to reduce the number if the West did not go ahead with its decision. What a pity it is that we did not take up that offer.
Secondly, the alternative to reaching agreement is the continuation of an arms race which, by definition, neither side can win but which could destabilise such military stability as we enjoy and would certainly be extremely costly.
The third reason is less tangible. The Soviet Union is being run by a lot of men in their seventies who were brought up and entered public life during Stalin's purges before the war, and who went through the horrors of the anti-Hitler war and Stalin's mad years. They will leave the scene in the next few years and will be replaced by men 20 years younger. The generation who would now be in their sixties were killed in the Second World War. The most striking discovery that any visitor can make in Russia is that there are no leaders in their sixties. There are old men in their seventies and a lot of younger men in their fifties. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Leader of the Opposition?"] Ah, but what a young man!
139 Seriously, that is one of the most critical elements in the present situation. The older men are desperately anxious to leave behind some predictability in external affairs. They know that Russia's internal problems, in the political area with the minorities, in the diplomatic area on their Eastern Europe frontier and in the economic area where their performance has been appalling in recent years, will be difficult to handle if the external environment is unstable.
I believe that the Russian leaders want to establish a better relationship with the West, such as they established with Nixon and Kissinger. Of course, I cannot guarantee that that will succeed, but it is a rational objective for negotiations and such a simple objective is always easier to achieve than is something that depends on a nice balance of how many reductions are made on each side and where they are made. That is what I believe. I could be wrong, but it is a sensible objective and I hope that the Government will press it with force.
§ Mr. Healey
We must enter the negotiations with a determination to make genuine progress, and to make it fast. Britain can play a key role, particularly through our influence with our friends in Western Europe.
§ Mr. Cryer
My right hon. Friend is talking about reductions on both sides. Does he agree that in this difficult world we need verification of arms reduction—the frequent cry of the Prime Minister? Is not the danger in the installation of cruise missiles that they are the least open to verification and that their siting in this country would exacerbate that problem and, therefore, the arms race?
§ Mr. Healey
I do not believe that that is a major factor. It is difficult to verify, for example, how many missiles can be fired from every SS20 site. There is already some evidence that they may all be reloadable. But we do not know. Verification is a difficult problem in all these areas, although what are called in the trade scientific means of verification—spies in the sky and so on—make verification much less of a problem than it used to be. The most difficult area of verification is submarine-based missiles. It is impossible to track their movements in the oceans. It has been impossible for the past 30 years and is likely to remain so for many more years.
I apologise for having spoken for so long, but I have given way to a number of hon. Members. We must enter the negotiations with a determination to make genuine progress, and to make it fast. We can play a critical role in bringing the negotiations to success. Despite all the obstacles I have referred to, I do not believe that success is impossible if statesmen show imagination. Indeed, it may be easier for President Reagan to reach such agreement than it was for any of his predecessors.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I suppose that the greatest service that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) ever did his country was when he and Admiral Mountbatten persuaded the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) at a memorable weekend after Labour's political victory in 1964 to retain our Polaris independent deterrent.
I was glad that although the right hon. Member for Leeds, East made various efforts to identify himself with what might be called the Brandt-Kreisky-Palme line, he still kept flying a tattered banner of belief in deterrence power until we have genuine multilateral disarmament. I congratulate him on that.
I hope that you will not think it inappropriate, Mr. Speaker, if I pay tribute to the late President Sadat. In my opinion, he was one of the most noble and heroic statesmen of the last decade. In his early life he opposed Britain in Egypt. Later, with President Nasser he worked closely with the Russians and, indeed, in Aden, again against us. When he came to power he reassessed the circumstances and expelled the Russians from Egypt—there were 20,000, so that was an act of enormous courage. He made peace with the Israelis, who had been his country's enemies for 20 years. He realigned Egypt with the West. All those were acts of statesmanship. His nobility of character was shown when he lifted up the fallen Shah of Iran when other Governments who had much greater obligations to imperial Iran had rejected him.
I mourn the loss of President Sadat. He was a great man and a great patriot for Egypt. He recovered nearly all the territories that his predecessor had lost, and, while not yet reintroducing democracy, he considerably liberalised the economic and censorship system.
We must remember that Egypt is the most important of the Arab countries by virtue of its population, its culture and, above all, by virtue of its geographical position. It was not for nothing that Napoleon called itthe most important country in the world".The money may have moved to the Gulf, but the key to the Arab world will remain in Cairo. It is vital to our interests and aims and those of the whole free world in the Middle Eastern area that we should work closely with President Sadat's successor, President Hosni Mubarak, who was Sadat's right hand and knew his views and designs perhaps more intimately than anyone in the world.
At the moment Israel is rather unfashionable. In United Nations circles it is labelled with South Africa. I was shocked that our friends in the Foreign Office could not field a proper representative to attend General Dayan's funeral. After all, he lost his eye fighting for Britain dressed as an Arab against the pro-Nazi Vichy French. There is no reason why we should be ashamed of this so long afterwards. He was the chief of the Israeli staff who co-operated with us in the most successful branch of the Suez operation.
Having paid tribute to President Sadat and having talked about Israel being unfashionable, I also pay tribute to Mr. Begin. His rhetoric is strident and he upsets many of us much of the time. But he was the man who paid for peace in the hardest currency that exists. He paid for it in land. He bought peace by handing back territory. If his calculation proves mistaken, he will be held seriously accountable by his people.
141 When I consider those two figures—the late President Sadat and Mr Begin—it seems clear to me that we would be foolish to base our Middle Eastern policy on anything but support for Camp David. It is the cornerstone of Middle Eastern security in the Levant, Israel, Egypt and the opening to the Red Sea. It is from that hinge that the Americans have been able to develop an understanding with the Sudan, Somalia and Oman which I hope, now that the AWACs deal has gone through, will extend increasingly to Saudi Arabia. There may be differences in the words in the communiques which are issued, but increasingly as a result of that deal, if the deal means anything—President Reagan has put everything possible into it—the Saudis must now draw ever closer to the Americans, and they were already quite close. The Israelis were wrong to criticise the AWACs deal. They should realise that there is a corollary tothe enemy of my enemy is my friendwhich isthe ally of my ally is my friend.I am glad to see that we are proposing to contribute some forces to the contingent that will police the Sinai. I read in the papers today that my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary had said that that contingent wouldnot be associated with Camp David.Have words lost their meaning? Camp David is more about Sinai than about Palestine. Surely, the only point of sending troops to Sinai is to make sure that the Sinai part of the Camp David agreement is maintained. It would be silly to think that such blatant hypocrisy would have the faintest impression, even on the most backward souks in the Middle East. Camp David is not yet dead. None of us knows whether it can be revived. However, we should weigh our words about it carefully.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary damned Camp David with faint praise at the beginning and later denigrated it. I criticised this at the time as unnecessary. Perhaps it was worse than that. Political assassinations do not come out of a clear sky any more than do thunderbolts. They come out of a climate which is built up, in which the potential murderer feels that the tide of history is on his side. Islamic fundamentalism and the propaganda of the PLO were the most important factors. But I ask my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to consider carefully whether our denigration of Camp David did not give an element of responsibility to all those, such as Yasser Arafat, who were calling publicly for the murder of President Sadat and whose followers danced in the street after the event.
Now that my right hon. Friend is returning to us he will tell us about Prince Fahd's plan. That is not an alternative to Camp David, but it might be an extension. As an opening bid, it could be a basis for discussion, as an impressive leading article in The Times today proposed. However, I have three reservations. The plan appears to have been approved by Chairman Arafat, who as I said called for the assassination of President Sadat and publicly rejoiced in the event. Therefore, that must give us reason for caution.
The eight-point plan is still only a draft. It has to be submitted to the Arab conference in Morocco in the next few weeks. We do not know what will come out of it. Then, guidance was given to the press by the Saudis, which suggested that the Soviet Union might be brought into the final settlement. I thought that the great triumph 142 of President Carter and of President Reagan was that they had dislodged the Soviet Union from almost every part of the Middle East except for Syria, Aden and Libya.
I suspect that the American perception of the Middle East is right. The Americans' view is that Soviet imperialism is the major threat. Without it the Palestinian problem would be one of many—the Kurdish problem, the Iran-Iraq problem, the Sahara problem and many others. As it is, the Palestinian problem is important, because the failure to solve it makes it a vehicle for the extension of Soviet influence. However, it has been less of a problem than I feared, partly because the PLO depends on the money that it receives from the Arab conservative States, and partly because there is a growing respect for American power and a recognition that when a country such as Egypt turns to America, it has real backing.
The Palestinian problem is important and calls for a solution, but not a solution at any price. We should not fall for a solution of the Palestine problem that will be more favourable to the Soviet Union than if we were to leave the problem unsettled.
In democracies the lives of Governments are short and are measured by four or five-year periods. Therefore, there is a tendency to try to find solutions. They do not feel like that in the Kremlin or in the Vatican.
Namibia is another case in point. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) wrote a powerful article, which appeared in this morning's edition of The Times. He said that a solution in Namibia would be the acid test of our relations with the black States. That could also be said about the Palestinian problem. We have had the problem of Palestine on our hands for more than 30 years, and we have had the Namibian problem for about as long. I am not convinced that they are the acid tests. The Palestinian problem has not prevented half the Arab countries from being friendly towards us, although we have not solved it. Many African countries remain friendly to us through aid or trade.
On the face of them, Mr. Crocker's proposals seem to be reasonable. On paper, the safeguards are pretty good. The problem is how to enforce them. Many years ago I negotiated a constitution for Cyprus with Archbishop Makarios and Dr. Kuchuk. The only way that we could convince those two that safeguards were enforceable was by giving Turkey and Greece—as well as Britain—the right to intervene if the constitution were broken. The Greek Cypriots broke the constitution several times. Ultimately the Turks intervened and the results are there for all to see.
It is not altogether surprising that the different political parties in Namibia—both white and black—are anxious about the enforcement of those splendid safeguards in the Crocker proposals. They look across the border to Zimbabwe. It is too early to pass judgment on what is happening in Zimbabwe, but there has been a large exodus on the part of the white population, particularly of technicians on whom the railways, power stations and other essentials of the infrastructure depend. There is talk of a one-party State, and there are threats to the Opposition. Armed North Korean troops are entering Zimbabwe to help train a new brigade.
From Namibia's viewpoint those factors give rise to anxiety. Much depends on the environment in which independence is gained in Namibia, if it is ever gained. if independence is gained while Soviet and Cuban forces are still in control of neighbouring Angola, there will be 143 nothing to stop a SWAPO Government—if elected in Namibia—calling in Soviet, Cuban or even East German support. After all, there is a large German population in Namibia. Neither the West nor South Africa can afford to run that risk.
It would be a different story if the Cubans and Soviets withdrew from Angola and if the Opposition parties—the UNITA of Savimbi and the FNLA of Holden Roberto—were allowed to take part in the political process. The risk would then be reasonable, even if it led to a SWAPO victory in Namibia. Is it right to ask for free elections in Namibia when we do not ask for them in Angola, and to ask for the withdrawal of South African troops from Namibia when we do not ask for the withdrawal of Cubans and Soviets from Angola? This is not a matter for the Western contact group. It has its remit which it must observe, and it must follow up the negotiations with which it is entrusted. However, it is a matter for the Western powers.
I gave notice to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup that I would refer to him in this debate. He says that one should make the issue not explicit, but implicit. He says that if the South Africans were to withdraw, the Cubans and Soviets might withdraw at the wish of the Angolans. That may be, but let us suppose that they did not withdraw. We should then get the dirty end of the bargain. One may hope for goodwill, but suppose one does not get it. Therefore, I plump for the explicit formula, and I would press Washington, with our support, to say clearly that there can be no decolonisation of Namibia without a decolonisation of Angola, and no free elections in Namibia until the Opposition parties in Angola are allowed to return to the political process.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) rightly pointed out that there had been contradictions in the American Administration's position since President Reagan came to power. He correctly said that he was worried by some of the statements emanating from the United States of America, particularly those involving nuclear weapons.
My right hon. Friend pointed out that President Brezhnev of the Soviet Union had said that any war in Europe would be, or would lead to, a global war. The Times today records a statement that was made yesterday by Mr. Haig. The Times states:Mr. Alexander Haig… said today that NATO contingency plans include firing, as a last resort, a demonstration nuclear shot to warn the Soviet Union against pressing a conventional attack on Western Europe.The Times quotes Mr. Haig as having said:For example, there are contingency plans in the NATO doctrine to fire a nuclear weapon for demonstrative purposes, to demonstrate to the other side tht they are exceeding the limits of toleration in their conventional attack.Mr. Haig also defended President Reagan's recent comment that a nuclear war could be fought that was limited to Europe. What a happy prospect. We have already heard that President Brezhnev made it clear that any war in Europe would be a global war. Mr. Haig now tells us that for demonstration purposes we should fire a nuclear weapon against Soviet forces.
It is no wonder that The Times states: 144Critics will argue that the warning-shot tactic could bring the unthinkable that much nearer.Precisely. With such a shot, the unthinkable could be brought that much nearer. The unthinkable is the complete and utter destruction of Europe, and the destruction would then extend to other parts of the world.
A point has been raised about unilateral nuclear disarmament. I am a unilateralist. I believe in the policies that have been accepted by the Labour Party conference. But I have never argued that unilateralism of itself will prevent nuclear war. We have argued that it would take us a little way towards getting out of a nuclear war. It does not mean that we would not still be a target even if we had unilateral disarmament here.
The other side of the coin is therefore that we must also press for multilateral nuclear disarmament. There is not necessarily a contradiction between arguing that we should get rid of nuclear bases in this country and pursuing multilateral agreements on a much wider scale. Those who set the one against the other are posing a question which in this context is unreal.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
But is the hon. Gentleman facing the difficulty of his own argument? Why should the Soviet Government negotiate seriously in the multilateral negotiations, which the hon. Gentleman rightly favours, if at the same time they see unilateralist policies doing their work for them in unilaterally removing the bases and weapons which are the subject of the negotiations?
§ Mr. Heffer
The answer is perfectly simple. We are talking about unilateral disarmament for Britain. The removal of bases from this country does not mean that the United States will immediately follow our policy of unilateral disarmament. The scope for multilateral discussions leading to a reduction in nuclear weapons will therefore clearly continue. We are dealing with two issues at the same time. In any case, even in Europe, the French will continue to have nuclear weapons. We all, I hope, put our national interest above everything else. The national interest which matters to me is to get rid of nuclear weapons from British soil. If the French believe for the moment that it is right for them to have nuclear weapons, that is a matter for them, although I hope that sooner or later we shall be able to persuade them to support a nuclear-free zone throughout Europe. I therefore continue to argue that there is no basic contradiction between the two policies.
The Prime Minister asks whether anyone seriously thinks that the Soviet Government would follow our example and whether unilateral disarmament would make war less likely. That is a hypothetical question. Nobody knows whether unilateral disarmament or even multilateral disarmament would make war less likely. That is a hypothetical question to which no one knows the answer. We can say this, however. If we are really concerned about the future of mankind and the future of our people, and if we are really concerned to try to reduce the possibilities of nuclear war, undoubtedly we must pursue the argument for getting rid of nuclear bases from this country.
§ Mr. Heffer
Normally I give way, but I fear that I cannot do so on this occasion as I have only a limited time in which to make my points.
145 We have heard arguments today, particularly from the Government side, about our attitude to Europe. The Prime Minister has said that the policy of withdrawal from the European Community would be deeply harmful and could be carried out only at the cost of severe damage to the Western world. When Britain entered the European Common Market, arguments were advanced in the House about the future of British industry and the possibility of building it up into a tremendous force, capable of competing on a world scale, sweeping the markets and giving jobs to our youngsters. We were told that the only way to achieve that was to enter the Common Market. All our arguments were swept aside. We were told that the problems that we raised would not arise or would arise only marginally. Although it would be false to argue that the Common Market has been responsible for all our ills, it is certainly true it has not solved one of our problems. It has made them worse. Unemployment has increased as a result of entry into the Common Market. The youngsters who, we were told, would get jobs have no jobs.
Moreover, the Common Market is not Europe. It is a group of countries within Europe. It has been argued that, because the Labour Party supports withdrawal from the Common Market, it is anti-European and wants nothing to do with our European partners. That is absolutely untrue. The Labour Party is not anti-European. We have a different concept of building European unity which does not lie along the path of the Treaty of Rome, which in any case is based upon concepts that we do not accept. We believe that we must work for a wider and looser Europe.
My personal wish—I do not put this forward as my party's point of view as it has not yet arrived at this conclusion, although I hope that it will—is to see a wider Europe, a democratic Socialist Europe, which can affect the bureaucratic regimes in Eastern Europe by helping to make them democratic while at the same time rejecting the unfettered private enterprise system which exists in the United States. I wish Europe to be a bulwark of democracy which can assist the development of the underdeveloped countries.
I believe that some of the existing institutions in Europe can be used to that end. I believe that the Council of Europe is essential and that it can be used properly to fight for this concept, as can other institutions. That is what we must do. I have not sufficient time to develop that argument, but I stress yet again that the Labour Party is not anti-European. It is quite wrong to equate Europe purely with the Common Market. It is vital to stress that that is not the case.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East was absolutely correct in what he said about Latin America. I congratulate him particularly on that part of his opening speech. I could not agree with everything he said about nuclear weapons, but the whole of his speech was interesting and I found nothing with which I particularly disagreed even in that respect.
With regard to Latin America, I draw attention to an extremely interesting article on Nicaragua in The Observer last week. The article, by Norman Lewis, describes Nicaragua as "The country that threw out America's bad guys". As usual, the Americans see the Nicaraguan Government as a Marxist-oriented regime dominated by a sectarian group of pro-Soviet people. In fact, the Sandinistas have in their Government three Roman Catholic priests. They are striving to get democracy established in that country. They have accepted that 146 private enterprise is part and parcel of their system. There is a press that is critical of its own Government. Norman Lewis quotes from an article in La Prensa Gráfica that was moved to express a criticism that for once was directed not at Cuba or the Soviet Union but against the United States of America. The article states:Why always the military men? Why always the dictatorships? What is wrong with a little support for democracy for once, for the political parties and their leaders?I was in the United States when Cuba became Communist. It was not Communist originally because Fidel Castro did not support the Communist concept. However, the Americans reacted immediately against him and drove Cuba into the hands of the Soviet Union. It is Reagan's policy to drive Nicaragua and other countries into the hands of the Soviet Union. The Americans act blindly and stupidly in respect of Latin America. They make the same mistakes repeatedly.
President Carter, with all his faults, did not make those mistakes. He supported human rights. When Reagan took power, his first action was to turn his back on Carter's human rights stance. He is supporting President Duane, who in the past may have had a good record in El Salvador but who is now the front man, the prisoner, of a military dictatorship. However, the Americans are giving him their full support. They are supporting Pinochet in Chile. They are supporting the Argentinian military reactionaries. Their support extends to Uruguay and Paraguay. They always support the anti-democratic and anti-progressive forces.
It is for the United Kingdom Government to say, as they have done slightly in the past, that American policy is not good enough and that they will not go along that path. The Government should do far more to help refugees from Latin American countries. The Government have turned their back on the policies on refugees pursued by the Labour Government. We must return to the recognition that a refugee from a dictatorship is not an immigrant. We must examine carefully the way in which we deal with refugees who have come from the countries to which I have referred.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East that we should support the democratic forces in El Salvador totally and without question. We should give our full support to all those in the Latin American countries who are fighting for free and democratic rights and human rights.
We should be concerned with human rights not only in Latin America. We must not have double standards. Socialists especially cannot have double standards. If it is right to fight for human rights in Latin and Central American countries, it is right for us to demand freedom, democracy and human rights in East European countries. We cannot say that we shall fight for the Chileans but not for those who want their liberties in the Soviet Union.
We must not ignore what has been done by those in Poland, who have created the first free and independent trade union movement in Eastern Europe since the Russian revolution. Our job is to give unqualified support to those who are members of Solidarity. The Labour Party can do that because, unlike the Tory Government, it does not have plans to shackle British trade unionists. With all due respect to the Government, they seem slightly hypocritical. They are all in favour of Solidarity in Poland, but they want to introduce legislation to control the British 147 people. Surely there is an element of hypocrisy in that stance. We must not accept that. We must support Solidarity and defend the rights of its members.
We must support those who are being imprisoned, or who are likely to be imprisoned, in Czechoslovakia because they dared to sign Charter 77. We must support those in the Soviet Union who are trying to create independent and free trade unions or to publish various journals. We must be especially concerned with human rights. In defending those rights in other countries, we are defending human rights and freedom in Britain.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
I echo the words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in welcoming the Lord Privy Seal in his new role. The right hon. Gentleman spent two years in a pretty dangerous and difficult job, and we welcome him in his new capacity.
In a foreign affairs debate it is natural to devote much of one's remarks to the state of the East-West relationship and the prospects for the more effective, the less dangerous and the less expensive management of that fundamental global dispute. However, the issue was dealt with yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), the leader of the Liberal Party. Therefore, I shall add only three brief comments.
First, the Government must use whatever influence they have in Washington to press the United States to accelerate its approach to arms control negotiations. I go along with the zero option, the arguments about which have already been rehearsed. The Government must do everything they can to bring that about. I sought to intervene when the right hon. Member for Leeds, East referred to Trident. I do not regard doing away with Trident as a unilateral act. I regard having Trident as a unilateral act in terms of the Western Alliance as I see it.
Secondly, the Government should use their influence in Washington to stop President Reagan's spokesmen making what are at best insensitive and at worst stupid remarks about nuclear war in Europe. If anything is likely to disrupt the Atlantic Alliance, that is. We ignore at our peril the genuine feeling that is now being shown throughout Europe. It is unquestionably a much deeper feeling than was evidenced in the old CND campaign.
Thirdly, it must be said that the Soviet Union has displayed remarkable reticence and control over Poland. Obviously it cannot afford economically to invade. Any invasion would also dramatically worsen East-West relations. However, there is hope to be gained from the fact that the Soviet Union, Afghanistan notwithstanding, views Poland in those terms. It has displayed remarkable control and caution, and it should be given credit for that. That should be something on which to build in respect of the disarmament negotiations that are about to be undertaken.
As a Liberal, I have no illusions about the profound differences between the pluralistic democracies of the West, for all their flaws and frequent economic insensitivities, and the totalitarian East, on which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) dwelt a short while ago. I have never looked at detente in terms of a person pretending that it does not exist, as some people do.
148 Detente means the effective management of differences, and I do not think that we are managing these differences very well at this time.
My right hon. Friend also rightly referred yesterday to the Brandt report. I should like to add to his remarks because it is the other fundamental foreign affairs issue. We all know that Brandt was not perfect, but it clearly summarised the main problems. I do not believe that the Mexico summit advanced that analysis very much. It is shortsighted of the industrialised nations not to make a greater effort. Without question, they would benefit enormously from a more prosperous South with a greater buying capacity. Aid will continue to be necessary, particularly in emergencies. We may be broke, but surely not so broke that we have to make the cuts in aid that we have made.
However, in our view, the priority is not in aid but in developing within the underdeveloped countries self-reliance in basic sectors, especially food production. That creates, and will create, great problems for this country. Reference has already been made to trade embargoes, import controls and the problems of textiles. If we engage in protectionist legislation, we shall stifle growth in developing countries and, apart from provoking retaliation, it will put back the possibility of closing the gap between North and South. There must, therefore, be a concerted effort to stabilise commodity prices and to guarantee raw material prices at a fairer level. That does not exclude a special effort being made for the least developed countries that are short on resources.
Resources that are currently channelled to armaments should, if possible, be channelled to Third world development. I was disappointed that very little was said today by either Front Bench spokesman on arms sales. At least as a start, Herr Genscher of the Federal Republic of Germany has proposed a United Nations register for arms sales to try to monitor what is happening so that we know the scale of the problem and can begin to do something about it.
Obviously we must share our education and technical expertise with developing countries and seek to finance local development of appropriate technologies. We should examine "South-South" dialogues and do something to enable developing countries to share ideas and experiences and stimulate trade.
It has already been said in the House that the Government have cut back the money available for programmes of development education within the United Kingdom, which are of great importance politically to enable people to understand the reality of world poverty. That is frequently effectively focused by dramatic television programmes, but not in the sustained way which would enable proper realisation of the interdependence in the world upon which Brandt based his report.
We believe that we can best deal with the East-West and North-South relationships on the basis of a better integrated European Community. Despite the fact that I have had much exposure to it, I cannot understand the Labour Party's attitude to the Community. The Socialists claim—we heard it a moment ago from the hon. Member for Walton—to have a special attitude towards international affairs. In European terms, that is a very thin view. All those who have attended the numerous debates on Europe, as I have, will know that the particular bete noir of the anti-Europeans is France.
149 No European debate in this Chamber is allowed to pass without a fresh anecdote about the cunning subterfuges of the French and how they are doing us down yet again. However, hon. Members must have observed that France now has a Socialist President, and had a Socialist President before the last Labour Party conference, a fact that did not seem to have much effect on the debate that took place there. Chancellor Schmidt's party in Germany is also a member of Socialist International. So both France and Germany are ruled by parties within Socialist International and both are in favour of the European Economic Community. If Socialist International means a realistic common political approach, one would have thought that starting within Europe would be a good idea. I do not understand why it has not worked that way.
I draw to the attention of the House, and particularly to Conservative Members, who perhaps do not have the same access to such material, the Labour Party document entitled a "A Social Foreign Policy". It devotes nine pages to British relations with Chile, and one and a half pages to the war in the Western Sahara, but says virtually nothing about our relations with France and Germany, and nothing whatever about Poland. If we cannot solve the problems on our doorstep or across the street, what earthly chance is there of our making an effective contribution to problems thousands of miles away, which, inevitably, our understanding must be imperfect?
The Queen's Speech is strong on rhetoric, some of which is reasonable. The rhetoric about the European Community is definite. It states:My Government reaffirm their strong commitment to the European Community. During the remainder of the British Presidency"—which, after all, is only three months, so that is not a strong commitment—and thereafter … the United Kingdom will play its full part in its development".It does not say how or in what way, nor have I seen very much evidence of the Government's being willing to bring forward initiatives to improve the European Community and make its international agencies stronger. The Queen's Speech continues:My Government are anxious to see satisfactory decisions on … the Community budget … and the Common Agricultural Policy. They will seek early agreement on a revised Common Fisheries Policy, and will continue to support the accession to the Community of Spain and Portugal.As far as I know, no one has suggested that the Government were becoming weak or wet on the latter subject, so I do not regard that as exciting.
As Roy Jenkins spelt out clearly in his final speech as President of the Commission, we shall not get any real progress in these areas unless we have a larger budget. We shall not obtain a larger budget unless there is an acceptance by member States of greater European expenditure on a supranational basis, according to agreed guidelines based on fair criteria rather than on national advantage. I say that again directly to the Government. They will not do anything about the social or regional funds unless there is a larger budget. The Government must face up to that.
§ Mr. Johnston
The Minister shakes his head in a slightly weary way, which is understandable from Government Front Bench spokesmen at this time. However, the Government must face that fact.
150 The relevance of the Community as an influence in foreign affairs is particularly pointed up in what it can try to do to break the logjam in the Middle East. The Lord Privy Seal referred earlier to the Saudi initiative. Understandably, he could not say very much about the Government's response because the Foreign Secretary is at present in Saudi Arabia. However, it would be fair to say that the initiative is basically helpful. If we set aside the intractable problems of Jerusalem, because that part of the initiative is a non-starter, the essential proposition of a Palestinian State linked to Israeli recognition seems to be the only way forward.
The Minister of State may remember that we had a brief interchange about explicit and implicit recognition of Israel by the Saudis. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Mr. Carmichael) reminded me in the interim, it is a fair point to make that the Saudis do not even show Israel on their maps. If one is being didactic, one can argue that unless Israel is specifically mentioned it is not specifically there. If the Foreign Secretary could persuade the Saudis to make the recognition of Israel explicit, that would be a dramatic advance.
Like the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), I should like to record our great sorrow at the murder of President Sadat. Some of us met him a year ago and he impressed one enormously with his candour and courage. Undoubtedly his commitment to a Middle East solution, whatever the rhetoric of Camp David, included in his mind the ultimate creation of a Palestine State in which, of course, the PLO would play a crucial role.
Reference has already been made to the article in The Times today by the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) about Namibia. It was a calm and balanced article which, while it recognised the constructive approach of many people—for example, in the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance and the internal administration—also faced up to the urgency of achieving a negotiated agreement in which SWAPO is enabled openly and unrestrictedly to bid for support in fair and free elections. I welcomed the Minister's reference to the role that the Commonwealth might have in advancing these matters, over and above the countries already involved.
We can also, with our European partners, play some part in advancing many other questions. El Salvador has already been referred to by Labour Members. The declaration by the Governments of France and Mexico, supporting a negotiated settlement, is a valuable contribution to the search for peace, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will work with our Community partners to see how this can be advanced.
I have had some correspondence with the Minister about Cambodia. Tragedy persists there. This is an area where, in conjunction with the Community, we can surely do something.
With regard to Vietnam, there is still the problem of the boat people, although half the world ignores it. A great many people who spent much time in the forefront of the campaign about Vietnam ignore the boat people. That should be noted.
We have so far failed to respond to the new situation in China. It is extraordinary that the Lord Privy Seal, in opening the debate, did not mention China. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East did not mention China. Yet this is a vast country, with an ancient and mature and potent civilisation, which at the moment wants to talk to us, to 151 trade with us and to explore joint initiatives. Inevitably, whatever we do, China will play a crucial role in the future of the world. It is of the greatest importance—politically, economically and socially—that we should spend some time and energy in building links with China.
British foreign policy has for too long rested almost exclusively on interpretations of the so-called national interest. I do not think that that is any basis for the future. I disagree fundamentally with what the hon. Member for Walton said at the end of his speech—that it was the only basis on which he operated. The only real basis for a policy is the search for just solutions. That search, to be effective, must be conducted in the first place through the European Community and NATO, and beyond that through the Commonwealth and the United Nations. That should be the Government's priority.
§ Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)
It would seem that the debate today is turning into a European debate, for which I am greatly pleased.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), in mentioning human rights, referred to Central America. He said that 30,000 people had been killed in El Salvador, and that there is ferment throughout almost the whole of South America. Four weeks ago, the Council of Europe held in Madrid a seminar on human rights in Latin America, and 180 guests were invited from all over South America. Some of them were refugees living in Europe. Some of them were still living in El Salvador and in Nicaragua. It emerged clearly from the three-day seminar that not only the Right wing and Left wing, but the multinational companies are involved in the conflicts.
The problems seem to be almost insoluble, because arms are being supplied from every direction. Cuba, in particular, was mentioned. The American representative at the seminar had a traumatic experience in defending his country against the many accusations of supplying arms and of giving encouragement to minorities which were either very Right wing or were suspected of being very Right wing.
The report of the Council of Europe's seminar will go to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and also to the other 20 Foreign Secretaries of the Council of Europe member States. I am sure that the report will present a balanced view of what is now happening in South America.
As the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) said, there is no mention of China in the Queen's Speech. No mention, either is made of Turkey, where there is a very difficult position. The Turkish members of the Council of Europe are debarred from attending, and we are still waiting for Turkey to call once again a democratic election. Promises have been made. Documents have been forwarded to Turkey and to the other member States of the Council of Europe, and we are hoping that before long the Turkish members will be attending the meetings of the Council of Europe.
With regard to Vietnam and all the other areas of the world in which there are refugee problems, it is worth pointing out that the Council of Europe has a committee on migration, refugees and demography. If any hon. Members wish to do so, they can obtain a copy of the committee's report and bring themselves fully up to date 152 on what the various institutions of Europe are doing to help solve the grave refugee problems in Europe and throughout the world. The Court of Human Rights is an establishment of the Council of Europe. There is also the Bank of Resettlement fund. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) would perhaps be prepared to keep those bodies, despite his not anti-European but anti-Common Market stance.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Inverness will agree with me that the various institutions of Europe are so intertwined that it is unrealistic for someone to say that he wants nothing to do with the Common Market but is prepared to take advantage of the European Investment Bank, the Economic and Social Committee in Brussels, the European Coal and Steel Community, and many other European institutions. The whole system in Europe now is like a grapevine. It winds in and out and the main branch is connected with all the institutions. It is, therefore, naive to think that one can do without one of the parts and still keep the others for the advantage of only the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friends the Lord Privy Seal and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs should look at the question of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. I believe that six months is not sufficient. The President has just enough time to get into the seat, start his programme and develop an agenda. As a result, the six months are gone in a flash, and are of no consequence. We do not want the Presidency to be mere window dressing. It should be something worthwhile, and the more nations that join, the more important it will be for the President to be able to have at least a few months to get his breath before his appointment ends.
I take issue with the hon. Member for Inverness, who spoke for the Liberal-SDP Alliance on the point. I was deeply disappointed in the Presidency of the Commission by the United Kingdom representative, Mr. Roy Jenkins. We felt that he would do great things and that he had a feeling for Europe. We felt that he understood the problems, and that he had the compassion and personality which were suited to that high office. It is unfortunate that the United Kingdom will not hold that office again for another 40 or 50 years because I do not think that the results of the United Kingdom Presidency should be applauded or merit praise. I go no further than that because I might disgruntle alliance Members.
The hon. Member for Walton was completely wrong when he said that it was claimed that our membership of the EEC on 1 January 1973 would bring full employment. He said nothing about the modernisation of industry, overstaffing, or the bad relations between the shop floor and management. He ignored the fact that France and Germany had been in the Community for some years and had obviously achieved the advantages of close links before we joined. It is not possible for the EEC to guarantee anyone's job in any form, although the opportunities are there.
Trade between Britain and the Community is growing all the time. One of the most futile statements made by the hon. Member for Walton was "We in the Labour Party are not anti-Europe. We just do not accept the Treaty of Rome." The Treaty of Rome is the basis of all institutions about which I have been talking, and if the hon. Member does not accept the Treaty he cannot say that he is not anti-European.
153 As a member of the Council of Europe, one of the things of which I am most proud is the Council's support of human rights. The hon. Member for Walton is unfortunately no longer in the Chamber, but he said that we cannot have double standards in human rights. He is right. That is why the Court of Human Rights will be used and must be supported more and more by the United Kingdom Government. Ordinary people are now taking their cases to the learned judges. I am thinking in particular of the British Rail workers, but others are now coming forward. This is a mainstay for the future of human rights for the whole of Western Europe and perhaps, eventually, even Eastern Europe. If this is continued, we shall have built something into the Community which is more than a commercial adding machine.
I now turn my attention to the Commonwealth and the United Nations. I fully agree with what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. I also agree that the Commonwealth has an important part to play. Of course, we are probably more friendly with some countries than with others, but I make a small plea on behalf of one of the poorest countries in the Commonwealth. We cannot imagine the poverty that exists there, yet it is probably the most pro-British part of the Commonwealth. I am, of course, referring to Sri Lanka.
Her Majesty has just returned from there. She received a welcome that no one could criticise. The people were as enthusiastic as any nation could be, yet dreadful poverty exists in that country. To our credit, Britain has given £100 million of overseas development aid for the vital Victoria dam that is now being built. Unfortunately, that is about £20 million short of the sum required. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will convey the message to the Foreign Office that we should support such countries still further. Certainty, the poverty that exists in Sri Lanka is beyond imagination.
Among the other work of the Council of Europe is the Western European Union, which includes the Western European defence committees. When hon. Members talk about unilateral and multilateral disarmament, they should bear in mind something that has been written about the imbalance of nuclear weapons. It states:The Soviet build up, especially of SS18 and SS20 forces in intercontinental and theatre roles especially, have had a powerful effect on the strategic situation. Nothing since the start of the deterrent strategy has been so destabilising as these two missile systems".People may not realise that the SS20 is a rocket on a lorry which can be moved almost overnight. It carries three nuclear warheads and can be programmed to strike three major towns at the same time. One hon. Member suggested that there were 170 such weapons, but the WEU has suggested that about 230 are in position. As I said, they can be moved almost within the hours of darkness. The SS20 is a frightful weapon, and represents a greater challenge than we could ever imagine.
On the other hand, the cruise missile must in most cases have a fixed base and carries only one atomic head. It is difficult to navigate because it requires as low as 30 feet height clearance. Snow affects it, whereas the SS20 is a foolproof rocket with three nuclear heads.
We must begin to realise that the talks on multilateral disarmament must succeed. I am only sorry that the last time the Governments met in Madrid it took six weeks to fail to reach agreement on an agenda. Perhaps the situation is now so frightening for both sides that they will be able 154 to agree an agenda and start to talk sensibly about pulling back slowly but surely from brinkmanship of a most dangerous kind.
If the Madrid talks on the Helsinki final act reach some sensible conclusion the West shall be reassured of Russia's good intentions. Equally, Russia will be reassured of America's. Certainly, Britain would be reassured, especially as people are now saying that in the event of nuclear war we would be in imminent danger whether or not we were armed. In that situation, Her Majesty's Government must do everything possible to bring the talks to a successful conclusion.
§ Mr. Eric Deakins (Waltham Forest)
I cannot pretend to be able usefully to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill). His speech was rather Euro-centred.
One good aspect of the Gracious Speech is that those parts dealing with defence and foreign policy are not specifically Euro-centred. I wish to address my remarks first to those passages dealing with defence. This is not a defence debate. It is meant to be a debate on foreign policy. I wish, however, to draw the Minister's attention to the implications for the foreign policy of this country of what is said and what is not said on defence.
The Gracious Speech refers to the need for increased resources for defence spending. Surely, however, we already have enough weapons with which to kill one another and to defend ourselves. The phraseIncreased resources will be devoted to defencemust, I think, imply an escalation of the conventional arms race. I was disheartened to see in the Gracious Speech a reference to arms control rather than to disarmament. I should have thought that the latter was the way ahead.
My view is strengthened by a feeling that I acquired when I visited the United States last week with the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. One reason why SALT II is dead and buried is that its opponents believed, and still believe, that it tried merely to limit nuclear forces and not to reduce them.
The United States Administration evidently wish—I share the view—to reduce nuclear arms in Europe and the world. I hope that reduction and not merely control is the aim of the Government. Otherwise, the unilateral movement, which I support, could become an irresistible force in British politics. That can happen if we show that we are not serious, not only about arms control, but about arms reduction, both conventional and nuclear, in Europe and by the two great powers.
There are three omissions on defence in the Gracious Speech that have implications for foreign policy. There is nothing about NATO nuclear strategy. The United States Secretary of State Mr. Haig has referred to a demonstration nuclear device being used in the event of a Russian conventional attack. That raises some implications for us. Logically, if the reply of NATO to any Russian conventional attack is to use a demonstration nuclear weapon, it does not matter, within reason, what is the level of our conventional forces in Western Europe, because any attack is likely to lead almost immediately to nuclear escalation. I see no point in spending more money to increase our conventional arms capacity if this is, indeed, NATO doctrine.
The neutron weapon, the enhanced radiation weapon, to be brought into use eventually, also lowers the nuclear 155 threshold. It strengthens the view that I have expressed, that NATO's attitude now is that it should use nuclear weapons virtually immediately in response to a Russian conventional attack. The view that I have expressed may be wrong. The point that I wish to make is that the NATO philosophy of deterrence is now unclear and muddled. It needs to be made much more explicit. There has to be public examination and discussion.
Last week, in Washington, the Select Committee was told by members of the Administration that they had been in favour at the recent NATO council meeting of NATO going much more public on its philosophy and its approach to strategy in Western Europe, and that the United States did not find support from its Western allies for that proposition. I hope that the Minister will say where Her Majesty's Government stand on the issue of NATO taking the public into their confidence and sharing its philosophy with them.
A second omission is that the Gracious Speech contains nothing about the rapid deployment force. We learnt in Washington that this is still a going concern in the United States. The Americans are serious about it. Because the Government support the rapid deployment force, it would have been nice to see at least a phrase in the Gracious Speech dealing with the implications of it. There is undoubtedly a danger, in the Gulf in particular, if we are considering using the rapid deployment force there.
I believe that the Foreign Office probably shares the view that the biggest danger to Western oil supplies based on the Gulf is the unresolved Palestinian problem, rather than any threat of Russian attack. Members of the Select Committee, consisting of hon. Members from both sides of the House, and I, thought that the idea of a Russian military attack of the Gulf to gain possession of oil supplies was highly improbable.
The rapid deployment force has implications for our foreign policy on a world-wide basis. The United States, the motivating factor behind the RDF, may wish to use the force in other parts of the world. That is not ruled out. I am concerned that the United Kingdom might—I stress "might"—be dragged along in the wake of a United States decision to use the RDF in some other part of the world in circumstances where it would perhaps be using military force to try to stave off a Left-wing or guerrilla movement taking over a country. That is a nonsensical policy. If it is felt necessary to try to defeat a guerrilla movement or a popular movement—I do not think that there is any hope of doing so—we need, surely, to aim at social and economic Reforms in the countries concerned, rather than send a rapid deployment force to try to prop up a doubtless shaky and possibly military Government. This underlines the need for action by rich countries such as ourselves on the lines of the Brandt report.
The third omission is that the Gracious Speech contains nothing about the arms trade. The Brandt report says:More arms do not make mankind safer, only poorer.I endorse that view, as I hope the Government do. Why cannot a start be made with other arms producers of the West, including some of the developing countries, such as Brazil, which are now beginning to develop an arms production capability, on limitation of sales?
A number of points could perhaps be agreed: for example, that no country would sell arms to an area of tension, and that no country would sell arms unless there 156 was a guarantee that they would not be passed on to a third country, such as South Africa, that was subject to an international arms embargo through the United Nations. The tragedy is that no one in this country or in other Western countries is doing anything on those lines. I believe that in the long term this neglected issue of the arms trade will threaten the peace of the world as much as any of the items mentioned by the Government.
I wish to deal briefly with the issue of Namibia. It is excellent that the United States Administration, which started by taking a tough line in Southern Africa, although they had not made up their mind at that stage, have been persuaded not to back South African opposition to any Namibian settlement that would permit an independent Namibia, possibly under a SWAPO Government. I believe that the United States is serious about getting a settlement in Namibia. If the Government have played any part in that process, they are to be congratulated.
There are, however, a number of problems on which it would be helpful to hear a comment by the Minister, although he has a number of matters to deal with. There is the problem of the United Nations impartiality—an issue that South Africa will undoubtedly raise in further discussions. The United Nations backs SWAPO, but SWAPO is not a political party. It is a mass political movement for the liberation of Namibia. Nevertheless, the South Africans could claim that until the United Nations separates itself from SWAPO at some point in the negotiations, it is an interested party. This issue needs to be resolved.
Another problem is that of bases. In Zimbabwe, during the interim period leading up to elections, troops on both sides were withdrawn to their bases. The difficulty is that SWAPO bases are outside Namibia, in Angola, while the South African bases are in Namibia itself. It would seem unfair, at that stage of the settlement, that SWAPO forces should have to withdraw from the country in which they have been fighting and that South African forces, even in their camps, should be allowed to remain in the country.
The third problem—in my view potentially the most serious—is that of Cuban troops in Angola. We had a hint from the State Department in Washington last week that the United States may want the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola to start before final independence for Namibia. That may cause some stumbling blocks, because the Cuban troops are not there merely to help Angola against South African incursions across the border, but to help the Angolan Government fight the rebels who were there before SWAPO was around.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East mentioned an area which he said did not figure at all in the Gracious Speech—Central America. The position in El Salvador, as well as in Guatemala, is deteriorating rapidly from the point of view of those who want a peaceful settlement there. In both countries there are revolts, guerrillas, death squads and, above all, a polarisation of political forces to the extreme Right and the extreme Left. That promotes the real danger of outside interference from one or other of the great Powers.
The intention of the United States, for which one must have some sympathy, is to find a centre in Latin American politics and to support it. However, the situation has been allowed to deteriorate economically and politically over several decades since the Second World War, and it may 157 now be too late to find a firm central ground in countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala on which to build a peaceful settlement.
Mexico, the big power other than the United States in the area, is probably right in saying that revolution in these countries is inevitable and that it is necessary for the United States and the rest of us to come to terms with that fact.
Basically, the situation in Central America arises from social and economic deprivation and inequalities, which we and the Americans have had plenty of opportunities to put right. Now the revolt has come, and it is probably too late to do anything about it.
I do not know what the United Kingdom attitude is to the problems of Central America, leaving aside the question of Belize. I sincerely hope that it is not merely slavish to follow the United States Administration's line. We should be capable of exercising an independent judgment about the development of events in the area.
My last point concerns the Cancun summit in Mexico. The Gracious Speech refers to the economic difficulties of developed and developing countries in one breath, with the appalling implication that the economic problems of the rich and the poor are much the same. That, of course, is wrong. I am confirmed in my belief that that is the implication in the Gracious Speech by the fact that the Government have insisted, in connection with our overseas aid cuts, that we must solve our own economic problems before we can do more to help the poor countries.
The Lord Privy Seal's opening speech contained an unfortunate reference, which I hope was a slip of the tongue or of the typewriter, when he talked about the deserving countries. "Deserving" is the adjective that I have in mind. I hope that the Minister of State will put that right, because that is almost equivalent to what the Prime Minister said recently about handouts to the poor. I hope that it was not intended and that that matter will be put right before the end of the debate. Otherwise, there will be repercussions.
Many people consider that the outcome of Cancun was disappointing. In my opinion, the conference had some valuable uses, but not the uses that were mentioned in the joint statement by the chairmen, Pierre Trudeau, and President Portillo of Mexico. The conference was valuable in educating particularly our Prime Minister and President Reagan about the shallowness of their view that market forces must be a major factor in helping to eradicate poverty, disease, hunger and ignorance in the world.
I am told by those who were present that when President Reagan gave the example of the old aphorism "If you give a man a fish you feed him for one day. If you teach him how to fish you feed him for the rest of his life, or he can feed himself for the rest of his life", he was immediately taken up by the leaders of the poor countries who said "We agree with you entirely, President Reagan, but we need fishing rods, nets, boats, and so on." They will not be supplied by market forces or private enterprise. They will be supplied by Government investment, aid, and so on. I hope that the President will have learnt a lesson.
The conference was also valuable in educating the leaders of the rich countries about the urgency and importance of the problems facing the developing countries, which make ours pale into insignificance by comparison. As the Prime Minister made clear when she came back from Mexico, the rich countries want to 158 safeguard the independence of the international economic institutions. By contrast, the poor countries want a voice in international economic decision making.
It should not be imposssible to reconcile those two points of view. I hope that we can work for new global negotiations, which start in the General Assembly of the United Nations and are quickly shunted out to the specialised agencies for the detailed discussions, for which, of course, the United Nations is an inappropriate body. Perhaps they could then be brought back together in one final package.
The rich-poor divide is the most important problem that faces the world, and it has important implications for our foreign policy. If we do not resolve the problems, instability in the poor countries will increase. There have already been 140 wars in the developing world since 1945. It was fortunate that the great Powers were not drawn in in a way which would have involved the use of nuclear weapons, although they got near to it in Vietnam and, to a lesser extent, in Korea in the 'fifties. However, we cannot rely on that luck continuing for ever.
We must try to bring stability to the developing world, and the only way to do that is not by selling arms or having rapid deployment forces, but by helping them to help themselves by means of Government investment and assistance, and with the help, support and sympathy of the people of this country. I hope that the next Gracious Speech will make more of a centrepiece of the need to help the poor countries.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
I hope that the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his wide-ranging speech, except to say that I agree with what he said about the Palestinian issue being central to the solution in the Middle East. However, I shall come to that matter during the course of my remarks.
The hon. Member also spoke about defence. In my view, unilateral disarmament gravely weakens pressure for multilateral disarmament. Nothing that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Waltham (Mr. Heffer) said this afternoon did anything to weaken that point. If anything, he strengthened it.
It has become conventional wisdom to say that the Middle East is the area of the world where there is the gravest threat to world peace. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) made the point again this afternoon, in a very impressive speech about the Middle East. I only wish that his Government had done more when they were in power to deal with the acute problems of the area and press for a just solution of the Palestinian issue which he emphasised was fundamental.
If it is true that the Middle East is the most dangerous area for world peace—I agree with that analysis—it is surprising that greater priority has not been given to solving the issues which, if unresolved, even if they do not trigger off a world catastrophe will certainly eventually cause immense economic and political damage to the area itself, to Europe and to the Third world.
I met President Sadat very soon after he became president, after the death of President Nasser. Shortly after that, I wrote an article in The Times entitled "Sadat—Man of Peace". Old Middle East hands will not be entirely surprised to learn that the very same people who are today canonising President Sadat then attacked me very strongly 159 for putting forward what was described as a simplistic view of what was basically an anti-British Egyptian army officer. But some people never learn on the Middle East.
The truth is that the isolation of President Sadat was brought about by the failure of Camp David to achieve a comprehensive peace settlement. There was an important limited success in Sinai, but total failure beyond in a wider field. The failure was caused by the incapacity of Israel to respond positively and generously to President Sadat's dramatic initiative. As a result what had been talked about but not spelt out explicitly enough at Camp David—the question of linkage between withdrawal from Sinai and withdrawal from the West Bank—never came about. The talks on autonomy for the West Bank dragged on but were stillborn because no concessions were made by Israel. There was moreover, no question, whatsoever of talking seriously about Palestinian self-determination. Therefore, as time passed, President Sadat became increasongly isolated in the Arab world and, in the end, also isolated in his own country.
Now there is a new president in Egypt. I hope that the United States Adminstration will not suffocate him in the excessive warmth of their embrace. He is a new president who wants to make progress—not only in Sinai but on linkage.
There has been a very important and hopeful initiative, the initiative presented by Crown Prince Fahd, to which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal referred earlier this afternoon. Also I believe that there is some indication of a growing realisation by the United States Administration that Camp David has come to an end and that something new must take its place. In other words, some mobility has returned to the diplomatic scene.
Too much attention has been paid in recent weeks to the battle over the supply of the AWACS, which is largely an irrelevance, except perhaps as a demonstration that the Israeli lobby in Washington cannot always impose its will on the Administration. But, much more important than the decision to sell, eventually, the AWACS to the Saudis is the response the West should make to the Fahd initiative. It is there that the European contribution could be vital. The European initiative and the communiqué at Venice set the way, but now we want more pressure and more speed.
Of course, no settlement can be reached without the powerful intervention and commitment of the United States, but Europe can assist enormously in bringing about such an intervention and such a commitment. One of the steps that it can practically take is to initiate a top level dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, without which the Palestinians remain excluded from the negotiations, and no real progress can be made.
I was very glad to see that in the Gracious Speech there is a reference to alasting and comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israel disputeand that the Governmentwill continue to work with all the parties to the dispute.Obviously, the PLO must be looked upon as one of the crucial parties in the dispute. Therefore, the sooner that Europe talks and negotiates the better, and the more likely it is that progress will be made.
160 I believe that around the Fahd initiative there is a great opportunity to advance. This is an opportunity which should not be lost, and it certainly should not be rejected out of hand as Mr. Begin would seem to wish.
Reference has been made to the Sinai defence force. If Her Majesty's Government decide that we should participate with some of our European partners in that force, I hope that we shall emphasise, at the same time, and very clearly, that our participation is not merely a continuation of Camp David, and that it is not only in order to enable the Israeli withdrawal from the rest of Sinai in April to come about, but that it is primarily to ensure the possibility of some progress on linkage, which, as I have said, has never even started to come about—linkage between withdrawal from Sinai and withdrawal from the West Bank.
I should also like to see some reference to the need for an immediate cessation of the settlement policy on the West Bank, which is destructive towards progress to peace and which has been continuing in the face of overwhelming international opposition with the most extraordinary degree of arrogance.
I hope very much that a sense of urgency will now be injected into the search for peace. Here again, Europe can play a vital role. Time is not on our side. I believe that it would be a grave fallacy to assume that somehow rumbling crises go on rumbling for ever, or at least indefinitely, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) implied. At a certain moment crises erupt. They wreak havoc on the countries concerned. As I have said, they could wreak havoc on the economic interests of the West, and, because of the dependence on oil, they could again seriously damage the economies of the Third world.
We can avoid this. There is still time to do so. But there must be urgency and we must go to the root of the problem. It is overwhelmingly accepted now that a solution must be found to the Palestinian problem. That is what I ask for. Let us tackle the root problem. Let us show courage and imagination.
§ Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)
I want to address myself to two foreign policy problems which may have a geographical affinity but little other connection—other than that both have been injected recently with a degree of crisis. The first is Anglo-American relations, and as a subsidiary to that I propose to talk about European-American relations. The second is the developing relationship between the United Kingdom and Canada.
There are those who approach the difficulties of the Western Alliance with some delight. I am not referring simply to those members and supporters of the Warsaw Pact. I do not fall into the category of those who are uncritical supporters of NATO, but I deprecate all attempts within my party to countenance withdrawal from NATO or even give halfhearted support. Any attempt to throw the Americans out of Britain, with their nuclear bases, would constitute a half-hearted or a peripheral involvement with NATO, which would be reprehensible in that we would still be securing what advantages membership of the Alliance brings without in any way properly contributing to collective security.
There should be far more discussion on that issue within the Labour Party, and I hope in some way to be able to contribute to that discussion. Membership of NATO has 161 been to the Labour Party what one person called an "irreducible commitment". We exert far more influence within NATO, as members of NATO, than we would by supporting some bogus neutrality. Perhaps the Swedes have reason to reflect on the status of their neutrality, because, navigational error or not, the Soviet Union appears to be observing very closely what is happening in a nation that appears to believe that it is neutral.
The Western Alliance has lived through many internal and external crises. The ink was hardly dry on the treaty before NATO was beset with problems over German rearmament and plunged into a conflict in South East Asia. There is on both sides of the Atlantic scepticism and cynicism, often involving falsely held images. If the American President is not assertive he is accused of being not assertive enough, and if he appears to be assertive he is criticised for going too far without the Alliance.
Perhaps there is a crisis in the Alliance. Perhaps it is merely a rerun of an old problem, or as The Economist said in an article in June, maybe this crisis is qualitatively different. It said:The relationship between Western Europe and North America, alias the Atlantic Alliance, is in the early stages of what could be a terminal illness.On the other hand, perhaps as Mark Twain once said:The report of my death was an exaggeration.The latest crisis may be an exaggeration, because crises have often led not to a diminution of strength in the Alliance, but to its enhancement. Difficulties are inherent in any relationship of 15 sovereign members. Perhaps NATO suffers from the problem of being overstudied, with so many people legitimately analysing it in academia and the media. It is not surprising that issues, real and imaginary, are pounced upon.
Some people have an over-critical interest in statements made by the American President and immediately leap upon them, but they often close their ears to statements from the other side of the Iron Curtain. Such statements are often accepted uncritically and without analysis.
There are differences within the Alliance. Those differences are based on differences in history, geography and ideals. There are also differences because of our different economies. That is inevitable. It is amazing that the Alliance has held together for as long and as successfully as it has. Sometimes we may criticise the Americans. Sometimes we criticise with what I believe to be an unfair perspective—from a sense of intellectual and political arrogance and superiority.
That is not new. I remember reading some doggerel that circulated just after the First World War:In Washington Lord Halifax once whispered to Lord Keynes:`Tis true they have the money bags but we have all the brains' .It is often such arrogance that convinces people in Europe, with their longer traditions of diplomacy, that these halfwits who come into office temporarily and then disappear have a perspective of the world that should be ridiculed. Such an attitude is unfounded. We must have respect for an awareness on the other side of the Atlantic and within different parts of a Europe that may differ from our own view.
I have talked to American politicians and citizens, and I am worried. The peace movement is developing in Europe. I dislike the monopolisation of the word "peace" by people who happen to be unilateralists and who have badges saying that they are members of CND.
162 Like many others, I worry when I read about force deployments and the modernisation of forces throighout the world in countries large and small. I am often worried stiff by the way in which the world is developing. One does not have to be a unilateralist to be concerned about the way in which the world is proceeding. We are all at heart disarmers, although perhaps of different hues. It is important to get round the negotiating table to try to bring about arms control that will lead eventually to disarmament.
Some of my colleagues argue that arms control is superfluous and that disarmament is what we need. No resolution passed by the Labour Party will change 3,000 years of history. Perhaps it is desirable that swords be changed into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, but no statement by the Labour Party will automatically create an environment in which other people will follow our lead, noble though it might be.
We must seek to work towards disarmament. However, within the Alliance we must seek a greater cohesion in decision-making. We must consider how to share the defence burden more equitably. When I talk to Americans, I hear that time and time again. We must ponder it. The American view is perhaps a precursor to a retreat into isolationism. Americans tend to underplay the part played by Europe in Europe's collective defence. They tend to believe that we are doing only little and that only the United States Government are making a contribution. That view has some substance, but it is wrong.
Politicians should be worried about that argument, because people are saying that Europe is not prepared to defend itself and that if Europe is prepared to veto American initiatives we should let them get on with it. American politicians who are Europe and NATO-oriented will have to respond to that argument. However, I hope that we can achieve better cohesion and work towards arms control leading to disarmament. I hope that real initiatives will emanate from the United States and NATO in the negotiations that are about to begin.
Another issue might not be earth shattering, but it is more than a little local difficulty between Britain and our ally, Canada. There could be a deterioration in relations as a result of Mr. Trudeau's desire—some might say obsession—to patriate the constitution of Canada. I was at a seminar a few weeks ago attended by a good friend and distinguished academic who is an American observer of the British political scene. I refer to Professor Samuel Beer of Harvard. He dismissed the opposition to the move in the United Kingdom Parliament as "The empire strikes back".
Professor Beer works in Boston, an area with a strong sense of insularity and a suspicion of Britain and its colonial ambitions. It might seem logical to some people that Britain should have no involvement and no right to seek to veto a decision by a Prime Minister of a sovereign nation and endorsed by the legislature.
Eighteen months ago a small group of hon. Members expressed scepticism and cautioned our Prime Minister and Mr. Trudeau. We said that we would not hold our noses, as Mr. Trudeau hoped, but were beinning to create within our legislature an awareness of the fact that the problem was not as simplistic as it appeared at first sight.
Since I spoke in the debate last year, the situation has changed. A fine report has emerged from the new Select Committee system—the report on Canada by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.
163 I do not agree with every point of the report. I profoundly disagree with many parts of it, especially its dismissal of the argument that we have no legal obligation towards the native people of Canada. However, it is a fine piece of work and a great credit to the Select Committee system. It is a great credit to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and, most importantly, it has had a profound effect on shaping events.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Has my hon. Friend noticed that every conclusion in the report is parallel with and has been endorsed by the recent findings of the Canadian High Court, and that both findings come to conclusions opposite to the public evidence given to the Committee by the Foreign Office legal adviser, who has advised successive Governments? Does my hon. Friend agree that that is one of the fundamental successes so far of the Select Committee system?
§ Mr. George
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intevention. Often, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence believe that between them they have a monopoly of knowledge and interest in major areas of defence and foreign affairs. The Foreign Affairs Committee has shown that perhaps there is a different perpective—no less valid—from that of the Foreign Office.
When I argued in Canada—and was threatened with deportation for my pains—that Britain had a constitutional obligation to the provinces and native peoples as well as to the Federal Government, my arguments were dismissed by one constitutional authority as "blatherskite". I have not found out what that means, but I suspect that it is not complimentary.
The National Executive Committee of the Labour Party endorsed another good piece of research. The Foreign Affairs Committee produced the result of its deliberations, and the Supreme Court of Canada recently brought out its decision, supporting the view that Britain has an obligation to Canadian federalism and not simply to one element of it. The federal system is, as Mr. Trudeau said, a compromise and a pact, the terms of which cannot be altered unilaterally.
The Supreme Court of Canada said that perhaps it was legal for the Federal Government to request patriation without support but Canada had a system that worked on convention and convention demanded the support of the provinces. It may be legal to do almost anything, but in every instance where amendments have been sought to the British North America Act 1867, they have been preceded by agreement within the provinces. We cannot argue that if eight out of the 10 provinces oppose the issue, as well as the native peoples, that constitutes endorsement of Mr. Trudeau's action.
There will be opposition from the House and from a number of sources, including human rights supporters. Those supporters would say that they have an obligation to the native people. Northern Americans are swift to offer advice to Britain in dealing with the minorities in our society—notably Northern Ireland—yet they are often the first to deny us the right to comment on misdemeanours in their society.
The native peoples of Canada have a strong case, not from a moral perspective, but from a constitutional one. I hope that the legal briefs to be presented to the Foreign Office will convince that Department that it is not simply 164 a matter of emotionalism, guilt and rhetoric. It may be amusing to some hon. Members if I argued that, in my view and that of constitutional lawyers, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 is still valid for the British Government and the natives of Canada and that when Canada became a nation in 1867 Britain's responsibilities for the native peoples were not transferred to the Canadian Federal Government. The legal cases being prepared by the Indians of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan will have a great impact on opinion in the House and even in the Foreign Office.
I believe that the human rights lobby will oppose a request for patriation, as will those with strong links with the provinces, perhaps through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which has been built up over many years. Some people oppose patriation because of what I call the sister-party arrangements. The Labour Party, which has an affinity with the New Democratic Party, is opposed to patriation. Therefore, the affinity may be translated into opposition to Mr. Trudeau. The same may apply to the Conservative Party with its affinity to the cause espoused by Joe Clark in Canada. The sister-party argument may result in objections to patriation.
I do not welcome some people within our camp. They may oppose the Prime Minister and Canada's Prime Minister because it is desirable for political purposes to be obstreperous. The people who oppose Mr. Trudeau should do so on stronger grounds than party politics.
Opposition also comes from those whom I would call the House of Commons men, who feel that the principles of the House may be violated by legislation rushed through without the consent of the provinces. They will have read not only the two volumes of the initial report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, but the voluminous judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada.
If the Prime Minister believes that a request for patriation by Canada will be met by hordes of hon. Members answering their party's call and responding to a three-line Whip, she will be disappointed. For some of the reasons that I have argued, there is likely to be opposition in the House. When we see the opposition in the House of Lords we will realise that what I said a year ago, and what the Foreign Affairs Committee said nine months ago, was correct—the problem should be sorted out in Canada with consent.
We also said that when the problem was being sorted out there should not just be a deal between the provinces and the Federal Government. We should remember those who were in Canada 20,000 years before the English, the French, the Germans, the Italians or the Greeks realised that Canada existed. That will avoid the House being used as a battle ground and hon. Members fighting as proxies for contestants in Canada. The battle must be fought in Canada.
My appeal to the Foreign Office and the Prime Minister is that they continue to transmit the cautionary words to Mr. Trudeau—that it will not help Anglo-Canadian relations if battles that should be fought in Canada are instead fought in the House of Commons. If that advice is followed, I believe that Anglo-Canadian relations will continue in the next 114 years in the good way that they have developed in the 114 years since Canada became an independent sovereign nation.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
I hope that the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) will forgive me if I do not pursue his line of argument. I wish to concentrate my remarks on two lines in the Gracious Speech. The first isMy Government will continue to play an active role within the North Atlantic Allianceand the second is''They welcome the forthcoming negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union on limiting long-range theatre nuclear forces.A layman reading that last sentence, may not realise that there is a NATO dimension to those talks. When one hears that the talks are to be between General Haig, the United States Secretary of State, and Mr. Gromyko, the Soviet Foreign Minister, it may at first seem that the NATO dimension is not as much to the fore as one may have expected. However, we all know that the talks have a genuine NATO dimension, because they have arisen out of the unwillingness of NATO to allow the Soviets to install SS20 three-nuclear-war-headed missiles in Western Europe week after week, as they have since 1977, without modernising its own defence.
It was the NATO request to the United States Government for cruise and Pershing II missiles, and the American Government's willingness to supply them that finally persuaded the Russians to agree to the Geneva talks. If nothing else, that demonstrates the virtue of negotiating from strength. Until the Russians were aware that the missiles were coming to Western Europe they were remarkably reluctant to get around the negotiating table.
None of us underestimates the enormous importance to the nuclear arms build-up in Western Europe and security and peace in Europe of the talks and what may come out of them. Indeed, few such talks have been so important since the last war. I know that there are great preparations at the NATO Council to ensure that the Americans are fully aware of what their NATO colleagues feel about the arms limitation discussions before their negotiating position has been worked out.
However, despite the importance that rests on decisions that may or may not come from Geneva from 30 November, we know that only American and Russian Ministers and their officials will take part. It is as if Europe and its nations have reconciled themselves to being in either the American or Russian sphere of influence—as if Europe is divided into those two spheres of influence, each dominated by a super-Power to the point that no European country expects to be at the nuclear top table. I wonder whether that is good for either East or Western Europe, or for our role in the North Atlantic Alliance.
Perhaps that feeling persuaded President Ceaucescu of Romania to say in an interview with Die Zeit on 30 October, when referring to theatre nuclear weapons held by the Russians and Americans:We advocate negotiations to deal with this matter and are of the opinion that European countries themselves should be active for their own life is at stake.Indeed, our lives are at stake.
However, I may be told that since 1969 no fewer than 25 documents concerning arms control have been agreed between the United States and the Soviet Union without a NATO or European Power being involved—but all the discussions were bilateral. I instance four—the United States-Soviet hot-line agreement, the United States-Soviet 166 nuclear accidents agreement, the United States-Soviet treaty on the limitation of anti-ballistic missile systems and even the SALT treaty meetings. Can one say the same about the theatre nuclear weapons talks in Geneva? Do they simply concern the Russians and Americans, or do they have a multilateral dimension, if only because the Americans are speaking on behalf of NATO and its members?
As we know, the current generation of Soviet SS20s is essentially an inter-European weapon, of which it has been said many times in the debate that 250 are believed to be targeted on Western Europe, with more being deployed each week within the Warsaw Pact countries. While NATO lacks a response to such a massively dangerous weapon, the West must build up its defence with Cruise and Pershing II missiles.
If the theatre nuclear weapons talks lead to agreement that Russia and the United States would withdraw all such weapons—the zero option—we should all be mightily relieved and welcome the outcome. If I may be parochial, we in West Berkshire would be delighted. We are to have the first cruise missiles in the United Kingdom at RAF Greenham Common in 1983.
However, if the talks do not reach the zero option, what level of armaments is to be accepted? Does General Haig decide for NATO what the strength of nuclear defences in Western Europe should be or is he bound to report back to the NATO Council before decisions are reached`' I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will tell me that General Haig, since he is negotiating for NATO, is required to come back to NATO before he can reach an agreement. I remind my hon. Friend that, since NATO is an alliance of equal partners, there seems no good reason why General Haig should not come back and tell the NATO Council what stage the negotiations have reached and what decisions he suggests.
However, if that is not the intention, are we allowing the talks to become bilateral without a European minister or European member of NATO having a say in the final outcome? In Berkshire, we are providing bases for the new generation of theatre nuclear weapons in NATO. Two other countries in Western Europe are, too. I find it difficult to understand why only the ownership of the hardware bequeaths the right to negotiate, but the ownership of the base area bequeaths no such benefit.
Unlike the other talks, the talks starting in Geneva, because they have a European dimension, require that Europe, too, be involved. I believe that General Haig should come back to NATO before a final decision is reached. Perhaps I may strengthen the point. It was said recently that, to an American, theatre nuclear forces mean nuclear missiles that, if fired from Russia, cannot reach the United States; one could say, and vice versa. However, to a European, theatre nuclear forces may be strategic nuclear forces. There is a considerable difference of definition. Good as the Americans are at negotiating, and clear as they are about the security needs of Western Europe, are they better at understanding those needs than are the Europeans who live there? It is not unreasonable to believe that that point of definition may be picked by a Western European Minister although it may be missed by an American.
Definition will be important in the talks. It worries me considerably that the matter will be placed solely in the hands of an American Secretary of State and his officials, 167 without recourse to NATO and its wisdom. Is it too late to suggest that there should be a European input to the talks before they get under way on 30 November?
A WEU report commented on 3 June:any agreement on reducing theatre nuclear weapons will be an extremely complex undertaking because perceptions on both sides differ significantly concerning the weapons systems which must be taken into account. The first objective of LRTNF negotiations must be an attempt to define weapons systems to be included in any regional interim agreement; it must be strictly within the SALT process because, as the Committee has often stressed, there could be no question of seeking a theatre balance of nuclear weapons independently of United States strategic weapons. Otherwise essential linkage with the main deterrent would be lost and the danger of nuclear war in Europe would increase. Deterrence relies on a continuum of weapons systems.Those are wise words. I repeat my question. Is it too late for a Western presence at the Geneva talks? If it is too late for that can my hon. Friend give me the assurance that Mr. Haig will consult NATO before taking any final decisions?
I believe that Mr. Haig should refer back to NATO before making any final decisions for two reasons. First—I hope that I have illustrated this—I believe that the European dimension is so strong that Europe should be represented in Mr. Haig's party.
The second reason relates to the peace marches and the claims of the CND in the past few weeks. The CND has described the dangers facing the Western world as a result of what it describes as an "arms build-up".
In my opinion the CND is wholly mistaken in its approach which takes no real account of the realities of the armaments imbalance between East and West. The concern felt by some people who may have lent support to that movement originates from a feeling that Western Europe is allowing itself to have its defence policy entirely worked out by the American Government. My thoughts on this subject were capsulised in an article in the International Herald Tribune of Tuesday 27 October. The leader writer of that newspaper wrote:There is an inherent imbalance in the nuclear relationship between the United States and its European allies. The European governments do not sit at the table at which the United States and the Soviet Union negotiate over strategic weapons, yet the Europeans know that they are as much at hazard as the Americans or the Russians. The Reagan administration has been addressing the Russians in the aggressive idiom of the American conservatives, without much concern for another very attentive audience in Western Europe. It is accurate to say that the substance of U.S. weapons policy has not changed significantly in the past year; but the tone seems, to Europeans, to have shifted to a more vehement and threatening pitch.I believe that there is a lot of truth in those words. If we wanted to allay the concern I have referred to, which has been brought about by that threatening pitch, the best way, in the interests of the NATO Alliance, would be for Europe and the Americans to take part in these vital negotiations which I am sure every hon. Member hopes will be successful.
§ Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton)
Many of us on the Opposition Benches have always known the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) as a sincere and dedicated Member, particularly on his constituents' behalf.
When the hon. Gentleman puts his finger on the point that cruise missiles may be deployed in Berkshire, he deals with a very central issue. I am sure that that was a germane 168 point in bringing out large numbers of people demonstrating for peace. That happened, for example, on 24 October in London's Hyde Park, and there have been similar peace demonstrations throughout the European Community.
The hon. Gentleman will realise that the whole environment and context in which the CND puts its arguments are very different from the context and environment in which it was putting similar arguments 20 years ago.
I continue to be a supporter of the policies of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman dealt with nuclear disarmament. He put his finger on the central concern, which is that the next war, if it comes to that, could be a war in which European territory would be used. A great concern is that there would not be any European input in the decision taking.
If the hon. Gentleman had chosen to participate in the Hyde Park peace march, as many of us did, he would have discovered that it was mainly populated not by university academics or students, but by ordinary men and women, their families, their children and their grandparents. It was an accurate representation and cross section of the population.
The whole population is very concerned about precisely the matter that the hon. Gentleman raised. I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to follow the natural logic of his comments and to join the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament tonight. Nevertheless, he has put his finger on the main point.
The Minister of State must recognise that concern is growing among not just hundreds, but thousands of people. Indeed, I believe that there are growing millions of people whose concerns have to be assuaged. What those people can see is untold billions and unforecast trillions of dollars and roubles of expenditure being spent on increased nuclear nightmares.
The people say, quite genuinely and sincerely, as I am sure many of the hon. Gentleman's constituents are saying to him, that they simply do not want to be part of it. The first reason they say that is that they do not believe that anybody could win that kind of war. In addition, of course, they say that their country should not participate in that kind of expenditure.
We have taken note of the recent lectures by the Foreign Secretary at Luxembourg and other places. Such lectures and explanation will have to be given repeatedly in future, if the Government continue their attempts to convince the population.
The opinion polls and soundings—although they are not universally accurate—state that people are becoming less convinced that we need to be part and parcel of such expenditure in the arms race. The opinion polls were not saying that in the 1950s and 1960s when many hon. Members began putting the argument. The position has changed because the context has changed, the environment has changed and there is a different President in the United States. It has changed also because we have different weapons, including, for example, the cruise and Pershing missiles. An increasing number of people will have to be reassured if the Government's policies are to be believed.
The hon. Member for Newbury has put his finger on the central point that will concern many hon. Members on both sides of the House. In my opinion, it will also affect 169 many millions of people throughout the country. The present explanations for this expenditure are not now regarded as satisfactory.
The Gracious Speech makes reference to Britain's role as a member State of the European Community. It states that the United Kingdom should play its full part in the development. What worries us—my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made accurate reference to this—is not only our present role but the subordinate role that the Treaty of Rome necessitates we play.
When I was a Minister in the last Labour Government, I was concerned about the number of issues and decisions on which the Government had to seek permission from the European Community and the Commission in Brussels before they could act. For example, we have already surrendered a great deal of our power to invest in industry.
Much of our power to conduct trade negotiations has been surrendered. That is why many of the Opposition feel that it is not just a declaration to withdraw from the EEC that needs to he made by the present Opposition. It must be a very firm and, we hope, immediate commitment that the next Labour Government will carry out.
As the months and the Presidencies of the Commission pass we become more enmeshed. We have less autonomy to control our industrial and social destiny. We particularly find that we have less power to negotiate in foreign trade matters. The Opposition passionately believe that we must make our declaration and implement our policy before it becomes too late.
The Queen's Speech states that the Governmentsupport the contribution of the Member States of the European Community towards a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israel dispute and will continue to work with all the parties to the dispute.We know that the Foreign Secretary believes that the PLO is one of the parties that will have to be brought into any ultimate settlement of the dispute. We understand that through bad timing, perhaps intentional, he almost bumped into a leading spokesman for the PLO at an airport recently. The Foreign Secretary makes repeated utterances that the PLO should be brought into negotiations, but he must accept that many of us who believe in the security and the continuity of the existence of the State of Israel cannot see how Israel could be prepared to make such a concession.
In trade union terms, if Israel concedes recognition of the PLO before starting negotiations it will have thrown away its strongest bargaining card. It is far-fetched to expect any Government in Israel—I do not speak as an admirer of the present Government; in Israeli politics I would be classified as a Left-wing dove—to recognise the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people before the parties get to the negotiating table.
That is unreasonable, particularly as, although the PLO may talk in moderate tones from time to time, it still declares in its covenant that a lasting solution to the Middle East dispute can come about only through the annihilation of the State of Israel. I do not support that. I believe that the State of Israel has a right to exist within secure frontiers. But so have the Palestinian people. I have never believed that if we went away and pretended that the problem did not exist, the problems of the Palestinians would not exist. They also have certain inalienable rights, 170 but it is unrealistic to expect Israel to give away its strongest bargaining point before going to the conference table.
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Gentleman is taking a reasonable line. We are not suggesting that Israel should or could recognise the PLO now. That would be unreasonable. We are trying to press the PLO to give conditional recognition to Israel's right to exist. What would the hon. Gentleman's attitude be if we managed to achieve that?
§ Mr. Huckfield
My hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) takes the words out of my mouth. The State of Israel does exist. The people whom the PLO purports to represent are diverse and sundry and live not only on the West Bank, but in many other parts of the Middle East and throughout the world. The State of Israel is a fact, and many of us believe that it has a right to exist within secure frontiers.
However, if the Minister of State believes that the Foreign Secretary's efforts can produce such a declaration from the PLO, let him proceed on that basis. Many of my hon. Friends would want to see whether the Government's policies can produce such a declaration. If they do so, they will perhaps produce an interesting and more fluid situation.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not a question whether the PLO or any other organisation will recognise Israel's right to exist? The problem is that the PLO is committed to the annihilation of the State of Israel, and it is surely unreasonable to expect any country to negotiate with people who are intent on its annihilation.
§ Mr. Huckfield
My hon. Friend is building a good track record in anticipating my remarks. I was about to say that if our Government can produce from the PLO the declaration to which the Minister of State referred we would find it difficult to accept the sincerity of such a declaration while the PLO retains in its covenant the objective of the annihilation of the State of Israel.
Even if a declaration is obtained from the PLO it will not overcome the other obstacle to which my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride has referred. However, let us see what the Government can do. Many of us will continue to have doubts, because we recognise that there are different elements within the PLO, just as there are many elements within the people who call themselves Palestinians. Palestinians are a more diffuse and varied people than just the PLO.
I end where I began. The predominant issue for all people of the world, particularly those who are on the verge of possessing nuclear weapons, must be nuclear disarmament. I have long held that we ought to be engaged in disarmament rather than arms control and limitation, and I have always believed that we are one of the few countries that could take a lead which would be noticed. We could set the pace for a European nuclear-free zone and I would hope that that would be copied in the Middle East. A nuclear-free zone in that area has already been proposed by the Israeli Government, and I regret that there has not been a similar response from other parties in the Middle East.
The Government will have to recognise the underlying fear and the nagging worry of ordinary men and women 171 about nuclear weapons. The Government have never sounded convincing to me, and the majority of the population is beginning to believe that the Government have not even convinced themselves. That is the matter to which the Government have to pay considerable attention.
§ Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield), because he put his finger on the nub of the Arab-Israel conflict, a problem which has been alluded to constantly in the debate.
I was delighted to hear a Labour Member make the point about which many of my hon. Friends feel strongly. I support wholeheartedly his comments about the PLO and the likelihood or otherwise of its giving assurances that the State of Israel could reasonably expect to receive before taking part in a general settlement involving the Palestinian people.
However, I do not want to talk specifically about that subject. Debates on foreign affairs always strike me as conspicuous for the lack of interest shown by hon. Members. There are one or two right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who attend assiduously and who talk with enthusiasm about foreign affairs. This evening is a good case in point. When one considers that just under 30 per cent. of our gross national product is exported, when one considers the technological revolution which is occurring in this country and throughout the world, and which is making the world increasingly interdependent and a smaller place, and when Governments everywhere are finally beginning to realise that they alone cannot have the influence on events within their borders that their election manifestos promised, or that they would like to give the impression that they have, is it not astonishing that in this country of all countries there appears to be a declining interest in foreign affairs and foreign policy? That is increasingly shown by the sparse attendance at our debates on this important subject.
Many references have been made to the Arab-Israeli dispute and to the question of the North-South dialogue—and rightly so. The astonishing variety of subjects which we consider is a tribute to the diversity of subjects that are permissible in the debate. However, the difficulty that we all have in resolving the problems is hardly increased by the one overwhelming factor which, no matter what hon. Members on either side of the Chamber say, dominates all subjects or at least is an important factor in them all—the presence of the Soviet Union and the nature of Soviet power. All those questions—whether it be North-South or the world financial system—are difficult enough to resolve in themselves, but increasingly we must face the additional and most unwelcome complication that everywhere we must consider what the effect will be on the power of the Soviet Union. That is why in the 1980s defence and foreign affairs are closely coupled. It has been interesting to note how many speeches have been about defence matters and how closely they have been linked to foreign affairs.
I draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister to one aspect of defence which is of crucial interest to this island and its inhabitants. We all know how important the Middle East is and how important a lasting Middle East 172 settlement will be for the preservation of world peace and for the continuity of our oil supplies. However, the centre of our defence effort must always be in Europe because the first objective of any strategy must be to defend the territory of this country.
In considering that important question, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, in his recent White Paper and in his speeches on that White Paper, referred to the principle that the defence of this country is largely to be conducted on the Continent of Europe. That principle has been common to all strategic and defence thinking over the past 30 years. It was followed equally before the last war.
Does my hon. Friend still believe that that principle can remain unchallenged? If he considers Soviet power, is he in any way disturbed by the rapid growth in Soviet amphibious and airborne capacity over the past 20 years? He will be better able than I to authenticate or deny rumours of large-scale exercises by Soviet planners in airlifting troops and supplies to various parts of the world. If I were a planner in Moscow —
Mr. Nigel Foreman (Carshalton)
What a delightful thought.
§ Viscount Cranborne
Such power doubtless tempts many politicians of all persuasions, but I must resist the temptation to follow my hon. Friend down that road.
If I were a Soviet planner, I should be tempted to consider an attack in Europe through the central front, if I were driven to it—I do not for one second suggest that that is an immediate likelihood—to be a high risk option. In view of my amphibious and airborne capacity, I wonder whether I would be tempted to pursue a super Schlieffen plan. After all, this country is not only the floating aircraft carrier for the defence of Western Europe but the main resupply base for the supplying of the European theatre from the United States. In the exercises that have been conducted by NATO and the Americans over the last few years, the question of convoys and supplies has played a prominent part.
If I were prompted to make an attack on Europe, I should be tempted to consider whether it would be more reliable, effective and quicker to go for the United Kingdom rather than for the central front in Germany. I would consider whether, by amphibious and airborne attack, I could go for a quick knockout blow by going round the northern flank rather than through the central front. Perhaps such an event will not occur, but, as a result of reading the defence White Paper and listening with interest to the statements of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench over the last few months, I suspect that the possibility has not escaped them.
We hear with considerable approval of the expansion of the Territorial Army. We hear, too, of the improvement of our air defences by further expenditure on the RAF. However, I question whether that is enough. Will my right hon. Friends consider seriously the possibility of a new strategic posture which takes into account the gigantic Soviet strength which could be used to knock out this country and which would render three or four BAORs, however well equipped and trained, worse than useless? They would be locked up along with our allies in Central Europe.
If one gives any credence to that possibility, it must put a question mark over the principle that inevitably the 173 defence of this country necessarily rests on the Rhine. However disturbing that may be to our NATO allies—I yield to no one in the importance that I attach to NATO—we must take a fresh look at our vulnerability if we are to adopt a convincing posture towards the Russians. We must consider whether we are doing enough to defend Britain against the possibility of an attack through the northern flank.
I welcome the emphasis that has been placed on foreign affairs and defence in the Gracious Speech. I hope that that emphasis will be given expression not only in additional expenditure on such matters, but in a reappraisal along the lines that I have stated. I hope that the Government will give the weight that is deserved to this issue, because that weight is assuredly given by Russia in developments in its amphibious and airborne capability.
§ 7 pm
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
I at least agree with the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) about the scope of the debate and the range of subjects that can be raised. However, I hope that he will forgive me if I do not take his updating of Liddell Hart and the strategy of indirect approach.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) opened the debate for the Opposition and set his speech in a framework of criticism of the United States of America. He began with an attack on the American Administration's policy in Central America and continued with criticism of their rhetoric and with the apparent triumph of the Conservative ideologues over those whom he described as the Conservative pragmatists.
It is reasonable to criticise the Government of the United States of America. Indeed, much of the constructive probing of the issues dominating this long debate turns on the attitude of our principal ally. However, I fear that the right hon. Gentleman showed himself to be almost more sympathetic, at times, to the gerontocracy in Moscow than to our allies in the United States of America.
§ Mr. Maclennan
With respect, I thought that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East was perceptive in his comments about the gerontocracy in Moscow. It is not a criticism to draw attention to the contrast between his attitudes, but a factual description.
The right hon. Gentleman's position is ambiguous. His speech demanded the attention of the House, because of the authority of his experience on the issues that he touched on and analysed—I refer particularly to that of disarmament—but, if this country is to be effective in its criticism of its allies, it should present itself as a reliable ally. On that point, several of us found it impossible to remain in association with the party of which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East is now deputy leader.
§ Mr. Maclennan
The tragedy for the country is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking not with the voice of the Labour Party, but with reason and personal authority. Sadly, he could not command the support of his party or the weight that that would have thrown behind his speech.
§ Mr. Maclennan
I have not left that point, and the hon. Gentleman should sit down. I propose to speak about matters in which we can play a more direct part than by exercising our proper influence with our allies at the margin to promote the desirable extension of human rights in Central America and other parts of Latin America. Decisions will have to be made shortly on several important European issues. However, I turn first to the conclusion of the conference at Cancun. Hon. Members have had an opportunity to debate that conference. The key question, which the conference left unresolved, is what procedural steps should follow it to enable global negotiations to continue.
The Government have not made their position clear. At the Ottawa summit in July the seven industrial powers, including the United States of America, committed themselves to joining preparations for global negotiations. The mere continuation of existing discussions in the different international forums is not likely to give that dialogue the impetus that it needs. No doubt painstaking negotiations are inevitable, but unless they are seen to take place within a proper agreed framework and with an eye to the clock, there is a risk of a return to the politics of confrontation. That would be in the interest only of the adventurist powers, which are bent on mischief-making.
The Government are under an obligation to give a lead, but, regrettably, their voice was not clear either at Cancun or this afternoon. What do the Government intend to do to accelerate the constructive negotiations on food, trade, energy and finance that Cancun did so little to advance? I warmly welcomed the Lord Privy Seal's presence, but he did not deal with that point in his remarks. Perhaps the Minister will tell us how he expects that issue to develop. It is an urgent matter.
As regards the Middle East, we may be encouraged by the speech made by Prince Fahd, which was reported only today. It demonstrated some movement towards recognition of the State of Israel. It is not clear exactly what was said, but it is clear that it represents an important aspect of the discussion. The success or failure of the Fahd initiative may well turn on that. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East was right to welcome the Foreign Secretary's presence in Saudi Arabia, but in doing so he showed something of the same spirit as Lord Thorneycroft did in commending the right hon. Gentleman to the Labour Party as a suitable Deputy Leader. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) wish to intervene?
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
The hon. Gentleman spoils an interesting speech by his rather silly references to the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Maclennan
The Labour Party is not a silly matter. It is a tragic matter.
The Lord Privy Seal's speech also showed an encouraging shift of emphasis in the Government's attitude to developments in Southern Africa. His comments about recognising the need for South Africa to 175 move towards a system of government enjoying the support of the South African people was a refreshing admission which is not made sufficiently often from the Conservative Benches.
It is also encouraging that the right hon. Gentleman is taking a personal interest in pushing forward the discussions of the Western group on constitutional developments in Namibia. It is certainly true that if we do not see movement towards elections there will be great dismay throughout the southern part of Africa. If the Government take a continuing line of support for the work of that group, it is to be hoped that that will be achieved. In this respect, I believe that the Government must continue a dialogue with the United States and not rely solely upon talks within the group.
Disarmament issues have rightly tended to dominate the debate. I found the speech of the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), who has now left the Chamber, extremely persuasive. I think that many of us felt that he was right to raise direct with the Government—and I support him in doing so—the question whether our own and other European Governments should be directly involved in discussions with the United States on the negotiations regarding long-range theatre nuclear weapons.
The need for such talks is accentuated by the utterances of the American Secretary of State in the past few days, to which reference has been made several times in the debate. It may be that there are no serious issues of policy dividing us, but there are certainly serious issues of presentation of American policy which are in themselves dangerous. It is therefore right that the Government should recognise the need to bring clarity to the attitude of the United States before the United States Government embark on discussions at the end of the month.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East was correct to emphasise the damage being done by the apparent disarray of the American leadership at this time. This may be merely a matter of expression. Certainly the President of the United States is somewhat infelicitous in his use of language, but it may also cover issues of substance of the kind raised by the hon. Member for Newbury. It is therefore right that we should be involved. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will lose no time in that regard.
There are other issues relating to disarmament on which there is less evidence that the Government are taking a positive initiative. The Lord Privy Seal, replying to the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who asked about the comprehensive test ban negotiations, failed to clarify the Government's attitude to the possibility of pushing ahead for a comprehensive ban. I believe that he said that there was some scope or hope for movement, but he did not show the kind of urgency that most of us feel should be put into this issue.
The Gracious Speech also refers to issues associated with our membership of the European Community and states in particular thatthe United Kingdom will play its full part in its development".It might be thought that at this time one of the most important issues in the development of the European Community is the development of the monetary system, but on this there has been a singular and resounding silence on the part of the Government. That is rather odd, when 176 speeches by the Governor of the Bank of England have at least implied that the time may soon be right for British participation in the European monetary system.
We learn from press reports that a seminar is to be conducted at No. 10 Downing Street, at which economic advisers will discuss the issue, but there has been no explanation to the House of where the Government stand on this matter. I believe that opinion in this country is increasingly hardening around the view that the time is right for Britain to join the EMS, and that if the pound strengthens further it is unlikely that the time will be appropriate later. Even if it is not possible for Britain to enter the grid save within the Italian parities, it is certainly worth considering whether this would increase the stability of the framework of British trading activity and at the same time strengthen our commitment to the development of the European institutions.
§ Mr. Spearing
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the Barclays Bank International circular of two years ago, which, in its explanation of the EMS, pointed out that the authority was the central combined banks of the Community meeting in Basle, the dominant member of which was the German Bundesbank, which did not have a national responsibility in the sense that the Bank of England has, and that the whole economy of this country would therefore be linked to the strongest currency, namely, the deutschmark, and that Government intervention even by this Government would therefore be less in respect of national economic policy than is at present the case?
§ Mr. Maclennan
Events of the past two years have demonstrated the difficulties that all Governments face in seeking to control the level of their currency. We must ask, therefore, whether that task would be assisted by British membership of the EMS. It is my firm belief that this would make it much easier to exercise some control, and that lack of control has been seriously damaging to our industrial and productive effort in recent months.
The second European issue on which decisions must be made is the common agricultural policy. There was a short debate in the House recently on the mandate. I draw attention to one matter that I find somewhat disturbing, namely, a change of emphasis in the European Commission's proposals. I think that there was a recognition that bearing down on prices both by member Governments and at the hand of the Commission would not necessarily produce the long-term structural changes so long as some member countries faced the problem of the marginal areas.
The Commission's June proposals contained some recognition that income support for those engaged in farming in these areas might be a better way of bringing about structural change. There is no reference to that in the Commission's new document. I hope that the Government will not let that matter pass. The Commission's document emphasises forcefully and rightly that we shall not witness a dramatic change of policy within the Community towards the CAP because it has broadly worked for most member States. We need a more sensitive adjustment of its mechanisms to deal with the problems created for particular commodities, and not a scrapping of its techniques.
The Queen's Speech tells us that the Government propose to seek an early agreement on the revised common 177 fisheries policy, an issue that has been raised in the debate only by an interjection. In reply the Lord Privy Seal said that he was an optimistic man and hoped that some moves would be made in that direction.
It is true that the British fishing industry would greatly welcome a settlement of the revised common fisheries policy and an end to the great uncertainties that have prevailed for too long. However, it would welcome a settlement only if it were adequate and satisfactory and recognised its interests. I am concerned that the Government are showing themselves to be less than tough in their negotiations. I make no personal accusations against any individual Minister. A collective agreement must be arrived at by the Cabinet, which involves the Foreign Office as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The terms that were outlined and largely approved by the fishing industry in December 1980 should not be departed from, including the 12-mile exclusive limit and the dominant preference within an area of up to 50 miles.
There is concern that some juggling with the quotas may be accepted by the Government, to the industry's disadvantage. It is felt that the figures for the seven main species should be adhered to and recognised as being outside negotiations. There is serious concern about cod.
The fishing industry is in such a parlous condition that it will examine with especial interest what the Government achieve in respect of the level of withdrawal and reference prices. A 15 per cent. increase is being sought by the industry. If such an increase is forthcoming it will undoubtedly be helpful, but it will not in itself secure the industry's long-term prosperity. That prosperity can be secured only if a satisfactory conclusion is arrived at which secures adequate quotas and controlled access.
It has been rumoured that the Government are considering the possibility of allowing into the large northern box licensed vessels longer than 80 ft in certain numbers. That is a highly dangerous proposition that will have to be considered with great care. If accepted, it would apply for all time and might damage the Government's other negotiating objectives. We have been told by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that it is hoped that the next meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers will arrive at conclusions on these issues. That meeting will take place before the end of the month. It is an opportune moment to express the industry's deep concern.
I conclude by expressing good wishes to the Lord Privy Seal. I hope that in his conduct of his high office he will enjoy the support in all parts of the House that his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour), enjoyed during his tenure. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham believes that he has won the intellectual argument although he has lost office. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who has succeeded him will continue the intellectual argument on the same side as his predecessor, not only in his own sphere, but in respect of the other issues over which the Government are at odds with themselves.
§ Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)
I hope that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) will forgive me if I do not take up his wide-ranging and interesting speech in every detail. I shall deal with an aspect of foreign policy that has not been discussed in the debate—the Government's South Atlantic policy. The 178 Queen's Speech mentions the importance which the Government attach to the Commonwealth. I am pleased that it is the Government's declared policy to join other countries and responsible international organisations in efforts to resolve the economic difficulties of both the developing and developed countries.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the difficulties facing one of the developed countries, the Falkland Islands. I regret that the Queen's Speech does not refer to the need for an early settlement of the problems of that dependent territory. I recognise that it is impossible for the Government to deal with everything in the Queen's Speech. However, I hope that it will be possible for my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to comment on this distant but important part of the world.
The Falkland Islands and their dependencies form a British Crown Colony. The colony is facing economic difficulties because of the continuing dispute between the Argentine and Britain over the sovereignty of the islands. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has said that economic progress is being impeded because of what he described as the dead hand of the dispute that is hanging over the islands.
I have recently returned from a visit to the Falkland Islands, where I spent two weeks as a member of a Commonwealth parliamentary delegation. I was accompanied by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden). During the two weeks that we spent on the islands we met and talked with many of the 1,800 inhabitants. We were able to ascertain their views on a wide range of issues. I pay tribute to the islanders' outstanding loyalty to the Crown and their overwhelming desire that the islands should remain British.
The matter that is uppermost in the mind of every Falkland Islander is the constitutional dispute with the Argentine. As hon. Members may know, the Argentine lays claim to the islands, which are known in that country as Las Malvinas. It has done so for many years, and it now bases its claim on the proposition that the Falklands are part of the Argentinian continental shelf. Many Falkland Islanders, and perhaps many hon. Members, may find that claim difficult to accept because the islands are located about 300 miles off the coast of South America. Recently, Argentina has extended its claim to include the island of South Georgia, which lies a further 800 miles south-east of the Falklands, and to the South Sandwich islands.
It is well known that an Argentinian military mission has occupied one of the islands—Southern Thule—without the permission or consent of the British Government. That occupation was raised in the House on 18 December 1980 by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). In his reply, my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who was then Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said:At the talks in New York in April I protested again to the Argentine Foreign Minister about the presence of the Argentine mission on Southern Thule without the permission or consent of the British Government. It is impossible to establish any of these things because the Argentine Government have never conceded our sovereignty over either the Falkland Islands or the dependencies, nor have they agreed that we should declare the various zones of the seas around them to which we would normally be entitled."—[Official Report, 18 December 1930; Vol. 996, c. 996.]Since then, it appears that nothing more has been done by Her Majesty's Government to require the forces of a 179 foreign sovereign State to quit British territory. This is not a new matter and I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will look into it urgently. It was raised as long ago as 10 May 1978 by my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, who, in answer to a question in another place, said to the late Lord Goronwy-Roberts:Will he also bear in mind that while all of us would hope that the relations between Britain and Argentine will improve, occupation of a British island by the Argentine Government and the apparent acceptance of this by Her Majesty's Government, is not a firm basis for such a friendship."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 10 May 1978; Vol. 391, c. 977.]My right hon. and noble Friend Lord Home of the Hirsel also said that this was an illegal occupation and that it was a dangerous situation to have hanging in the air.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will direct his attention to this matter because it is serious, as I am sure all hon. Members will agree, for parts of British territory to be occupied by a foreign power without our consent or permission, however distant that territory may be and even though it may not be inhabited.
The reason I say that Southern Thule is British is that it is part of the Falkland Islands dependencies, and Britain has exercised sovereignty over the Falkland Islands without interruption since 1833—nearly 150 years. Despite that fact, the dispute with Argentina goes on. Both this Government and their predecessors, together with members of the Falkland Islands legislative council, who attended as observers, have taken part in talks with Argentina in the hope that the dispute could be settled. In an effort to find a solution, my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury met the islanders twice recently and put to them three ways of making progress with further talks.
He suggested, first, a freeze on all disputed matters, which does not appear to be a viable proposition. Secondly, he put forward the idea of a condominium—joint sovereignty of the island shared between Britain and Argentina—which, again is not acceptable either to the islanders or to Argentina. Thirdly, he put forward the idea of lease-back, where perhaps it might be possible to cede sovereignty to Argentina for a long period and to lease back the territory in such a way that the British way of life could continue under a British governor.
When I was in the islands only a few weeks ago, it was clear to me and to the hon. Member for West Derby that the overwhelming majority of islanders did not accept the lease back solution. They are British, they mean to stay British and they want the Falkland Islands to stay British, and so, I believe and hope, does every hon. Member. However, there is to be a further round of talks with Argentina in the hope that matters other than sovereignty can be discussed. I hope that they can, because the Falkland Islanders want good, friendly relations with Argentina. They want to trade with the Argentinians and want them as tourists to the islands. Perhaps they would be interested in joint development of the oilfield that lies between the Falkland Islands and the Patagonian coast. They do not want to become part of Argentina and the Government and the House must face that fact.
Let us say to our Argentinian friends "This dispute has gone on long enough. Let us understand each other's joint desire to work together for the economic prosperity of both 180 our countries. Let us also recognise that we must and do respect the wishes of the islanders to determine their own future and, if they wish, to remain British."
I therefore call on my right hon. Friend to join Argentina in a final effort to resolve the economic difficulties that face the Falkland Islands and to settle this sterile, constitutional wrangle that has gone on for too long.
The hon. Member for West Derby and I identified many opportunities for development in those beautiful islands. My right hon. Friend knows that we are reporting to him on the opportunities that we discussed with the islanders. They include the installation of a freezer plant to enable the hundreds of tonnes of good mutton that are thrown away each year to be exported, perhaps to Britain, where it can be purchased by the British housewife. The same freezer capacity could be used to freeze the upland goose, a bird which is prolific in the islands to the point of being a pest. I am sure that those birds could be shipped to Britain. There are also opportunities for harvesting the valuable kelp that abounds in these waters. It is also possible for salmon ranching to be developed.
There is one consideration above all others to which the House should address its mind—the fact that there could be important oil exploration in these waters. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will discuss that with Argentina when he meets his opposite number in due course. Oil around the Falkland Islands has been talked about in the House and outside for many years. Many people have asked me for evidence that there is oil in the area. If the House would like evidence that there is oil in British waters in the South Atlantic, I can do no better than draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that Argentina has advertised the availability of licences to drill for oil in disputed waters that actually straddle the median line between the Falklands and the coast of Patagonia.
We are not just considering vague rumours. I shall give the House the names of three consortia that I am reliably informed are interested in bidding for these concessions. The first consortium is Atlantic Richfield, Citie Service and Mobil, in conjunction with two Argentine companies. The second consortium comprises three Argentine companies, Braspetro, Petrobras and Bridas, Deminex, a West German and Argentine company, Hispanica de Petroleo and Hudbayoil. The third consortium is comprised of YPF, the Argentine state oil company.
It is, therefore, important for the House to recognise that the concessions offered by Argentina are in disputed waters. In other words, it appears that Argentina has offered concessions in British waters. If those concessions are taken up—if drilling and oil extraction commence—it will be British oil that is being extracted.
What action is the Foreign Office taking to deal with this sensitive and important matter? The time has come when we should stop talking about vague rumours of oil in the South Atlantic and address our minds to the facts that I have given the House tonight, which show that three major consortia are about to drill for British oil in the South Atlantic. That could be vital, not only to the economy of the Falkland Islands but to the economy of the United Kingdom as well.
Specifically, I should like to know whether any representations have been made to Argentina pointing out that these concessions include British waters. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Secretary of State for Energy? Are any British oil 181 companies interested in drilling in these waters? I understand that they are, but that they have not made progress because of the dead hand of the dispute that hangs over the whole issue. This is a vitally important matter which deserves to be dealt with quickly.
What is the Government's policy for advancing and promoting British interests in the South Atlantic? There has recently been a good deal of talk and press comment about the possibility of a South Atlantic pact taking shape in Argentina. In an article in the Financial Times on 28 May, Hugh O'Shaughnessy said:Called together under the auspices of private institutions in Argentina and the United States, strategic experts from Washington, South Africa, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil are meeting in the Argentinian capital to consider the next steps in a plan, long projected, to link the armed forces of the United States, South Africa and Latin America in an effort to counter a perceived Soviet threat in the South Atlantic.In answer to a parliamentary question from the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice), my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who was then Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, replied:We have seen press reports on this matter. The proposal was apparently discussed at a private meeting and it would be inappropriate for me to comment. There are no indications that British interests would be adversely affected."—[Official Report, 24 June 1981; Vol. 7, c. 240.]Does my right hon. Friend consider that British interests in the South Atlantic will not be adversely affected if there is oil in substantial quantities in the disputed waters to which I have referred? What is the position regarding these disputed concessions? How are we to protect our interests in the area?
There is one way in which our interests can be protected and that is by the Government deciding to prolong the life of HMS "Endurance", the ice patrol ship which is currently operating in the South Atlantic but which is due to be withdrawn next spring. The House knows that HMS "Endurance" is more than just an ice patrol ship. She is also the only ship that calls regularly at Port Stanley and which is suitable for protecting British interests in the British Antarctic Territory. She is also the major source of information about what is going on Southern Thule and in other parts of the South Atlantic where British interests are paramount.
HMS "Endurance" is also a great source of comfort and reassurance to our beleaguered fellow citizens in the Falkland Islands. With her two Whirlwind helicopters and 20mm guns, she is tangible proof that Britain means to protect her possessions in the South Atlantic. She is, I believe, vital to Britain in pursuing our foreign policy objectives in that part of the world. What is my right hon. Friend's view about the withdrawal of that ship? How does he believe that British foreign policy in the South Atlantic can be advanced if HMS "Endurance" is withdrawn, as planned, in the spring of next year?
I put it on record that my sole object in raising this issue is to bring these important matters to the attention of the Government and the British public. I also want to make it clear that nothing I have said is in any way intended to strain relations with Argentina. On the contrary, I want to see closer co-operation with Argentina based on mutual respect for each other. But I also want to see justice for the Falkland Islands. I want to see development proceed. That is why I particularly welcome the reference to the resolution of economic difficulties that is contained in the Gracious Speech.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) will forgive me if I do not follow him down Argentine way to the Falkland Islands. I should like to speak on more general issues in this wide-ranging debate.
I am delighted that foreign affairs has been chosen as the first subject to merit a full day's debate on the Gracious Speech. However, I regard the Gracious Speech as incompetent, irrevelant and immaterial to the real problems that Britain faces. For example, the problem of unemployment is not dealt with to any great extent. The only reference is to a Bill to deal with employment and labour relations, and we all know that that means an attack on the trade union movement.
Mention is also made of a so-called measure "to facilitate private investment", but we all know that that will be a measure designed to attack public industries. The Gracious Speech also says that legislation will be introduced to improve the accountability of local authorities, but we all know that that legislation will be designed to clobber local authorities.
Those are the three great battles that we shall have this Session. We shall see the Government attack the trade union movement, public industries and local government, but their attacks will be countered by the Opposition.
It is right that international affairs and peace, which is the paramount issue facing this country, should be discussed first. I do not want to deal with specific points as most of them have already been dealt with. However, I ought to say a word about the Middle East. The case has been put for the recognition of the State of Israel. There is sadness that President Sadat was assassinated, but we all hope that the new Egyptian leader and the Israelis will get together to maintain the friendly relationship that has been established between those two countries. We should also seriously consider putting economic aid into that area to try to solve the problem of the Palestinian refugees. The Middle East will remain a threat to world peace unless full guarantees can be given to Israel and we can settle the problem of the Palestinian refugees.
The problem of South Africa will also be a threat to world peace unless we can get recognition from the South African Government that the illegal occupation of Namibia should be brought to an end and that those people should be allowed their own political freedom.
I welcome the speech which the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) made in South Africa. It followed the tradition of a former Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan, and echoed what has been said by a host of people in the Labour Party—that the evil regime of apartheid must be brought to an end. Human beings should be given the inalienable rights that are contained in the Declaration on Human Rights. Therefore, the system of apartheid cannot endure and the sooner it is changed, the better.
I want to refer to the major problem that is now confronting humanity—the real and growing danger of the arms race and in particular the danger of nuclear annihilation. Earlier today I asked for a Government statement on newspaper reports that the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Alexander Haig, had said that a demonstration nuclear bomb would be used in Europe. I do not know whether that means a large nuclear weapon, such as a 100 megaton bomb which, if dropped on the 183 House of Commons, would melt steel in Watford and Slough and rayon in Birmingham and Bristol, or whether it means the smaller demonstration bomb that was used on Hiroshima. We should have an answer from the Government as to what type of demonstration bomb NATO has in mind.
Mr. Caspar Weinberger has now stated that what was said in evidence yesterday to a select committee of the American Congress is not true. So first we had a statement from President Reagan which has been denied by American officials, and now we have had a statement from the American Secretary of State which has been denied by the Secretary of Defence. As the future of Europe is at stake, we must have some clarification before it is too late.
There is a growing public awareness and concern about the danger of nuclear war. The statements to which I have referred show how right the people are to be deeply concerned. The Lord Privy Seal mentioned the march and demonstration for peace in London a fortnight ago. I was on that march and I was proud to be on it. It was a well-ordered demonstration of 250,000 who came from the length and breadth of this island—from all the universities and all the towns. The people were marching into Hyde Park for four hours or more. I have never seen such a demonstration. It was so large that the police had to arrange for the people to come into Hyde Park from two directions. The march started at 11 am and it took several hours for the people to arrive in Hyde Park for the meeting.
Similar demonstrations are taking place in other countries because there is a growing fear and awareness of the dangers of nuclear warfare.
The Labour Party has long campaigned for international peace, co-operation and disarmament. I believe that, if it comes out clearly with a statement that it wants to bring about international negotiation and detente, it will capture the mood of the British people.
On 6 August 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Within 24 hours, 60,000 people had been killed. Within two months, a further 60,000 people had died. The total death toll from radiation over the subsequent years is estimated to be 200,000 from that one bomb.
Three days after the bomb on Hiroshima there was a bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Apart from the many people in Japan who are still suffering from the effects of those bombs, children have been born with defects which are attributable to the bombs.
The atom bomb which destroyed Hiroshima had a destructive force equivalent to 15 kilotons of TNT. Today's strategic and tactical nuclear weapons number more than 50,000, with a total destructive capacity of 15 million kilotons. In the world today there is a destructive capability equal to 1 million Hiroshimas. There is more than enough capacity in the world to destroy every city several times over.
The United States and the Soviet Union signed the first strategic arms limitation agreement in 1972, and now there is an argument about whether there should be further similar talks. It is imperative that we give all our encouragement to the United States of America and the Soviet Union to get together.
184 It has been suggested that to take unilateral action would mean taking risks. Why is it that people are always willing to take risks in preparation for war but not to take risks in trying to achieve world peace?
I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will follow his predecessor in office and will work closely with the Foreign Secretary, because in international affairs I have more hope for them than I have for the Prime Minister. I hope that they will keep the Prime Minister as far away as possible from dealing with international affairs.
There is great danger in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. If it is argued that because the United States and the Soviet Union have nuclear weapons, we must have an independent nuclear deterrent, that argument can be used by every country in Europe, in Africe and in South America. If we say that we must have a nuclear deterrent, how can we argue that we should possess it without every Warsaw Pact country wanting to have one?
Would Ministers sleep better at night if they knew that Iran and Iraq had nuclear weapons? Would they have been happy if President Amin had had nuclear weapons when he was in power in Uganda? Indeed, some people ask me at meetings "Are you happy that the Prime Minister has nuclear weapons?" We must try to understand people's anxieties about these matters.
We hear about the Tomahawk cruise missiles which can fly at 200 ft. above ground level, with a range of 2,000 miles, each carrying a single standard nuclear warhead equivalent to 200 kilotons of TNT—15 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The United States air force alone plans to have 3,400 cruise missiles, and the Soviet Union is developing the SS20, with similar weapons carrying 250 kilotons.
There are now about 11,000 nuclear warheads in Europe. Of these, 7,500 are deployed by NATO and 3,500 by the Warsaw Pact countries.
Britain's Armed Forces are equipped with a variety of nuclear weapons. We have the four Polaris submarines—"Renown", "Repulse", "Resolution" and "Revenge"—and each carries 60 missiles. Each missile carries three warheads, and each warhead has the destructive power of 15 Hiroshima bombs.
The expenditure on arms is a tremendous burden on our economy. A short while ago the figure was £11 billion. This year it will possibly be £ 12½ billion, and next year £14 billion. There is no cutback on defence expenditure. On top of this, we now have the £8 billion expenditure on the Trident programme.
There is talk of civil defence. Let us be honest with the people. There is no civil defence against nuclear weapons. How many people in Britain have nuclear shelters which could withstand a nuclear attack? The booklet "Protest and Survive" shows what nonsense civil defence against nuclear weapons would be. If a 100 megaton bomb were to be dropped on London, steel would be melted in Watford and Slough. The Government talk in their civil defence document about whitewashing the windows. That statement is in itself a whitewash, because it has to be recognised that there is no way of dealing with the problem.
The Labour Party has said that it intends to cancel the £8 billion Trident order, to reverse the decision to deploy the cruise missiles, and to oppose the deployment of the neutron bomb. The neutron bomb is the ultimate 185 abomination. It is a nuclear weapon which has been devised to save the buildings and kill the people. We must reject it.
I do not believe that from the Soviet Union, from the United States of America, from France, from Britain or from China—the countries which possess nuclear weapons—there will be a deliberate move to bring about a nuclear war. The real danger is that there will be a world war by accident. One day it will not be the demonstration bomb that has dropped on Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Moscow, Oslo or one of the capitals of Europe. We shall wake up one morning—provided it has not happened near us—and read that the bomb has been dropped. The question arises "Who will claim that they dropped the bomb?" This shows that a war could start by accident. Those who marched on the demonstration are alive to the issue. The Government are living in a fool's paradise if they think that they enhance the cause of peace by adding to the tremendous capacity of the world to destroy itself.
We have to try to achieve better use of the world's resources. The problem of world poverty means that 800 million people face starvation. Instead of building up their arms programme and treating such expenditure as sacrosanct while cutting back by £1 million on the foreign broadcasts of the BBC, which is supposed to espouse the cause that "Nation shall speak peace unto nation", I would have preferred to see the Government examining the Brandt report and taking some positive measures to deal with the problems facing the world.
The report estimates that half of 1 per cent. of one year's world military expenditure would pay for all the farm equipment needed to increase food production and so enable food-deficit, low-income countries to approach self-sufficiency by 1990. The Government are cutting back on existing overseas development expenditure. It is estimated that for the price of one jet fighter, costing $20 million, 40,000 village pharmacies could be established in the developing countries. Does it not show that we are going crazy when we join an escalating arms race and encourage others to get involved?
I accompanied the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader at talks in the Soviet Union on disarmament. I am convinced that the Soviet Union is not preparing for a war of aggression. It is my conviction that there was a desire in the Soviet Union that it should not be caught, as it was in the last war, unprepared. The Soviet Union seeks to match everything done in the West. If we have the atom bomb, the Soviet Union will get the atom bomb. If we have the hydrogen bomb, it will get the hydrogen bomb. So the Soviet Union goes through the catalogue, following the West.
I believe that if there was a serious move in the West to get down to serious disarmament negotiations there would be a response from the Soviet Union. I plead with the Cabinet to tell the Prime Minister to become involved in discussions with Western Europe to enable talks to take place with Eastern Europe and so end the mad arms race.
In the siege of Leningrad many of the 600,000 population died of starvation resisting aggression. My right hon. Friends and I went to the city of Kiev, which was obliterated in the scorched earth policy pursued by the Russians when fighting alongside us against Fascism. The whole city was razed to the ground. Now the city has been rebuilt. It has a war museum. Outside the museum there is a massive statute which represents the motherland of Russia. The statute, rather like the Statute of Liberty, is 186 of a woman holding a sword erect. It overlooks the rebuilt city of Kiev. The museum contains a small work of sculpture presented by President Brezhnev. Outside there is the massive statue; inside the small sculpture which represents the biblical expression of turning swords into ploughshares.
I do not believe that the Soviet Union has done enough for the underdeveloped world. By working with the Soviet Union to try to help to solve the problems of world poverty, we can also help to solve the arms race and the build-up to a war that no one wants. This situation can be linked with the serious recession that faces this country and the world. It is argued that jobs are involved in defence expenditure. I have mentioned Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Japan spends about 1 per cent. of its gross national product on defence. It is not allowed under its constitution to have nuclear weapons. I do not suppose that it would want them. Yet the Japanese are the only people investing in Wales. There are no British investors. Sony, Kawasaki and Hitachi are there.
The Japanese have the resources to invest in developing industry. We need to give our people real jobs, not jobs preparing for a war that no one wants. It is jobs that provide the needs, the ploughshares and the facilities that people in underdeveloped countries require. A response by the Government to the Brandt report and a move away from wasteful arms expenditure would make a greater contribution to the peace of the world. It would help to solve the problems facing us that have increased under this Government.
§ 8.6 pm.
§ Mr. Tim Sainsbury (Hove)
I do not wish to pursue the subject of defence, on which the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) concentrated. The subject has been referred to often during our debate. The hon. Gentleman spoke, as always, with great sincerity, in an accent that is attractive to the ear. Sincerity, emotion and powerful speaking are, however, no substitute for logic. It is the hon. Gentleman's logic that I challenge. He appears to be yet another of those who somehow persuade themselves, or would like to be persuaded, that if only one does not have a nuclear bomb oneself one escapes the risk of nuclear annihilation. Even some of those who suffered in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are wise enough to point out that those incidents would probably never have happened if Japan had also possessed a nuclear weapon.
Nuclear weapons have kept the peace of the world for 35 years, tenuously, I agree, on occasion. I see no evidence, however, that unilateral disarmament would be anything other than a backward step. I find the reasoning of the hon. Member for Aberdare slightly strange in drawing our attention to the statue that President Brezhnev donated to the museum in Kiev. The hon. Member mentioned the conversion of swords into ploughshares. If President Brezhnev paid more attention to allowing freedom of religion in his country, he would command more of my respect. If he devoted more of the resources at his command—he does not need parliamentary approval for his estimates—to helping the Third world, not with arms, but with useful aid, and if he had not increased over the last few years the supply of SS20s, a weapon for which there is no counterpart in the West and where he enjoys nuclear superiority, I should have more confidence in the road suggested by the hon. Gentleman.
187 I shall address my remarks to another subject on which the hon. Gentleman touched, albeit briefly. He and a number of others, including my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), said in their different ways that the Middle East situation was a major threat to world peace, a critical area. Those are the sorts of expressions that have been used today. It is to the need to continue to search for peace in that area that I address my remarks.
I am sometimes reminded of the issues that we are asked to take into account in considering our economic affairs. None of us is unfamiliar with the reminder that there are no easy answers to difficult questions—or, to put it another way, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If there were easy answers to the problems of the Middle East, they would have been found long ago.
Equally, in contemplating economic difficulties at a time of world recession, we are rightly reminded that we should avoid taking actions that appear to offer solutions that may provide relief in the short term—perhaps a lower rate of inflation through artificially holding down prices of nationalised industries only to release an explosion thereafter; a lower inflation rate perhaps by artificially holding down wages by means of a statutory policy, only to release an explosion afterwards. They are short-term solutions which end up doing more harm in the long run than the good that they do in the short term. In considering the Middle East we must be careful that we do not fall into that trap, as we have done in the past in dealing with our economy.
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State who is to wind up the debate is well aware that in foreign affairs we must be conscious of the realities of the situation. It is no good painting pictures of how we should like the situation to be. We must consider the situation as it actually is and the real problems that exist. There is no doubt that there is a growing awareness of the important reality in the Middle East—that there is "a Palestinian problem", and that there is a problem concerning the future government of the territory normally referred to as the West Bank. However, being mindful of that reality surely does not excuse us from being mindful of an even more important reality—the existence of the State of Israel, and not only its existence but, as we were reminded earlier, the circumstances that led to the creation of that State.
The hon. Member for Aberdare movingly described the devastation that affected parts of the Soviet Union during the last war. In Leningrad, 600,000 people died during the great siege, and the city of Kiev was obliterated, but surely we in the House will not forget the 6 million Jews who died in the holocaust, the devastation of the ghettos in Warsaw and many other places. Those are just as real a contribution to the thoughts of the people of Israel.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
In the House one tries to get over one's ideas as quickly as possible. In fact, it was in my mind to say that if there was one group of people who suffered more than the Russians during the last war it was the Jewish people. I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Sainsbury
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. No one who seeks solutions to the problems of the Middle East will make progress if he overlooks the 188 reality of the circumstances that led to the creation of the State of Israel. Matters have been made worse since the creation of the State by the continuing refusal of neighbouring States to recognise the existence of Israel or to reach a permanent peace. We are reminded that Iraq is still technically in a state of war with Israel, and has been for the past 30 years.
Israel suffers from being very small. It is a small country. One is uneasily aware of how quickly it could be overcome by a surprise attack. Those who, like myself, and no doubt many other hon. Members, have visited the Golan Heights are filled with immense admiration for the people who took those heights from the Syrians. There is also, surely, an awareness that no State with the history of Israel could ever contemplate having the soldiers of a State with the history of Syria sitting on top of the Golan Heights looking down into the valley and across the Sea of Galilee. It would be unrealistic to suggest that. It would be no sensible contribution to the cause of peace to suggest that that could be part of any formula.
There are other realities to be borne in mind. One important reality that has been mentioned quite frequently in the debate is that the one step towards peace in that troubled area that has worked and is worth building on is the Camp David treaty. In giving up the Sinai, because of the size of the country and the history of the area, the Israelis were making a bigger sacrifice than seemed immediately apparent to those of us who do not suffer from their problems and whose State was not born out of their traumas.
We as a Christian country should bear in mind the importance and significance of the land of Israel, not only to the Jewish religion, but to the Christian religion. We should look at the Fahd plan against the background of those realities. I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary is in Saudi Arabia. I am pleased also that a plan has been put forward which seems to imply some awareness by the Saudi Arabians of the problem and a willingness to wonder whether their maps should show the State of Israel, and whether there should perhaps be some discussion.
It is unreal to attach to the Fahd plan the importance that has been attached to it by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and other speakers in the debate. It starts, naturally, with the words:The withdrawal of Israel from all Arab lands I remind the House of what I have just said about the Golan Heights— including Arab Jerusalem".Are we to ignore the fact that Jerusalem is an overwhelmingly Jewish city? It has never been the capital of any country except Israel. Are we to ignore historic connections with the Jews? Do we intend to recreate a divided city? Surely, experience of divided cities elsewhere in the world is enough to put us off that. How unreal, ignoring the realities, can we get?
If we are looking for solutions, we should ask how we can provide guarantees that are meaningful for the well-being of all the peoples who live in the city of Jerusalem and all the religions that wish to worship there.
The second aim of the Fahd plan isthe removal of settlements established by Israel in Arab lands after 1967".Again, that seems an example of wishing that the situation were different from what it is.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal that adding to those settlements at present is not very helpful. I agree, but trying to negotiate on the basis that 189 they had never been there in the first place is rather like trying to uninvent nuclear weapons. It would have been nice if they had not been invented, but they have been, and we have to learn to live with them and try to find peace within their existence.
The third aim in the Fahd plan issecurity of the freedom of worship and religious rights for all religions in the Holy Places".A number of the countries that would need to be associated with peace in the Middle East are noted for their lack of toleration of any religion other than Islam.
I should not have very much confidence in the freedom of religion that could be expected to abide in the Holy City if the guardians of that place were to follow the same sort of approach as they do in some other areas. We do not have to be reminded of what has happened in Iran. It is not only Christians who have been persecuted there, but those of almost any other faith, and in a most brutal way. There is intolerance in Saudi Arabia, where it is my understanding—it is unfortunate that I have to say this—that no Christian in holy orders is allowed into the country to take a service officially, and there are about 30,000 to 40,000 Britons living and working in that country, many of whom are Christians. They are denied even the official services of a priest. If that is the Saudis' idea of tolerance, it is rather odd that item No. 3 on the list should be a reference to security of the freedom of worship.
Item No. 4 is:Confirmation of the right of the Palestinian people to return, and compensation for those who opt not to do so.That is an interesting concept, which is well worth discussing, but perhaps when it is discussed we can ensure that reciprocal arrangements are offered to all those Jews who had to flee from the Arab countries. I doubt very much whether they would wish to return—unless there were some firmer guarantee of their safety and their property rights afterwards than I can conceive of being given by any organisation, even the United Nations. Reciprocity of rights of return seems to be a point that ought to be taken into account.
I could go on through the plan point by point. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is probably well aware of its shortcomings. When talking about the freedom of all the countries and confirmation of the rights of the countries of the region to live in peace, it seems strange still to refuse to recognise directly that that includes the right of the State of Israel. Implicit rights, in the circumstances, cannot be very comforting.
I do not know whether many hon. Members will have seen a rather good film that is showing in London, called "The Last Metro." It is a French film, by a director of some celebrity called Francois Truffaut. In the film, at one stage, the Fascist collaborator in France is talking to the wife of the Jewish stage director, who is the main character, although he is mostly unseen in the film, and the collaborator talks all the time about "Israelis", which is a strange thing to do in the time of the setting of the film, 1943–44. He talks about Israelis because he cannot bring himself to use the word "Jew", other than in a derogatory way.
It seems to me that the most important power in the Middle East—if one considers that to be Saudi Arabia as opposed to Egypt—is in that state of mind, where it cannot bring itself to use the word "Israel" and, therefore, to recognise Israel's existence.
190 As I have said, I welcome the fact that perhaps there is a beginning of thinking about peace and negotiations, but if there is not a greater recognition of the realities of the situation in the Middle East and the existence of the State of Israel, we cannot expect to make much progress on the Fahd plan.
What we should seek to do—it grieves me that we do not seem to have taken any steps to do it—is to promote direct face-to-face negotiations between the Saudis and the Israelis, between the Jordanians and the Israelis, and between the Lebanese and the Israelis, because that, surely, is the way to promote peace and understanding in that area. That is the way that brought about the Camp David settlement and the return of the Sinai to Egypt. That is the way that has brought about a build-up of genuine friendship and understanding between the peoples of Israel and of Egypt.
It can be done, but it will not be done by this sort of remote, secondhand way that seems to be envisaged in the Fahd plan. We should promote face-to-face negotiations, which, to give them their due, Prime Minister Begin and his predecessors have made it clear they are eager and willing to undertake. They are prepared and anxious to meet the leaders of the other States. In the words of the Gracious Speech, we are seeking not only a just and comprehensive settlement, but a lasting settlement. That would be the way to go about it.
We shall not serve the interests of Britain or of peace very well if we allow our understandable desire for good relations with the major oil-producing Middle East States to lead us to betray the commitment which I sincerely believe we have to Israel and its security. I hope that the House will be reassured tonight that that is in no way contemplated and could never happen.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)
I ask for the indulgence of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in regard to my rather precipitate exit from the Chamber and my hurried return. I was doing an errand of mercy. I hope that it will pay off. I should like to be excused when I finish my speech to see whether the patient is in reasonable shape and has gone into hospital.
The Gracious Speech mentions the Government's desire to work for better East-West relations. That is a rather bald statement of what the Government ought to be doing in this matter. What worries me is not that we should consider the Soviet Union as being a great brotherhood of love towards us, but that there has developed in this country and many others in Europe, and in the United States, a Russophobia. There is an anti-Soviet hysteria, which seems to pervade the whole atmosphere. It is one in which there is built up a huge industry not only of arms, but of people who advise others about amts. It is a great industry and much money is to be made by advisers as arms sales escalate.
I am not a starry-eyed Soviet admirer. I think that the Soviet Union—I say this not patronisingly—has many faults. We, too, have faults. Looking at the situation from the Soviet Union's point of view, one realises that the Russians have some cause for concern about the West's intentions. It is necessary for me to remind the House that ever since the Russian revolution in 1917 there have been Western countries that have attempted on a number of occasions to invade Russia and to try to reverse the revolution. I have no great regard for the type of economic 191 and political system under which the Russian people live. However, it is their system and it is up to them to change it if they so desire.
I was much impressed in my youth with a book that I was given by a friend of my father's. It was called "The Great Conspiracy Against Russia". It tabulated, chapter and verse, everything that had been done to Russia. That was 25 years after the revolution.
I visited the USSR with some of my Front Bench colleagues and came to the conclusion, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), that the Russian leadership is now very worried. Russia's leaders are anxious. That is not only because they are now elderly, but because of the quantum development in technology that is passing the Russians by. The Russians have ability in high technology, but it applies only in specific areas. It does not permeate through every stratum of society as it does in the West. Even conventional war—and I hope that it never comes—has to be fought with technology of the highest order. I believe that the Russians do not have that ability. That is what worries the Soviet Union's leaders.
I visited the United States shortly before I visited the Soviet Union. I had discussions with advisers in the State Department and the Pentagon. I spoke to advisers to Alexander Haig and Caspar Weinberger. They said that they did not believe that the Russians desired military conquest over the rest of the world.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) was right to ask why, if we take risks in preparation for war, we cannot make a calculated assessment and take a risk for peace. There is no guarantee that if we give up arms unilaterally the Russians will follow. However, few things in life can be guaranteed. We should examine the possibility of making a start and taking a step along the road that will lead the world, not merely to reducing arms, but eventually to getting rid of them. We cannot afford arms. Neither the West nor the East can afford financially to build up arms as they are today. Economically such a build-up is a killer. It could also lead to the obliteration of large tracts of our planet. Before we contemplate that we should take all possible steps to explore with the Soviet leaders all possibilities of reducing tension.
We should take the Soviet leaders at their word. We should accept that what they say is genuine. That is a risk worth taking. I do not believe that the leaders of the Soviet Union want war, any more than we want war. In the last 10 or 15 years the Soviet Union has been regarded as evil incarnate. It is said that nothing that the Russians can do is right—all the wrong is on their side and all the right is on ours. The Russians say the same about us. They say that all the wrong is on our side and that all the right is on theirs. There has to be a middle way.
I come to the question of the Middle East—another area where there is a great deal of tension. It would benefit everyone if the tension were reduced and if there were a period of stability, mutual trust and confidence. As we are building that with the Soviet Union, so should we be building it in the Middle East.
The letters "PLO" have been bandied about by many hon. Members this afternoon. The name shows clearly why the Israelis find it difficult to negotiate with it. It is the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Palestine also includes Jordan, and if any country has cause to worry 192 about the PLO more than Israel, it is Jordan. The Minister knows that the King of Jordan would very much like to cooperate with Israel, because it is only a stable Jordan and a stable Israel that will ensure stability in the Middle East. We cannot get stability from Iraq and Syria, which have not been stable for a long time and will not be stable for some time to come.
The letters "PLO" stand for Palestine Liberation Organisation. If one looks around the world to other groups who wish to help sections of their down-trodden population, they call themselves, for example, Basque separatists or Serbo-Croat separatists. SWAPO stands for the South West Africa People's Organisation. There is also the Patriotic Front in Zimbabwe. None of those organisations called itself a name that would suggest that its aim was to take over a territory and destroy the people in it—which is what the PLO wishes to do. The PLO talks about a secular State in which everyone has his rights. Once an Arab State is established where that happens, it may give credence to what it is trying to do.
One aspect of the matter worries me very much. Professor John Wilkinson of Aberdeen university is to publish next week a book called "The New Fascists". On radio a few days ago he talked about the rise of neo-Nazi groups in Britain, America, Belgium, France and Germany, and he said that those groups were linked. He also said that their most important links were with the PLO.
That is ominous to Jews, because neo-Nazis are anti-semites. Once again we have the spectre of anti-semitism rising in Europe. The hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) also mentioned that fact. I believe that antisemitism is on the increase. I have great sympathy with any hon. Member who wishes to help people who are not being accorded their rights, but we find creeping into the matter an element that is not only anti-Israel, but antisemitic.
It is easy for the Israelis to agree to another Arab State, which I believe will be the twenty-third, but two matters have to be considered. The first is the location of that State, which is not an impossible problem to solve. The second is more serious. If the State is established and it has the avowed intention of annihilating another State, I cannot blame the Israelis for not wishing to be party to their own extinction.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) is right when he says that Egypt is the most important of the Arab countries. We should not play that fact down. Everyone said that when General Nasser was President. It applies also to the tragic and unfortunate President Sadat. We stopped saying it only when he decided that it was best to make peace with Israel. Egypt is the most important State. It does not have oil, like Saudi Arabia, but oil will not last for ever. I accept that British interests must be protected, and this is how the Foreign Office sees British interests being protected.
However, from the Gracious Speech it appears that the EEC is involved. It is disgusting that Europe has the effrontery to try to act as an honest broker. Europe hardly lifted a finger to help the 5 million or 6 million Jews who were annihilated during the years of persecution and struggle. Europe should be honest and admit that it is only concerned about oil. Abba Eban, the former Israeli Foreign Minister, was right to say that Europe had cancelled itself out as an honest broker.
193 As the hon. Member for Hove said, no dispute can be settled without the parties getting together. What the hell is different about this one? We should encourage the parties to get together. It was difficult for Germany and France to get together and also for Britain and Germany. It is always difficult for adversaries to get together, but there is no reason why the parties to this dispute cannot be persuaded to get together.
The problem can be solved. The Palestinian Arabs have a case. Any group that fulfils certain conditions has a case to be treated as a different people. One condition is that the group feels that it is a different people. However, one State cannot come into existence by annihilating another; nor will the Israelis allow that.
The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) said that time was not on our side, but the Jewish people waited almost 2,000 years for their homeland to be restored. They can hold on for a little longer. Who knows whose side time is on? Nothing will stop the Jewish people from holding on a little longer until good sense prevails, not necessarily among their neighbours, but among the friends of their neighbours, who imagine that by pushing the PLO and other organisations, whose object is to destroy another State, they are striking a blow for freedom. They are not. In the long run that may make the situation in the Middle East even more serious.
If the European countries wish to play a part, they should join the United States and the Soviet Union—if it wishes to be honestly involved—to get the parties together. The parties need not come together all at the same time. It can be done in groups. That is the way to solve the problem not only of the right of Israel to live securely in a way similar to us—it has no right to demand security that other countries do not have. It would also benefit the Palestinian Arabs, whose case has not properly been explored. They would get their State and the benefits that they wish for if they negotiated with Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other countries involved.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
Because of the economic sections in the Queen's Speech, there will be more people in the dole queues. The attack on the trade unions will produce needless confrontation. There is absolutely no justification whatsoever for legislation. The Government know that and yet, because of their hatred and detestation of the trade union movement, they intend to introduce legislation which will fruitlessly occupy a considerable number of hours.
The concentration of today's debate is on foreign affairs. The Queen's Speech states that the Government regard the security of the nation and the preservation of peace as a matter of first importance. The debate has been relatively low key in tone. The Lord Privy Seal was very low key in opening the debate. The debate has been low key because of the massive demonstration of ¼ million people which took place on 24 October. It is right and proper that that demonstration of concern should find an echo, even though it was muted, in comments in this Chamber.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) made some valuable criticisms of the United States' different policies, internal tensions and other matters which seem to predominate in the foreign policy of the Reagan Administration. We are concerned by the strident comments and the conflicting and confusing 194 statements uttered by the President. Those statements are then pulled back by Caspar Weinberger or other White House officials in order to defuse what seems to be a flippant, offhand and mildly contemptuous attitude towards nuclear weapons in Europe. That has happened again recently with General Haig.
My right hon. Friend also mentioned El Salvador, and we are concerned about American foreign policy there. In Cuba, too, the American-heightened aggression is regarded with apprehension and concern. The Cubans fear that the United States Government may be tempted to indulge in some sort of adventure against Cuba, indirectly, if not directly. I hope that if such a move should ever appear on the horizon the Government would stand firm in opposition to it.
I want to deal principally with the question of disarmament and Labour's policy on it. The Labour Party's policy has been decided at successive conferences, starting with the Wembley conference in 1980, and is set out in the document "Peace, Jobs and Freedom", which was approved by 6 million votes to about 60,000.
It is interesting that this is a low-key debate. From the Lord Privy Seal there was, I am sorry to say, a sort of low-key hypocrisy about Government policy. He talked about lowering levels of nuclear weapons, both at strategic and theatre levels. I intervened to ask him about Trident. The Government have talked about lowering the level of nuclear weaponry and stockpiling while, at the same time, they embark on massive expenditure to increase our own level of weaponry.
The Lord Privy Seal did not quite appreciate the point. However, I ask the Minister of State whether "As Lambs to the Slaughter", by Dr. Paul Rogers, Dr. Malcolm Dando and Dr. Peter Van Den Dungen, is correct when it says, according to the minutes of the Select Committee on Defence, published in January 1981:The senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence responsible for policy and planning, Michael Quinlan, stated that it was intended to purchase around 100 missiles for four craft, with extra being required if a fifth craft were ordered. If only 16-tube craft are to be built then the basic requirement is for 64 missiles plus some extra for test-firing and spares. An initial order of 100 missiles suggests that Britain will build stretched craft carrying 20 or 24 missiles. Fire craft with 24 tubes each carrying a missile with eight warheads gives us a total of 960 warheads in all. That is a 15-fold increase in targeting capacity over Polaris!Is that necessary to maintain the deterrent?
If we do not get the mark I Trident, we shall get the mark II version. The book states on page 57:We are left then with a maximum potential for Britain of five boats with 24 missiles, each with 17 warheads. This gives us a total of 2040 warheads with a collective targeting ability over thirty times as great as Polaris".Even if we assume four boats, it means that while the Government talk about reducing the level of nuclear weapons they are seeking to increase our targeting capacity by between 15 and 30 times.
Does the Minister of State believe that Polaris is a deterrent? If it has helped to keep the peace, why do we need to increase it by between 15 and 30 times? No doubt he will argue, as did the Lord Privy Seal, that the Russians are spending much more on weapons. Of course that is a guess, as I pointed out in response to the "oohs" and "aahs" of Conservative Members.
Last year I asked where the information about Soviet expenditure came from. There is a demonology about the Soviet Union. The fact that some of us point out that fact 195 does not mean that we endorse the Soviet system. We merely seek the truth; we want to embark on the logic that the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) suggested had been abandoned. The Government raise mythology in order to justify their massive expenditure.
What is behind the mythology? The then Secretary of State for Defence said in reply to my question last year:Since the Soviet figures are so unreliable, we have to make our own estimates of its expenditure and this is done in great detail every year".—[Official Report, 7 July 1980; Vol. 988, c. 53.]One could use the word "guess" for "estimate"; they are synonyms. On a guess that the Soviet Union is spending very large sums on defence—a guess which is contrary to the Soviet Union's published figures—we are embarking on massive expenditure on Trident.
The Queen's Speech states:Increased resources will be devoted to defence and the most efficient use made of them".I have said before in the House that the former deputy supreme allied commander for NATO nuclear affairs wrote in the CND magazine "Sanity" in August 1979:N.A.T.O. forces, both conventional and nuclear, are stronger than those of the Warsaw Pact countries. During the last ten years the Soviet Military budget has remained stable. My colleagues were unhappy about this situation, because they could not justify increases in their own expenditure. So they invented a 'pricing' system. It is easy to see how the figures were inflated to show higher Soviet expenditure".Is that a lie? Is Senator Nino Pasti, the former deputy supreme allied commander for NATO nuclear affairs, mistaken, or it he accurate? If he is accurate, the whole basis of our nuclear expenditure and strategy is wrong.
There are echoes about conventional forces. Was the International Institute for Strategic Studies' review of military balance for 1980–81 incorrect when it stated:Apart from having greater economic resources, Alliance countries, including France, maintain rather more men under arms than the Warsaw Pact. For Army/Marines, the figures are: NATO 2,860,000; Warsaw Pact 2,612,000. And the Soviet Union has a large number of her divisions and men on the Chinese border."?That is not the picture that we are presented with. Because the Government are pursuing a foreign policy of aggressive appearance and subordination to American foreign and defence policy, our welfare services and resources for higher, further, secondary and primary education are being drained. Who would deny that resources are under strain?
That is happening so that the Government can match the guesses of the Ministry of Defence which is preserving the myth that "we" are weaker than the Soviet Union when we are stronger. We do not go into the negotiating chamber naked. We go in armed to the teeth, and with 2,000 more cruise missiles in the background. In 1980 the then Minister of State said that in addition to the 500 missiles which are supposed to be coming to this country unless we can stop them—that is clear Labour Party policy—1,500 will be deployed either in the air or at sea. That would massively outweigh the Soviet Union.
In theatre and tactical nuclear weapons we already outnumber the Soviet Union on a two-to-one ratio. That is absolutely unjustified. Statesmen have told us year after year that we must look to negotiations as soon as we are strong enough and that we must impress the Soviet Union with our strength. They say that we cannot negotiate from a position of weakness. The position of mutually assured 196 destruction was reached in about 1960. Why is it that since the 1960s nuclear weapons have not remained stable, but have increased in power, complexity, ability in delivery and accuracy?
When will we stop the arms race? Will we wring our hands and will some of us say that we are multilateralists? We are all multilateralists. There is no distinction. The distinction between unilateral and multilateral disarmament is one of timing. Multilateral disarmament is simultaneous disarmament. Labour Party policy, which has been reaffirmed in conference after conference, is that we should take the initiative.
The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) said that the theatre talks which will take place shortly will not involve Europe. He has a case. The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) suggested that we were rapidly becoming an aircraft carrier for the United States. However, the fact is that the great arsenals of the world, those dreadful means of extermination, are in the hands of America and the Soviet Union. The main negotiations must focus on that. Therefore, those theatre negotiations will be between those two countries. We should like to help them along and to participate to make sure that they are successful and that, in the language that we adopt for those means of extermination, what is called the zero option is applied. We should take a serious step back from the momentum which is building up in the arms race and which has never ceased since 1960, in spite of all the people who say that they want multilateral disarmament. We have an opportunity to take an initiative.
We talk much about the developing world. Some of the developing countries have been signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. As the Minister of State knows, that treaty was on the basis that the nuclear powers would decrease their dependence on nuclear weapons. Because of proliferation and the development in every year since 1960, some of those countries are asking why they should adhere to non-proliferation when other countries do not. By getting rid of our nuclear weapons we would be saying to those developing nations that we endorse their view, and that nations can live without dependence on nuclear weapons.
We would not be isolated. The majority of nations, thank goodness, do not have nuclear weapons. Over 100 nations do not have nuclear weapons. There is no magic rule that says that the United Kingdom must have nuclear weapons. I suspect that both America and Russia regard the proliferation of nuclear weapons, aside from their own arsenals, as one of the potential dangers. One could be used by accident or brought into play by accident by a dreadful misjudgment, and other nations would be sucked in willy-nilly. That is why we must resolutely oppose cruise missiles as the Labour Party has laid down. The Minister will know that they are entirely under American control. The formula is an old one that was dreamt up in 1951. It consists of consultation in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time and two keys being in the hands of the Americans.
In the move towards disarmament verification is a key issue. The Prime Minister always says that we need verification. The two sides stare at each other in mutual suspicion. If one side wishes to reduce its arms, the other side will want to be assured that it has done so. Our present technology cannot verify cruise missiles and if we install them in Britain, the Russians will, as they have promised, install them in their country, thus repeating the pattern of 197 nuclear and missile development of the past 35 or 36 years. There would then be a proliferation of weapons that could be easily moved. In our case they would not even be under our control and the British Government would not have the right of veto. Both sides will develop cheap relatively plentiful weapons that are not subject to verification. That will make disarmament even more difficult.
Therefore, we must ensure that the Labour Party's clearly laid down policy of opposition to Trident and to cruise missiles and in favour of the removal of American bases is carried out. There should be friendship with the American people, but we are not prepared to accept subordination to America's foreign and defence policies.
§ 9.1 pm
§ Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)
As usual, we have had a very diverse foreign affairs debate, but perhaps it has not been quite as diverse as usual. Obviously, that is a good thing. Many speakers, including my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) have rightly concentrated on the real issues of peace and disarmament as well as the need for detente and to do away with nuclear weapons. Several powerful speeches have been made on that subject.
My hon. Friends the Members for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) and Keighley made powerful speeches calling for peace and disarmament. The Gracious Speech devotes almost a page—almost half of the Gracious Speech—to foreign affairs. An observer from another planet might deduce that the Government had shown great initiative and independence of spirit in the last few years in their conduct of foreign policy. With one or two exceptions, their record has not been good in foreign affairs.
During the past two and a half years—this has been brought out in the debate—we have gained the impression that the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, see foreign policy as merely an extension of their domestic economic policy. Just as the world at home is somehow dominated by the bad guy inflation, so abroad the baddie is Soviet Communism. Both of those baddies are to be dealt with by equally simplistic methods. I understand that in America such a policy is now described as the strategy of simplification. It is no accident that the Prime Minister's domestic and foreign policies mirror almost precisely those of President Reagan. For Washington, it seems, all the world is a Hollywood film set. In the struggle between good and evil the champion of the goodies at home is Milton Friedman. Some of us are afraid that the champion of the goodies abroad might be Gary Cooper these days.
It is ironic that the Prime Minister and the President of the United States of America give credence to the old Marxist theory that foreign policy is merely a reflection of domestic political ideology. My hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) made a conciliatory and pragmatic speech on the Middle East. Indeed, several good speeches were made on the Middle East. However, apart from the Middle East, the tragedy of the Government's foreign policy is that in most areas it has slavishly followed the policies of President Reagan. To criticise President Reagan is not, as was suggested, to criticise an ally of ours—the United States of America. Indeed, what has happened in the past few days makes us even more justified in our criticism of the foreign and defence policies of our ally, the United States of America.
198 There has been little attempt to assert an independent British voice on so many of the major issues of the day—on the nuclear balance of power between the two super-12-Powers, on Southern Africa, on South America, to which reference has been made in the debate, on relations with the Third world and on North-South dialogue. The Foreign Secretary is occasionally tempted to take his conscience out of the closet, but the temptation soon vanishes when the lady appears.
The Gracious Speech gives a belated welcome—which we are pleased to see—to the talks which will soon begin between the Americans and the Russians on the limitation of long—range theatre nuclear weapons. The Government cannot take much credit for that, however, as they have beeen dragged reluctantly to this point only by political and public pressure.
§ Mr. Davies
It is clear that in the case of both the American and the British Governments, only public pressure and concern have pushed the hope for negotiations this far.
Instead of trotting along behind American policy for the last two years, the Government should have examined far more critically the current hysteria in the United States Administration about the balance of nuclear forces. If they had considered the record of previous United States Administrations in the recent past, they would have treated with considerable scepticism the kind of panic which often grips newly elected United States Governments with regard to defence and foreign policy. Recent history shows that these periodic panics have led to further escalations in the arms race which are often unjustified.
It all started in the 1950s with the "bomber gap". The Minister of State may remember the arguments about that. Faulty intelligence persuaded the Americans that there was a bomber gap. This led to a massive new programme of bomber construction and an overwhelming superiority in bombers. In the late 1950s, there was the "missile gap". The blood-curdling consequences of this were paraded before the electorate by Senator Kennedy in the Presidential campaign of 1960 against the Eisenhower Government. It was later convincingly demonstrated, as President Eisenhower had said, that there had never been a missile gap between the Americans and the Russians. By that time, however, the Kennedy Administration had deployed large numbers of intercontinental ballistic missiles—another escalation in the arms race caused by faulty information and not looking at the facts closely enough.
In the mid-1960s, the Pentagon devised a new threat to keep itself awake at night—the "greater-than-expected" threat. Mr. Robert McNamara said that he would deploy new weapons if there was evidence of a greater-than-expected threat. As the threat was not expected, it was not easy to find evidence of it, and indeed, none was found. But Mr. McNamara went ahead, and the United States deployed the multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle.
We are now seeing the same kind of panic yet again. The Government should have realised that this has happened periodically in the United States in the recent 199 past and that the same is now happening once again in the Pentagon and the White House. Indeed, we have seen evidence of this in the past few days.
§ Mr. Maclennan
Why is the right hon. Gentleman's memory of the 1960s so selective? Has he forgotton the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba?
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. Gentleman read about these matters, he would realise that my point is entirely valid. Further escalations in the arms race have very often been caused by American domestic political considerations, as is shown by the bomber gap, the missile gap and many other instances.
Despite the words of the Queen's Speech, the Prime Minister has done very little to try to reduce the tension which for various reasons has grown up between the Soviet Union and the United States in the past few years. We read in the press this morning of Mr. Secretary Haig's statement that NATO had a policy of firing what has been described as a demonstration nuclear weapon. This is apparently to be fired "over the heads" of the Russians—we do not quite know where it will land.
We read on the tapes this evening that Mr. Secretary Weinberger has totally denied that that is so. He made that denial before the Senate armed services committee. The British Government are involved in these matters in the same way as the American Government. That being so, I ask the Minister of State to tell us who is right. What is NATO policy? Is Mr. Secretary Haig correct or is Mr. Secretary Weinberger correct? These are important matters that should be cleared up in this debate.
The Government's unhelpful stance was reflected a few months ago when the Minister of State appeared on television to comment on the recent talks that my right hon. Friends the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) had with Mr. Brezhnev. The Minister of State reacted with small-mindedness on that occasion. That was unworthy of him and it epitomised the way in which the Government have dealt with these matters over the past 18 months. Instead of welcoming as a step forward the statement by the Russian leader that the Soviet Union was prepared to enter negotiations on the reduction of SS20 missiles, he sought to dismiss the matter as of no consequence. He said that a Soviet official had made the same statements in 1979. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the situation was completely different then.
The Government would do well to ponder some words that were written some time ago by a former United States ambassador to Moscow on arms control and the nuclear arms race. Mr. George Keenan wrote:The nuclear arms race has been encouraged not by any reason to believe that the other side would, but by a hypnotic fascination with the fact that it could. There is a Kafka-esque quality to this encounter. We stand like two men who find themselves confronting each other with guns in their hands, neither with any real reason to believe that the other has murderous intentions towards him but both hypnotised by fear of the fact that the other is armed.The most useful role that a British Government could play would be to do everything possible to free the two super Powers from the grip of that sort of hypnosis. All that the Government have done is to give the impression that they are as hypnotised by the arms race as the super Powers themselves.
200 The failure to present an independent British view is not confined, and has not been confined, to the arms race. It has covered such crucial matters as the tension in Southern Africa, the upheaval taking place in Central America and the appalling problems of the Third world, as highlighted by the Brandt report.
The Queen's Speech mentions that efforts will continue toreach an internationally recognised agreement in Namibia.I ask the Minister to explain such an agreement. The resolutions passed by the United Nations and the judgment of the International Court on Namibia are to the effect that the South African occupation is illegal. What does the hon. Gentleman mean by an "internationally recognised agreement"? Does he mean an agreement that is recognised by South Africa but that is possibly not acceptable to anyone else?
The chance of getting South Africa to accept what the international community already accepts—a free and independent Namibia—has receded. That is mainly because of the aid and comfort that the Reagan Administration have been giving and are giving to South Africa. I hope that the Government will stress to the American authorities that by giving aid to South Africa they are damaging the possibility of a successful conclusion to negotiations and the image of the United States in Western Europe. One reason why anti-Americanism, which I do not welcome, is growing in Western Europe is the United States' Government's attitude to places such as Southern African and South America and their approach to human rights throughout the world.
The Queen's Speech does not mention the problems of Central America and South America. The Government's attitude in the past, including that of the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who is now the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has been totally unhelpful on these issues, especially towards El Salvador and Nicaragua. There has been little attempt, certainly by the previous Minister of State, to recognise that the people of those two countries are fighting for human dignity, human rights and for a standard of living and freedom that we in most Western countries take for granted. Instead of coming out clearly and condemning the American approach, the Government have given a strong impression that again they are following Washington, which sees these unfortunate countries as a battleground in the conflict between capitalism and Communism. I stress again that that is against the interests of the United States because it creates and foments anti-Americanism in Europe, which spills over to the nuclear issue and to the balance of forces.
Another area in which the Government could have made more impact in their foreign policy and could have asserted their independence from the United States was in the dialogues between the rich countries of the North and the poor countries of the South—in the whole area of Brandt. After the enormous lobby of this House following the publication of the Brandt. report, the Foreign Office made an effort. It published a document that was mildly helpful. Unfortunately, however, at the time of the Mexico summit it seemed that the Prime Minister was back in charge, giving full support—as we understand it from reports—to President Reagan in his lectures to the world on the virtues of capitalism. But the poor do not need 201 lectures about political ideologies, whether they are capitalist ideologies or other ideologies invented in the British Museum.
I and several of my right hon. and hon. Friends visited the Soviet Union recently. One of our major condemnations of the Soviet authorities is that they are not prepared to play a part in the Brandt process or to join the international community in solving the problems of the Third world. It is regrettable that they see these problems mainly as question of ideology. Neither the ideology of capitalism nor that of Communism will help the poor. They need sympathetic help, and, because of its position, Britain can play a role. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister has not had the imagination to strike out and present an independent British role that would help the Third world.
Through the European initiative on the Middle East, the Foreign Secretary has shown an independence from United States policies. While we understand that there are many misgivings about the European initiative, at least there is some hope in it, and perhaps something can be done eventually to solve this difficult problem.
To an extent, the debate focused on the plan put forward by the Saudi Government. We understand that there are difficulties surrounding it, and no one is suggesting that it is foolproof. However, at least these initiatives give a basis for discussion. They will not solve the problem overnight, but they give hope for discussion and talks, and eventually there may be a solution.
As the House knows, no settlement in the Middle East is likely to be achieved without the support of the United States. Here again, I criticise some aspects of the Reagan Administration's policy. The American Government seem to believe that the best way of helping in the Middle East is by selling more armaments to countries that already have a wealth of arms. We saw that in the case of Saudi Arabia, but perhaps we saw it more in the insensitive way in which the United States sold arms to Egypt after the death of President Sadat. I do not believe that that is a sensitive nor sensible way of dealing with the problems of the Middle East. It may be counter productive and make it more difficult to solve the problem. I hope that the Foreign Office will point out to the Americans the dangers to peace and stability of increasing arms sales to an area that is already bristling with far too many weapons of destruction.
British foreign policy should not be based on the proposition "Our friends, right or wrong". That seems to be the Prime Minister's proposition, but I do not believe that that is the right course for Britain or the right attitude on which to base our foreign policy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said in a powerful speech, it should be based on the clear principles of upholding human rights and condemning their violation wherever it occurs. It should be based on a respect for the rule of law, both at home and abroad, whether the rule of law is broken in Afghanistan, Poland, Southern Africa or Central America.
Those two principles should be the basis of British foreign policy—respect for human rights and the rule of law. In that way Britain will gain influence and, more important, win respect at the end of the day.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
The difficulty about 202 replying to a long foreign affairs debate of this kind is that hon. Members have necessarily scattered their fire and concentrated on matters which seem to them of particular importance. They have raised points to which, quite reasonably, they need a reply. That means that my speech must also be a scattered affair. Perhaps the sensible thing to do is to deal with a number of individual points that have been raised before turning to some of the main themes.
Several hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), dealt with Central America, particularly El Salvador. The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) tried to weave that into his general pattern of sustaining the argument that the British Government were simply acting as a satellite of the United States and followed its precepts and practices in every part of the world.
By applying that argument to Central America and El Salvador, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can have read what the European Ten, including ourselves, have said and published about our policy on El Salvador. Our statement said:We believe peace can only be achieved through a political solution arrived at through a dialogue of Government and Opposition in El Salvador leading to elections held in conditions which will ensure an impartial and fair result".We went on to call on all parties involved in the fighting to forsake violence, which can only cause more needless suffering, to bring an end to the conflict and to promote and respect the free and fair functioning of the democratic process. That public statement is on the record, and it is contrary to the impression that Opposition Members have given of our policy. We regularly discuss this question with the United States, which is well aware of our views and concern about it.
A rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Commission has been appointed, with our support, to investigate allegations of violations of human rights. We expect to have his intermediate report soon and a final report next year.
The question of refugees was also raised. If Parliament agrees, the British Government propose to give £100,000 to the programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which is specifically designed to help people who have fled from El Salvador for political reasons.
I am sorry that I was unable to be present for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), who asked about oil exploration in waters off the Falkland Islands. We have protested to the Argentine Government about what they have said. Our information is that the block for which they have invited tenders—that is the action to which my hon. Friend referred—has not yet been awarded. Obviously, this is very much on our minds.
Several hon. Members mentioned Namibia. I think that the right hon. Member for Llanelli was a little out of date or ill-informed. Partly as a result of the impetus given to this process by the United States Government, we have made some progress lately. It is not decisive and we cannot be sure that the result will come quickly or be as good as we hope.
I do not think that it does any good when someone from the Labour Front Bench gives the impression that the United States' Government are merely supporting South Africa and undermining the efforts of the international community to solve the problem. That is not the position.
203 The statements and activities of the United States leaders in recent months show that clearly. A settlement in Namibia is not yet in the bag, but the position is not unhopeful and the United States is playing a full and helpful part.
The hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) raised the important question of the possible linkage between the Namibian question and the presence of Cuban forces in Angola. I agree with him that we cannot make the withdrawal of Cuban forces a precondition for a settlement in. Namibia. There is obviously a relationship between the two, and neither he nor any fair-minded person would deny that. One would hope that the one would be followed by the other, lead to the other or be accompanied by the other. However, we have never attempted to say that the withdrawal of Cuban forces was a precondition.
Several hon. Members touched on the subject of the Middle East. Apart from the defence issues, it has probably been one of the main themes of the debate. I agreed very largely with the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the subject.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) informed me that he could not be here for the winding-up speeches. He put well a familiar critique of the policies that we have been trying to follow, and it was followed by similar remarks from other hon. Members. My right hon. Friend said that Israel had made a great sacrifice in giving up the Sinai in return for peace with Egypt.
However, there is a qualification that must be made here. Sinai was not Israeli territory. It was territory taken by conquest and occupied by force. That does not diminish the fact that Mr. Begin showed himself to be a statesman who performed an act of statesmanship, as did President Sadat, in reaching their agreement.
Nevertheless, it was not Israeli territory, and part of the trouble in the present situation is that there is other territory that is still occupied and on which no similar agreement has been reached. There is occupied territory on the West Bank, in Gaza, with large populations who have no political rights of any kind. We read in the press that these people endure from day to day occasional acts of suppression which make their lives difficult and their resentment acute.
So long as that is the case—I say this in particular to the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller)—there will not be a stable Middle East. That is not to deny that there are many other problems in the Middle East, but so long as the security of Israel appears to rest on the continued occupation of Arab land there cannot be a stable Middle East.
Several hon. Members referred to the invitation that we and three other members of the European Community have received from the United States to contribute to the Sinai peacekeeping force. It makes a little out of date the rhetoric of the hon. Member for East Kilbride about the uselessness and irrelevance of Europe in the peacekeeping process if the United States Government have come to us to ask for our help in this respect. I do not want to add to the careful words chosen by my right hon. Friend in describing our response to that, because it is a matter that is still unsettled, and it is a difficult and sensitive one from several points of view.
204 I should like to make it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) that if we join we shall obviously have to make clear, in one way or another, the basis on which we do so, and our fidelity to the principles of the Venice declaration.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion went on to discuss, as he customarily does, the position of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. Of course, the Soviet Union benefits quite substantially from the present position, in which it can put itself forward as the super Power that favours the Arab cause. I think that it would have benefited more from that claim had it not been for the hope that the Venice declaration and the European initiative has given, since it was uttered in June 1980, to moderate Arabs, who have felt for some time that there are other influences and other people who understand the strength of the Arab and Palestinian case, even though we have not gone nearly as far as some of our Arab friends would like.
When we think of the Soviet threat—and I would not disagree with my right hon. Friend in laying importance on it—we are looking, as the Gracious Speech says, for ways of working towards a comprehensive settlement. We are looking carefully and sympathetically at Prince Fahd's plan. We are trying to encourage the PLO to move towards the recognition of Israel eventually. Part of the reason why we are doing these things is to deprive the Soviet Union of what is its strongest card in the Middle East. It is not the only reason, but it is a valid one.
The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston)—who also explained why he could not be here for the reply to the debate—and my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) took us rather carefully through Prince Fahd's plan. There was a good deal of examination of the seventh point, which is the one referring to the right of States in the region to live in security.
There is no specific reference to Israel in that seventh point, but my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, following his discussions in Riyadh today, said to the press as he left that he was satisfied that the only possible interpretation of that seventh point was that as part of a generally satisfactory settlement—which obviously would need to include, from the Saudi point of view, some satisfactory recognition of Palestinian rights—it clearly included Israel.
There is a point here that I should like to put to the hon. Member for East Kilbride and to my hon. Friend the Member for Hove, both of whom made, in a very reasonable way, a case with which we are familiar.
The main burden of the Israelis' complaint about their situation over recent decades has been that Arab States, apart from Egypt, refused to talk, refused to put Israel literally on the maps that hung in their buildings, and refused to meet the Israelis face to face. But the paradox—and this is a genuinely worrying matter for those of us who study the problem—is that when some Arab force or organisation or Government make a move—albeit imperfect, albeit partial and albeit halting, from the Israeli point of view—and there is a move forward in the direction which the Israelis say is essential, too often the whole impact of Israeli comment is to discourage it, to say that it is nothing and that it comes from people who have no validity and do not mean what they say.
§ Mr. Hurd
The effect of that attitude is to encourage the extremists in the Arab world, who say "What is the point?", and who say to their Arab friends "You expose yourselves and run these risks, you make a step forward and immediately nothing happens, so you can see that Israel is not interested". It is worrying to us that time and again that seems to be the response, instead of "This is not good enough from the Israeli point of view and does not give us the guarantees we want, but at least it is a start. Let us encourage it and see if we can build on it".
§ Dr. M. S. Miller
My objection is not that the Government's view is pro-Arab. The Government are entitled to take such a view if they so wish. My objection is that the hon. Gentleman puts forward a case as though he was evenhanded. There is no way in which he is evenhanded. Why, if he is evenhanded, does he not look at the situation from the other side? Will he indicate areas where the Israelis have been flexible but have got no response from the Arab side? Why does he concentrate on the area that he thinks is best suited to Foreign Office purposes?
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Gentleman is not being fair. I ask him to read the Venice declaration once a month, because he forgets it. The declaration is absolutely evenhanded. It does not weight the balance of the argument in any way. After dealing with this matter in a junior capacity for two and a half years, one thing strikes me strongly—the need to find a more reasonable way of discussing these matters with Israel.
What we have tried to do in the Venice declaration is evenhanded. It would have been in the interests of Israel to say "Snap" and to adopt the attitude "So far, so good. This is an advance." To the extent that moderate Arabs gave their support, that would have been a coming together. What we have seen instead is a sharp tone creeping into the exchanges.
Differences of analysis and differences of opinion exist. There is no concealing those differences. However, differences do not justify the tone of voice that has dominated some recent comments. The Government are looking, and will continue to look, for political, diplomatic or other ways to establish a more reasonable way of discussing these matters, not simply with the Israeli Government, but with a wide range of Israeli opinion.
We accept, as the Israelis, with absolute right, constantly point out, and as hon. Members have also said, that a peace will not be imposed upon Israel, upon the Arabs or upon the Palestinians in particular among the Arabs, by outside people, whether in Europe or the United States. It will be negotiated. All that we are trying to do is to set the scene and pave the way for the day when there is negotiation and when people are sitting round a table willing to discuss these things.
There is no question of people conspiring outside Israel to impose a peace on Israel. The Israelis have, of their own free will, to enter a discussion with a view to reaching the just and comprehensive settlement mentioned in the Gracious Speech. In this respect, 1981 has been a disappointing year. These matters move more slowly than one hopes at their beginning. Perhaps, in 1982, the opportunities will recur and will be more frequent and we shall be better able to take them.
Another theme that has run through the debate is the Cancun summit and the question of North-South relations, 206 although the subject has not featured to the extent that I had expected. We have debated the matter very often. There is probably no foreign affairs subject that hon. Members have debated so often. From the time when the Brandt report put forward the proposal that there should be such a summit, the Government have tried to explain that a summit of this kind involving a limited number of developed and developing countries and their leaders meeting for a limited time was not likely to result in dramatic, specific decisions. We have tried to explain that and make sure that expectations were not unreasonably high, but, inevitably, they were high. The trouble with summitry in any sphere is that expectations tend to rise beyond what can reasonably be hoped for.
What the Cancun summit did—and, more important, what those who took part in it believed afterwards it did—was to give an impetus to the work in specific institutions, which is clearly necessary. That was achieved, perhaps more harmoniously than some people expected when they set out on that journey. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary played a substantial part in that—incidentally, quite a different part from that which many Government critics predicted in advance. It was a reasonable outcome, in our view. It was not a sensational outcome or one that solved problems, but it was reasonable in the circumstances, because it gave a thrust to the detailed practical work that has to be done in setting up global negotiations and in other work in international institutions which is clearly essential. I am thinking of such things as the replenishment of IDA, and so on, which we hope can be achieved and for which we are working.
§ Mr. Maclennan
Do the Government share the disappointment that was expressed by Prime Minister Trudeau at the end of the Cancun summit that the procedural arrangements for continuing the global negotiations had not been agreed? If so, what is the Government's view about how to forward that?
§ Mr. Hurd
The General Assembly of the United Nations is having its own debate on the matter, I think this week. We hope, as my right hon. Friend said, that within the United Nations framework it will be possible to resolve the difficulties that held up proceedings last September. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) is right to say that not all the procedural difficulties were removed at Cancun. However, I hope that this will prove one example of the way in which Cancun provided an impetus that was lacking before to get through the procedural difficulties. I hope, too, that the hon. Gentleman will not pin inordinate hopes on global negotiations by themselves. They are by no means an ideal forum, unless one finds a way of delegating work from the General Assembly to specific institutions in ways which both the Assembly and the institutions find acceptable.
The main theme of the speeches of many of those who have spoken in the debate has been defence, including arms control and disarmament. I do not feel qualified to answer at length the strategic analysis of my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne). My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will read it. Certainly it is not part of the defence policy of this country to neglect the defence of our own islands or to neglect the northern flank of NATO, through which he feared an attack might come.
207 The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made an interesting speech. He recognised that unilateral disarmament would not be enough. He tried to show that unilateral and multilateral went together, yet when I asked him how the Soviet Union could be expected to make compromises and concessions in multilateral negotiations if it saw unilateralists demolishing the defences of the West without any concessions by the Soviet Union, he produced what I thought was an ingenious but muddled reply. He said that of course the Americans and French would keep up their defences and that would be what the multilateral negotiations would be about. In fact, he was rather encouraging them to keep up their defences, because he accepted that otherwise there would be no reason why the Soviet Union should make concessions. He fell back on the thought that runs through the Labour Party's thinking—"Yes, probably the others should keep up their defences, including the distasteful nulcear stuff, but we must get out".
I see no sense or morality in that. I can understand a pacifist view or one that regards nuclear weapons as so horrible that one should have nothing to do with them, but I do not understand the position to which the hon. Gentleman was driven, which is that others will and should keep up their weapons so that there is something to negotiate with the Russians about, but that we, while lecturing them continuously about our virtue, should have nothing to do with that distasteful process.
§ Mr. Heffer
I did not say that the Americans and the French should keep up their defences; I said that they would do so. I made the point that Britain ought to get rid of the bases here. I said that the multilateral argument would then be between those who had still decided to continue with nuclear weapons. I think that the Minister is twisting my argument.
§ Mr. Heffer
The Minister is twisting my argument. He is doing it rather effectively, but not honestly.
§ Mr. Hurd
That will not wash. Why should the Soviet Union make concessions unless powerful countries were maintaining their armaments, including their nuclear armaments? The hon. Gentleman has not answered that point.
I greatly prefer the analysis of the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George)—not about Canada, but what he said about American and European attitudes within NATO was wise and important.
I hope that the distinguished and interesting speech—I do not wish to appear patronising—of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East will be required reading throughout his party for some time. We can all study his analysis with profit. It led me to carry on his argument rather than to attempt to refute it. I think that he would accept that when one is thinking about arms control and disarmament and the different phases through which the discussion passes, there is an important distinction between the phases. One phase consists of declarations, visits by Leaders of the Opposition, newspaper articles, hints in Pravda and hints at presidential news conferences. We have been living through that phase for some time. We are now entering the solid phase, the period of 208 negotiations. That is a great relief, because one does not get agreement through the phase of declarations, petitions, newspaper articles and so on. One gets agreement only through the patient slog of negotiations.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East talked at one stage of logic chopping. At another stage he asked for fast results. But he knows, perhaps better than most hon. Members, that the issues involved, when one reaches the negotiations and is trying to build an agreement, are enormously complicated and important, and not, on the whole, to be hurried over or slurred over simply because there is an impatient public opinion waiting for results.
That may be a difficult thing from the point of view of Governments in the West during the coming months, because the process is starting and we are getting into real discussions. There will be a tendency to hope for quick results when some of the issues involved need and will have to have detailed and careful discussion.
Verification is crucial. Balance is crucial. We shall need balance in order to get an agreement, and certainly in order to get an agreement ratified. We shall need verification if we are to keep an agreement going, because agreements will collapse readily if either side feels that the other is cheating. Balance and verification are not luxuries. They are not things for which one aims as one's best hope. They are both essential qualities of any negotiation or agreement. They will take some time to obtain.
§ Mr. Deakins
Would it be possible for the Government to give the House progress reports from time to time, in view of the great public interest in these negotiations?
§ Mr. Hurd
I am sure that there will be constant probing at Question Time by many hon. Members, and Ministers will therefore then be obliged to give progress reports. That is the right way to do it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), backed by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, raised an important matter—the degree of European involvement in the long-range theatre nuclear force negotiations due to start at the end of the month. I followed my hon. Friend's argument with sympathy and with much agreement. The talks have a European dimension and an importance for Europe, for the reasons which he and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland set out. Therefore, it follows in logic and good sense that there must be a European input. That is necessary. There is a European input.
There is continuous consultation through, in particular, the special consultative group in NATO, a group of senior officials which was set up in 1979 at the time of the double decision on TNF to follow through the arms control half of the decision. The special consultative group is the forum in which the Americans have consulted their Allies closely and intensely so that they may go into the negotiations on 30 November with the full benefit of their views.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury would not expect me to go into more detail. However, my impression is that the closeness and success so far of the consultation is pretty good. On the whole, the European Allies, and certainly the British Government, feel that our ideas, pressures and thoughts have been properly and fully taken into account. That is not a once-and-for-all matter. The 209 process of consultation has to continue all the time, often behind the scenes, during the consultations. That is what is envisaged and that is what will happen.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
Close discussions are taking place with the United States Government. Will the Minister address himself to the question which I put to him about the statement by Alexander Haig which contradicted the earlier statement by President Reagan? Caspar Weinberger has now denied what Haig said. What consultations have the British Government had about the demonstration bomb?
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Member would not expect me to comment on a matter of such importance on the basis of information from the tapes. However, I shall explain the background.
NATO policy is based upon deterrence. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) will not be surprised at that. That means that a potential aggressor must be persuaded that NATO would be willing to use its weapons if faced with aggression. I refer to conventional, theatre nuclear or strategic weapons. If deterrence fails to stop the outbreak of war, NATO strategy is designed to convince an aggressor that it miscalculated in starting aggression and that it should abandon it as early as possible. If conventional means of achieving that seemed likely to fail, NATO would be obliged to consider recourse to nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Hurd
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) has lived with that strategy as a member of the Labour Cabinet for a long time. Please do not let us hear "ohs" and "ahs" when a junior Minister describes NATO's strategy. It is the strategy which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East helped to form and with which the Leader of the Opposition lived as an approving member of the Cabinet for many years. Let us have no nonsense about that.
It has been recognised always that NATO strategy embraces actions which would primarily be demonstrative in effect. Such actions would be intended to halt hostilities as soon as possible by demonstrating to the Soviet Union that the West was determined to resist and that further aggression would have dire consequences. It was the demonstrative aspect of NATO strategy that Secretary of State Haig had in mind when he made his remarks. It is an essential part of our strategy, and potential aggressors should clearly understand the implications of an attack on NATO.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies
It is clear from what the Minister of State has said that he endorses the view of Secretary of State Haig about the demonstrative effect. The Secretary for Defence, Mr. Weinberger, said tonight that that is not the strategy, nor should it be. He was addressing his remarks specifically to what Mr. Haig had said before the Senate Committee yesterday. Mr. Weinberger's words were "nor should it be". It was a specific denial, and there is a clear contradiction between the two statements.
§ Mr. Hurd
I have tried to explain the strategy. The right hon. Gentleman can study my words tomorrow. I do not intend to add to them this evening.
The right hon. Gentleman revived the efforts made by the Leader of the Opposition to claim as a major breakthrough the fact that in Moscow he was served up with a description of Soviet policy that had already been made several times this year. We are about to test those declarations in negotiation. It is wrong for the right hon. Gentleman to say that it is his right hon. Friend's visit or peace movements and so on that have brought about the negotiations. They were agreed by my right hon. Friend, then Secretary of State for Defence, in December 1979. It was part of the original TNF modernisation decision. The negotiations were delayed partly because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Is it not striking that we have not heard from any Opposition spokesman about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?
§ Mr. Hurd
I withdraw my remark. However, how can one expect to talk sensibly about trusting the Soviet Union, arms control and disarmament negotiation without considering that continuing fact?
There are three sets of talks under way or about to begin with the Soviet Union. There is the Madrid conference and the possibility of reaching agreement on the French proposal for a European disarmament conference, with confidence-building measures first. The TNF negotiation begins on St. Andrew's Day and we hope that at the beginning of next year there will be a recommencement of the American-Soviet strategic negotiations, which are designed by the Americans to achieve reduction and not simply limitation of strategic weapons.
Those are three crucial negotiations. They may not produce quick results, but harm will be done if the Soviet Union gets the impression that a large force of opinion in the West—either in Britain or elsewhere in Europe—believes in unilateral disarmament, because there will be no incentive for the Soviet Union to allow the negotiations to succeed. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right to say that the unilateralist movement, with the best will in the world, was not helping but hindering the prospects for the tough, patient slog of disarmament negotiations on which we have started. I do not believe that results will come quickly, but it is only through an effort of that sort that we can achieve the more stable foundation for world peace that I believe all hon. Members wish to see.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Brooke.]
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.