HC Deb 22 March 1984 vol 56 cc1186-270

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Neubert.]

3.54 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)

As you have pointed out, Mr. Speaker, this is intended to be a general foreign affairs debate—in fact, the first since 3 November. I do not propose to speak at length on Community affairs. The House will no doubt want to have an opportunity to debate those matters in the near future. However, I should like to say just a few words about the follow-up to this week's European Council.

After the failure to reach agreement at the Athens Council, all member states were determined to do their best to avoid a repetition of that frustrating and frustrated meeting and to make decisive progress in Brussels this week. There had been a major effort by the French Presidency, and by President Mitterrand himself, to assemble the basis for agreement. The fact that we came close to an agreement this week makes our disappointment all the more acute.

Our starting point was the declaration of the Stuttgart Council, which called for measures to deal with the recurrent budgetary problems of certain member states; in other words, for a system which would ensure that an enduring problem received a lasting solution.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out yesterday, we accepted a French Presidency proposal for a system linked to relative prosperity in the enlarged Community, and we were prepared to negotiate the figures on which that system should be based.

What other member states were finally prepared to agree was not a system but a further series of ad hoc refunds of 1,000 million ecu per year for five years. The value of this would, of course, have declined sharply as our unadjusted net contribution rose, as it is bound to do if the 1 per cent. ceiling is lifted. What was finally on offer did not represent a systematic, equitable and lasting approach to the problem—and the gap which separated us was more important than the figures alone would suggest.

We are not, however, discouraged or diverted from our determination to reach a negotiated outcome to these difficult problems. Real progress was made, and it will be important to build on it. That is also the view of the French Presidency. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at Question time, the French Presidency has called a special meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council next Tuesday. I welcome that initiative and regard it as a clear signal of the Community's determination to take advantage of the real progress made in Brussels at the beginning of this week and not to allow the prospect of early decisions to slip away.

Today I want to concentrate on some of the other issues with which I have been closely involved since November's debate.

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

If, on Tuesday, there is a chance of agreement, will that be done without waiting until the June meeting of Ministers, so that an agreement can be sewn up before the European elections? That is what many of us would like.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am sure that many people hope to see progress as soon as possible, and that is one of the possibilities that we must hope for next week.

The other topics on which I wish to comment are the middle east, East-West relations and the transatlantic partnership, which remain of great concern to us and to our partners and allies. I shall also say something about two self-contained issues of particular importance to us—Hong Kong and the Falklands.

Before corning to those questions I should like to say a word about one subject which featured prominently at the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in New Delhi last November—southern Africa.

At the time of that meeting the situation in southern Africa looked distinctly bleak. Since then there have been some encouraging signs that things may be moving in the right direction. The recent agreement between South Africa and Mozambique is a case in point. We have welcomed that as an important achievement, and we hope that it will provide a solid base for practical co-operation, of the kind which we have been urging on all sides in the region.

On the other side of the continent, in Namibia, there have been all too many false dawns. But here, too, there are encouraging signs—the present disengagement by South African forces from Angola, the new Joint Monitoring Commission, the release by South Africa of leading Namibian prisoners, and the hope that the recent talks between the Angolans and the Cubans may prove to be productive.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) will have more to say about southern Africa if, Mr. Speaker, he catches your eye later in the debate. Meanwhile, I know that the House will welcome the act of clemency by the Government of Angola which led to the release and repatriation of the British mercenaries. The House will share the Government's concern about the British citizens who have been taken captive by UNITA forces. We call on those responsible to arrange for their speedy, safe and unconditional release.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Nelson Mandela and his colleagues have been imprisoned for about 20 years. Do the Government intend to press the South African authorities to release Mandela, without any condition that he should be sent into internal exile? Do the South African authorities recognise the deep anxiety felt in many countries and by many people about the fact that Mandela has been imprisoned for so long?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

On a number of occasions, we have rightly drawn the South African authorities' attention to that matter, through the United Nations and elsewhere.

Hong Kong is one of the most striking examples of successful enterprise in the world. Its success can be attributed to a unique synthesis of British and Chinese talent. We are now engaged with the People' Republic of China in negotiations over the future of Hong Kong, with the common aim of enabling this enterprise to continue and flourish.

The people of Hong Kong are understandably anxious to be able to preserve the vital elements in their society. They most wish to see the prospect of continuity in the systems and the freedoms that characterise Hong Kong life today. They wish to be certain that the essential foundations of their way of life will be maintained into the future; that the basis of the current legal and social systems will continue; that Hong Kong's economy will remain open to world markets; and that they will be able to speak, meet, and travel as they wish. The Government fully understand that concern.

We must and do bear in mind the realities of the situation and the unique historical and geographical circumstances of Hong Kong. At present continuity is assured by British administration, but in 1997 Britain's lease of 92 per cent. of the territory comes to an end. In those circumstances, it becomes possible, and indeed desirable, to visualise other ways in which continuity can be assured.

Our task, in the light of those realities, is to ensure the necessary continuity in Hong Kong's systems. That will present many challenges: for us, for China, and, of course for the people of Hong Kong. It is important to remember that we are conducting these negotiations against the background of our friendly relationship with the People's Republic of China, and with an agreed common objective—to ensure the continuing stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.

In the second, more detailed phase of negotiations, which began in July last year, 10 rounds of intensive talks have now been held. The 11th will take place on 26 and 27 March. Those talks have gone ahead in a useful and constructive manner. Nevertheless, great patience will be needed by both sides so that we reach an agreement that is satisfactory to all involved. Our determination to press ahead and to reach that goal is undiminished, and we are getting on with the talks as quickly as we can, but I cannot predict precisely how long they will take.

We shall continue to keep in close touch with Hong Kong opinion, notably through the Governor and his Executive Council who will be visiting London again early next week for further consultations with Ministers. My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, paid another very useful visit to the territory between 25 and 28 February, when he again met representatives of a wade range of local opinion. These, among others, included members of the Executive and Legislative Councils, the urban council and district boards, as well as community leaders and representatives of a variety of social and professional groups. Such visits are an important means of keeping in close personal touch with opinion in Hong Kong.

I shall be visiting China in mid-April for talks on Hong Kong with the Chinese Foreign Minister and other Chinese leaders. From there I shall travel on to Hong Kong for further discussions. I am looking forward to both these visits.

Our present task, in short, is to examine with the Chinese Government how the necessary continuity may best be assured. We are, and remain, open to any proposals that will ensure the continuing stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and will be acceptable to this House, to the Chinese Government and to the people of Hong Kong.

We are still negotiating. The shape of the final package that we bring to this House for approval will be crucial. Hong Kong has always been an evolving society. It will continue to evolve. Our aim is to reach an agreement which will assure genuine continuity and autonomy for Hong Kong, and the preservation of its way of life.

Sir Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

I wish every possible success for the negotiations which my right hon. and learned Friend is conducting. Will he assure the House that his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is studying the implications, which may be important to our nationality and immigration legislation?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I assure my hon. Friend that that question, among many others, is the subject of consideration among my colleagues, including the Home Secretary, and myself.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I must not give way too often, but I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Clarke

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. Just this morning, I and my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) returned from Hong Kong. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm the point that was made so eloquently last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, that the final decision on these matters will be taken by the British Parliament and not necessarily by the British Government? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman therefore considering a timetable for this year?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am bearing the timetable in mind, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter. I know that he has just returned from studying these issues in Hong Kong. As I have said, one of the important conditions is the acceptability of the outcome to Parliament. We must take that aspect fully into account.

The major development in the Falkland Islands has come with the election in Argentina of President Alfonsin. The Government have welcomed, as has the House, the restoration of democracy in Argentina. The return to legitimate government and to the rule of law provide an important element of common ground between Britain and Argentina. I hope that the coming months will show that we share a real interst in re-establishing practical and sensible arrangements for relations between the two countries, and that we share a commitment to progress through peaceful means. We have made it clear to President Alfonsin that our wish is to normalise our relations with his Government. Better relations would be in our interests, the interests of the islanders and in the interests of Argentina.

Let there be no mistake. We stand firmly by our commitments. We shall do what is necessary to defend the islands and the rights of the islanders. We shall promote conditions in which the islanders can live peacefully under a government of their choosing. We shall continue to provide help for the development of the islands' economy.

As the House will remember we followed up the Prime Minister's message to President Alfonsin at his inauguration by putting a number of specific ideas to the Argentina Government on 26 January. We have since received a considered reply. We have been studying that carefully, and will be responding to it shortly. There are practical ways in which progress should be possible, but we will not—as we have already made very clear—negotiate about the sovereignty of the islands.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On 5 March a remarkable book was published by Secker and Warburg Ltd. It was written by two extremely reputable heavyweight people—Mr. Desmond Rice and Mr. Arthur Gavshon. I do not expect the right hon. and learned Gentleman to go into detail, but is the Foreign Office considering any reply to their charges?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I do not intend to deal with that matter now. I wish to move on to other matters. A number of people will be studying that book.

The middle east is a subject of continuing concern to the international community as a whole. The problems of the middle east would be important enough if they were simply regional, but there is a continuing risk of their becoming more than that.

The Gulf war is an obvious example. We should like to see it ended for the sake of the people of Tran and Iraq, who are the principal sufferers. However, beyond that, the war is a potential threat to the Gulf region as a whole. The interests of Britain and of the West more generally are thus also at risk. The risk of disruption to oil supplies should not be exaggerated, but it is there, and it would be foolish to ignore it.

Britain's interests in the Gulf are not confined to that. Many of the countries in the region have links with this country stretching back many years. We may no longer have direct responsibilities for their defence, but we continue to enjoy close and valuable political relations. In some cases these include treaties of friendship, with provision for consultation in time of need.

Some 90,000 British nationals live and work in the area. There is substantial British investment there, and the countries of the Gulf area are now among our most important overseas markets. In 1982 the States of the Gulf Co-operation Council accounted for almost £3 billion worth of British exports, so there are many reasons why the security of those states is of importance to us.

It is clear that any escalation of the fighting in this region would carry major risks. Unfortunately, recent developments give fresh grounds for concern. There have been reports of attacks on civilian targets in both countries. There have been a series of Iranian offensives in the central and southern sectors of the front, including the current fighting around the Majnoon Islands, and evidence has been advanced that Iraq has used chemical weapons against Iran. This question is now being investigated on behalf of the United Nations. I do not want to prejudge the results of the inquiry, but we will condemn without qualification any violations of the 1925 Geneva protocol.

On this same subject, let me very plainly repeat that there is absolutely no truth in the allegation that the United Kingdom has supplied chemical weapons to Iraq. The United Kingdom has supplied no lethal items to either side since fighting began. We have most certainly not supplied chemical weapons. The United Kingdom disposed of its supply 25 years ago, and, as the House will be aware, this country has been in the forefront of international efforts to ban the use and production of chemical weapons.

The Government's policy on the Gulf war remains one of strict neutrality. Beyond that, we want the war ended. A negotiated peace is desperately needed, but the belligerents will need to co-operate with the UN and with the other countries and organisations that have offered their good offices.

We do not, at the moment, see an independent role for the United Kingdom in the process of mediation, but we support the efforts of the Secretary-General and his special representative, Mr. Palme.

Finally, although the House will not expect me to go into details about contingency planning, I should say that we are very much aware of the dangers and possible consequences of escalation, and that we shall be ready, if need arises, to work with others to protect our interests and those of our friends. As I made clear in the House yesterday, all diplomatic channels should be exhausted before considering any question of military or other action to clear the straits. If events did move in that direction, it would be important to ensure that the Soviet Union had no misunderstanding of our intentions. My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham, who has just returned from talks with the United States Government, will be ready to say something more on this general subject.

The Lebanon remains another potential flashpoint. That is one very good reason why we have been ready to work with our friends, and with the Lebanese Government, to help bring a degree of stability to the area.

The multinational force served that purpose. I have no doubt that we were right to participate. For over a year our contingent made a practical contribution—and one appreciated by all parties in the Lebanon—by patrolling and by guarding the ceasefire commission. I am glad to pay tribute once again to the distinction and courage with which it carried out its duties.

The MNF gave the Lebanese Government a breathing space. We hoped that it would prove enough to enable it to make necessary reforms. Unfortunately, that is not how things turned out, and the latest failure of the Lebanese leaders to forge a new national consensus at Lausanne is a very real disappointment.

Following the conclusion of the Lausanne talks, we seen no possibility of the British contingent being used again in Beirut. We have therefore decided, after consultation with the Lebanese Government, to withdraw it to the United Kingdom. We have informed our partners in the multinational force of our decision.

These developments put the spotlight even more clearly on the United Nations. We have long been of the view that the United Nations should be more widely involved in peacekeeping in Lebanon. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister put that to the Secretary-General in September.

I have explored the possibilities with other Western Foreign Ministers, and with Mr. Khaddam in Damascus and Mr. Gromyko in Stockholm. I regret that, as a result of a Soviet veto, the Secretary Council was prevented from taking action to strengthen the United Nations observer force in Beirut last month. But I do not think that we should take this as the last word. As a first step, the UN could be encouraged to do more with the personnel already on the spot. We have also pressed for the United Nations contingent in the south of Lebanon—UNIFIL—to do more to help maintain security and to protect civilians. I know that the UN Secretariat is active in canvassing the options: it will continue to have our full support.

These more dramatic developments in the Gulf and Lebanon must not be allowed to overshadow the Arab-Israel dispute. It continues to colour the outlook of Arabs and Israelis alike, and to keep alive the risk of major conflict. After 36 years, and four wars, there is a temptation to conclude that the problem is insoluble and to direct our efforts elsewhere, but the stakes are too high, and our interests too directly engaged, to leave it at that.

The outlines of a negotiated settlement are clear: peace and stability for Israel, in return for withdrawal from territories which she occupied in 1967, and self-determination for the Palestinian people. The bargain is easily stated, but very difficult to strike. President Reagan's initiative of September 1982 offered a practical starting point for negotiations, and the Fez summit showed the the Arab states are willing to take the path of negotiation, but both sides have dug themselves into positions whose only common feature is that they make it harder, if not imposible, to get negotiations under way. For example, Israel's continuing and illegal settlements programme has convinced the Arabs that Israel is not seriously interested in negotiations on the long-term future of the occupied territories, and the Arab side—and particularly the Palestinians—has set back peace efforts by refusing to say clearly that Israel has rights which must be recognised in a final settlement.

Third parties can perhaps help to break down the barriers and bring the two sides to the negotiating table. I have no doubt that we should try. That is what we are taking every opportunity to achieve in our regular exchanges with the United States, and with our partners in the Ten, and with the parties themselves. I have myself had discussions recently in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, and I plan to visit Israel as soon as dates can be arranged.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have kept in very close touch with King Hussein of Jordan, who has a key role in searching for a settlement. We have supported his strenuous efforts to work out with the PLO an agreed approach to the negotiations. More generally, of course, there is a tradition of friendship between Britain and Jordan which we value very highly. There could be no more fitting illustration of that than the state visit which Her Majesty The Queen is to pay to Jordan next week.

Let me turn now to East-West relations. I do so with a sense of keen anticipation, because, when my hon. Friend, the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) had occasion to speak about this in the House on 9 March, the Opposition found little to complain about in the Government's policy. That was almost two weeks ago. I look forward to discovering what position the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) is thinking of taking today.

The Government's position is consistent and clear. We believe in talking to the Russians on the basis of confidence—confidence in our alliance, confidence in our capacity to defend our way of life, confidence in the principles on which our society is based, and confidence in the strength of our democracy.

One of the lessons of the last few chilly years—and I emphasised this in my speech at the opening of the Stockholm conference in January—is that negotiations on arms control cannot bear the full weight of East-West relations. They cannot flourish in a political vacuum, or make progress in an atmosphere of misunderstanding and mistrust. So we must try to broaden the dialogue and increase the range and frequency of our contacts with the Soviet leadership. The next steps will be for Mr. Gromyko's deputy, Mr. Kornienko, to visit London next week for consultations with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), and I shall be visiting Moscow at the invitation of the Soviet Government in July.

Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

Does the Foreign Secretary recollect that recently Lord Home said that neither Britain nor he had any trust in the Russians? That was followed by an excellent statement in the House by the Prime Minister. Presumably the Prime Minister agreed entirely that there could be no trust in the Russians. The Foreign Secretary now says that it is a matter of overcoming these problems of distrust. Therefore, should he not now make a statement saying that he, for one, has absolute trust in the Russians?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I should certainly hesitate to respond in that way to the invitation, even though it is proffered by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson). The point is that an atmosphere of mistrust between both sides exists. That atmosphere has been built up over many years. However great my speaking power at the Dispatch Box, I do not think that I would succeed in dissolving that cloud of mistrust by asserting a single affirmative.

We must try to broaden the dialogue. That task must be sustained. The next step is for Mr. Gromyko's deputy, Mr. Kornienko to come to London next week to meet my hon. Friend the Minister of State.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me, but he had the opportunity to ask questions yesterday.

I shall be visiting Moscow in July. We believe that it is in our interests as well as in theirs that Soviet leaders should have as much first-hand knowledge of the West as possible. Meetings will help, but they will bear fruit only in time, and only if we see to it that they involve a great deal of calm but plain talking.

Other Western countries take a similar approach. There is no question of trying to regiment our opinions, but the message which we want to get across should reflect the broad sense of common purpose which exists in the Alliance. We must be firm on the essentials, and consistent in what we regard as essential. Sweeping awkward questions under the carpet will not help, nor will it help if we fail to stand up for our principles.

For our part, we shall make plain the concern which is felt worldwide about the Soviet military build-up. The reopening of the MBFR talks in Vienna last week was a welcome step, but the Russians should return to the negotiating table at Geneva as well.

We shall continue to reject the specious arguments which the Soviet leaders used to justify their massive occupation of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union should have nothing to fear from allowing the people of a small neighbouring country freely to determine their own future. Nothing less can be acceptable to the international community.

The countries of eastern Europe as well should be able to choose the policies which best reflect the wishes and aspirations of their people. Nowhere is that more important than in Poland. We shall continue to measure —by the yardstick to which the Soviet Union agreed at Helsinki—the extent to which the Soviet Union applies the relevant principles of the final act and Soviet performance in human rights.

At the same time, we shall seek to open up areas of potential agreement and co-operation. For example, we have good working relations with the Russians over the non-proliferation treaty and Antarctica. Our aim will be to lengthen that list. There is considerable scope for progress on regional issues. The middle east comes to mind as an area where greater co-operation between East and West could make an enormous contribution to peace and stability. As President Reagan said in his important speech on 16 January, peace requires both East and West to work together to defuse tensions and regional conflicts.

I do not have—I emphasise that no one should have—inflated expectations of what any single meeting, or even a series of meetings, can achieve. Even in areas where common interests are acknowledged, Soviet policy works in a time-frame which can be, and is, frustrating to the West. We must draw the right conclusions from that, and show ourselves ready for the long haul.

The key to better East-West relations lies in a strong and confident transatlantic relationship. Some right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition benches know that very well, but they seem to have lost any sense of shared responsibility in the matter. I get the impression sometimes that they think the worst of every proposal by the Alliance and the best of every one by the Soviet Union. I am struck by how many speeches from the Opposition Benches make a virtue of condemning this country's friends and praising its opponents. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East has all too often been ready to encourage that tendency. The result is that the Labour party has tended to become a cheer leader for policies which would weaken the defence of this country and the Alliance as a whole.

It was not always like that, of course. In 1981 the right hon. Member for Leeds, East argued that to eliminate all nuclear bases and facilities from Britain, whether British or American would not … diminish the danger of war. On the contrary, it would weaken the United States' commitment to the Atlantic Alliance and this would increase the risk of war in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman was right to warn of the danger three years ago. Is he prepared to do the same today? The leader of his party is not. The leader of the Labour party has advocated precisely those policies which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East warned would increase the risk of war, and precisely those policies which the Labour defence spokesman in another place said he did not believe to be the policies of the Labour party. I look forward to hearing the right hon. Gentleman squaring the circle today.

The Government will continue to take a very different approach. Where transatlantic differences arise, our aim will be to find solutions to problems which can be solved and to manage those which cannot. These differences should not be ignored, but they need to be kept in perspective. Our common interest is not weakened because, for instance, the United States is developing its relations with Japan. European Governments are and should be doing the same. The Alliance is not weakened by the United States pursuing its global responsibilities with vigour—on the contrary. The danger to the Alliance lies not in its members developing other links, but in the apparent temptation not to put enough effort into the Alliance itself. Shared responsibility is crucial to the defence relationship between the United States and its Allies; and that relationshp in turn remains crucial to our security.

Dr. Kissinger in his recent article in Time magazine reminded us—with characteristic colour—that the question of a bigger European role in the defence of Europe is one of continuing interest in the United States. There is also a feeling in Europe—it is a feeling which I share—that closer European co-operation on security issues would be desirable. There is merit in examining that idea very thoroughly. There are a number of purposes for which such co-operation could be developed. We could increase the degree of political consultation on security-related issues. We could co-operate more over strategy, on resources and on force contributions, and there would be much to be gained from increased co-operation in the development and manufacture of arms. We are very ready to work with other European countries in these areas. The important questions seem to us to be those of substance rather than procedure.

The best way forward may be to define what needs to be done and then to identify the institution or institutions best fitted to tackle that job. We shall support new developments where they are helpful, but we shall want to ensure that they serve to strengthen the Alliance as a whole.

The Alliance has served us well over the last 35 years. The anniversary which we shall be celebrating later this year will also be an occasion to pay tribute to the retiring Secretary General, Dr. Luns, whose contribution has been outstanding. Anniversaries are a time for looking forward as well as back. We welcome the fact that Lord Carrington has been appointed to succeed Dr. Luns. His qualities are already well known to this House and we shall give him our full support. Our aim will be to work with our Allies on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure that we remain at peace for the next three-and-a half decades and beyond.

This debate is intended to focus on the substance of foreign policy. I have tried to do that in the areas that I have covered. The object of our foreign policy is to protect and promote British interests and to ensure the stability and prosperity of the United Kingdom. We do that in conjunction with our partners and allies and with our friends in the Commonwealth and elsewhere. Our policies are consistent; they are soundly based; and they have proved successful. These are the lines on which we propose to continue.

4.28 pm
Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

As shadow Foreign Secretary I begin by offering quasi-fraternal congratulations to the Foreign Secretary on his victory in Cabinet this morning. Whatever the merits of the issue, there can be no doubt that it is a good thing if the Foreign Office begins to have some control over our foreign policy. Some of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks suggest that he is beginning in other areas to recover a degree of responsibility for our international relations which properly rest with him.

I shall not follow up what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about the fiasco yesterday in Brussels because we were assured by the Leader of the House a few minutes ago that we shall shortly have an opportunity of a full day's debate on our relations with the Community. I shall deal with most of the other issues that he raised because we may not have an opportunity for some months of debating them again and they are of immense importance. It is about four months since we last debated foreign affairs as a whole and in the intervening period the world has assumed an even bleaker aspect than it had at the beginning of November.

The Geneva arms talks have broken down and the contact between the super-powers on major issues has broken off. Mr. Andropov has died and a new Soviet leadership has a somewhat provisional air, while in the United States the presidential election campaign has sent American foreign policy into its quadriennial state of suspended animation. In any case, the blunders made by the United States in the Lebanon have brought American foreign policy in the near east to total collapse, a collapse that was underlined by the fact that King Hussein's patience with Washington finally snapped a week ago.

In the Gulf area the war between Iraq and Iran, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly said, may be approaching a climax in a massive bloodbath as terrifying in its human implications as the great battles of the first world war on the Somme and at Passchendaele and which could threaten 20 per cent. of the world's oil supplies—the 20 per cent. that is carried through the straits of Hormuz. Meanwhile, there is the threat of war between Libya and Egypt over the Sudan arising out of an incident whose origin is, to say the least, most obscure. There is continued trouble over the Polisario claim on Moroccan territory in the Sahara.

In another part of the forest, Washington's policy in central America is in increasing difficulty. A Soviet ship has just been damaged in Nicaraguan waters by a mine that was supplied by the United States and whose planting was organised by the Central Intelligence Agency. The elections in El Salvador this weekend will almost certainly make the situation there worse, not better. In southern Africa, Pretoria's campaign of destabilisation has forced the front-line states into an unwilling neutrality in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, although I hope that if properly handled it will at least lead to independence for Namibia within the United Nations framework. The fact that Cuba has already withdrawn some troops from Ethiopia and is discussing again the possibility of withdrawing from Angola may open the way to happier developments in that part of the world.

The paralysis or collapse of American policy in so many parts of the world puts a heavy responsibility on America's European allies to try to guide western policy into wiser and more productive paths, but the fiasco of the Common Market summit in Brussels, following the fiasco of the Athens summit, has certainly not created a better climate for a European initiative on the wider issues. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able at the meeting of Foreign Ministers next week to address the attention of his colleagues to some of the wider issues, but l fear increasingly that the obsession on all sides with the financial problems inside the Common Market is casting as damaging a blight on Europe's approach to the wider problems as the Vietnam war for so many years cast on the possibility of constructive American policies in other parts of the world.

I want to spend most of my time talking about relations between East and West. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), when replying to the debate, will deal in more detail with the problems of southern Africa and Latin America. I should like to make points on some secondary issues at the outset.

In regard to Hong Kong, I am glad that the Foreign Secretary gave the House some insight into the Government's conduct of negotiations. After a bad start with the Prime Minister's visit to Peking and Hong Kong, the Government are handling the negotiations sensibly, and the Labour Opposition have no intention of making a difficult task more difficult by exploiting obvious opportunities for party purposes. I hope that in return the Foreign Secretary will give the House a further report on developments after his return from his visits to China and Hong Kong in April, because it is most important that he should be able to carry the House with him, granted, of course, the limitations on his freedom to disclose all details of negotiations at any time.

Turning to some of the problems in central America—an area that the Foreign Secretary did not mention in any way in a speech of 40 minutes—I wrote to the Foreign Secretary some weeks ago to deplore his decision to send observers to the Presidential elections in El Salvador this weekend. We divided the House two years ago on a similar decision to send observers to the elections in 1982. The Division we asked the House for on that occasion proved fully justified in the event, because the observers sent by the then Foreign Secretary were unable to make an independent assessment. Their conclusion that the elections were fair has made Her Majesty's Government the laughing stock of Latin America.

It is no good the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) shaking his head, because the best evidence for the truth of what I say is Mr. Armando Rodriguez, a Right-wing lawyer, who is the head of the central elections council that is organising the elections on this occasion. The hon. Gentleman has obviously read the report of his remarks. According to The Times, he said: This time the deads won't vote. In the elections two years ago dead people not only voted once, but sometimes twice … Often there were three times the number of votes in a ballot box than there were people in a town". Mr. Rodriguez estimated that more than 25 per cent. of the 1.5 million votes cast in 1982 were fraudulent. Those were the elections that the official observers of Her Majesty's Government found to be fair.

Unfortunately, this weekend's elections in El Salvador are unlikely to produce any better guide to the opinions of the people. A poll by El Salvador's Catholic university the other day showed that under 4 per cent. of those qualified to vote would vote out of commitment to any party or candidate; the rest would vote solely out of fear. The Foreign Secretary must know that there is general agreement on both sides of the Atlantic—in Washington no less than in Europe—that these elections are likely to put into the presidential palace either a psychopathic killer, to quote the words of an earlier American Ambassador in El Salvador, or a man who will be either ejected or enslaved by the armed forces. It would have been far better if Her Majesty's Government had not sought to contaminate the reputation of Britain by appearing to sanctify this macabre charade.

The real danger in central America is that if President Reagan's policy collapses in El Salvador, as more and more people in Washington are beginning to fear, he may seek revenge by stepping up his attempt to bring down the Government of Nicaragua on the very eve of its elections. The dispatch of the Green Berets to Honduras and the mining of Nicaraguan ports represent a dangerous escalation of this conflict, and one that the Government should publicly deplore. It is the financing of terrorism on a far larger scale than the Soviet Union or Libya have ever attempted in the West.

President Reagan's policy in central America, as in the Lebanon, is based on a total misunderstanding of the realities of the region. Only a few days ago President Reagan made a speech—I quote the Washington Post service in the International Herald Tribune—in which he said: Like a roving wolf, Castro's Cuba looks to its peace-loving neighbours with hungry eyes and sharp teeth … What we are witnessing to the south is a power play by Cuba and the Soviet Union, pure and simple. How reminiscent that is of his view that all the problems in the Lebanon were caused by a conspiracy between Syria and the Soviet Union to subvert a natural democracy.

Even if the Foreign Secretary's vision of these areas has been somewhat weakened in recent years by the withdrawal of British missions from two of the key countries—a withdrawal which I welcome and which I see has been somewhat modified in recent days by the dispatch of chargés d'affaires to El Salvador and Nicaragua—he must know that what is going on in central America is essentially a historic revolution against centuries of poverty, dictatorship and colonial oppression. That is the unanimous view of all the other countries in the region, not least the Government of Mexico, who could not by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as a Marxist dictatorship.

America's friends in Europe have a duty to join the growing number of Senators and Congressmen in Washington, and a growing number of ordinary Americans throughout the United States—according to the polls, now a majority—who are seeking at the eleventh hour to drag the United States back from a catastrophe in central America which could be even more far-reaching in its effects than its recent catastrophe in the near east. It is vital, in the interests of the Alliance, that the Foreign Secretary should abandon his doormat diplomacy in central America.

Further south, Her Majesty's Government have a more direct responsibility. I was glad to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman again today pay tribute to President Alfonsin, who has shown courage and skill in using his political majority to establish civilian control over the military and to try to end the foreign quarrels through which the military tried to distract the Argentine people from the consequences of the domestic dictatorship.

The Argentine Government have, I understand, already come close to ending their dispute with Chile—a dispute which has lasted for far longer than their dispute with Britain over the Falklands—and they are now seeking to restore normal relations with the United Kingdom, relations which were disrupted by a military attack on the Falkland Islands which President Alfonsin had the great courage to oppose when he was in opposition before the general elections in Argentina. I understand—the Foreign Secretary was rather inexplicit about this—that President Alfonsin is prepared to exchange diplomatic representatives with Britain and to begin talks on normalising relations, leaving the question of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands on one side for the time being.

It seems only common sense that we should seize this opportunity with both hands. It is ridiculous for the United Kingdom to conduct its relations with a most important democratic Government in Latin America through Brazil and Switzerland, when it is conducting its relations with a collapsing military dictatorship in Chile through embassies in both countries.

It is particularly damaging to pursue this weird policy at a time when the problem of Argentina's debt is perhaps the most dangerous immediate threat to the world financial system. I hope, incidentally, that the Foreign Secretary will persuade his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to answer the letter on associated problems recently sent to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies).

I come to what I think should form the main subject of this debate—relations between East and West. I fear that I may disappoint the Foreign Secretary if he expected me to launch an all-out attack on him. I should like to wait for the wounds in his feet to heal before I undertake so unkind an enterprise. We may find ourselves sharing some common ground in this area, however, because the Foreign Secretary has won another victory over the Prime Minister in persuading her to modify the absurd and damaging rhetoric with which she blazed her trail through Canada and the United States a few months ago. Congratulations again to the Foreign Secretary for that success. Let us hope that it is lasting.

It is clear—I hope that the Foreign Secretary will agree—that the death of Mr. Andropov is unlikely to bring any immediate change—or perhaps any change—in Soviet foreign policy. It is fairly clear that Gromyko and Ustinov were running Soviet foreign policy for six months before Mr. Andropov died, and it is certainly clear that they are running it today.

On a personal note, I stood for three hours in a temperature of minus 17 deg. Centigrade on the freezing granite of Red Square quite close to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary recently. As I looked up at the venerable figures at the top of the mausoleum—Mr. Tikhanov, Mr. Ustinov, Mr. Chernenko and Mr. Gromyko—I began to see a certain merit in gerontocracy. I said to myself, "Another four years and maybe Healey will be in with a chance again."

Unfortunately, it seems almost certain that the Soviet Government will make no real effort to negotiate with the United States on major issues until after the American presidential election. It is easy to understand this, however much we may deplore it, because the Department of Defence in Washington has assumed growing influence over American foreign policy since the humiliation of the State Department in the Lebanon—a domination which is well documented in an account in today's International Herald Tribune of Mr. Richard Perle's successful vetoing of four useful initiatives which might have been taken recently in the sphere of disarmament. Therefore, the Russians probably feel that there is not much point in a discussion at this time.

I deplore their decision, because the world will not stand still for the next nine months. The interregnum will be 12 months if there is a change of President in the November elections in the United States. In particular, NATO will not, and must not, stand still for the next 12 months. I was glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman devoted part of his speech to a discussion of NATO, and I propose to do the same. I hope that hon. Members who find military questions boring will have patience while I traverse some of the critical decisions which the Alliance is now approaching.

Mr. Norman Atkinson

We all anxiously share my right hon. Friend's sentiments about reaching old age. To do that, the world must secure some nuclear disarmament, and the only way to achieve that is for the Western nations to start talking across the table with a degree of friendship, having some trust in the Russians. Does he agree that if we are to pursue the policies that he is advocating, we should start with a declaration to that effect?

Mr. Healey

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I do not think that declarations of that sort, which are frequently made on both sides of the iron curtain, make very much impact on real relations between the two sides unless they are accompanied by successful negotiations on real issues. What worries me is that decisions may be and are being taken all the time that can make future negotiations either more difficult or easier.

Turning to some of these problems, the deployment of cruise and Pershing missiles in western Europe, whether we are for or against it, has opened the lid of that Pandora's box because all sorts of issues that NATO has been able to survive by fudging for the last 30 years are now subjected to intense and informed debate on both sides of the Atlantic. The peace movement is no longer only a moral revulsion of ordinary people against the obscenity of nuclear war; it is increasingly influenced by hard thinking about hardware and strategy on the part of people with wide military and civilian experience in defence, as Ministers of Defence, chiefs of staff and so on.

The reason for this is the introduction of a whole range of new weapons which can carry nuclear or conventional warheads—the cruise missile is the best known example—accompanied by guidance systems of an accuracy which was unthinkable even a few years ago. The NATO military, who always prefer to find a strategy for a weapon rather than a weapon for a strategy, are already thinking up ways of using these new weapons. We have a clutch of new strategic concepts for striking deep into eastern Europe and western Russia with nuclear and conventional weapons.

The best known of these ideas is the concept of air-land battle which has already been adopted by the American army and which determines the manoeuvres of the American army in Germany at this moment. It is this concept of air-land battle that the American SACEUR—General Rogers—is trying to have accepted by NATO as a whole. There are, however, several difficulties in such a strategy which uses these new advanced technology weapons. It will be extremely expensive. The weapons may prove much less effective in the event than is now believed. Most important, nuclear escalation of any war in Europe is rendered far more likely and arms control far more difficult because it is impossible to tell in advance, until a weapon has exploded, if it is carrying a nuclear or conventional warhead.

Worse still, such a strategy may well appear to the Russians to open the way for NATO to initiate an attack against eastern Europe, especially if the United States is at the same time going ahead successfully with President Reagan's "Star Wars" defence against intercontinental missiles.

These matters are now beginning to exert a deep influence on thinking in the Communist world, no less than in the West. As an ex-Defence Minister, I see one of the problems as being that this area of strategy, which is of vital importance to the peoples of the world, has tended to be a monopoly for small groups of civilians and staff officers who have no real contact with the outside world at all and who work with very little supervision, even by their own Governments.

If the Americans are seriously going ahead with their attempt to produce an invulnerable defence against ballistic attack, and if they continue to speak, as President Reagan so often has, about using strategic superiority to deal with the focus of all evil, it must suggest to the men in the Kremlin that the United States might use its strategic superiority to launch an attack on the Soviet Union.

I ask the House to consider the facts that the Central Intelligence Agency and NATO staffs have recently made public. In the last four years, during which the United States increased defence spending by 40 per cent. in real terms—these are the American figures—the increase in Soviet defence spending has been only about 10 per cent. That followed four years, from 1976 to 1980, in which Soviet defence spending increased by only 2 per cent. a year and when there was no increase in spending on hardware.

Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant)

I have followed the right hon. Gentleman's remarks with great interest. Would he care to place his remarks in the context of the very disturbing analysis which appeared yesterday of the appalling disparity between Western and Soviet submarine strengths? How did the Soviets open up this disparity from an equal strength to 360:65 without spending more than the United States in real terms?

Mr. Healey

I have already had an exchange with another hon. Member on the Government Benches about these matters. I believe that the most reliable estimate of the relative strengths of the two sides is that published annually by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, which draws a very different picture. With respect, I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to a story by a naval officer in The Times yesterday about a new Soviet submarine. That is better seen in the perspective of the military balance, when it appears very much less alarming. However, I admit that both sides are pressing on with these new technologies very fast and that all the attempts of the United States to impose unilateral controls over the export of technology by asserting extra-territorial control of British or German firms can do no more than delay this development by about two years in the case of the Soviet Union. That is the argument for stopping the arms race and for taking disarmament more seriously than it has been taken so far.

Turning to another aspect of this problem, if the Americans go ahead with intercontinental missile defence, the Soviet Union will certainly follow the same path. There are signs that it is preparing to do so. In that case, small, national, independent nuclear forces, like those of Britain and France, will lose whatever political and military value they may still have.

This is one thrust in defence thinking in NATO, and every month new decisions are taken to reinforce it. On the other hand, certainly outside the NATO machinery—and maybe inside, for all I know—another approach is increasingly supported by experts on both sides of the Atlantic. That approach would concentrate on making better use of NATO's existing forces which many think, although inferior to Soviet forces, are sufficient to deter Soviet conventional attack even now, but which could be made infinitely more effective by the adoption of better reserve systems, by fortifying the forward areas in central Europe and by organising defence in greater depth.

To pursue this trend—to get away from the need to rely on the use of nuclear weapons if only conventional weapons are used on the other side—would make arms control much easier rather than difficult. Unfortunately, as the Foreign Secretary must know, both these trends are at the moment most unwelcome in West Germany, which does not want to contemplate the possibility of any fighting on its territory, nuclear or conventional, and which is trying to get ever closer to the German Democratic Republic. Even Franz Josef Strauss is now competing with the Social Democrats to get in first with messages of good will for Herr Honecker.

Essentially, the Germans are holding up rational discussion of these matters because they really prefer the old tripwire of 30 years ago. That was supplanted by the theory of flexible response, which I helped to introduce at that time. That theory of flexible response is now losing credibility, partly because we now understand much better the effect of electromagnetic pulses on control and communications, and it makes it doubtful whether either side could control escalation in a nuclear war—the essence of the flexible response approach. It is also increasingly doubtful whether the United States is still prepared to commit itself to risk the survival of the American people in a European war.

It must also be said—I think that this lay behind what the Foreign Secretary had to say—that Europe does not want to remain as dependent on United States leadership as it has been over the past 30 years. In the past eight years American leadership has shown a lack of experience, consistency and prudence.

The most important factor which should compel a transformation of NATO's strategic theory and the approach of both sides to the argument is the belief of leading scientists in the West and the Soviet Union that if either side explodes only 1 per cent. of its existing nuclear arsenal, it will condemn its own people to a slow death by starvation and disease in conditions of arctic night, together with all other human beings living in the northern hemisphere.

If that concept of nuclear winter becomes accepted and is agreed to be well founded—I have not heard any argument against it in principle, although there are some arguments about the number of megatonnes that could be exploded without producing these effects—it must transform thinking on both sides of the iron curtain. It makes no sense for either side to continue to add nuclear weapons to an arsenal which is already 100 times larger than that which could ever be used in practice.

The concept of first strike against an enemy would have to be ruled out by both sides, for it would condemn to death even the successful initiator of a first strike, and it would have implications for civil defence and smaller national forces which I think we would all want time to think through.

The concept of nuclear winter has another important consequence to which the Foreign Secretary asked me to refer. It means that no country can spare itself destruction by neutrality or by refusing to have nuclear bases on its soil. If the concept of nuclear winter is found to be valid, the overriding need will be to ensure that no one fights a nuclear war, and, above all, that there is no war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

For us in western Europe, alliance with the United States will be more, not less, necessary for defence and deterrence and to influence the exercise of the United States, formidable nuclear power.

The time has come to start hard thinking on these issues for, wrongly handled, they could lead to the world blowing itself up. They could certainly split rather than unite the Alliance. Like the Foreign Secretary, I welcome the fact that Lord Carrington is shortly to assume responsibility as Secretary-General of NATO. His wisdom and experience will prove invaluable during the long period of agonising reappraisal through which I think the Alliance has to pass. Meanwhile, I think that the Prime Minister was right—I am always prepared to pay her honour where honour is due, as the House will have noted only the other day. If I have to criticise the right hon. Lady, I prefer to use the words of Conservative Back-Benchers rather than to invent rude words of my own, as I did on a previous occasion. I think that the Prime Minister was right in saying that there is probably little chance of important progress on the major issues of arms control between East and West in the immediate future, if only because of the imminence of the American presidential elections.

We must look for other issues on which we can develop understanding, especially regional problems. By far the most important regional issue which requires discussion with the Soviet Union is the clutch of problems in the middle east.

The collapse of American policy in the near east has not produced peace even in that area. The breakdown of the talks in Lausanne threatens a renewal of the civil war in the Lebanon, in which the very survival of the Maronite community may be at risk. It seems certain that the Shi'a community, which has played a comparatively minor role in previous fighting in the Lebanon, is likely to play a major role. I suspect that the elimination of the Murabitoun militia this morning, according to "The World at One", is the first step towards a concentration of Moslem power with the Shi'a community and the Druze.

We can comfort ourselves that Mr. Bern, the leader of the Shi'a community in south Lebanon, is a Western oriented man of great wisdom and moderation. However, I recollect that members of the Shi's militia, who roamed the streets in Beirut in recent weeks, were all wearing not Mr. Bern's picture but that of the Ayatollah Khomeini. That type of Moslem fundamentalism is having increasing influence throughout the Moslem world from Nigeria—where 1,000 people were killed in Shi'a riots in the eastern part of the country only the other day—to Indonesia. If the United States Congress is unwise enough to insist on moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Americans and we might find that the burning of the American embassy in Islamabad recently will be repeated in at least 20 other Moslem capitals, and might be accompanied by the burning of British and French embassies as well.

I have warned the House before that we must take the resurgence of Moslem fundamentalism far more seriously than we have hitherto. If we have some of these honors in the Lebanon—they are all too possible—I do not feel confident that Washington is close enough to its European allies on how to deal with them, or has learnt enough from the lessons of its humiliation in the Lebanon over the past 12 months.

I should like to feel, with the Foreign Secretary, that there is a chance of making progress in finding a solution to the Palestine problem. However, I confess that I cannot see progress being possible so long as the United States adopts such a one-sided posture in the affair, one which led its oldest ally in the middle east, King Hussein, the other day to part brass rags with Washington, and so long as the Government in Israel are as inflexible as the present Government have shown themselves to be. If there is a change of Government in Israel in the coming months and a change in the American attitude after the election, new opportunities may arise, but I do not think that it is realistic to accept that they exist now.

The problem,, which we cannot avoid, and on which we must concentrate our efforts, is in the Gulf. I do not think that many of us have realised, or did not until very recently, that Iraq or Iran has only to announce that it has sown mines near Hormuz to send insurance rates up to a level that no oil company will be prepared to pay. I hope that the Minister who replies will talk about whether there is any joint consideration of this aspect of the problem, which I raised in the House yesterday and which the Foreign Secretary appeared to invite me to raise again today.

If the fear of the sinking of tankers leads to a prolonged interruption of the supply of oil through the Gulf, the consequences will be disastrous economically for Europe, which gets 46 per cent. of its oil through the Gulf, and for Japan, which gets 65 per cent. of its oil in the same way. In addition, in a prolonged interruption the price of oil is likely to rise to about $100 a barrel as against $30 at present, and the dollar is likely to rise to dizzy new heights. These two factors alone could bring the whole debt pyramid tumbling down, and with it the collapse of the commercial banking system in the Western world.

I do not wish to exaggerate the probability of a prolonged interruption. That must be avoided. Moreover, a short interruption could probably be survived without great difficulty because there are large stocks already available. If the United States makes its strategic stockpile available, as an American report suggested, the West could survive an interruption in the supply of oil through Hormuz for longer. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will tell the House whether arrangements have been made with the United States Administration to use the American stockpile in such a contingency.

I agree with the Foreign Secretary that we cannot rule out possible physical action by the West to keep the oil flowing through the Gulf. We must accept—I am glad that the Foreign Secretary does—that the Gulf is part of Russia's back yard. It is only half as far from the Russian frontier as Grenada is from the American frontier. If we could discuss the issue with the Russians successfully, it could be the beginning of wider understanding. The Russian interest in freedom of passage through inland waterways is greater than that of any other country, because almost its only access to oceans is through inland waterways—in the Baltic, the Black sea, and the Mediterranean.

The Foreign Secretary knows that the American determination to exclude the Soviet Union from major policy in the middle east is at the root of the Russians' refusal to allow the expansion of the United Nations role in the Lebanon. We may be able to discuss problems, which are common in other parts of the world, such as southern Africa and Latin America. It is urgent that we discuss with the Soviet Union—it cannot work without Soviet co-operation—limitations on the frightening increase in the supplies of weapons to Third-world countries, which neither side controls.

Since 1975 Russia has exported three times as many weapons to the third world as it did nine years ago. Russia and America have supplied arms to both Iraq and Iran. Those countries are fighting each other with arms supplied by both super-powers, the United Kingdom and other countries before the war began. The crowning irony is that the most likely scenario for a closure of the Gulf is of the Iraqis using their Super Etendards and Exocet missiles to blow up the Iranian terminals on Kharg island, and the Iranians retaliating by sowing French mines from French motor torpedo boats to close the Gulf.

Money can be made in this doubtful and dirty trade, but the dangers to the world, if it is allowed to continue as it has done for the past 30 or 40 years, deserve immediate action. Discussions about the immediate problems in the Gulf may open the way to co-operation in much wider areas. Britain and Europe could take an initiative in those areas now. We need not wait for the next American election. We can start now.

If we adopt the sombre outlook that I described as a challenge to action and an argument for co-operation, not confrontation, with the Soviet Union, we may yet succeed in turning the dismal course of the past few years right round. The British Government have a major responsibility to take such initiatives, and I hope that they will do so.

5.13 pm
Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridge, South-East)

Many hon. Members will agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that the general world outlook is bleaker than it was a few months ago. His speech made that clear. No one would deny that times are not easy for Britain, Europe or the world. At the same time, there is no shortage of opportunities or of hope. At present our anxiety outweighs our confidence in their fulfilment.

There are four areas of substantial anxiety: the state of East-West relations, regional conflicts—some are of the utmost gravity—the attempted recovery from the world recession and the crisis in the European Community. Together the four areas threaten security and stability, not only in Britain, but in the world. I shall speak briefly about these problem areas and consider the spirit in which Britain should approach them.

In every case the problems will be eased for us only if they are also eased for other nations at the same time. We must uphold Britain's self-interest in each area—that goes without saying—but our ultimate self-interest is as much concerned with the interests of other countries as with our own purely national objectives.

I shall begin with East-West relations. The threat of the Soviet Union to the West and to the world is plain for all who wish to see it. The massive military build-up of the past decade inside the Soviet Union continues unabated. It involves every class of weapon and cannot be presented convincingly as a mere attempt to achieve parity with the West. Outside the Soviet Union, Russian attempts to destabilise countries in all corners of the globe also continue unabated. The involvement may not be direct, but the inspiration is unmistakeable. Meanwhile, the campaign of propaganda and misinformation persists and is aimed at sowing doubts within the West and diverting our attention from the danger. Neither the mission nor the methods have changed.

However, the Soviet Union undoubtedly has formidable internal problems: the economic problems of low returns on investment and the failure to utilise natural resources adequately; the social problems to which President Andropov so revealingly referred; the agricultural and ethnic problems; and the nightmare of maintaining political control on the Soviet bloc. I draw some comfort, but not much, from that. However, history shows how national leaders often try to distract attention from domestic tensions by pursuing expansionism abroad. I fear that that temptation will grow and be enhanced by the eventual emergence of a new generation of Soviet leades who will not have known the horrors of war at first hand, as all previous Soviet leaders have done.

In those circumstances, the question is how the West should respond. Until recently, a narrow view of self-interest coupled a necessary strengthening of our defences with a war of rhetoric and abuse, which had the effect of discouraging dialogue and frustrating understanding. It seemed to follow the principle that as long as we looked after ourselves nothing else mattered much. That attitude was the hallmark of the West's approach until the end of last year.

The consequences of such a narrow perception of self-interest were damaging. Apart from the fact that an absence of dialogue and understanding is dangerous in itself, and becomes more dangerous and more difficult to correct as time goes on, the effect of the policy within the West was also extremely harmful. It encouraged neutralism, unilateralism and anti-American sentiment in Europe, and created self-doubt in the West. In that respect it did more to fulfil Soviet objectives than Western ones.

A broader perception of self-interest starts with the realisation that defence is not an end in itself. The aim of defence is security. Defence is a vital part of security, but not the only part. Equally important is the need to reduce the tensions that threaten security in the first place. There is a need for permanent and patient dialogue with the Soviet Union to reduce the tension, improve understanding, avoid the risk of mistakes and, eventually, we all hope, to make progress on disarmament. I am delighted that there is now a recognition in both the British and American Governments of a broader perspective of self-interest that combines strength with sensitivity.

I welcomed President Reagan's January speech that heralded this change. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on her visit to Hungary and on her initiative in going to Moscow, and I welcome the news that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will soon visit Moscow. There is much to be discussed in commercial as well as political areas. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wisely said on her return from Moscow, and as the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon, there will be no sudden breakthrough and there should be no false expectations, but the chance now exists for the long freeze to begin to thaw and perhaps ultimately to melt away. However, in the meantime the West must ensure that it maintains an adequate collective deterrent and that it remains united within itself. We must balance defence with disarmament. If we can achieve that balance we shall best serve our interests and those of the world.

Turning to the regional conflicts, I shall comment today not on the two major areas of concern—the middle east and central America—but on the more specifically British problem of the Falkland Islands, which was mentioned by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. Despite the welcome overtures by the British Government and the new Government in Argentina, there is a block to real progress. Its source is the entirely understandable reluctance of the Government to allow constitutional matters to be placed on the agenda of negotiations. Once again, the distinction must be drawn between a narrow view of self-interest and a broader perspective.

I do not suggest that we should concede under negotiation what we rightly refused to concede under duress, but we must face some realities: the reality that it is in the interests of the Falkland Islanders that they should enjoy a secure and stable co-existence with their Argentine neighbours; the reality that it is in British interests to return to a normal and friendly relationship with Argentina, as well as to help its fragile democracy; and the reality that the cost of defending the Falklands is both expensive in its own right and affects some of our other defence priorities. The sooner that expense can be eased with integrity, the better, and I have no doubt that the new airfield, when completed, will go a long way towards achieving that.

However, sooner or later there must be serious negotiations, and, in my view, the most hopeful approach will be an international one. On a bilateral basis, the Falklands problem is almost insoluble. It is by no means the only such problem. But the islands are becoming of increasing strategic significance and there is a much wider interest in them for that reason. An approach with the help of the United States in particular, and with other friendly powers, may be the best way forward. I also believe that now may be as favourable a moment as any. The internal problems facing the new Argentine Government are severe to say the least, and it is perfectly possible that, just as with the Soviet Union, those domestic problems could force a hardening of attitudes towards foreign policy. The chance of making progress towards a mutually acceptable settlement may be better now than at any other time.

In passing, may I fully endorse the broader approach that Britain takes on Belize. Our narrow interest would be to withdraw, but the consequences of that could be destabilising in a region that is causing so much trouble already. Clearly, we are right to stay there.

As in Britain, there are signs elsewhere of a recovery in the world recession. They are real signs, but they are also precarious, because many risks and hidden obstacles still exist. Some risks are obvious, such as the high level of international debt. The banks and other national and international institutions are doing their best, but the strain is showing. The collapse of even a relatively small economy could be damaging. Another obstacle is the size of the American budget deficit. President Reagan's recent measures to contain that deficit are most welcome, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said on Monday, but they by no means solve the problem.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East referred to the war between Iran and Iraq, which poses a potential threat to the world's energy resources and specifically to oil prices. The House will be well aware of the consequences of that. Yet again, Britain's response to this problem cannot afford to be governed by a narrow view of self-interest. The narrow view is reflected by calls for protectionism, and is again expressed in the attitude that no one else matters as long as we are all right. That view lacks a perspective on reality and it is one which the Government strongly and rightly resist.

The reality of today's world is that all nations are interdependent. We rely on each other for our national wealth and prosperity. Recovery will be achieved in Britain only if it is achieved in every other industrialised nation. No one can afford to go it alone. The broader view of self-interest is not based on any philanthropy towards our competitors. It still argues the need for us to emerge from the recession more quickly and more strongly than other world economies, but it is based on the recognition that each nation should do all that it can to help the world at large to recover and to resist the dangers that threaten everyone. It is based on the belief that the total volume of world trade is as important as Britain's or anyone's share of it.

There are few forums where the leaders of all the major industrialised nations can meet to discuss those problems, and the world economic summit is one of them. I am pleased that this year's summit in June will be held in London and that the Prime Minister will be chairing it. I hope that she will use the opportunity—I am sure she will—to convince other leaders of the need for concerted action to help the recovery to build up, not just in theory, but in practice. It is vital that this summit should be of practical help to the world, and in no sense simply a ritual.

Finally, I wish to refer to the difficulties that face the European Community, of which the House is only too well aware. The question is how we should approach a solution. I am much encouraged by what the Prime Minister said at Question Time this afternoon and by what my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said in his speech. In this case the narrow view of Britain's selfinterest—which is a vital one—is to insist that the reforms that we believe are necessary must be implemented, and that the rebate to which we feel we are entitled must be paid to the last penny—or almost. That is the impression received by the British people.

Like all narrow views, this carries the danger of ending up by hurting the very people whom it is supposed to protect—ourselves. It could do so in several ways. There is the risk that if we get all our own way on the budget we are less likely to do so on other important issues, which might matter a good deal more in the long run. We must avoid inviting a negative response to British initiatives in other areas. There is also a risk of damaging public opinion. It is supposed that the Government have overwhelming popular support for their approach. They may have in the short term, but what about beyond that? It seems to me that the country is almost being encouraged to view the Community as a limited budgetary exercise and, worse still, to some extent as a safety valve for a feeling of nationalism. We must not forget that it was the eruption of such nationalism in other European countries that created the need for the Community in the first place.

If the Government believe in the values and ideals of the Community, as I know they do, they should be alarmed and not encouraged by British public reaction and should be doing all that they can to change it. Once again, a broader perception of self-interest is necessary. That does not mean that we should be a soft touch in Europe, giving way to others at the slightest pressure. Nothing would more confuse our partners.

I have played my part in previous budget negotiations, and I completely accept the legitimacy of the British case, which must be pursued. The difference is one not of principle, but of degree. A satisfactory outcome cannot be measured in pounds and pence alone, but in the balance between the size of the rebate and the political repercussions of further argument in Britain and the rest of Europe.

Understandably, and rightly, the Government are reluctant to compromise on the principle at stake. But more than one principle is at stake: the principle of partnership on which the Community is based, and without which it cannot function is equally under threat. I do not ask the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to choose between the two principles, but I ask them to understand the need for a reasonable balance between them. Naturally, I am glad that the Cabinet decided to take no action that would damage the prospects of reaching an agreement and that a special Foreign Ministers meeting will take place next Tuesday. I know that the Foreign Secretary will do all in his power to reach that elusive settlement longed for by many millions.

We cannot afford to take a narrow view of our interests in any aspect of world affairs. The nations of the European Community and of the world are interdependent. We all have to live with each other. There is no fixed quantity of success, prosperity or peace for which we need to fight by doing others down. Our rewards will be commensurate with those gained by the world at large.

British foreign policy has always been based on self-interest; so it should continue to be. At its wisest, however, the perspective has been sufficiently broad and the self-interest sufficiently enlightened for us to turn away fun the pursuit of narrow and self-defeating nationalism and to aim instead for wider goals.

5.32 pm
Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

s: I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), especially in his latter remarks. The three opening speeches by the Foreign Secretary, the shadow Foreign Secretary and the former Foreign Secretary were immediately striking for their large degree of agreement. I should like to continue in the same constructive terms, but, in the interests of brevity, I shall touch on only three areas—the future of the Community, East-West relations and our relations with the Argentine.

I am more free than most in being able to say from the outset, in less coded language, that the overwhelming impression of British foreign policy is that it is dominated by the activities and views—some might say prejudices—of the Prime Minister, and that the roles of the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary are largely of damage limitation. That view has been taken outside the House and is evident in reports published in this morning's newspapers.

Many hon. Members will have read the long and detailed piece by Mr. Peter Jenkins in The Guardian today. Without reading all that he says about the financial details and the relatively small gap that once existed in these negotiations, he concludes: Her reputation for obstinacy and rapacity has built up into a store of ill will which must have contributed to her undoing just as victory seemed within her grasp. Now she finds herself, in effect, at war with the Community. Mr. Jenkins dealt in his article with all the summits since Dublin.

An even more graphic report, which some hon. Members may not have read, was published in The Scotsman. Its European correspondent said: The presence of Mrs. Thatcher at European summit conferences is now viewed with the same distaste and disquiet by her EEC partners as the regular invasion of English football supporters across the Channel. She is increasingly being accused of bringing the EEC club into disrepute … and of presenting the latest episode to the waiting British public as a second Falklands victory, when in reality it amounted to the sabotage of the EEC". That is strong language, but I believe that it faithfully reports the reaction of our Community partners.

The report in The Scotsman goes on to say that Participants at the summit were less direct the European correspondent was quoting other European press reports— as they packed their bags more in sorrow than anger and returned home, but all agreed that the latest dispute went beyond the mere question of money (the terms in which Mrs. Thatcher presents the argument) and enters the more philosophical and fundamental realm of what form of European co-operation the Community are really about. I criticise the Prime Minister, not for standing up for British interests—I agree with the former Foreign Secretary that we should expect her to do so—but for the style of her approach. Her lack of a wider view of the Community is leading to constant disruption. It is arguably a mistake that, having started on the Arian space project, the Government have decided to put the latest British satellites into the United States space shuttle rather than participate in the European project. That decision was not necessarily a major mistake, but it contributed to the Community's view that Britain has somehow lost interest in the wider areas of co-operation in which we should be engaged.

There was further criticism from both sides of the House the dragging of feet over the European Airbus project. I mentioned in the House yesterday the lack of any reaction to the Community's proposals, especially the French proposals, for further co-operation in banking and insurance, from which we would stand to benefit.

On the wider issues of defence and security, I say bluntly that I find it most irritating that the Prime Minister treats Members of Parliament as though they were cretins. Yesterday I asked her why we were not making more use of the Community to discuss defence and security matters. She replied pat that that was not within the Community's terms of reference. We all know that, but discussions are under way between the French and the Germans from which we seem to be completely excluded because of our lack of interest. Surely there is an opportunity, as the new Secretary-General of NATO comes from our domestic political scene, for us to be more involved in discussing the role of NATO's European pillar.

We should reconsider the Genscher-Colombo plan for greater European co-operation in security and defence matters. The whole Community should concentrate on political initiatives in foreign affairs. Lest anyone say that would disrupt the Atlantic Alliance, one has only to read the long article written by Dr. Kissinger for Time magazine, to which the Foreign Secretary referred, in which he, too, argues for greater European responsibility in shared defence.

We have also been dragging our feet on issues such as the European monetary system. The general impression created in the Community is that the only matter of interest to the Prime Minister in terms of Community affairs is "getting her own money back". Even that interest would be better served, as the former Foreign Secretary said in more guarded language, if we showed ourselves more willing to embrace the Community's political objectives.

There is a parallel between the Prime Minister's attitude to her Community partners and to local government. She believes that it is all about money and spending, not about the possible damage to European or local democratic institutions. That blinkered, shopkeeping approach to domestic and international politics is reprehensible.

I am glad, too, that the Cabinet has dragged the Prime Minister back from threats of taking illegal action against the Community. That would, indeed, put her attitude to Community institutions on a par with the attitude of Liverpool's militant Labour council dealing with the British Government.

As we come to the European parliamentary elections in three months' time, I am anxious that we should get away from a sort of Dutch auction between the Government and the Opposition on who can best appeal to the lowest instincts of the electorate by being beastliest to foreigners. We must all try to avoid that danger and regard the elections as an opportunity to discuss our different views about how the Community ought to develop.

On East-West relations, when the Prime Minister took office her image as the iron lady, which she was careful to polish, was probably immensely popular, but it was largely negative. What has been described as megaphone diplomacy—the lack of bilateral meetings at the highest level between the United States and the Soviet Union, including those involving ourselves, and the lack of any face-to-face contact with the Soviet leadership—was almost bound to result in what the Foreign Secretary accurately described as a measure of mutual mistrust and suspicion, but we did a good deal to foster that and very little to counter it.

I do not share the devotion of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) to the rise of the gerontocracy, although in 20 years' time I may take a different view, but I believe that one must accept whatever leadership exists in the Soviet Union. Now that there is a new leadership, the lack of contact should be repaired. I am therefore very pleased that the Foreign Secretary will be going there and that Mr. Kornienko will be coming here in the next week or two. I am also very pleased that the Prime Minister went to Hungary, but the tone of her speech in Budapest was miles from that of the speeches that she made only a few weeks earlier in Canada and Washington and it takes more than one speech or one visit to an east European country to undo years of damage.

Again, I believe that there was never any real hope of success in the START or the INF talks so long as we expected talented, highly skilled people to go into negotiations and conference chambers against the background of lack of political dialogue with aggressive rhetoric, mistrust and suspicion on both sides. I was therefore not surprised that the talks were discontinued.

I had the perhaps unique opportunity to visit the Soviet Union after the breakdown of the talks, and it was clear to me that various levels of misunderstanding needed to be removed. For instance, in the Kremlin I was solemnly told that the West had deployed cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe against the wishes of the people. Why do the Russians say that? It is partly because the activities of the Greenham peace women and their equivalents in other European countries are constantly shown on television, and in a closed society the propaganda that is shown comes to be believed. I made it clear that, whatever people's views on the deployment of cruise and Pershing, the issues were openly discussed and debated in general elections both here and in West Germany and that no one in his right mind who studied those debates could say that deployment took place against the wishes of the peoples concerned. That kind of misunderstanding must be removed from the Soviet mind.

That is not to say that we are enthusiastic about having cruise and Pershing. We may continue openly to say that we do not wish to have them here and that we wish that the Soviet Union had not proceeded with the manufacture and deployment of the SS20s. We may wish that he decision in 1979 had not led to the deployment of cruise and Pershing, but, as the Foreign Secretary said, we must maintain a firm line, while at the same time opening the door for negotiation and discussion. The more dialogue and contact that there is at every level—in commerce, in the arts and, above all, at the political level—the better the chance of opening up new opportunities for arms control talks.

What should we do now? I agree with everything that has been said about the unlikelihood of rapid progress being made on disarmament in the coming year because of the new Soviet leadership and the presidential elections in the United States, but surely that provides an opening for Europe in general and Britain in particular. There is no military case for further deployment of cruise and Pershing, and I understand that none is due in the current year, so now is the time to explore the possibility of a freeze on further deployment of missiles by both East and West.

In referring to a freeze, I do not mean choosing a mythical date in the past. The Soviet Union is perfectly willing to accept a freeze if we go back to October 1983 before we had cruise and Pershing. My response to that is that I should be happy to have a freeze starting from 1979, which would involve removal of all the SS20s. Such hypothetical discussions are pointless, both internally and internationally. If we take the concept of a freeze seriously, it is no use talking about artificial dates. We must freeze the position as it is now and then argue about the possibilities for agreement between East and West and the de-escalation of the nuclear threat.

There is another important feature of political discussion in the Soviet Union. Until one has been around different parts of that country and engaged in regular discussions with politicians and academics there, it is difficult to understand the Soviet psychology and the feeling of threat—in my view mistaken, but no less real for that. I do not entirely agree with the former Foreign Secretary, who suggested that the new generation of leadership coming up in the Kremlin might take a different view as they have no direct experience of war. I was impressed by the extent to which even the younger generation of Russians had had dinned into them the record of what happened in the last war. One must be sensitive to that and appreciate that they suffered a degree of direct physical assault in the last war that this country did not suffer. That is not to excuse Soviet expansionism or anything else, but it is important to understand the feeling of threat and thus their overreaction to the deployment of cruise and Pershing in western Europe.

I believe that in some areas we have a common interest with the Soviet people. One obvious example has already been mentioned—the reduction of military expenditure. It cannot possibly be in the interests of the Russian people to have an ever-escalating military budget. When one considers the living standards and relative poverty of a country that is rich in natural resources and has great skills, it is clearly in the interests of the man in the Russian street that the Soviet Government should reduce their military expenditure and turn to more fruitful enterprises on behalf of their people. There is thus a common interest, but we have a long way to go to persuade the Soviet Government of that.

As that is my general view, I repeat that the British Government are fundamentally mistaken in pressing ahead with the Trident programme. Not only is that a major escalation in expenditure for us—with inevitable effects of the rest of the defence budget, as was argued recently in another place—but the D5 Trident system will represent a major escalation of nuclear weaponry on the Western side.

It may not be until next year, but if arms control talks are to be resumed there is a strong case for merging the START and the INF talks and for the British and French forces at least to be counted in. Counted in does not necessarily mean negotiated away, but it is foolish to pretend that we can stand aside and leave the whole process to the Soviet Union and the United States. A major change of British policy is called for in that respect.

Despite the lack of immediate likelihood of success on arms control, there are other areas in which, during a period of freeze, agreement might be sought with the Warsaw pact countries. For example, we might agree on a battlefield nuclear-free zone as the Palme commission recommended, or on the non-military use of outer space, an area in which I believe progress could be made. Another area is the much-neglected and much-understated mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna, which I was glad to see started again the other day. That is a crucial forum of discussion which has been completely overlooked in all the discussions on nuclear weaponry. Unless we can get some agreement on the reduction, particularly on the Soviet side, of conventional weaponry this reliance on the nuclear deterrent will, I believe, continue. It is a great pity that in the debates on arms control issues, not only in the House but in the press and on television, the importance of getting mutual and balanced reductions in conventional weaponry are often overlooked.

I hope that when the Foreign Secretary goes to Moscow he will engage in the widest possible political discussions, that he will not regard this as just a one-off visit, and that it will be a real attempt by Britain, preferably in concert with our European partners, to open up the dialogue and bring "detente" back into the international vocabulary.

If one accepts that the situation in the middle east, as appears to be accepted on all sides, is the area of greatest flashpoint potential, it is clearly necessary that the Soviety Union, too, uses its influence to secure a peaceful settlement in that area. In particular, it is important that we in this country try to use what influence we have in international affairs to persuade the super-powers to stop belittling the role of the United Nations and its potential.

We have seen in the Lebanon the limitations of multinational forces cobbled together as voluntary police forces. There is no substitute for an international peacekeeping body which has political authority and real bite. I remember my visit about three years ago to the United Nations' force in southern Lebanon. I was struck by the disparity between the obvious incompetence of the force working there and the weakness of its political mandate. It is necessary to look again at the possibility of a United Nations peace-keeping role with real authority, backed by the super-powers and by us. This is an area of discussion which we ought to open up. If we look at some of the things that have been said so far in this debate about the wrecking potential of the Iran-Iraq conflict, or, indeed, the long-term role of the Falkland Islands, it is clear that there are trouble spots in the world where a United Nations role could be beneficial if only it were a stronger organisation.

Among the matters which could be on its agenda is the matter mentioned by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East that of conventional arms sales around the world. What has happened, for example, to the proposal by Mr. Genscher some years ago for a United Nations register of such sales? Far from having control of such sales, we do not even have knowledge of where they are taking place. I agree with what has been said and I believe that this is a function which the United Nations could undertake.

I turn, finally, to the question of the Falklands and our relations with the Argentine. I believe that the Government have missed an opportunity here, because we have never made it firmly clear to the new Government in the Argentine and, more important perhaps, to the Argentine people, that our quarrel was not with the people of the Argentine; that is was with the military regime and the action it took in seizing our territory by force. I believe that we have made an insufficient response to the arrival of the democratically elected Government of Mr. Alfonsin.

I remember meeting Mr. Alfonsin in Ottawa about four years ago when he was, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East described, one of those liberal democrats who had found life rather tough in Latin America, squeezed between military dictatorship and the rise of Marxism. We must remember that he was struggling even then against the military regime and that he actually opposed the Falklands war. So, when he was elected and installed as President, there was an opportunity to do more than just send a telegram of congratulations.

We have reached the stage where we are saying that we want the Argentine to withdraw the state of war that exists between us, and they are saying that they want the British to remove the exclusion zone around the Falklands. So it is a matter of "After you, Claude" as month after month goes by. We should make it clear to the Argentine that we are desperately anxious to restore normal good relations. Of course, such was the loss of life and the sacrifice involved that there can be no question of putting talks on sovereignty back on to the immediate agenda, but for the Prime Minister to go on saying that any discussions with the Argentine will be on commercial matters only is incredibly short-sighted.

I have never forgotten that episode during the general election—and I am sorry if I embarrass the former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East—at a Conservative press conference. A question was asked about talks with the Argentine and he very sensibly said that he looked forward to the day when democracy would be restored and talks would begin with the Argentine. The Prime Minister quickly added, "on commercial matters," and then made it worse by saying, "You all heard the Foreign Secretary say 'on commercial matters'," when every television camera showed that his lips had never moved. But "on commercial matters" has become the key phrase attributed to him, quite improperly, and it has stuck.

We must be a little more open and willing to say to the new Government in the Argentine that we recognise the reality of the geographical location of the Falkland Islands, that it is in the long-term interest of the Falkland Islanders that they live in harmony with their mainland neighbour, and that therefore, once diplomatic relations have been restored and things have got back to normal, we want to look again at some of the proposals that we were making before, methods of international trusteeship, or whatever, which will secure the future of the islanders and, incidentally, reduce the immense burden of expenditure.

I had a look the other day at the forecast figures of the Ministry of Defence and the other Departments involved. I concluded that projected public expenditure—by a Government who are supposed not to be very keen on public expenditure—over the next three years amounts to more than £1 million per islander. That is really not a defensible situation. From the point of view of narrow British commercial interests, we must remember that there are more British people engaged in commerce and trade in the Argentine than in the Falklands, and we have a direct interest in trying to restore good relations with the Argentine.

I conclude as I began, by saying that I think the Foreign Secretary deserves our best wishes in his efforts to mitigate the worst effects of a rather narrow-minded, nationalist, populist approach to British foreign policy. I hope very much that he will have some success in continuing the role that he outlined this afternoon.

5.57 pm
Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)

When I spoke in the last foreign affairs debate some months ago, I emphasised the need to start a dialogue with the Soviet Union. I therefore fully share the pleasure expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) and congratulate the Prime Minister on her visit to Hungary and what she said there. I am also delighted that the Foreign Secretary is proposing to visit Moscow. This was also referred to in a rather less whole-hearted way by the leader of the Liberal party, the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel). I believe that these are very positive and important developments.

I agree with a great deal that was said by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and by the right hon Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in connection with the middle east. However, I believe that when the right hon. Gentleman separated the issue of the Gulf from the central theme of Arab-Israeli relations he was making an error of assessment. When I was in Cairo last week I had a long meeting with President Mubarak, who referred specifically to the indivisibility of the issue and said that if the Palestine question is solved much else will fall into place. I wholly agree with him.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary rightly referred to the statement made by King Hussein. The bitter and almost anguished remarks made by King Hussein about United States foreign policy in the rniddle east should be taken very seriously in this country and in Europe, because it would be difficult anywhere to find a better or more intelligent friend of Britain and of the West. We should realise from what he said just how dangerously misguided has been the conduct of American foreign policy in the area. It is good to know that the Queen's forthcoming visit to Jordan will provide an early opportunity for Britain to show its friendship for and understanding of Jordan.

The United States policy in the middle east, with the exception of a brief period under President Eisenhower in 1956, has never been even-handed as between Israel and the Arabs. The powerful Zionist lobby in the United States has seen to that. As a result, scant attention has been paid to equity and justice, which are at the core of the Palestine question.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)


Mr. Walters

I have undertaken to be brief and, therefore, I cannot give way. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will make his views known in due course.

The innumerable United Nations resolutions on Palestine have been consistently ignored, as have the grave dangers posed to European and American strategic and economic interests in the area by Washington's unquestioning partisanship in favour of Israel.

That attitude, which has long angered and antagonised the more radical Arab states, is now seriously threatening to alienate the whole of the Arab world, including those Arab countries that are most moderate and western-orientated in their political leanings. They feel that under President Reagan and Secretaries Haig and Shultz the conventional pro-Israeli slant in American policy has become even greater. That has shocked and demoralised them. They find it incomprehensible that, in spite of Israel's invasion and devastation of the Lebanon, the continuing illegal colonisation of the West Bank and Israel's rejection of all initiatives aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace settlement, the United States has not only failed to modify its attitude but apparently has become even more committed to a policy wholly supportive of Israel.

It is precisely that sense of exasperation at a seemingly irreversible trend that has finally driven a man as wise and experienced as King Hussein to his despairing cry of protest. The failure by the United States to persuade Israel to allow a group of Palestinians to leave the occupied territories to attend the Palestine National Council conference, and the hesitation over supplying a relatively small quantity of arms to Jordan—while continuing to pour the latest equipment into Israel—obviously proved to be the last straw for the king. Only today it has been confirmed that President Reagan has withdrawn the proposal to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Jordan, in response to the pressure from the American Zionist groups—[Interruption.]—that are apparently strongly supported by the hon. and learned member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner).

When in Cairo a few days ago, I had long talks with President Mubarak and other leading Egyptian politicians. It became obvious there just how frustrated Egypt, too, is by American policy. President Mubarak's conduct of affairs, which has shown much patience and wisdom, has won for him wide international respect. He expressed his deep anxiety at the trend of American policy and its adverse effects on the area. Although he intends to persevere in his efforts to persuade the United States to modify its policy, he is well aware that the present time is not propitious. The proliferation of American elections makes it unusual to have a propitious time for middle east initiatives. Certainly the American presidential election year—with aspiring presidential candidates vying with each other on how best to prove their Zionist allegiance—is not the best moment for an even-handed initiative by the United States in the middle east.

Mr. Shultz—who, incidentally, is one of the great disappointments to Arab countries—has just said that there will be no further initiatives. That places an even greater burden of responsibility on European statemanship to protect the interests of the West.

The first positive step should be an immediate Anglo-French offer to Jordan to provide it with equivalent equipment to that which was so churlishly and unwisely refused by the United States Administration.

The second step should be to take strong persuasive action to make the Israeli Government halt their illegal settlement programme on the West Bank, to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary referred in his speech. That persuasive action should, if necessary, include economic measures. I assume that while such a brutish policy is being pursued, on the West Bank there will be no question of considering a visit by the Queen to Israel.

The third step should be for Europe to work actively to convene an international conference aimed at a comprehensive peace settlement. It would be unreal to try to exclude the Soviet Union from such a conference. If there is to be any hope of making progress, participants must include the United States and the Soviet Union as well as Israel, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians, Britain and France. I very much hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will look upon the structuring of such a conference as one of the top priorities of British diplomacy. I look forward to hearing something about that from the Minister when he replies to the debate.

The position in the middle east is fraught with peril. The Iran-Iraq war continues on its bloody and horrific way. As has been said, it is a constant threat to our friends in Kuwait, in the United Arab Emirates and in Saudi Arabia. It could escalate in an almost uncontrollable manner. This is no time for passivity. Courageous, intelligent and far-sighted diplomacy is essential to try to save the day.

6.9 pm

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

I find myself, as is not unusual on these occasions, agreeing with every word that the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) has said. He has a much greater grip and understanding of the realities of what is happening in the Middle East, and the enormous and immense dangers emanating from that area, than some of those who whisper implications against what he has been saying.

Mr. Bell

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Faulds

No, I have no intention of giving way to anybody, even on my own side, because we have a limitation of time and I have promised to be very brief. If my hon. Friend wishes to discuss these matters with me, perhaps he can seek me out in the Tea Room.

A lot of ground has been covered for me by the hon. Member for Westbury. I do not need to pursue the arguments he has made because, as I say, I agree with them. But I want for a moment or two to look at the enormous complexities of what is happening, and may happen, in the Middle East.

We only have to look at the disastrous, tragic, history of Lebanon in the last few years and the lesson that the Americans have not yet learnt: that foreign intervention in situations like that only exacerbates the disaster. It is ridiculous for the Americans to claim that they are entitled, as part of a multinational force, to take a factional part in the fighting; to lob shells into certain communities in the Lebanon, while Syria, which actually is a neighbour and which shares a great community of population and of interest with the Lebanon, is thought of as a foreign intervener.

Syria was, in the first place, asked to come in in 1976, to stop the decimation of the Right-wing and the Christian forces. Syria answered that call. Recently we had the remarkable example of the Syrian Foreign Secretary putting to the Lebanese factions a series of negotiations and negotiating points, which, if the murderous geriatrics in Lausanne had the sense to listen to, and if that misguided and rather ignorant young President had had the courage to pursue, might have led to a settlement of the Lebanese problem. Now Lebanon faces the likelihood of increased and murderous warfare, internally among the factions, dragging on for many months.

But what worries me is that the Americans have not yet learnt their lesson. It is quite likely, when the fighting is renewed in the Lebanon—as it will be—that the United States will think that they have got to show their muscle in election year. If that fleet sails back and takes part in the internal fighting with Lebanon, it will only make the situation much worse. The United States has got to understand that any intervention of its, whether it is in Lebanon or whether it comes in the Gulf—and I am terrified that it may come there—only radicalises political views in the area. It radicalises them politically among the Intelligentsia who have been abroad, who have had a good education in the West, and who are normally sympathetic to Western ideas, but they are being forced to adopt more and more radical positions by the attitude of America; and, of course, it radicalises the area religiously.

Every time America lobs a shell into that part of the world; every time America claims a right to intervene, it creates converts for Khomeini-ism and they yet have not begun to understand that—which is perhaps the most dangerous development in the Middle East.

I want in this debate to concentrate on the war between Iran and Iraq and the dangers that that poses for the whole world and the tragedy that it creates for the peoples of those two countries.

I returned a couple of days ago from a visit to Iraq. It was only my second visit. I was accompanied by a number of my parliamentary colleagues—two from each side of the House, if the third parties will forgive me for excluding them. I was accompanied by gentlemen who are not normally thought of as committed to the Arab cause. I do not wish to mention their names because they may want to speak for themselves when they return. Two of them are still there.

My colleagues and I were enormously impressed by a number of factors. First, when we met the Speaker of the Assembly, who I suppose is the sort of equivalent of our Prime Minister—and the Foreign Secretary—a highly intelligent and a very articulate gentleman—we were enormously impressed by a number of arguments that those gentlemen put to us, and I want to draw two conclusions from those conversations we had.

We were given detailed information about the developments in Iraq before the war, and it is quite clear that Iraq had become one of the countries that had been most successful in the development of its infrastructure and the use of its human and real resources—raw resources—and it is a tragedy that the war has aborted that development. It was clear, too, from those talks, that whatever we may think of the regime—I think most of us who have Arab friends in most of the Arab countries would have reservations on many aspects of the regime—Iraq is now a moderate Arab state.

Mr. Janner

indicated dissent.

Mr. Faulds

We have this silly giggling because the poor fellow does not understand the situation and does not want to learn. It is quite clear that Iraq is now numbered amongst the moderate nations of the Arab world. She has extremely good relations with the Gulf—hardly enemies of the West. She has extremely good relations with Egypt, with Saudi Arabia and with Jordan, all of which are in the pro-Western camp in the Arab world.

And what is our attitude? We discussed this with the Iraqi Foreign Secretary. He made it quite clear—and he went out of his way to make the point—that they much appreciated the support and the understanding of France. Now you and I, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and most of our colleagues here, know that France has a very commercial consideration of where her interests lie. The Iraqis accept that but say that, in addition to that, France has a real appreciation of the problems that face Iraq in terms of the dangers of Khomeini-ism spreading throughout the Middle East. He underlined the support and the understanding of the French Government. But he also argued that Britain is taking an extremely ambivalent view of what is happening between Iran and Iraq.

We tried to argue that our friends in Iraq were wrong in making this interpretation, but this is what the three we met—the Speaker of the Assembly, the Trade Minister and the Foreign Secretary—said: "Britain is sitting on the fence".

They argued that there were two reasons for that: first, that the British—the Foreign Office—thought that, if we were reasonable with Khomeini, there might be a chance of influencing what happened within Iran in terms of the development of a moderate regime. If that is what the Iraqis think, I cannot believe that that is what the Foreign Office thinks. There is no prospect of the removal of the Khomeini regime even if the old man dies, which would be some relief for the rest of his compatriots. Another Mullah will take over with as fanatical and barbaric ideas as his. So the Iranian regime is not going to change. We gain nothing, if there is any truth in that argument, by trying to maintain reasonably good relations with them in the hope that we can play a part in helping to secure, or supporting the evolution of, a moderate regime.

The second argument of his was that we have an interest—and I am sorry to have to report this again to the Foreign Office—in good relations with Iran because we were supplying material that could be used for their war effort. I know that the Foreign Office official reply is: "We are not supplying lethal weapons". That is a joke in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, such a joke that when the word came up in Arabic—the Iraqi Foreign Secretary could not remember the word "lethal"—there were giggles from his civil servants while they supplied the proper Arabic interpretation, which was a sort of joke use of the term "lethal weapons".

I believe that the Foreign Office is not supplying lethal weapons. I am worried that rumours have been spread from America—for possibly obvious commercial reasons—that we are doing so. But I do urge the Minister of State and his colleague, the Foreign Secretary, to understand that we have got to look pretty carefully at what is actually going into Iran from British supplies or through other means—and I will return to that in a moment.

The gentlemen we met talked, too, of some effects of the war on Iraq. We all know the situation. They cannot get their oil out, either through the Gulf or through the Syrian pipeline, because of those ridiculous Arab brotherhood disagreements. They get a very limited amount through the Turkish pipeline. They are hoping to have the opening of a Saudi Arabian line, and one hopes for their sake that that comes about pretty soon. They—very sadly, because they are not pro-Russian in the sense that most of our un-understanding colleages would accept that phrase—are very worried that they have been forced closer to the Soviet Union for arms supplies, which we in Britain refuse to supply and which some of the other Western countries are more than reticent to supply. They have been forced to go to the USSR for the arms they need to fight the war they are now involved in.

Iraq fears a war of attrition. Iraq has a population of something like 14 million; Iran's is, I think, nearly three times that. I am open to correction from those who know Iran better than I do, but I think it is roughly three times that. Iraq fears a war of attrition. She is being economically drained by the costs of the war and, of course, the difficulty of getting out her rich resources of oil. She has responded favourably. There is a good deal of disagreement as to who actually started this disastrous and unhappy confrontation, but undoubtedly since the war started Iraq has responded favourably to all the initiatives for a peace settlement; those from the United Nations Secretary-General; those mounted by Algeria, and those mounted by King Hassan of Morocco.

The main burden of the exchanges with the Iraqi Foreign Secretary was this: he pled that we in Britain try to understand what they were fighting against in terms of Khomeini-ism. They urged us to appreciate the implications of any advance of Khomeini-ism. One or two of our colleagues in the House this afternoon have touched on that. He was surprised that those with interests in the Middle East simply did not begin to understand what Khomeini-ism meant and he argued—and we all know this is happening—that Khomeini-ism is already at work. There is a half-world-wide campaign of Khomeini-ism in the Gulf, in Kuwait, in North Africa with an ally, and in Saudi Arabia, and, even as far afield as Nigeria. The Foreign Secretary argued, in desperation, with us. Why could not we begin to appreciate that Khomeini's regime was intent on the spreading of those barbaric, perverse, ideas throughout, first, the whole of that Arab area, which they would not find too difficult once they, Iraq, were defeated because nobody else could put up a military resistance in the whole of that area to the spread of Khomeini-ism? He put to us the point, quite bluntly: the aim of Khomeini was eventually to dominate Mecca and Medina, and then he would have achieved his dream. And then God help the rest of the world!

The implications of that domination, either physical or spiritual, are absolutely horrifying. It means that not only would the Arabs throughout the area have to suffer a perversion of Islam. They would have to suffer a reversion to the barbaric practices that the Foreign Secretary spelled out in detail: the barbaric practices of the Mullahs in Iran.

But not only would the Arabs suffer. The effect of Khomeini-ism, because of its possession of Mecca and Medina, would spread throughout millions and millions of Moslems throughout the world with unforseeable political consequences. There would be explosions in country after country. There would be intense and enormous damage, not only to western interests, which we should be concerned with, but to Western ideas, and half the globe would slip back centuries into a barbarism that the advanced and intelligent Arabs are horrified by. This is why the Iraqi Foreign Secretary, for an hour and a half, the Speaker of the Assembly, for an hour and a half, and the Trade Minister—although we managed to get him to discuss rather more detailed matters—went on, and on, and on with this warning.

I think that the lessons for Britain from all this are quite clear. We really cannot afford to maintain any longer this Foreign Office position of impartiality. The Iraqis are, in a sense, fighting a war that some of us are only now beginning to understand is of much larger dimensions and implications than the geographic area it is presently being fought in. I think we must make a gesture of understanding of the Iraqi position—as France has done and as, I believe, more Western countries will begin to do. I do not want Britain to be the last in that race and I think, if I may have the impertinence to suggest it to the Minister, he should consider a visit to Baghdad, or the Foreign Secretary himself should consider a visit to Baghdad. I think it is essential because it is many months now since anybody from the Foreign and Commonwealth was out in Iraq itself.

Although I know that there are commercial implications in this, we should carefully consider whether it is right to allow the transfer of this ship which I think is berthed in Newcastle. I understand the Iranians bought it many, many moons ago now and that we are prepared to fulfil its transfer, having stripped it of any useful equipment, in completion of the deal in which it was purchased. Iran owes a great deal of money to many countries in the world. I do think that the Department of Trade should consider very carefully whether the sale of this half-empty hulk of a ship that has gone somewhat rusty, I am told, in the last three years, is really worth it in terms of the damage it will do, by simply confirming the Iraqi view that we are prepared to supply Iran with arms and other warlike equipment. The transfer of that ship will simply confirm Iraq's suspicions of Britain's position vis-a-vis Iran and Iraq in this war.

We have, very wisely, recently negotiated—and I gather it was a very successful meeting—a £250 million medium transfer loan which the Prime Minister and, I think, Mr. Ramadan signed in October. I do urge the Foreign Office to see that they give all the assistance they can to see that there is no banking difficulty that arises about this loan, that the banks are as co-operative as they can be in these difficult circumstances in Iraq and that we make use of this £250 million medium-term credit; not only in the interests of better relations with Iraq but because it will supply a certain element of job creation in this country and anything that creates jobs and increases British exports can only be heartily sought for.

Finally—I say this to the Foreign Secretary without suggesting that I doubt the Foreign Office's word—I do think that we need to look very carefully at what we are actually supplying to Iran, and I hope we will abandon this defence of our position by the explicit use of the phrase "lethal weapons". There are many other materials of war that can be supplied once that term is used and I think the Foreign Office should look, too, not only at direct supplies but at what may be getting in from Britain through second countries. One of the Ministers we talked to went into some detail about those second hand transfers—if one may use such a phrase—between Iran and other countries in Western Europe. I will give the details to the Minister in private if he wants to have them. I do not think it is for me to discuss the internal affairs of other countries, not in the House of Commons; but I think we ought to look very carefully to ensure that the suspicion that we are supplying some sorts of goods for the Iranian war effort is put to bed as quickly as it can be, because it is doing enormous damage at the moment to our relations with that very important country in the Middle East.

6.28 pm
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) will forgive me if I do not take up his remarks. It will come as no surprise to hon. Members that in this wide-ranging debate I intend to comment on the Government's relationships with the Government of the Republic of South Africa. I shall also refer to what has been happening in that important part of the world over the last few months.

I apologise to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary for missing his opening remarks, especially as I believe that he made a passing reference to affairs in southern Africa. I understand that in summing up the Opposition spokesman will make a more detailed statement of the Opposition's view.

There is no doubt that events in Mozambique over the past few days have caused a dramatic change in politics in southern Africa. The Mozambique Government are not, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) suggested, unwilling participants. They have willingly entered into a non-aggression pact that could change events for the betterment not only of the people of Mozambique but of all the peoples of southern Africa. I shall spend a few moments on that matter, talk briefly about the contribution of our trading links with South Africa, and then discuss our sporting links with the Republic.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, yesterday during Question Time described the document as an "historic agreement". I join in the message of warm congratulations sent by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and, I believe, many other world leaders to the leaders of those two countries on signing the treaty. The treaty will bring a new stability to that part of the world—a matter which was well discussed in the Daily Telegraph today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). His article described it as a "chance for cooperation rather than confrontation."

I should like to believe—perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister of State will confirm this—that the United Kingdom had something to do with that new approach to Mozambique. In October the British Government had discussions with Professor Marchal, when he was in Britain. The Government made a generous offer to him, wiping out his country's outstanding debts. He also received an award from the Queen. I admit that several Conservative Members viewed those discussions suspiciously. If those offers were a basis of the outcome of these new discussions, many hon. Members would welcome them and congratulate the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on its initiative.

I hope that the new agreement will encourage a peaceful settlement in Angola and in the south-west. We can be encouraged by the Cubans' recent remarks, that they are seriously considering a phased withdrawal of troops, and also the South African Government's movement towards a phased withdrawal of troops. We hope that that will herald a new era of peaceful co-operation in that part of the world. At the same time, it will be up to the Government, including my hon. Friend and his colleagues, to adopt a slightly warmer attitude towards the people and Government of the Republic of South Africa than has been shown in the past. I regret that only one official ministerial visit has been made to that country since 1979. In the next few months, many fences need to be rebuilt.

The importance of Simonstown is obvious to all, as it was during the Falklands conflict. It is unfortunate that we continue the arms embargo to such an extent that we have forced South Africa to export arms. It is unfortunate that we are continuing with the Gleneagles agreement and discouraging sporting links. I believe that here we are supported by the Commonwealth, but not necessarily by many other countries. It is unfortunate also that we are continuing to make accusations about South African destabilisation policy. None of those accusations has any foundation.

The British Government's attitude should be similar to that of the United States of America, particularly since President Reagan came to office. The United States is anxious to help and co-operate, and it would be for the betterment of all the peoples of southern Africa if we took that attitude.

Many hold allegiance with the people of South Africa, especially among the English-speaking people. They are anxious that the new-found warmth that is becoming apparent is fostered by the British Government. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will acknowledge that feeling.

It must be admitted that there have been several dramatic constitutional changes in South Africa.

I believe that all hon. Members condemn the system of apartheid as a gross violation of human rights, and one which we, and others involved in these affairs, are committed to removing. We must acknowledge that the changes show some movement towards equal franchise, which most people, and certainly those of us who enjoy a full democratic system, would want in South Africa.

Several major changes have occurred in the law, although they may be minor by our standards. There is a continuing relaxation of the apartheid system, albeit not sufficiently fast for people in this country, but at least it is a genuine attempt to relax some of the iniquitous laws that still exist. Undoubtedly the South African Government have a blind-eye policy towards many of the more petty sectors of apartheid. If we are to encourage relaxation of that system, which we all want, then a policy of co-operation, rather than confrontation, will help it on its way. Even the black population, who do not and will not, even under the constitutional changes, enjoy the new political freedom that the Coloureds and the Indians will enjoy, are moving towards a system of better representation.

The trade union movement is now well represented by black people. There are blacks in management and even as company directors. South Africa understands that its economic dependence rests virtually on the shoulders of the black people. They can be part of that process. We should try to encourage some form of co-operation.

We must never forget the number of jobs in Britain dependent on South Africa. I was interested that the hon. Member for Warley, East should comment that we all depend upon jobs. About 150,000 British jobs—those are the Prime Minister's figures, not mine—are dependent on our trade with South Africa. We are dependent on South Africa for many minerals——

Mr. Faulds

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carlisle

I am sorry, but I must continue,—many of which would otherwise be available only from behind the iron curtain. It is up to us to encourage and foster those jobs.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) has left the Chamber. During the debate on Barclays bank, the hon. Gentleman urged Barclays bank to disinvest from South Africa and to throw away 23,000 jobs, of which 7,000 or 8,000 are held by non-white people. Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman said that some inconvenience would need to be suffered in the pursuit of the abolition of apartheid. Many people in my constituency are dependent on their companies' trade with South Africa, and they would use stronger words if they lost their jobs because their companies disinvested.

In this wide-ranging debate, I must briefly mention the continuation of the Government's policy to boycott sporting links. The Government are slavishly adhering to the Gleneagles agreement. Since this matter was last raised on the Floor of the House by me four or five weeks ago, the Government have shown a distinct shift in policy, perhaps somewhat unwittingly and unknowingly. That was revealed by a reply given in the other place by my noble Friend Lord Skelmersdale. On 13 March, Lord Chalfont asked: Is it in fact the policy of Her Majesty's Government not to encourage sporting links with countries where, as the Gleneagles Agreement says, 'sports are organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin', or is it the policy of Her Majesty's Government to discourage sporting links with South Africa while the policy of apartheid remains in force there? Lord Skelmersdale replied: My Lords, the latter."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 13 March 1984; Vol. 449, c. 627.] Judging by that answer, it would seem that the Government have shifted their position. I seek my hon. Friend's guidance on that point.

If the Government are saying, "We will not resume sporting links while the system of apartheid remains in South Africa," I suggest that is a complete change from the agreement concluded by the Heads of Government in 1977. That agreement, which is called the declaration of apartheid in sport, specifically states many times that, where apartheid in sport exists, Commonwealth countries would discourage sporting contacts with the country in question. I support that contention. It is an admirable sentiment. Now that it has been proved almost conclusively by many observers and witnesses from all points of the political spectrum, and, indeed throughout the world, that sports are not organised on that basis, but are integrated, that spectators are not segregated, and that there is complete freedom of movement within the sporting complex, and at sporting events, then surely the Gleneagles agreement is out of date and irrelevant? If we are to take the attitude that, unless the system of apartheid is abolished in South Africa, we will not renew sporting links, I suggest to my hon. Friends that we should begin to look at other countries, and ask whether apartheid or some form of violation of human rights exists in those countries. If it does, can we, in fairness, continue to have sporting links with such countries?

I am somewhat saddened by some of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport, who, I regret, is not present in the Chamber, in his references to the South African Council on Sport slogan, "No normal sport in an abnormal society." That may be a fairly admirable sentiment, but, if it is carried through to the full, can we honestly continue to play football against Argentina, and tennis against Chile, and should we be playing cricket against India and against Sri Lanka? The list is endless. If there is a violation of human rights in various countries, it is incumbent upon us to discuss it in the House, and to do all that we can to remove it. I suggest that that removal must be done in the fairest of ways. What is good for the goose, if that is South Africa, must be good for the gander, if that is other countries which are violating human rights in the same way as South Africa.

Do my hon. Friends really believe that the continuation of this boycott is doing any good? I submit that it is now doing real harm, not only to the interests of sportsmen in this country, but to the interests of non-white sportsmen in South Africa. If the forthcoming rugby tour takes place —I sincerely hope that it does, as, I believe, do at least 108 of my hon. Friends, and, indeed most of the country—it will open the way to tremendous co-operation between the sporting fraternities. I think that the Minister can comfortably ignore the bluffs and blackmails by other Commonwealth countries. We desperately need to warm our relationships with South Africa. I implore the Minister to reappraise his attitude to South Africa, to the South African Government, and to the South African people.

We have heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) that the world has become a more dangerous place in the last few months. South Africa is crucial to the stability of the world, to our economic prosperity and to the well-being of all the peoples of Africa. I beg my right hon. and hon. Friends to consider a policy of dialogue and co-operation, rather than the present policy of confrontation.

6.43 pm
Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

I wish to refer first to an area that has not yet been mentioned, to my disappointment—the island of Cyprus. About three weeks ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) and I, and several hon. Members from both sides of the House, asked the Foreign Secretary what the British Government were prepared to do about the situation in Cyprus. We did so for a number of reasons, not least because of our past colonial associations with Cyprus, the fact that Cyprus is a Commonwealth country, the fact that Cyprus, with Turkey, signed the Helsinki final act, and, equally important, the fact that Britain is a guarantor of the sovereignty of Cyprus. The Foreign Secretary assured us that he was very interested in the matter, and that he was doing all that he could, and said that he hoped that the initiatives at the United Nations would succeed. I have read the speeches of the Foreign Secretary very carefully since then, and he has never allowed the name of Cyprus to cross his lips in any public speech. Today—and I know that he had only a short time in which to cover many matters—once again he did not mention Cyprus.

I believe that it is possible for us to use our leverage to obtain some movement in the situation in Cyprus. The United Nations is taking a special initiative in Cyprus. I have sympathy with the Turkish-speaking Cypriots, now almost all in the north of the island. I also have sympathy for the Greek Cypriots, exiled from their homes and land, trying to build a new life, in which they had been very successful economically. However, any hon. Member who has visited the island will know that the refugees remain determined, if possible, to return to their old homes and to the land in which they have lived so long. Hundreds of families in Cyprus, after 10 years, are still waiting for news of their loved ones who disappeared at the time of the Turkish invasion. These refugees are almost certain to raise the matter with any hon. Member who visits the island, and to plead for our assistance in trying to trace these missing persons.

I believe that the key to the Cyprus problem lies not in Britain, in Ankara, in Athens, or even in the United Nations in New York, but in Washington. It is no coincidence that the declaration of the illegal Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus took place immediately after the signing by President Reagan of a huge $1 billion loan agreement with the Turkish Government.

I note that the United States is very willing to use economic pressure elsewhere in the world—in Zimbabwe, and in Argentina—and that matter has been raised in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in the United States. Questioning United States Secretary Shultz on the Cyprus problems, Senator Biden said: When we are not satisfied with Zimbabwe we reduce assistance. When we are satisfied with Argentina we increase assistance. Turkey is the only country to have recognised the illegal Turkish Cypriot State and we are providing increased assistance to her on better terms. Should we not take into consideration, apart from strategic needs, harmonization with our foreign policy? Secretary Shultz said: The geographic position of Turkey is strategic. I believe that that is the reason—and there must be a special reason—why the United States is not prepared to throw its full weight into solving the crisis in Cyprus. It suits what is called the strategic interests of the United States to keep Cyprus in its present unhappy and divided state.

I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will say something about Cyprus, because there is an intense interest, not only among Cypriots living in Britain, but among the British community, in this country, which is a member of the Commonwealth.

I deal next with a matter that should be a top priority, not only in this Parliament, but in every Parliament throughout the world—world peace and disarmament. Let us understand clearly that the negotiations in Europe, involving European and north Atlantic countries, concern not only us; they are of intense interest to the people of every country.

Two world wars have begun on the soil of Europe. About 80 per cent. of global arms expenditure is the result of the defence programmes of the countries which signed the Helsinki final act. That was specifically brought out by the Secretary-General of the United Nations when he spoke in 1975 at the signing of the final act. He said that the 35 countries represented were responsible between them for 80 per cent. of the world's arms expenditure. He said that much could be achieved by those present. Unfortunately, the position then has not improved in any way.

The countries which signed the final act, East and West, can destroy the world 10 times over, but still we are not content. Next year Britain plans to spend £17 billion on defence. In 1985–86 Britain will spend an additional £1 billion, making £18 billion in total. In 1986–87 Britain will spend £18.6 billion. In those three years we shall spend nearly £54 billion on defence, expanding our armoury of weapons all the time. That is £13.5 billion more than we shall spend on education in those three years. We shall be spending £10 billion less on the National Health Service, including capital expenditure, than we shall on defence. Our priorities clearly are for defence spending yet we already have the capacity to defend ourselves and the rest of Europe without further expenditure.

Why do we imagine that only the British people have to make sacrifices because of the arms build-up? Let us examine the documents issued following the nonalignment conference in New Delhi at the beginning of last year. They express great concern about the spreading of nuclear arms and missiles all over the world. Rightly, they do not mention cruise missiles in particular, but there is no doubt that at that time cruise missiles and Trident were much in the minds of the people present at the discussions.

The documents also mention the huge waste of world resources on cruise, Trident and SS20s which are enormously expensive to a world with finite resources.

The Brandt commission report published in 1980, "North-South: A Programme for Survival" and its more recent "Common Crisis" show that no progress has been made in the struggle to save the world from itself in the three years between their publication. "Common Crisis" says that the world has slipped back even from its unhappy position in 1980. There has been an alarming deterioration.

We are fond of defending our defence policy. Our nuclear defence policy is defended with the argument that it has kept the peace in Europe for 40 years. Perhaps it has done that in Europe, but the victims of the nuclear arms race, the casualties of the hidden, secret war of starvation, sickness and deprivation, are the 800 million destitute people in the Third world. They can only stand and weep when they see 15 million of their children dying of starvation every year. They are the real victims of our defence policy. I speak not only of Britain's defence policy, but of the defence policies of all the countries which signed the Helsinki final act, including Socialist countries. They must also examine what they are doing to the Third world by continuing to build up arms.

That is why I call on our Government to take new attitudes at the disarmament talks in Geneva and Vienna, and especially at the Stockholm conference on confidence and security building measures and disarmament in Europe. That conference has just finished its first eight weeks. It will open again. It is particularly concerned about the confidence building mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) in two interventions. Disarmament measures are important. It is important to decide on a reduction of arms, mutually agreed and verified, but nothing will be achieved until there is confidence between the two sides.

For all our arguments with the French about the Common Market, we do not feel threatened by its possession of nuclear weapons because we have confidence in that country. If we had the same confidence in eastern Europe, we might make some progress in the talks. The talks which have just reopened in Vienna have been going on for 10 years and progress has been practically nil. Some people believe that there is no will to make progress and that we are glad that the talks continue so that we can find out about the other side's military advances.

We should seize the opportunity of the Stockholm conference. I have met Ambassador Edes, who is leading our delegation. He was extremely kind and courteous to me. We had a long discussion and he told me what was happening, as far as he could bearing in mind the confidentiality of the conference. I admire the work being done there, but the remit is too narrow. The conference is discussing and elaborating on some of the baskets that were in the Helsinki final act signed eight years ago. The confidence-building measures mentioned then involved observers at troop manoeuvres over a certain size. The arrangement has worked well. Moves have been made by both sides suggesting that observers should be present when the troop numbers are not as high as are laid down in the final act.

Our ambassador told me that the conference is busy trying to make the agreement mandatory. If no difficulties have been experienced in working the agreement on a voluntary basis, is it worth wasting three years on such military technical detail? It is an important matter, but it is not likely to build confidence. I regard that as a waste of valuable time and money.

When the conference resumes, why does not the United Kingdom make a move towards some real confidence-building proposals? Such proposals are on the table and being discussed. I think of an immediate freeze on nuclear arsenals.

The leader of the Liberal party, the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), from his experience of the Soviet Union on a recent visit, said that the Russians do not want to freeze at the present level because they believe that we have sneaked in with cruise and Pershing missiles and gained undue advantage. I believe that to be their position. Previously they have been in favour of a freeze. They agreed to it at the special session of the United Nations and in the United Nations itself. Perhaps they will rein back a little if we suggest freezing at the present level. It is a point that could be negotiated. If it were obtained, it would build the confidence that is necessary before we can take further steps on disarmament.

Why do we not renounce the first use of nuclear weapons? The Prime Minister has said that such declamatory statements are of no great value. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) put forward much the same view when he said that it is a long slow process to build up confidence. We may think that such statements are of no great value, but what do the Russians think of them? It is the confidence of the Russians that we are trying to build up. If they want us to make such a statement, why should we not make it? Surely we are not saying that we will make the first use of nuclear weapons in another war. I cannot believe that our Government are pursuing that policy, although on several occasions I have heard them accused of doing so.

I should like to see a complete ban on nuclear weapons, an agreement on the non-use of military force and an end to cold war propaganda. There are children in this country who have been subjected to such a deluge of anti-Soviet propaganda over the years that they are unaware that the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States were on the same side in the last war. They think that our enemy in that war was the Soviet Union. Who can blame them for thinking that when we consider what is printed in the press?

The steps that I have suggested have huge support among ordinary people. Freeze resolutions carry immense public support in the United States. It is interesting to examine the political statements that are being made by the contenders for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. They are taking a freeze seriously. Perhaps it is only an attempt to obtain votes. I do not know whether they are sincere—I do not know them well enough for that—but I am interested to learn that they believe they can get strong electoral support by taking this line. That must mean that there is much support for it in the United States.

If our Government can take a lead in bringing these things forward when the Stockholm conference resumes, we shall have done a great service not only to our own country, to Europe and to North America but to the whole world where millions are being starved because of the continual arms race.

7.3 pm

Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)

The hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond) has spoken on a relevant and important subject and has made a good contribution to the debate. He will forgive me if I do not follow him, because this is the sort of debate where there is a galaxy of subject areas. We all have in mind that which we individually want to pursue.

Speaking from the Back Benches at this stage of a debate, I often find it difficult to decide what to speak on. The sort of tour de monde that comes well in the early stages of the debate, particularly from the Front Benches, is somewhat difficult at this stage for the less illustrous such as myself. On the other side of the coin there is always the fear that someone may speak about one's specialist subject before one has the opportunity to do so. That is why I had two vague speeches prepared.

Fortunately no one has spoken in such detail as to prevent me from concentrating on the Lebanon. I do not feel that it has yet been fully covered. Any contribution augments the widespread concern about the middle east generally and about American policy there, which has already been mentioned on both sides of the House, from the Opposition Front Bench by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and in sound terms by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) a short time ago. Therefore, I choose the subject of the Lebanon for itself and also as an example of where American policy has gone wrong, in the hope that we may learn lessons for the future.

It is necessary to examine briefly the background. I want to give a short series of points about the background; in no way do I intend to give the House a history lesson. Nevertheless, we must remember that since Roman times the Lebanon has been administered as part of Greater Syria. It is a recent creation, a creature of the French mandate. Its constitution is as recent as 1926 and its formation is not unconnected with the Christian religion. It was always run on the basis of Christian dominance, with built-in safeguards for the rest.

Going from the historical facts to its size and population, we begin to get nearer to the current problems. It is a small country. It has not had a census since 1932 but so far as people can guess, the population is about 3.5 million. What is known is that the Maronite Christians—the constitution was formed on the basis that they were the majority—now number about 900,000. The Shi'a Moslems number about 1.1 million, the Sunni Moslems 750,000, and the Druze 200,000; I am leaving out many minor sects. That means that the Maronites, for whom the constitution was made, are overwhelmingly in the minority.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend, but I was in the Lebanon last week and, to get this on the record, I was told by the Druze themselves that they number 350,000, not 200,000.

Mr. Temple-Morris

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's concern with the Druze; I shall promote them to 350,00. I am relieved that his intervention, which was helpful, does not alter the main point of what I was saying. In addition to the minority of the Christians, which is the important point to get over, there is the history of the feuding chieftains. They walk arm in arm with the wives of others on the promenades of Lausanne one day, but unfortunately kill members of each other's families the next day. They have been in a state of civil war since 1975. Their nationalism, which still exists triumphantly in spite of everything that has happened to them, is insufficient to combat the religious and other differences of the various communities. They need to be taken by the scruff of the neck and forced to reach a solution. The Americans could not do it; now the Syrians have been unable to do it and I am afraid the agony goes on.

That agony has been reached in recent years, beginning in 1970 with the PLO exit from Jordan and the upsetting of the balance in the Lebanon in two different ways; first between Christian and Moslem, and then between political Left and political Right. In 1975 there was a civil war, and in 1976 there was the Syrian intervention. Important points that are relevant today should be made about that.

That intervention was made on the invitation of the Lebanese Government, and in particular its Christian President. The intervention saved the Christians at a time when they were in dire danger of defeat. One hopes that no disaster will happen now, but a similar danger exists. They were saved then by Syria. Syria has been much misjudged by the United States, but one of the motives of its intervention then was to contain and control the PLO. That drama was completed as recently as last November from the Syrian point of view, when Chairman Arafat finally left Tripoli.

In 1982 the principal, though not the first, Israeli invasion took place. That was both unnecessary and pointless, as well as being brutal. It hopelessly upset the balance in the Lebanon. It accomplished absolutely nothing from the Israeli point of view. It started all the agony again. In August 1982 there was the formation of the multinational force, which was later joined by the United Kingdom. In September 1982, following the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the Israelis entered west Beirut and within 24 hours the tragedy took place at Sabra and Chatila. I do not intend to make this an Israeli-bashing speech, but when history is written, in any overall judgment Israel will bear a heavy responsibility for what happened in those two camps on that afternoon and night. Bearing in mind that background, we come to 1983 and the involvement of the United States. In so far as I am critical, I criticise as a friend. I appreciate that often we talk about criticising as a friend and go on to give every appearance of speaking of an enemy. While we have close contacts with the United States, we cannot allow our proximity—the Atlantic Alliance and all that we have in common, which is a great deal—to render the Back Benches mute when it comes to policy in other areas of the world, because those areas are vital in containing the peace of the world and are, therefore, not unconnected with the Alliance as a whole.

The situation is extremely serious. Reference has been made to the United States involvement with Israel, to the various blunders that have occurred in the region and King Hussein's recent statement, and my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury dealt particularly with that. All these occurrences are making it more difficult for the moderate Arab states in the area to make their fair contribution to a settlement. Thus, the overall agony is prolonged and the extremes are encouraged, be they Shi'ites in the Gulf or in the Lebanon, or whatever other factions occur.

We see in the Lebanon a series of examples of what we and the United States should avoid, and I am speaking particularly about American policy in the area. I recently went to the American embassy and listened to a high-ranking State Department official over a television link with the State Department in Washington. He made constant refernces—this was at the height of the Lebanese war—to the fact that the Americans would "consult and act with our ally, Israel". One could imagine that every time that was said, more difficulties were created for one's moderate Arab friends and the contribution that they might make.

The same applied to the 17 May accord or agreement, designed by Secretary of State Shultz, again reflecting the Israeli line, but completely ignoring the presence of Syria. Nothing was more guaranteed to alienate Syria. That agreement was also based on an erroneous assumption. It was based on a Christian Lebanon approach to Israel, rather than on having a policy addressed to the solution of the whole reason for the agony, the struggle for a sovereign and independent Arab Lebanon; in other words, for a balanced and constitutional settlement in the country.

Worse becomes worse, taking sides, politically and militarily, with the Maronite Christians. I dare say that I am not alone in the House in deploring every 2-tonne shell fired at Beirut from the battleship New Jersey, pounding shells into what was once, and hopefully will be again, a beautiful country. It ignored the root of the situation, the ending of Christian minority domination with the minimal loss of life. Unfortunately, more and more lives are being lost every day.

That was one reason for the failure of Lausanne. Indeed, Israel continues with the same policy till this moment, and one wonders what United States policy will be if it is drawn back into the conflict. The more that it takes sides in the way that it has, the more the Maronite Right wing will be encouraged to bring pressure on a President who is not strong enough and who does not have the political base from which to resist.

The United States also made a fatal error in seeing the Syrians as enemies. They were referred to in the American media—I saw and heard it for myself—as "Soviet surrogates". That is utter and complete rubbish. One of Syria's fears has always been that a war with Israel would lead—as indeed it would—to increased Soviet presence and influence in their country. They do not want that, any more than anybody else wants it. It is staggering to me that, with their resources and wealth, the Americans have not appreciated these basic facts.

The American action also completely ignored the legitimate and historical interests of Syria in the area. Obviously the Syrians will take what they can get, but their conduct at Geneva and Lausanne has at least demonstrated to the world that they are capable of trying to get an independent Lebanon into existence. They have failed, and the consequences of that failure will be dire.

If we insist on seeing everything in simplistic East-West terms, we will not get anywhere, and the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) illustrated the necessity of reaching a wider and more balanced solution. I pay tribute to what my right hon. Friend said and hope that the Government will pay heed to his advice, as they seem to be doing in certain respects. My right hon. Friend has been making that case for some time.

America took a partisan position and military action and was seen throughout the Arab world—many of us were there at the time, or have visited the area recently—as having a direct military alliance on the ground with Israel against the Arab world. That is an important point to bear in mind, because it ignored the history and logical political action that should have been taken. Such conduct encourages extremism in all its forms—Shi'ite, Communist or anything in between.

As for the future, the Soviet Union is obviously ready to participate and would like to do so, but it is largely inactive in the area. The United States has retired hurt and Secretary Shultz two days ago said that there were no new initiatives. The Israelis are prepared actively to intervene at any time, and some of their interventions are not necessarily helpful to an overall solution of the problems of the area. Lausanne has been a failure. More fighting is inevitable and the partition of the Lebanon is becoming increasingly permanent.

If the Christians begin to lose the battle—it looks as though they will—there could be a repeat of the 1976 situation, but I do not believe that Syria would actively enter the conflict; it would let them destroy each other further in the hope that they would finally reach a constitutional settlement. Like everyone else, Syria does not want to lose more lives in the area.

That all leads to three basic scenarios. There is not much hope for the first, but it should be mentioned to complete the picture: it is a Lebanese constitutional settlement under international supervision. That would mean, following the demise of the multinational force and in the present circumstances, United Nations involvement. To get United Nations involvement as the price of lifting the veto raises the whole question of the involvement of the Soviet Union in the overall settlement of middle east questions, and my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury dealt with that. In view of all the difficulties involved, for little Lebanon it is perhaps not the most obvious scenario.

The second—which, sadly, is perhaps the most likely—is a permanently partitioned buffer state of the Lebanon between Israel and Syria pending an overall middle eastern settlement, whenever that might come, and hopefully it will come one day. Israel and Syria would perhaps be united in one course; even they would agree that neither wants in the middle a cowboy state that could start a war between them. For that practical reason, permanent partitioning is the most likely.

The third scenario is that they batter and battle themselves into an eventual constitutional settlement, which would be more by way of overall constitutional submission. It is orchestrated by Syria, and I dare say that if fighting broke out soon, which undoubtedly will happen—it is going on all the time and is increasing—the only hope is that eventually they would get tired of it. One mourns the many who would lose their lives in the process.

The tragedy of the Lebanon is a lesson for the middle east as a whole. As ever—one wishes to be constructive when speaking about friends—America is the key, whether or not we like that. The Americans must put pressure on Israel and get beyond their shores and see the overall situation. That will enable the moderate Arab states to act. There are many of them and they are only too willing to help if they are given a lead and if they feel that America is being at least reasonably neutral in the matter. If that does not happen, we shall have a continuing war in the area and there will be nothing but bad news for the West and all it represents.

7.19 pm
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) on a speech that concentrated on the issues in the Lebanon. One thing that struck me was that he succeeded in recounting the entire history of events in the middle east from 1970 to 1982 with only a single reference to the Soviet Union, and that was to say that the Soviet Union was inactive in the region.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak, especially as I asked the Leader of the House for this debate two weeks ago, requesting that it be on the middle east and on detente, and I am glad to see that many hon. Members have taken a great interest in the affairs of the middle east, including the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds).

On the Lebanon and the role of our own contingent of 97 military personnel in Beirut, that contingent was changed during the course of our 18-month stint of duty in the area. Both the first and second contingent mercifully returned to these shores unscathed. I follow the Foreign Secretary in paying homage to those of our servicemen who tried to achieve a difficult and, as it turned out, impossible task with great courage and dignity. One of the original batch of troops was one of my constituents.

Whilst the Secretary of State says that the multilateral contingent made a practical contribution to the peace process in the middle east, my view, before the troops went in and throughout the time that they were there, was that either their presence was a gesture to our United States ally or that, in some nebulous Foreign Office way, this was a last ray of sunshine setting on a British empire where troops could be sent abroad on active duty.

Hon. Members who have spoken on the subject of the United States of America have prefaced their remarks by saying that the United States is an ally and a friend and that, therefore, we ought to be able to talk frankly to the Americans. The United States did not perceive what its interests were, or should have been, in the Lebanon and there are indications today that this view was shared by many in the United States Administration. It was certainly the view of Caspar Weinberger who thought, according to today's Daily Telegraph, that the entire venture was a mistake. So there were divisions within the Administration on what should be done in the Lebanon.

The proper interest of the United States in the middle east—and I say this sincerely, having studied the history of the area—must be to support Israel behind secure and recognised borders. There must also be support, as there was in the United States Government, for the concept of a united Lebanon. Many of those taking part in the discussions in Lausanne thought that a united Lebanon was the kind of Lebanon they wanted, that it was a question of a constitutional change to rectify the imbalance between Christians, Shi'ite Moslems and others that had crept in over the years. But the fact is that those talks have broken down and that this is a calamity for the concept of a united Lebanon. it may end in the partition of the area. Those who really consider partition and its consequences to all the communities of Lebanon, with the transfer of people from towns to other areas, will see how calamitous that possibility is.

The other United States interest in the middle east is in an autonomous West Bank and Gaza strip. I note in passing that when the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs referred to this autonomy he mentioned the Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The fact is, however, that there are 25,000 Israelis living in those settlements and 800,000 Arabs. The settlements which existed in Sinai were not ultimately an obstacle to a treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel. That treaty was signed and is effective. Regardless of the comments made by the hon. Member for Westbury on the disillusion of President Mubarak with United States diplomacy in the area, that peace treaty stands. The settlements, therefore, are not and never have been an obstacle to peace in the middle east and certainly not an obstacle to an overall peace in the area.

Power, as the United States has learnt, and as it should have learnt in Vietnam, has its limitations. The limitations in the middle east were clear. The United States involved itself in Lebanon with troops on the ground. It sent in the majority of the multinational force. The limitation of such power was not only foreseen but invevitable and in the end spelt tragedy for the United States marines who lost their lives.

Having said that, I do not ally myself with those who say that we are free to criticise the United States. We can criticise the Administration. Opposition Members have no love for the policies of President Reagan and we can be said to be anti-Reagan. However, we are not—and this is the policy, I hope, of the Labour party as well as myself—anti-American. We are not supporters of the Government of Israel, of Menachem Begin or of Mr. Shamir, but that does not mean that we are anti-Israel or anti-Israeli.

We have had a lesson today on the course of history from 1970. I would like to go back somewhat further, to the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly of 29 November 1947, the resolution that created the state of Israel. We hear a great deal about resolutions. They are continually referred to by the parties in the middle east and they are very often United Nations resolutions. Yet that particular resolution, passed by a two thirds majority of the General Assembly, gave reality to the state of Israel and was supported by the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain. Since then, Israel has had the right to exist behind secure, stable and recognised frontiers.

There are those who say that the United Nations does not and cannot have power to create states by fiat ex nihilo. Robert Browning said, Ah, but a man's reach must exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for? What is the United Nations for, if it cannot create a state, if it cannot create a situation under international law where people can live in peace? If that is not one of the objects of the United Nations, then the world is poorer for it.

I should like to give a clear, articulate and concise view of what Israeli foreign policy in the middle east should be. These are not my views; they are those of Abba Eban, former Foreign Secretary, as he gave them to the Knesset on 5 September 1983: There is no Israeli interest that will be advanced by war between Israel and Syria; there is no Israeli interest that will be advanced by a prolonged deployment of Israeli forces along the Awali line; there is no Israeli interest which requires the maintenance of our forces on Lebanese soil, with the withdrawal of the Syrian army as a sine qua non. The sole Israeli interest is to guarantee the peace and security of its northern settlements. Security is the minimum entitlement for a nation state.

I was grateful to learn that the Foreign Secretary will shortly be visiting Israel. Like others who visit that country, he will immediately perceive the great yearning for peace there. I hope that, if an invitation is given to Her Majesty the Queen to visit that country—it is a democracy with free elections, and it may have them shortly if the present Government fall—the Foreign Secretary will not take on board the point made by the hon. Member for Westbury and impose a political condition on the visit. I shall write to the Foreign Secretary to ask for an assurance to that effect.

What we are talking about in Israel is a Jewish religion, a Jewish heritage and a Jewish culture. We are talking of a Jewish state that does not seek to absorb 800,000 Arabs on the West Bank to dilute its Jewishness and to take away its sovereignty and its traditions. Those are the purposes of a Jewish state in Israel. We seek peace for Israel with its neighbours, but we do not believe that that peace should be a prelude for the Israeli peoples to be subsumed into another state or pushed into the sea.

The Foreign Secretary mentioned the Fez plan, which seemed to suggest that there was some merit in it. One of the aspects of the plan to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not refer was that Israel should withdraw from all the Arab territories occupied in 1967, including Arab Jerusalem. Another part of the plan was the creation of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. A third feature of the plan was that the United Nations Security Council would guarantee peace for all the states of the region, including the independent Palestinian state. The United Nations, having been present at the birth of the state of Israel in 1948, should not on those terms be invited to its demise.

We talk about the interests of the Soviet Union in the middle east. Those who think that somehow the Americans stumbled into the middle east should be aware of a fact that it was not until 1962 that the first Phantom aircraft was sold to Israel by the United States. That was the point that I wanted to make to the hon. Member for Westbury in an intervention but, unfortunately, he declined to allow me to do so. The Soviet Union began to send arms into the middle east in 1955 and the United States followed suit in 1962. There is a history lesson in that for us all, and it is one that we should not forget. Since 1954, the Soviet Union has consistently vetoed proposals in the United Nations for peace in the middle east. The Foreign Secretary referred to the proposal to keep a multilateral force in Beirut, which was vetoed by the Soviet Union only three weeks ago.

What has the Soviet Union done over the years? It has consistently satisfied Arab demands for the replenishment of weapons. Every time the Arabs have lost a war in the middle east—the Foreign Secretary referred to four wars in 36 years but he was wrong; for there have been six wars in that period which have been fought with Soviet Union arms on the one hand and American arms on the other—the Soviet Union has replenished their stock of armaments.

What did the Soviet Union do in 1982 when the Syrians had lost equipment in the Bekaa valley to the value of $1,000 million? It replenished that stock with equipment to the value of $2,000 million. It has not been mentioned so far, but it sent for the first time Sa-5 missiles to Syria, which are regarded as the most sophisticated surface-to-air missiles in the Soviet's inventory. Those who call the Soviet Union inactive in the middle east have forgotten that there are 5,000 Soviet soldiers in Syria and 3,000 Soviet advisers who are helping to train the Syrian army. Those are the facts, and they have never been denied.

One of the great problems which the world might have perceived but apparently has not understood is that when the American troops were in Beirut and the Soviet military and its advisers were in or near Damascus, only 50 miles separated the two. We have all heard of the war in which the Russians fought when they lost 20 million men. I remember the end of the second world war in 1945. I saw the film clips and watched Soviet soldiers meeting American soldiers at the Elbe and shaking hands with one another. British troops were also present. Not since those days have American and Russian troops been so close to one another. The closeness of those troops between Beirut and Damascus was a great source of danger to the world, especially the middle east.

We must never forget that there is global competition, however we may look at it, between the United States and the Soviet Union. We must never forget that this competition with the United States has cost the Third world an enormous amount.

The leader of the Liberal party mentioned that Russia's sales of arms in the Third world have trebled and that this has led to a serious confrontation with the United States. There are some remarkable paradoxes in the global confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States, which is the bastion of democracy, will support non-democratic regimes to prevent non-capitalist development in Third world countries because it perceives behind such development the shadow of Marxism and Leninism. That is one of the features to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) referred. In its turn, the Soviet Union will turn its back on local Communist parties, as it has done consistently in the middle east, much to the dicomfort of ideologues in the Kremlin, to gain an advantage over the United States.

In considering events in the middle east we must return to detente, which has been mentioned only once so far in the debate. Detente must be better than global competition leading to global confrontation. In thinking of detente in the middle east, I am reminded of the Sanskrit philosopher who taught his pupils the arts of contemplation and meditation in the Himalayan hills. One day he sent a pupil down to the nearest village for a pan in which to boil some water. The pupil returned with a pan that leaked. The teacher said to him, "You are a student of philosophy but that does not mean that you have to buy a pan that leaks." Although we believe in detente, that does not mean that detente should cloak further global advances, or attempted advances, of one super-power towards another. The Labour party is a member of the second international and a supporter of the Brandt report. It wishes to see the development of the world and not its ruination. We wish to avoid it becoming an ideological battleground for superpowers.

It has been said that in the United States the term "surrogate" has been used to describe Syria and its relationship with the Soviet Union. Syria is no more a surrogate of the Soviet Union than Israel is of the United States. However, it must be apparent, even from this necessarily brief review of the events in the middle east, that all these issues and problems are those of the middle east, and as such require a middle east solution. The Venice declarations on the middle east and Lebanon, with their haughty ideals, have proved irrelevant to the peace process generally and to the establishment of the independent, sovereign and territorial integrity of Lebanon. Neither the Camp David accords nor the Reagan plan have brought autonomy over their own affairs for the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank. The conviction in the area that the United States could achieve an overall settlement has been weakened by its role in the Lebanon.

The Soviet Union must ask itself—I trust that its new leadership will do so—whether the time has come to cease its dangerous and perhaps one day its deadly competition with the United States, which brought the forces of both countries so close to each other.

There have been regular exchanges between the United States and our partners in the Ten, as well as the parties themselves, on the middle east. Notwithstanding the lack of consultation over Grenada, it must be right for Her Majesty's Government to seek to use their influence with the United States, which remains our most important ally and with which our collective security is bound. That is accepted by the Labour party, which has consistently passed resolutions at annual conferences to the effect that we should stay within the confines of NATO for our own defence. Her Majesty's Government should seek to influence the Arab world, and the Foreign Secretary recently visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria. I understand that he is shortly to visit Israel. He should seek to maintain the Government's influence and to continue his journeys to the middle east. As the Labour party has said, he should visit Israel. It would be unfitting, and perhaps unseemly, to describe the Foreign Secretary as a bird on the wing. However, in metaphorical terms, when he travels to Jerusalem and Moscow he can be a bird on the wing for peace. It is for that reason that I welcome the debate and wish the right hon. and learned Gentleman well in his travels.

7.39 pm
Mr. Richard Ryder (Mid-Norfolk)

I enjoyed listening to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris). I hope that they will both forgive me if I do not also speak about the middle east and Israel.

The visit to London next week of the Soviet Foreign Minister Mr. Kornienko and that of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to Moscow in July are said to mark the improvement in Anglo-Soviet relations. While I welcome the visits, I have no doubt about the emphasis which the British Government should lay on human rights issues at their talks with Soviet Ministers. It dismays many hon. Members that the heirs of the Soviet Governments which liquidated more than 20 million of their own people to secure their existence, should now be practising anti-semitism.

If such discrimination was practised in West Germany or even in the United Kingdom, those countries would rightly become prime targets for constant United Nations scrutiny and deprecation. Doubtless international sanctions of one form or another would play their part in reflecting the abhorrence of world opinion. Yet the danger is that, in growing accustomed to Soviet behaviour, we accept it as an unpalatable fact of life without condemning it persistently. Perhaps the evils of one-party states are seldom recognised by those who do not encounter them at first hand.

The Helsinki agreement was heralded by many as a watershed between cold war and warmer detente. A leading Western politician who expressed reservations, if not misgivings, about the agreement was the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister. She warned that because the Soviet Union was afraid of truth and liberty it prohibited its people from enjoying the freedoms that we take for granted. A nation that denies those freedoms to its own people will have few scruples about denying them to others, agreements or no agreements.

At Helsinki the Soviet Government assented to the following paragraph in basket 3 under the heading "Cooperation in Humanitarian and Other Fields": The participating states make it their aim to facilitate freer movement and contacts, individually and collectively, whether privately or officially, among persons, institutions and organizations of the participating states, and to contribute to the solution of the humanitarian problems that arise in that connection. Hon. Members should ask the survivors of the Helsinki watch groups how the Soviet Union has met that pledge, and ask the Soviet Jews what results sprang from basket 3. The facts speak for themselves. In 1983 the Soviet Union allowed about 1,300 Jews to emigrate—the lowest total in 20 years and the fourth year running when the number dropped sharply.

The authorities regard the desire to emigrate as disloyalty, bordering on treason. Soviet law does not even recognise the right of Soviet citizens to emigrate by choice, despite the Soviet commitment to basket 3 of the Helsinki agreement. The Soviet Government have fostered anti-semitism and widened discrimination against Jews in employment and promotion. They have suppressed attempts by Jews to organise unofficial cultural or religious activities, to study Hebrew and to publicise their efforts to emigrate.

My hon. Friend the Minister on 30 January 1984 confirmed that children had been facing difficulties at school, students with university admission and young men with premature call-ups for military service. To support that assertion, I shall be specific. The number of Jewish students in Moscow's universities is roughly half what it was 10 years ago. The overall decline of the Soviet Jewish population has been a factor, but the student population decline in universities has been three times as great.

The Soviet Union went to Helsinki eager to secure confirmation of the post-second world war boundaries of its empire. To secure formal approval of those borders the Soviet Union made so-called concessions on human rights, which have been ignored persistently. That is not surprising. Where men and women are denied the right to express opinions on the laws that govern them and the composition and practices of their Government, anti-semitism and wider suppression of human rights are inevitable and usually rife.

The British Government, in forging closer links with the Soviet Union, should, as the Foreign Secretary underlined, moderate expectations. It is equally crucial that they stress in all their dealings with the Soviet Government our condemnation of their anti-semitism and suppression of human rights. It would be shameful if those who are fighting for freedom in the Soviet Union formed the wrong impression of our talks with their Government.

Only a few months ago Mr. Chernenko declared: When we come across violations of Socialist laws camouflaged by religion, we act in accordance with the demands of our constitution. His meaning was clear.

The Government must make sure that the language and meaning of our diplomacy is no less clear on human rights issues when Mr. Kornienko comes to London next week, and when the Foreign Secretary visits Moscow later this year.

7.47 pm
Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Ryder) on his speech, which emphasised that despite the disagreements that invade the House, there are areas of common humanitarian concern. The Soviet authorities will read his speech with more interest and greater attention than they would if I had made it. They know that my grandparents came from a land which is now part of the Soviet Union.

I add my plea, personally and on behalf of the Jewish community of this country, to those who meet Mr. Kornienko next week to raise their voices with ours to protest at the harassment and persecution of the Jewish minority in the Soviet Union. It is contrary to Soviet laws, contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and contrary to the Helsinki final act. Yesterday, in answer to a supplementary question, the Foreign Secretary said that he would not meet Mr. Kornienko himself because he would be abroad. I hope that the Prime Minister will see him and take the opportunity to emphasise these points to him. She should perhaps mention well-known people such as Ida Nudel and Vladimir Slepak, who have been in bondage for many years. She could also mention the names of some of the thousands who are less well-known, such as my friend Alexei Levin who has been waiting to leave Russia for years and is slowly going blind, but whom the Russians will not allow to leave.

I shall present to the Foreign Secretary or one of his Ministers, a remarkable Hebrew Bible, signed by hundreds of hon. Members who sat in this House during the last Parliament, or who sit in the present Parliament, and request that Mr. Komienko should arrange for it to be handed to Anatoly Shcharansky, who is in prison. If it cannot be handed to him, it should be returned to this House until the day when Mr. Shcharansky comes to collect it.

The Soviet Union is not playing a moderate role in the middle east or elsewhere. A moderating influence moderates people in favour of our view. My hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), in his ludicrous speech, said that the Iraqi Government were moderate. That that revolting, dangerous, military dictatorship is regarded by him as moderate shows what he believes to be moderation. One must accept in this House that some hon. Members, who may otherwise be regarded as reasonably sane, prefer to ally themselves with the most disreputable military dictatorships and the most old-fashioned, nasty, feudal regimes than with democracies, however unsatisfactory.

If hon. Members are to turn their minds and friendship away from democracies which are not performing well, which have Governments that we deeply dislike, and which are in countries governed by parties with which we disagree, they will acquire a low view of the democracy in which we are privileged to live and serve. We should look round the world for our friends, to countries which are operated as democracies, and we should support them.

I have just returned from a journey which included India and Sri Lanka. India is the largest, most populous and amazing democracy in the world. When I was there I was asked what I thought about the way in which India was governed. My reply was that Britain is rich with oil, coal and gas, and look at the mess that we make with only 55 million skilled and educated inhabitants. How dare we criticise India, which must try to govern 680 million people?

I conveyed to Mrs. Gandhi and to her Foreign Minister the outrage felt in Britain about the murder of that decent, kindly and excellent diplomat, Mr. Mhatre, by Kashmiri terrorists. I also conveyed my deep dislike of the "Eastern Eye" programme, which saw fit to put forward the point of view of the Kashmiri terrorists. Such a television programme is just as distasteful as one that puts forward the views of any terrorist organisation, whether it be the PLO, the IRA or the Naxalites.

In some people's language a terrorist is someone who kills our people, whereas someone who kills other countries' citizens is called a freedom fighter. To me, those who kill innocents, in the guise of freedom fighting, are terrorists wherever they might be found. We should do much more than we do at present to help-India to preserve its democracy, which is rare and amazing, warts and all.

We then visited Sri Lanka, which is another country that is wrapped in the tragedy of violence. Unlike India, where Hindus kill Sikhs, and Sikhs kill Hindus, in Sri Lanka the Tamils and Hindus are fighting. My wife and I were received by President Jayawardene and his wife. Again, that democracy requires all the support that we can give. It gets some support, but not enough. The Minister in charge of the Victoria dam project in Sri Lanka, Gamini Dessarayake, asked me to convey to the House his appreciation, and that of his people, for the way in which the Labour Government initiated the project and the Conservative Government are carrying it through to completion.

I move across to Uganda. This concerns people from India and many of my constituents. Uganda is another country trying hard to conduct its affairs democratically. Recently its Prime Minister was in London, and I now again put on record his assurance to me that it will not be long before Uganda compensates those dispossessed Ugandans who now live in Britain. I hope that he will keep his word, and many hon. Members will do their best to ensure that he does.

Idi Amin dispossessed many good people who are entitled to regain their possessions, or, if they cannot regain them, to receive the reparations which decency and humanity require for them. It is a tribute to Uganda, which did not have to pass a law authorising reparation, that it did so. We shall pay that tribute with much more urgency and pleasure when the payments begin to those who were attacked, moved out and ruined, as were so many of my constituents of Ugandan origin.

The violence in India, Sri Lanka and Uganda is mirrored throughout the world and should not be underestimated. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said that we should not overestimate the extent of Libyan financing of terrorism in the world. I would say that Libyan financing of world terrorism is one of the world's greatest dangers. I arrived back from the far east and Australia to the reverberations of more bombs planted by Libyans in our streets, and more shootings here by Libyans of other Libyans. I have visited the previous Israeli ambassador, Shlomo Argov, who is still confined to a wheelchair and can move only one finger.

I have a deep loathing for all terrorists and a realisation that too many of them are being trained in Tripoli and financed by the Libyans. My right hon. Friend should recognise that this is happening. Just as democracy is a universal joy to be helped on its way, terrorism is a universal evil, whoever performs it. We should recognise its origins and deal with them where we can.

Unfortunately, none of the hon. Members who spoke about the PLO recognised that that organisation has frequently refused to renounce terrorism as a weapon. Whether it is the PLO of the Syrians or the PLO of Arafat, that organisation—whose latest outrage was the blowing up of a bus in the streets of Jerusalem—is just as offensive as the terrorist organisations of any other nations that are engaged in the killing of civilians. I do not understand how the Government can call for Israel to sit alongside people who espouse the terrorist policy and are determined to wipe out the state of Israel, while the Government refuse to sit with those who are recognised as terrorists in this country. They are engaged in a similar destruction of innocents, but in the latter case it happens to be innocent citizens of the United Kingdom. Terrorism is universal, and terrorists should be treated in the same manner from wherever they emanate. These dishonest distinctions should not be made.

The Foreign Secretary said today that the Arabs, especially the Palestinians, have refused to recognise "clearly" Israel's right to exist. They have not done so at all. The Foreign Secretary was uncharacteristically naive in praising the Fez statement. No democratically elected Israeli Government could sit with the PLO while it is determined to destroy Israel and while it refuses to renounce terrorism. No democratic Israeli Government, whether Socialist or Conservative, could survive if it sought to do so. We should recognise that democracies, whether in India, Sri Lanka or the middle east, are fellow states that we should try to uphold. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) on understanding that and on proclaiming it in his excellent and lucid speech.

We are living in a world of tragedy. No one seems to care about the people killed in the war between Iraq and Iran. We heard some excellent speeches today, some saying that we should support Iraq and others that we should not underestimate the horrors of Khomeini-ism. But no one talks about the people lying dead. We do not know about that, because no one goes there and television cameras are not allowed in. It is a continuing and awful tragedy for human beings, who are being destroyed in a war that is much larger than that in the Lebanon.

In the Lebanon, 90,000 people were killed before the Israeli campaign to allow the people on its northern borders to live in peace, but no one mentioned them. No one cared. Since then, 30,000 people were killed in the city of Homs in Syria, but there was no mention of it in the debate because it did not suit people to mention it.

Syria is a peculiarly nasty military dictatorship that will kill anyone who stands in its way. Its neighbour, Israel, is a democracy with all the defects that Churchill described when he called British democracy an awful system, but said that it was by far the best we had. Democracy is the best arrangement that we have, and we should support democratic nations. They are, God knows, few enough.

I was honoured to be the guest of President Sadat before terrorists shot him because he had made a peace treaty with the democracy of Israel. I do not understand how the Government can continually condemn the agreement between Lebanon and Israel to live in peace. How can they consider with favour the abrogation of this second agreement between neighbours to live in peace? That is a tragedy.

Mr. Jumblatt is in the United Kingdom, but the Foreign Secretary did not say a word about that. I should like to know, when the Minister answers, whether Mr. Jumblatt admitted the awful errors that he had made in stirring up horror, death and dissension in that tragic country. If the Syrians would leave, that sad land would be left in peace. All the other nations have said that they would be glad to go, but the Syrians will not leave Lebanon.

Mr. Jumblatt is our dishonoured guest. I note that the Minister of State shakes his head. But I should be very interested to hear what Mr. Jumblatt has to say while he is in Britain, and I am sure that the House would, too.

On a happy note, those of us who know President Herzog of Israel are absolutely delighted that he will be an honoured guest here for several days. It is good that he will come here. He will be well received. I hope that that is a sign of the Government's intention to create better relations between our great and ancient democracy and that tiny and embattled lone democracy in the middle east.

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough in saying that if an invitation is extended to Her Majesty the Queen to follow her visit to Jordan by a visit to Israel, it should be accepted in the spirit in which it is offered.

I asked the Foreign Secretary a little while ago why the Government has arranged for the Queen to visit Jordan now when there are such terrible political problems there. Mr. Arafat has just left and there is war on both borders. Her Majesty may be put at personal risk. Although this is the worst time to visit Jordan, the Foreign Secretary said that the visit is being made in return for an official state visit made to the United Kingdom by His Majesty King Hussein in 1966. I suggest that Her Majesty's Government are acting with their customary urgency. If that state visit takes place. I suggest that it is reasonable for the Queen to visit the neighbouring democracy that has more in common with this country. Although Israel has not been a monarchy since the days of King Solomon and King David, the democratic tradition was created then. There were a few kings after that time but none in modern times.

Mr. Dalyell

It is 8 o'clock and many hon. Members are waiting to speak.

Mr. Janner

I respectfully suggest to my hon. Friend that I have been brief. I am about to conclude my remarks. If my hon. Friend wishes to speak on the Falklands, he will have his moment, just as he has had many hours in the past.

Mr. Dalyell

I do not keep my hon. Friends waiting.

Mr. Janner

This is the first occasion, for some time, that I have been called to speak in a foreign affairs debate.

We should be seeking, in our own way, to find and help democracies. We should root out terrorists wherever they appear in the world. The trouble with too many of our past and present policies is that they have operated in the opposite direction.

8.3 pm

Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) always speaks with great passion on foreign affairs and it is always a pleasure to hear him. I understand that Mr. Jumblatt came to Britain of his own volition, and was certainly not the guest of Her Majesty's Government, or of anybody else.

The hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that we must concern ourselves with the troubled world and how to make it safer.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary deserve our congratulations on seeking peace and greater global security through their new attitude towards the USSR and a broadening dialogue with the Russians. I hope, with my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Ryder) and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West that representations will be made on human rights in the Soviet Union.

Throughout history, war and dissension have been occasioned through one country's misapprehension of another's intentions, or miscalculation of another's actions. Britain suffered from that in the southern Atlantic. We cannot afford misunderstandings with the Soviet Union. I welcome the Government's initiative and wish it well. It is based on the sound and axiomatic philosophy that one cannot reach agreement with or persuade anyone without dialogue. Moreover, it is difficult to understand the complex internal situation of any country without visiting it regularly. I have yet to leave a country without a greater understanding of it than I entertained before I went there. Judgments about any part of the world should be constantly revised in the light of current events.

I wish to address a few remarks about southern Africa. I believe that the need for a constant revision of judgment is especially relevant to that part of the African continent.

On Friday, 27 February 1984 the state opening of the South African Parliament took place. It was the last occasion on which that Parliament would sit according to the Westminster model. Its procedure has been so similar to that of the United Kingdom Parliament that the Clerks turned to "Erskine May" for guidance.

When the South African Parliament next meets later this year it will be under the new constitution that was approved in 1983 by 66 per cent. of the white voters, That established a tricameral legislature, with separate chambers, for 4.5 million whites, 2.5 million coloureds and 800,000 Asians. Some see that as further institutionalisation of separate development and as wholly alien to the concept of a multiracial society in which black people are given equality of human dignity. Many of those who voted for that constitution regard it as an opening—a way forward to give blacks national political rights in due course.

How long can a society based on racial discrimination survive in a world with internationally agreed, if not universally applied, standards of civilised behaviour? I appreciate the confusion felt at the differing views about that constitution. On one hand is the belief that it is the thin edge of the wedge and that further reforms will follow. On the other hand is the belief that it is a cosmetic exercise that entrenches white rule and denies any prospect of political representation to blacks.

I fundamentally disagree with those who claim that the most likely route to progress will be violence under the present system. Although many blacks are dissatisfied with the inadequacy and slowness of reforms, two factors make uprising unlikely. The first is economic. Black wages are still very low when compared with those in the West. However, in the past 10 years the wages of black mineworkers have increased by 300 per cent. in real terms. There is no incentive or desire to wreck a system that still has a higher standard of living for blacks than other African countries, although the political rights of blacks are more limited. Indeed, industrial relations and the advent of black trade unions are the areas where the greatest advance is being made in the provision of rights to black people.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

As I understood him, the hon. Gentleman said that the political rights of blacks were more limited in South Africa than in other parts of southern Africa. Is not the denial of the vote the ultimate rejection of political rights?

Mr. Best

I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, as I shall be developing that theme. I hope that he will bear with me until I say more about it.

Secondly, I believe that uprising is unlikely due to the inability of the blacks to unite. There are deep ethnic divisions between the many different tribes and most seem to distrust and fear the Zulus, who are numerically the largest group in South Africa. The last thing that the Tswanas to whom I spoke wanted was one man, one vote, which would mean a Zulu Government in Pretoria. They wanted separate development of their nascent country, Bophuthatswana, which is rich in minerals, now more than self-sufficient in agriculture and a fine example of a country firmly set in the western orb with sensible and intelligent black government. Incidentally, that government includes white Ministers on the basis that the best man should fill the post irrespective of the colour of his skin.

The Tswanas said that they had foreseen what is now happening between the Shona and the Matabele in Zimbabwe: that black people would stick with their tribal loyalties, although the colonial powers drew arbitrary lines on the map giving independence to separate countries but often cutting across tribal areas. The great temptation is to treat Bophuthatswana in the same way as the other three independent states and the six homelands in South Africa because its origin was the same. It was set up by a South African Government to further the homelands policy which many regard as an entrenchment of apartheid.

As a result, it is not recognised by any country other than South Africa, although it is as different from the other homelands as other African states are from one another. Many of the homelands will never be able to exist separately from South Africa because the land is too poor or the idea is politically unacceptable. Chief Buthelezi of Kwazulu does not want independence because that would be to accept that South Africa will never become a multiracial state based on universal franchise.

The people of Bophuthatswana are fortunate in having a deservedly well-respected and humane head of state, President Mangope. They have energetic and businesslike Ministers. The Tswanas were settled in that territory by 450 AD, long before the white man came. It is a country that is economically largely independent of South Africa—52 per cent. of its gross national product comes from mineral extraction, it has coal reserves for 50 years and current energy requirements are met by royalties on the production of platinum in which the country is especially rich. Certainly it receives favourable loans from South Africa, but it also borrows from countries such as Belgium and Switzerland.

That small but brave country has transformed its agriculture since independence in 1977. It has been more energetic in selling Government houses to sitting tenants even than our Government have been in selling council houses. The Bophuthatswana National Development Corporation has an obligation to make 80 per cent. of its shares available to the public. In health matters the emphasis is on preventive medicine and health education rather than on purchasing expensive drugs, as is, sadly, so often the case in other countries.

The people of Bophuthatswana asked for independence because they wanted it. They enjoy a truly multiracial, integrated society with no reverse discrimination against whites. I believe that it can be regarded as a stable model black African country firmly set in a capitalist economy. It is a country that wants friends. It particularly wants a close relationship with the United Kingdom, but that is prevented by our attitude to South Africa.

Much depends, of course, on which road we wish South Africa to take towards constitutional development. Apartheid is being broken down, but slowly. Often integration becomes a welcome economic necessity as it is impossible to provide separate facilities for the different ethnic groups. All cricket and most other sports, are now fully integrated. A parliamentary committee is looking into the Mixed Marriages Act. Sadly, there are still stupid, illogical examples of apartheid. In some areas separate buses for whites and non-whites cover exactly the same routes, the former running at such great losses as to make London Transport seem a model system. There are other examples of racial discrimination that no civilised country could endorse and which we rightly condemn, but let us ensure that we condemn them in the most persuasive way—by talking to the South Africans rather than screaming at them from afar.

The new tricameral constitution has no black chamber. Instead, the Government have set up a Cabinet Committee to look into political representation for the urban blacks. Soweto now has a black local government, elected by the inhabitants, and the Cabinet Committee is looking at ways of extending that principle to other black areas. Is all this merely cosmetic or is it a real beginning? In conversations with the Minister for Co-operation and Development, the author of the present reforms, I gained the clear impression that there was no intention to stand still but a plan for further constitutional change.

We must ask ourselves what kind of new constitution we want to see in South Africa—a confederation of states of southern Africa which would include the independent states and homelands and perhaps black areas with municipal status as well as a white state in the PWV around Pretoria and Johannesburg; or a federal structure based on geographical division of the country with most matters devolved to the divisional local government in which there would be a bill of rights and the power of veto for oppressed minorities. The former seems to be essentially the course being taken by the South African Government. The latter is broadly the course advocated by the Progressive Federal Party, the principal opposition to the monolithic National Party which has dominated South African politics since 1948 and the introduction of apartheid.

A confederation would acknowledge that black ethnicity among the tribes is so strong that states should be based on those ethnic divisions. This is the most difficult question of all to resolve, and on the answer hangs the whole future of South Africa.

No former colonial power has sought to decolonise by entrenching and acknowledging ethnic differences within a geographical area. Instead, boundaries have been drawn and the people living within them have been treated as a unitary group exercising the right of self-determination. It is argued, however, that black peoples rather than states should have the right of self-determination, but it has never been tried. Decolonisation of the rest of Africa has not been especially successful with tribal wars in Nigeria and Zimbabwe, to name but two. There can be no internationally acceptable solution to the situation in southern Africa if self-determination for the different black peoples means that they are given economically unviable tracts of land for which the whites have no use. Such a solution would be to endorse the Group Areas Acts and the pass laws and the human indignity attaching to them.

If, however, as in Bophuthatswana, black people can enjoy their traditional lands as a separate country with the natural resources that are rightfully theirs, we should not be so ready to condemn out of hand but should at least keep an open mind. Otherwise our judgment may be defective and the judgment of others and of history may not be an enviable one.

8.18 pm
Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merionnydd Nant Conwy)

I shall not take up all the arguments deployed by 'the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) in his defence of racism in South Africa, but it ill becomes him to make such a speech on the day after the twenty-fourth anniversary of the horrific Sharpeville massacre. It also ill becomes him to try to categorise the so-called ethnic states in the Republic of South Africa as allegedly independent states. As he knows, that is not recognised by any international Government or agency, because they are puppet client states which exist to bolster the apartheid regime. They are a form of territorial apartheid and the so-called ethnic independence was granted to break down certain forms of racial conflict. The hon. Gentleman well knows that. If he wishes to make propaganda speeches in favour of racism, I hope that he will repeat them in Anglesey.

Mr. Best

When did the hon. Gentleman last bother to go to South Africa to discover the situation for himself rather than being a mouthpiece for the Left-wing press?

Mr. Thomas

I doubt very much whether the South African Government would let me in even if I wished to go there, but I know the situation in South Africa well through my contacts with the British Council of Churches and my international connections with the black movements.

I wish, however, to speak about central America, to which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has already referred, and to draw attention once again to the situation there which has been exacerbated by the escalation of United States' intervention in the area.

United States intervention in central America is not new. It has a long history going back to the middle of the last century. The notion of its being America's back yard has been cited since then, with the imposition of puppet dictators answerable to the United States regime. That continues to this day.

There has been a readiness on the part of successive United States Governments to assume that they have a right to dictate the hue of government within central America and that the United States' interest is the overriding interest in that region. That is what makes the situation there so dangerous.

Only this week we have learnt yet again—and this has been referred to by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East—of the mining of a Soviet oil tanker. I should like to quote from the press report on the front page of this morning's Herald Tribune, which stressed the response of the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry which cited this incident, along with similar damage to Dutch and Panamanian ships three weeks ago. The Ministry said that these were part of the de facto blockade that the North American Government promotes as part of its undeclared war against Nicaragua. Then the statement goes on: We appeal to the international community to provide Nicaragua with the technical and military means necessary to defend ourselves from United States terrorism. I think that we should address ourselves to the form of that terrorism and the support given to it, clearly officially, by the CIA. It is the support for the contras operating from Costa Rica and Honduras—the 6,000 contras who operate freely from Honduras, trained by the United States and by American instructors and financed by the CIA to the tune of $10 million a year.

One hundred and fifty CIA agents are based in that area, along with 300 military advisers and 125 Green Berets. It is within that country, Honduras, that the United States has funded air strips, new radar stations and new troop-training facilities. It has turned Honduras into an air strip for its continuing terrorist war against the independent Government of Nicaragua.

And of course the United Kingdom Government have not stated their position, have not condemned these actions or warned the United States or the international community of the dangers of the involvement with terrorism which is actively threatening the national sovereignty of Nicaragua.

It is understood that the leader of the contras based in Costa Rica, Pastora, was himself in Washington only two months ago begging for further aid from the United States for his troops. There is also evidence that the United States has given financial and military support to the contra groups based in Honduras, primarily the FDN. Raids have recently intensified from across the border, especially in the Miskitos area in the north-east and the centre of Nicaragua—the Matagalpa region.

The doubling of the number of American troops with the Honduran army, mainly along the Salvadorean-Honduran border and the Nicaraguan-Honduran border, has escalated tension, since the Nicaraguans claim that they have found Honduran planes making reconnaissance flights over Nicaraguan territory, and Honduran troops are fighting with contras against the Nicaraguan army.

The dangers of further American escalation are obvious, not only to the prospects for peace in the region but for the future of the Nicaraguan economy. The mining of the ports of Corinto and El Bluff, by forces using sophisticated equipment which could only have been obtained from the United States, has dealt a body blow to the economy. It has stopped the vital oil supplies reaching the country and it has also stopped the newly harvested crops of coffee, sugar and cotton being exported.

Daniel Ortega has warned that Lloyds of London, as insurance agents, will be increasing the insurance premiums on berthing in Nicaragua. It is not necessary for me to remind the House that it was the blockading of the Vietnamese port of Tonking that led to the Vietnamese war.

United States advisers and spotter planes have been directly assisting Government forces in El Salvador. Given the American administration's belief that Nicaragua is the logistical and supply base for FMLN guerrillas in El Salvador, the stepping-up of activity by the contra forces on the Nicaraguan border points to increasing military and economic pressure from the United States.

The Nicaraguan Government have declared that elections will be held on 4 November, two days before the United States elections. But it does not seem that Nicaragua is being given the opportunity to institutionalise the dynamic democratic process which has been created already in the country. For the first time in the lives of most of the people of Nicaragua they have the vote—and at a time when the country is under military threat and the United States has its economy in a vice-like grip.

There was a rapid growth in the economy in 1980 and 1981—a 10 per cent. growth in GDP in 1980 and an 8 per cent. growth in 1981. There was only a small growth in 1982, and the position has since deteriorated. In spite of the country's crying need for bilateral aid and for foreign currency by way of exports, the United States is sabotaging the Nicaraguan economy through its boycott of cotton. The attacks I have referred to have endangered the exporting of the various crops.

Mr. John Carlisle

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am having difficulty in hearing the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he is having difficulty reading somebody else's writing.

Mr. Deputy Speaker Mr. Paul Dean)

Perhaps the hon. Member could speak up a little.

Mr. Thomas

Perhaps it would be easier if I stood nearer to the microphone. Then, if the hon. Gentleman puts his ear to the earpiece, he may hear clearly what I am saying. I am carefully reading the text which I had typed out in order to ensure that I put all the facts before the House. I am pleased to be able to speak in this debate on behalf of the Government and people of Nicaragua. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen are not interested in the liberation of central American states, if they are interested in maintaining dictatorships, that is their problem. I will make my speech, I will put those facts before the House, and I look forward to a response from the responsible Minister. I shall not be interfered with. I will make my speech in my own way despite interruptions by Government Back Benchers.

The United Kingdom Government reduced the sum of their overseas aid to Nicaragua—and this is a matter of concern to us—from £127,000 in 1980 to £49,000 in 1982, and apparently only £13,000 of that amount was directly spent on aid. That is contrasted with the amount of British aid to Honduras of £1,072,000. This reduction in aid makes it even more difficult for Nicaragua to recover from a war which killed 50,000 out of a total population of 3 million and in which 100,000 people were injured and property damage was valued at £320 million.

That is the kind of situation in which one would expect aid to be increased rather than decreased. I should like the Minister, when he replies, if he cannot respond to the other points I have raised, to refer specifically to the amount of aid to Nicaragua. I think that there is an unwillingness on the part of the United Kingdom Government to give aid, and that, of course, is because of the Government's political line, which follows so closely that of the United States even in this region.

Yet, as we see a mounting military threat from the contras, and by the United States, with immense economic pressure, it is essential for the Government to indicate their position, both for the British public who take an interest in the affairs of central America—unlike some opposition Members—and also for the international community.

The elections which the Nicaraguan Government have announced will institutionalise the democratic process involving the people of Nicaragua which has resulted from the mass movements and the Council of State since the revolution in 1979. What is the United Kingdom Government's attitude to those elections? They were prepared to send observers to the apparent elections held in El Salvador. We would like to hear the views of the Government on the elections in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan Government are ensuring fair and free elections, are lifting the state of emergency, will provide equal air-time to all the opposition parties, together with the FSLN, the Sandinistas, and this will result in an equal amount of money being distributed to the opposition parties.

The United States' pressure for instant elections in Nicaragua since 1979 has not been matched over many years by similar pressure for elections in dictatorships throughout central and Latin America. It is quite clear that in 1979 the Sandinistas could have held elections and could have establised a one-party state. They did not do that because they seek to establish a pluralistic democracy. When we consider the political culture of that country we are talking not about a Marxist regime but about a pluralistic regime in which Marxism makes a contribution. The simplistic analysis of central America which has been peddled by sections of the American media and by the official line from Washington and the White House is that Nicaragua is some kind of Soviet satellite intent on bringing Communism to all of central America.

Tomas Borge, the Nicaraguan Minister of the Interior, said: What does the East-West conflict have to do with gastroenteritis, illiteracy and the genocide of repressive military rulers? It is against that background, with a process of liberation, that the Sandinistas regime has been struggling. Its political philosophy is a mixture of Christianity through the theology of liberation, socialism and national liberation. Its economy is still 60 per cent. privately controlled and state ownership is less than it is in Mexico, Brazil or Argentina. In no way, therefore, can it be suggested that the Nicaraguan regime is trying to export its revolution. Its main interest is in maintaining its national independence and in ensuring that the struggle against poverty and illiteracy is won.

For that reason, it is essential that the Government should declare their independence of the United States' line and make it clear not only in Britain, but throughout the world that we will not tolerate any further form of military intervention by the United States, either directly or indirectly, in the affairs of Nicaragua.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It might help the House to know that the winding-up speeches are expected to begin at 9.20 pm, and many Back-Bench Members still wish to speak.

8.31 pm
Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

I hope that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas) will not mind if I do not follow him in his speech. I suggest that he takes care to avoid accepting received wisdom unquestioningly. Nor will I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best), but I congratulate him on an extremely good speech of considerable knowledge and reasonableness, on a difficult subject that is only too often misunderstood.

I return to the northern hemisphere. The whole debate takes place against the background of the arrival in London next week of Mr. Kornienko, the First Deputy Foreign Minister from the Soviet Union. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Ryder) and others, I welcome the visit and also the return visit that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will make to the Soviet Union in July. They are further illustrations of the strength and the positive possibilities inherent within present Anglo-Soviet relations—and, indeed, our relations with other East European countries, as was marked so well by the visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Hungary last month.

Since arms control will necessarily be on the agenda for the meetings in London and Moscow, in the few moments at my disposal I want to put forward some suggested initiatives that could be taken in that crucially important aspect of our foreign affairs. It is probable that little of substance can be achieved until Russia returns to the conference table. First and foremost, to ease Russia's return it is certainly worth considering with our allies restructuring the arms control talks to embrace all European missile talks and all nuclear weapons, including ours and those of the French. New negotiations could address the whole problem, not just bits of it. That would reposition the talks, and thereby we would stand a better chance of a new, positive start being made.

There is another reason for making such talks all-embracing. Having made a reasonably accurate identification of all the parts of the polygot nuclear arsenal, those at the conference table could then consider a limited interim agreement to scale down the number of launchers and limit the number of warheads on each side. Such an interim agreement could break the present log-jam and would provide the basis for a later, more comprehensive treaty—that is the treaty and the agreement that we all want.

In order further to ease Russia's return to such talks, it is worth considering resiting the talks from Geneva to some new town to provide a visible and clear new start—quite separate from those talks that Russia left so peremptorily such a short time ago. Before the debate I suggested the choice of a town in Japan, because it was in Japan that the first nuclear bomb was used—and we all hope that that will be the last nuclear bomb ever to be used. Japan would be a sympathetic country in which to locate talks aimed towards that hopeful conclusion.

Wherever those talks may be, when arranging them it will be important not to forget the need also to resume talks about the control of conventional arms—the talks which have just begun again in Vienna having staggered also. We need to discuss the control of chemical warfare, on which Britian has already taken the initiative, and the control of military competition in space must be firmly on the international agenda. Those subjects are at least as important as the de-escalation of nuclear weapons.

In addition to such formal disarmament and arms control talks, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), I believe that the West should encourage and maintain an open door for properly prepared, genuine summit talks—most especially between the super-powers—just as soon as the collective leadership of the Soviet Union has had the time to rethink its policies on international relations under its new President, and just as soon as the political atmosphere of the electioneering year in the United States allows.

It is interesting to note the new civility of United States presidential attitudes towards the Soviet Union, and that is to be welcomed. The expressions of the President and others from the United States have been based on a new policy of strength and willingness to talk, and that is a step in the right direction.

Such a summit could provide a format and a discipline for future summits on a regular basis at which genuinely informal consultations could take place, without expectation of immediately achieved agreements. Rather, their aim would be gradually to build a better understanding of the differences that exist between East and West and establish a better base from which to overcome those differences.

In any and all such talks, absolute control or reduction of the number and the power of arms is not everything. Indeed, undue stress on control and cuts in numbers can sometimes discredit other modest measures that are valuable for maintaining stability. One specific initiative that I should like to be discussed within the Western Alliance is action to minimise the risk of the mistaken use of nuclear weapons in Europe. If tactical nuclear weapons could be withdrawn from the conventional force structure and the forward areas, be protected in hardened sites against any dangers of an escalation attack, and be placed under a command structure quite separate from conventional forces, I believe that our deterrent force could be preserved, while the risks of use or misuse could be dramatically reduced. That positive suggestion was originally proposed by Mr. Robert McNamara and deserves serious consideration.

The truth is that we live in a worrying nuclear age, with worrying nuclear knowledge. As with all knowledge, that knowledge is irreversible. We have to live with its consequences, but we must influence those consequences beneficially in any way that we can. The most important influence is to work to get rid of nuclear weapons on both sides in such a way that dangerous destabilisation is avoided as balanced scaling down of those terrible weapons is effected and non-proliferation agreements are struck. That, surely, must be our continuing aim. It is one that I am sure the Government will be pursuing next week and in the future.

8.40 pm
Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

I wish that I had time to comment on the constructive speech of the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone). I expect that he had to cut his speech short, but I hope that Ministers and the Foreign Office will take some of his suggestions seriously, because they are of great importance.

The debate has been characterised by reference to a wide range of regional problems of one kind or another, but I believe that the ability of this country, of western Europe and of the United States to do anything about those problems depends upon the health of the Atlantic Alliance in economic, political and defence terms.

The Alliance is proportionately less important in the world today than it was when it first came into being. There have been significant changes, such as the emergence of China as a major world power and the decolonisation of most of the Third world. However, I believe that the Atlantic Alliance could play a more constructive part in economic, political and defence matters if it were healthier and more united than it appears now to be.

The Foreign Secretary spoke about the Atlantic Alliance today almost exclusively in terms of defence, but, as he will know, the Alliance was originally designed to cover the whole spectrum of Atlantic relationships, with the expectation that in the long term western Europe would evolve into an equal partner of the United States and that there would be a natural harmony of interests and affinity of outlook across the Atlantic. Clearly, that has not happened. Over the past few years the relationship between America and western Europe has been uneasy. On some occasions in the past three or four years it has been downright hostile.

There has been a good deal of disillusionment on both sides, and that is not without a certain irony when we remember that the political persuasion of Governments on both sides of the Atlantic ocean is predominantly Right-wing Conservative. One might have expected a larger measure of co-operation, bearing in mind that the Governments of this country, Germany, Denmark and Norway are Conservative, and that the government of the United States is in the hands of a Conservative President. One wonders why it is that, with such a predominance of one political philosophy, relations are not as good as they should be.

The situation was illustrated recently in the negotiations which took place within the EEC. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) talked about the need not to pursue narrow national interests. I agree with him about that. Nevertheless, many Labour Members feel that one of the unfortunate effects of the EEC as at present constituted is that it acts almost as an encouragement to disagreement and discord on matters such as the common agricultural policy and the budget, and distracts the attention of the Governments of western Europe from wider and more important issues.

Another unfortunate consequence of the EEC is that, unquestionably, it has divided us from—and caused resentment among—people on the other side of the Atlantic. The trade war and the deep hostility in the United States about the common agricultural policy illustrate that fact. There are other reasons, too, why Americans do not look on western Europe with complete favour. Again and again, they have expressed a lack of confidence in a western Europe which, although relatively prosperous economically, is unwilling to make a larger contribution towards its own defence.

We must take those factors seriously, because among their consequences are the deep divisions which presently exist between European countries, and perhaps more strongly between Europe and the United States, in attitudes to issues in other parts of the world. There has been constant disagreement about the middle east, central America, south-west Africa and other parts of the world. The United States and those who live on this side of the Atlantic should draw closer together.

I believe it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who said that we had a duty to speak plainly to the Americans. We can speak with a certain authority about American foreign policy towards Third-world countries. The United Kingdom and France—taking two obvious examples—have both gone through a period of decolonisation and the arrival of independence. The British and French people can speak with authority based on their past experience which could be of value to the United States.

There is another reason why we can speak with authority. During decolonisation, we received much constructive and helpful advice from the United States. We had reason to be grateful at that time for the assistance that Britain received in practical form from the United States in preparing countries for independence. There was the foundation of the Peace Corps. There were schemes, such as that for providing teachers for east Africa, which had tremendous support from the United States. Those are illustrations of the degree to which we gained from American advice and assistance. We should now be prepared to give advice and assistance to America. Our past experience, and the degree to which we accepted help from the United States in the past, should enable the Americans to accept with good grace the advice that we can offer them.

I am seriously worried about the present state of the Alliance. At the Williamsburg conference there was a good deal of bonhomie and splendour, but many of the problems that divide the rich countries were not solved, and few solutions were offered to the problems of the Third world. It is becoming increasingly urgent that solutions should be found. The situation in the middle east is only a reminder of the serious conflicts which are likely to arise in other parts of the Third world, which could spread and engulf larger powers, and perhaps the superpowers as well. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East pointed out, the economic problems of the Third world could also engulf the economies of the rich countries. There is the situation in Argentina and the possibility of an oil stop. Those are two examples of the way in which the world economy and financial system could collapse as a consequence of the failure of the Atlantic Alliance to take proper initiatives and give a proper lead.

We are all conerned about growing violence and deteriorating economic conditions in many other parts of the world, but I do not believe that the Atlantic Alliance can play the part that many of us wish it to play unless we and the United States mend our fences and the relationship between the two sides of the Atlantic is improved. I believe that that relationship remains an important key towards lessening tension and solving many of the economic problems facing the world.

8.49 pm
Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant)

The whole House will have given a warm and sympathetic welcome to what the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) has just said about the importance of the Anglo-American Alliance. We tend to hear much criticism of the United States, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman shares my view on one matter. If there are any people on the face of this earth, apart from ourselves, to whom I would give the benefit of the doubt in any area of policy, I would put the Americans a long way towards the top of that list.

We live in a dangerous world, and hon. Members have referred to what I might describe as "critical messes" throughout the world. We now all understand what a narrow dividing line there is between a critical mess and a nuclear critical mass. That is the situation which, in all these critical regions, policy must seek to avoid if possible.

I wish to refer briefly to two remarkable speeches, those of my hon. Friends the Members for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) and for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). It takes courage for people to speak as they have done on the subject of southern Africa and to risk and incur the wrath of Opposition Members, who seem utterly incapable time after time of distinguishing between those who say, "This situation must be considered sympathetically, carefully and objectively," and those who say, "This cannot be done, otherwise you expose yourself to the charge of supporting racism." The speeches of my two hon. Friends have, yet again, lent strength to the importance of this question.

Before commenting further on that issue I should like to refer to the profound speech on the European Community by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), the former Foreign Secretary. The founding fathers of the EEC would have approved of every word he said. In Europe particularly, it is important that we avoid the dangers of the narrow nationalisms which, twice in this century, have engulfed Europe, on each occasion at the cost of 20 million lives. The hydra-headed monster of nationalism is a rapacious beast which, when given the opportunity to feed, tends to devour peoples, populations and nations. We do not want that to happen again in Europe. Therefore, a measured, wise approach to the problems of Europe—always looking forward to solutions and to the fact that there are ways and means of resolving these difficulties—is the only way forward.

However, I believe that these problems will continue to recur in a different guise unless and until—this may take a quarter of a century—the people of Europe have the wisdom to trust their elected European Parliament with the responsibility of controlling the money that it spends through the Commission. As I understand it, the present situation is exactly comparable with the situation in which every county council chairman in the United Kingdom would have the power to veto the expenditure that this Parliament approves. These are perhaps flights of fancy. We know that the political possibilities do not yet exist, but I predict that until we have the courage to ensure that the European Parliament has that power, we shall continue to face this kind of problem.

Southern Africa is probably one of the most sensitive and important regions in the world today. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East mentioned the importance of the Straits of Honnuz. They can be defined in different ways. The one most usually used is the geographical definition, which ends literally and physically in the straits. However, when we talk about the importance of the Straits of Hormuz, we should look at the lifelines that proceed from the middle east eastwards to Japan—one of the major centres of Western industrial power—and westwards to western Europe and the United States. In fact, the Straits of Hormuz go down through and around southern Africa through the Straits of Mozambique to the Straits of Malacca going eastwards.

It is just as possible and critical for that vital lifeline to western Europe and Japan to be interdicted in the waters south of the Cape as it is for it to be interdicted in the Straits of Malacca. That suggests that we should now look very carefully indeed at the possibility of that lifeline being destroyed by submarines. If that happens, it will occur on the Cape route. I say that in the context of a submarine disparity of about 360 to 60.

We must therefore look again at defence. It is all very well saying, "Oh, the United Nations has imposed a strategic arms embargo on South Africa." Whatever happens in South Africa, the United Nations will probably impose that embargo into the foreseeable future. It is very much in the interests of a large number of member countries of the United Nations to keep the focus of international hostility and hatred well directed away from their own performances, territories and countries. If they can do that by persuading us to maintain the international arms embargo, they will do so.

There are other directions in which we should move. In the civil nuclear sector, the British civil nuclear industry has lost major contracts. One went to Frarnatome in France. That happens because of our strange attitude of being totally unwilling to recognise change in South Africa.

It is said that the Southern African development coordination Conference—which the Foreign Secretary confirmed in his speech to the Royal Commonwealth Society—is in the interests of the United Kingdom and is supported by the United States. The SADCC, if I understand anything about southern Africa, is an attempt to make water flow uphill, using the resources of the British taxpayer. I regard that as a wholly unconstructive use of those resources. Many better, more constructive and more economic things can be done if we flow with the forces of history rather than against them.

Nothing that the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon has varied his judgments in his excellent speech to the Royal Commonwealth Society. He said that in Britain there is a deep sentiment in favour of the Commonwealth. That I wholly share, accept and agree with. He said that within the Commonwealth there is a "benign Mafia" which is important because it enables consultations and so on to take place. From time to time I would dispute the use of the word "benign", and even the word 'Mafia" exaggerates and criticises what in more normal conditions would be a constructive force.

More and more, the interests of Great Britain in and towards the rest of the Commonwealth are now set against the interests of Great Britain in and towards South Africa. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, in his interesting speech, said: To speak of shared values in the context of the Commonwealth is to use a truism. But the fundamental characteristic of truisms is that they are true. The Declaration of Commonwealth Principles adopted in 1971 is perhaps the clearest expression of the values which we hold in common. One has to acknowledge that not all members are successful in practising these principles. But they do provide an ideal, a benchmark, towards which all the member states can strive. Those principles certainly provide a benchmark, and one hopes that most of the members of the Commonwealth attempt to strive towards them. Alas, judging by the analysis of the performance in striving towards the objectives, I fear that many of the member countries of the Commonwealth—signatories of the Gleneagles agreement and all the other condemnations of South Africa, of which there are so many—fall a long way below those ideals. That is a reality which the House and the country must now begin to recognise.

My right hon. and learned Friend said that the Commonwealth provides a valuable, possibly a unique forum, free of polemic and bitterness, in which the developing and the industrialised countries can gain a better understanding of the constraints and needs of the other. I wish that the Commonwealth were "free of polemic and bitterness". Polemic and bitterness are seen day after day, week after week—they were seen yesterday in the Grand Committee Room—and are uniquely and always directed towards South Africa. The Commonwealth is not free of polemic and bitterness. My right hon. and learned Friend said that we each "can gain a better understanding of the constraints and needs of the other. My right hon. Friend the former Foreign Secretary said, in the context of the Soviet Union, that we should have a dialogue about our profound misunderstandings. Discussion and contact are necessary.

We disagree with much of what is done and said in South Africa, whatever we may think about the progress that has been made. I am a profound critic of much that remains in South Africa, but that country suffers from unique constraints, difficulties and needs.

We should maintain and broaden our contact with the Soviet Union and those countries with which the United Kingdom had profound disagreements. We should do the same with those whom we seek to influence and persuade.

9.1 pm

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Because of my regard for other hon. Members, and especially my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I shall be more brief than I intended when I travelled overnight from Hong Kong over what felt like two days. I am especially pleased that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is in the Chamber.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) went out of his way during our visit to ensure that the people of Hong Kong could observe discussions on a non-partisan basis. We, who are in opposition, made it clear that the position was delicate, as it involved 5.3 million people, and that we did not wish to make party political points. We conducted our visit on that basis.

The whole of the debate in the Legislative Council was most interesting. It would be wrong to say that it was colourful. It was a respectful and almost tolerant debate. Nevertheless, it is fair to say—I am sure that the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce), will understand this point because of his recent visit to Hong Kong—that although people of Hong Kong accept the need for confidentiality and respect the British Government's view, opinions are changing. I respect the views of those involved in the extremely important negotiations. It might be helpful if something were said to help the people involved to understand the objectives which both sides of the House share.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton and I visited the new economic zone of Sin Gin. In view of the importance of the economic zone to the Chinese, I hope that they will have regard to the need for co-existence in Hong Kong in the future. The Chinese claim that they want that co-existence. I hope that they accept that it is not only right that the Hong Kong people should continue to enjoy freedom of expression, and so on, but that limited economic dependence—which the Chinese must observe in view of their involvement in the economice zone—should appeal to their enlightened self-interest. I hope that they consider other equally important factors, including the future of the Hong Kong people and their right to coexist with China and their other neighbours.

Although our contribution in this debate is brief—and I was happy to note the tone set by the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—I believe that the importance of Hong Kong in Parliament will be considerable over the next year or so. We can expect profound debate and discussion. The people of Hong Kong would expect this Parliament to do no less than take into account all the factors before an agreement is reached, including the Governement's views in the negotiations that are taking place.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton and I were invited to visit one of the refugee camps in Hong Kong, where we saw some of the Vietnamese refugees. With great respect to the Foreign Secretary and to the Minister, we were appalled at the conditions. This is no reflection on those who are doing so much to make sure that the circumstances are as comfortable as possible. We saw a boy of seven who was unfortunate enought to be without parents and without a state. We were told that the prospect for the boy in future was confinement to that camp—significantly, next to a prison.

I fully understand that this is a complicated problem, but if, in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's preparation to visit Hong Kong and China, he could give some constructive thought to that matter and make suggestions to improve the lot of those people, including giving freedom to that young boy of seven, I believe that the limited contribution that I have been able to make to the debate will be more than worth while, and I for one will be grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

9.7 pm

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

I always enjoy the speeches of the hon. Member for Monkslands, West (Mr. Clarke). I am sorry that time will not permit me to comment on what he said.

I was in Damascus last week, and I wish to speak about the middle east. In spite of the virtual breakdown of the conference in Lausanne, I am not unhopeful that a solution will be found eventually to the appallingly difficult Lebanese problem. Having spoken for some hours to the Syrian Foreign Minister, I am convinced that Syria wants a moderate settlement with a fair distribution of power between Christian and Moslem. I only hope that the Christian leaders in the Lebanon will be more sensible and realistic in that matter than they have been so far. They are now in a position of great peril, and will surely realise that. Syria, with its history, has every right to be concerned with the Lebanon, but I do not believe that it will abuse this concern. The Syrian intervention in the Lebanon was, after all, at the request of the Lebanese Government, and cannot be equated with the Israeli armed aggression in the south.

While in Syria, we found great hostility to the United States of America, particularly over the Palestinian question, which was exacerbated by by the United States' actions in Lebanon, including the shelling of Druze villages. We pointed out that the Americans were our closest allies in NATO. Nevertheless, we left the Syrians in no doubt that we did not share the United States' view about Israel and its aggression in south Lebanon, and elsewhere. It is sometimes difficult for people living in England who have not been to the middle east over the last generation to realise the bitterness which almost all Arabs feel, wherever they live, for the plight of the Palestinians who have been deprived in many cases of their right to live in their own homelands.

I have met people from Jerusalem and Jaffa and many other towns in Palestine who have been driven out by the Israelis, who are mainly immigrants from Europe. It is as though large sections of England had been taken over and occupied by immigrants, supported by immensely powerful armies and air forces. The continuation of Jewish settlements on the West Bank is like a time bomb ticking away, which one day may result in the most terrible explosion. The aggressive attitude and insensitiveness of the Israelis is almost past belief.

I was there just before the inception of that state. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) spoke movingly about his hostility to terrorism. He forgot that Israel was born of terrorism and that we, the British, were the victims.

I went to the Golan heights, about which we have read so much. Through the United Nations zone is a large notice, "Welcome to Israel". Just below in the valley is the Arab town of Kuneitra, every building of which was bulldozed by the Israelis before they left in 1974 after seven years of occupation.

I do not want hon. Members to think that I am blind to faults on the Arab side. The Arab nations are still hopelessly divided. The PLO is split right down the middle. The Arabs are still rather vague about the size and scope of the Palestine homeland that they want. Although their terrorist activities in Israel are tiny compared with the enormous casualties caused by Israeli aggression in Lebanon and elsewhere, from time to time they still carry out bombings in Israel which are futile and extremely harmful to their cause.

It never does harm to go back in life. I went to Damascus last week having not been there for 40 years. The Arabs are not a grateful people. They forget that in 1918 General Allenby, with a British army and Arab irregulars under Colonel Lawrence, drove the Turks out of Syria where they had been for hundreds of years. They even seem to forget General Spears, who was responsible for helping the local populations of Syria and Lebanon to free themselves from the French mandate.

Unfortunately, Syria has quarrelled with some of its neighbours—Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. The Syrians are not, however, in the least pro-Communist and are quite independent of Soviet Russia. They go to Russia for arms only because they can get them nowhere else. The United States Government's alliance with Israel has driven Syria into the arms of the Soviets.

I learned one other important thing when I was in Syria. The Iranians may win the Gulf war due to their enormously superior numbers and their utter readiness to die in battle. The Syrians are supposed to favour Iran due to dislike of the Iraq Government, but when I asked if they would like to see the Iranian hordes at the gates of Baghdad they took the point.

I saw young Iranian revolutionary guards dashing through Damascas with flags and pictures of the ayatollah on their trucks. It was deeply disturbing and reminded me of old newsreels of the revolutionary Soviets patrolling Petrograd in 1918. The rise of Moslem fundamentalism poses a great danger to the world.

If people ask whether this is of concern to Britain, the answer must be yes. I am not at all worried about Soviet influence in the Mediterranean because it is negligible. I am convinced that it will remain so. I am worried about continuing Israeli agression. The borders of Israel are constantly being enlarged. I am also worried about Israel fanaticism and the danger of it overrunning Iraq and some of the Gulf states with the obvious threat that that might bring to the West's oil.

I am also worried about the United States' attitude and utter ignorance of affairs in the middle east. United States policy seems based upon local, domestic, perhaps electoral considerations and totally ignores the genuine interests of the Arab nations. The Arab nations may have forgotten what we did for them, but they are still friendly towards us. As a country we have still a great part to play in the middle east. One of the most rewarding aspects of my visit to Syria was to observe the friendliness and respect in which we are held by all the Arabs we met.

Finally, I am delighted that Her Majesty the Queen is going to Jordan. King Hussein is a very old friend of this country and his moderate counsels deserve our fullest support.

9.15 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

When I interrupted the Foreign Secretary he said that his officials were studying the Gayshon/Rice book. I wish to gabble 11 questions to which the Foreign Office should give consideration.

First, the Prime Minister has insisted that there was no contact with the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) in Washington about the Peruvian initiative before the sinking of the Belgrano, but Al Haig, whose memoirs are to be published on 25 March, told Gayshon that there had been "communications with London", according to The Observer of 5 June 1983. Manuel Ulloa, Peru's incumbent Prime Minister, stresses that he kept Ambassador Charles Wallace very closely informed about all aspects of the peace negotiations and is certain that Wallace was in close touch with London. I talked to Ulloa in his house in the Miraflores district of Lima and that is exactly what he told me. Will the Prime Minister therefore acknowledge that the War Cabinet changed the rules of engagement, knowing that promising peace talks were in progress?

Secondly, the Belgrano was within the sights of HMS Conqueror before the departure of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East for Washington on 1 May 1982. Why was the then Foreign Secretary, a member of the War Cabinet, not informed of this extremely important development?

Thirdly, "The Sinking of the Belgrano" and The Economist both make it clear that arrangements had been made for the loan or the purchase or, in some form, the use of a United States aircraft carrier in the event that HMS Hermes or Invincible, or both, were lost in the campaign. Was the Foreign Secretary of the day, and the War Cabinet, made aware of this?

Fourthly, did General Haig telephone the Prime Ministr at any time on 1 May or 2 May 1982 on the subject of the Peruvian peace initiative or on any other related matter?

Fifthly, if, as Peruvian Government leaders maintain, Ambassador Wallace was kept closely advised about the progress of the peace talks through 1 and 2 May, did Mr. Wallace in his turn keep the Foreign and Commonwealth Office informed? Specifically, did he not transmit to London an outline of the proposed seven-point proposal providing, among other things, for an Argentine withdrawal from the Falklands?

Sixthly, after Galtieri's acceptance in principle of the peace proposal, did Ambassador Wallace report to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that he had been invited, along with Argentina's ambassador in Lima, to attend a formal signing ceremony on the night of 2 May?

Seventhly, did Charles Wallace seek Foreign and Commonwealth Office or prime ministerial authority to attend that signing ceremony and what, if any, instructions were sent to him?

Eighthly, in advance of the War Cabinet decision to attack the Belgrano, was there anyone in London who had been told of the Galtieri decision in principle to withdraw from the islands, or that the Argentine fleet was homeward bound?

Ninthly, if nobody in London was so informed, have any attempts been made subsequently to establish why the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East, the British embassy in Washington and the British embassy in Lima failed to do so?

Tenthly, both the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East referred dismissively to the Peruvian peace proposals as no more than a mere outline. Haig described it to Gayshon in his book as a formulation that provided hope that a settlement could be reached. The Peruvians—President Belaunde, Ulloa and former Foreign Minister Arias Stella—all regarded it as a firm and thorough basis for an agreement. How can the British characterisation be reconciled with the United States and Peruvian descriptions? Some of us look forward very much to seeing what Haig's memoirs say about how advanced the Peruvian proposals were.

Finally, was the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East speaking with the knowledge and authority of the War Cabinet when he told journalists in Washington on the evening of 1 May 1982 that no further military action is envisaged at the moment, except to keep the exclusion zone secure"? Had he been briefed in any way on the military situation before leaving London? Did he have any telephonic contact with any of his Foreign and Commonwealth Office advisers on Sunday 2 May 1982?

I should like to acknowledge the unselfishness of my colleagues which made it possible for me to put these questions which I hope will be answered at some convenient time.

9.20 pm
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

We have had a good and wide-ranging debate, and hon. Members who have contributed appear to have come especially to the House from all corners of the world. The areas covered have been extensive, and in the main the contributions have been non-partisan. Indeed, partisan elements have been introduced only by those who have taken sides in the various regional conflicts: in the middle east, by those who have espoused the Arab or Israeli cause, and in the southern African context, by those who spoke for or against South Africa. There has been a degree of sympathy for the Foreign Secretary in his conciliatory and moderate approach as he has sought to tone down the megaphone of the Prime Minister.

The constant thread has been the increasing dangers in the world. The debate has ranged over the major trouble spots—central America, the middle east, southern Africa. Hon. Members have talked about the apparent thaw in East-West relations, and my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) spoke well about the need to keep the Atlantic Alliance dialogue in good shape.

Hon. Members have also spoken about the limited role which the United Kingdom can play in these various spheres, mainly in concert with our allies, whether in the Atlantic Alliance or in the Community. Few are the issues in which we in Britain can have a relatively independent role. One of those was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) who, having arrived but today from Hong Kong, spoke extremely well about those points which he had caught while speaking to the inhabitants there. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary listened carefully to his remarks.

In most cases the role which we can play will be in concert with our European partners. For example, with the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), I have just returned from Syria. I was impressed with the expressed wish of many of those whom we met that there should be a revival of the Venice declaration, in somewhat changed circumstances, and for a separate European initiative in the area.

We stressed when we were there the key starting point—the paramount wish for the state of Israel to be recognised behind secure frontiers—but the power realities have changed mightily in that area since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the ill-advised Israel-Lebanese agreement of May 1983. That totally failed in its key objectives, in that Syria has now replaced Israel as the dominant power in the region; the credibility of Israel has been mightily reduced; in its humiliation the United States has withdrawn from its attempt to play a central role in the region; and the Soviet Union has been brought back very much into a role in the middle east.

The Israeli-Lebanese accord failed basically because it refused to recognise the power realities of the area. It refused to recognise that, on a long-term basis, Syria could not allow Israel to be the chief external influence in the Lebanon and could not accept the main aim of Israel, that of a Maronite majority in a unified Lebanon. It was inconceivable that such an accord could have lasted in the long term, given the historical, traditional and ethnic links in the area with neighbouring Syria.

It was made clear to us that the United States was increasingly seen as a totally partisan element in the region. Having failed in its narrow relationship with Israel, it is failing equally in seeking to extend that relationship to Jordan—in attempting to detach Jordan from the other Arab states—and America has only itself to blame for the angry response from King Hussein this week, when he said: You have made your choice and your choice is Israel. Obviously, a number of key questions remain in the middle east, the most volatile and difficult area for world peace today. Is the United States ready to draw, or capable of drawing, the lessons of its failure there? Is it now recognised that there cannot be a long-term settlement in the middle east without some Soviet participation? Can the divided Palestine Liberation Organisation unite, whether under Yasser Arafat or another? Is there any will for unity in the Lebanon? The failure of the Lausanne conference is very disappointing, although a number of contributors to the debate have stressed the constructive role played by Abdul Khaddam, the Vice-President of Syria in those proceedings.

The other major question mark remaining is the likely effect of the Israeli elections, which will probably be called in the fairly near future, if there is a Labour victory. What effect would this have, for example, on the settlements policy? Would it be frozen? Will the adventurism, as is likely, stop? Will there be a response to the very widespread call in Israel for a withdrawal from southern Lebanon?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) largely covered the Gulf area. There is, however, one question that I would pose to the Foreign Secretary and to the Minister of State who will sum up the debate. The statement has been attributed to the American Secretary of State, Mr. Shultz, that the United States is no longer alarmed by the threat of Iran to the Straits of Hormuz, and that it will not be possible to cause a long-term disruption to the flow of oil supplies. Is that view, which was attributed to the Secretary of State in a speech two days ago, fully shared by the Government? Because of the great danger of possible Western punitive action against Iran which might bring in the Soviet Union, it is of the essence that we keep the Soviets fully informed of our every move and of our evolving policy in the Gulf area.

Mr. Shultz has said that the United States has abandoned her peace initiative in the middle east for the foreseeable future. With such a failure in the middle east, the attention of the United States has turned to central America, and particularly to El Salvador, which will have the first round of its elections next Sunday. The campaign managers of President Reagan are seeking to ensure, as far as possible, that there are no banana skins on either the domestic or the foreign front before the Presidential elections.

All the signs are that there has been a fairly massive decline in the morale of the Government forces in El Salvador. The President has, therefore, sought emergency special appropriations of £97 million from Congress and there have been increased American military manoeuvres with the Hondurans on the Honduras side of the border with El Salvador. The question remains: can the El Salvador regime be saved only by a commitment of United States ground forces?

We believe that United States policy in central America is fundamentally wrong and that our own Government have been too supportive of that policy. We acknowledge, although we do not accept, the position taken by some in the Foreign Office that, although we disapprove of American policy, it is, after all, the Americans' back yard where they perceive major interests and that it is unwise gratuitously to irritate our ally in an area which it considers to be of such strategic interest to itself. The position remains, however, that, in many of the countries in that region, United States policy at the moment is almost totally counter-productive.

For example, the United States has resumed its supply of arms to Guatemala, ignoring both its human rights record and the threat to Belize, which at least provoked a protest from the British Government in respect of that change of policy. The United States has increasingly militarised Honduras, which has been called a gan-ison state. The only real democracy in the region, Costa Rica, is being put under pressure by the United States to abandon its traditional neutrality, to involve itself in CONDECA, and to link itself with the siege of Nicaragua.

Why do the Government accept the United States analysis of the problems of the area so uncritically? For example, they have sent observers to the El Salvador elections, which will take place this weekend. The elections are essentially an attempt by the United States to establish legitimacy for its anti-Leftist drive in the area. We know that the 1982 elections solved nothing. The society is polarised and the country is in the middle of a civil war. Death squads are regularly on the rampage and the degree of security has prevented the participation of all save the Centre and Right-wing parties as the armed forces increasingly consolidate their power.

The election campaign is entirely artificial and representative opinion is impossible to assess. In that context, what meaning can there be for the elections, save to satisfy the United States cliché about there being an emerging democracy in the area? Sadly, the British Government, by sending observers, are tamely playing their role in this unhappy country. Two observers have been sent. One of them is an academic who knows the area well and the other is the former head of the GLC. They arrived on 17 March after two years in which ARENA, the Right-wing party, has intimidated the Campesinos. During their visit to El Salvador, the observers will be escorted by military forces. Their visit is hardly likely to give them a clear view of the electorate's views.

The real danger for the United States is a victory by ARENA, by D'Aubuisson, who has been called a "pathological killer" by an earlier American ambassador. He is forcing the United States to deal with him to establish democracy, as the United States sees it, in the area. The sad feature is that if Napoleon Duarte were to succeed—he has been labelled by the Right-wing parties as the stalking horse of Communism and has made some fairly brave noises about talks with the guerrillas—the likelihood is that there would be a military coup.

The British Government have played the United States game in the area by sending observers, by arranging a series of Foreign Office briefings which could well have emanated from the CIA, and by accepting the Reagan view that it is an East-West rather than a North-South conflict. They have made no criticism of the United States policy when the United States Administration have armed and financed counter-revolutionaries working on Nicaragua from Honduras and Costa Rica. We believe that Governments in the area should be judged on their commitment to fight poverty, poor health, illiteracy and maldistribution of wealth and power, not on whether they are prepared to provide bases for United States military forces.

To take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Merionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas), Nicaragua is under siege. The Americans claim that it is not a Sandinista regime and that the Administration are not supported by the people. During my visit there it seemed that there was massive support for the Government and no wish to return to the Somoza regime, which existed before 1979. It is sad that in the middle east and central America, where there could be a separate European initiative independent of the United States, as is called for by a number of bodies there, Europe is incapable of undertaking such a role—even a still small voice at this critical time.

At the past two summit meetings there has not been one element of foreign policy in the communiqué. It is tragic, when those key areas are demanding a European initiative of foreign policy, that Europe is too disabled politically to produce one. It is not the Foreign Secretary's fault. We would welcome such initiatives by his European partners.

The pace of movement in southern Africa is bewildering. We commend the Government on their firm stand against linking the withdrawal of Cuban forces with Namibian independence and on yesterday's statement that progress in Namibia can be made only on the basis of resolution 435. There are interesting developments of South African initiatives in Angola and Mozambique, and there is apparent new stability because of the agreements.

However, it is questionable how long such stability will exist under the present South African system. The peace in Angola and Mozambique is not voluntary, nor a peace of equals. For some time South Africa has sought to destabilise its neighbours and achieve a cordon sanitaire round its borders. The peace is largely enforced by arms and the economic plight of those areas, which has been exacerbated by the drought, and it is hardly destined to be a long-standing peace. Perhaps in Cuba President Dos Santos expressed his true feelings in the communiqué. If there is a realistic attempt to end the instability, it cannot happen so long as the basic rock of apartheid remains.

It is interesting that the South African lobby was mightily mobilised for the debate, but there have been no significant changes in the internal policy of the South African Government. Some hon. Members reminded us that it was now 24 years since the massacre of Sharpeville, yet in terms of political power the black population remains as weak as it was then.

The Government's policy is somewhat patchy. In some areas the policy is robust, clear and principled. Their policy on the middle east is one with which we can agree. On two occasions the Opposition have told the Foreign Secretary of their support and understanding for the Government, for example, on Hong Kong. However, we wish to know more about developments there.

In our broad interests, which were defined so well by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) the former Foreign Secretary, and in the long-term interests of the Alliance, we must be seen in certain key areas to distance ourselves from United States policy where it seeks to view everything in a single-eyed, East-West perspective. We should stand back. In the Lebanon this East-West perspective has driven Syria and its allies into the arms of the Soviet Union. It is, therefore, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I fear that Britain has not fully adjusted to the new role that has been evolving during the past 30 years or more. The Alliance is strong enough for us to have a separate policy in concert with our European partners. It would be in the long-term interests of the Alliance if we were prepared to enter into that vacuum in the middle east and central America which has been created by the failures of United States policy.

9.40 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Richard Luce)

We can all agree that this has been a sober and realistic debate, although it is a pity that the House is not exactly packed today, especially not the Opposition Benches. The Opposition pressed us constantly, and rightly, for a debate on foreign affairs, which are of great concern to the House and the country. I regret that more Opposition Members were not present.

The House listened with the greatest of respect to the remarkable speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) and I shall return to some of his remarks later. I think that I am right in saying that I detected more bipartisanship today than I have heard for some time in foreign affairs debates, at least between the parties if not always within them. That is to be welcomed.

I am grateful for the remarks of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) on Hong Kong. They were helpful—I was about to say that they were useful and constructive, but perhaps we have over-used those words. I assure him that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will keep the House informed on Hong Kong as far as he can. The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) has just returned from Hong Kong; I and my right hon. and learned Friend listened to his views with great interest. I assure him that we have taken his points carefully on board.

There were several speeches about the middle east. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East and many others spoke about the war between Iran and Iraq. I begin by addressing my remarks to that, and then I shall try to answer the main strands of the debate in other areas. We know that this war is in its fourth year and that, as the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) said, casualties have been devastating. The first and urgent requirement is to bring an end to hostilities. We continue, with other interested parties, to explore all the avenues for mediation. However, it is realistic to say that, as matters stand at present, there is little prospect of success. If ending the war is impossible in the foreseeable future—although all interested parties will continue to try to end hostilities—containment of the war is important, and here United Nations Security Council resolution 540 is relevant. It is crucial to try to avoid an escalation of the war.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) is not here, because he criticised our posture in the Iran-Iraq war and said that we should supply arms to one side—Iraq—and not to the other. That is an irresponsible attitude. Our posture in this war is one of neutrality and of saying that we shall not supply lethal arms to either side. That is a more constructive attitude, and if only other nations would follow our example and stop stoking up that war there might be a better chance of peace. I was very surprised at his attitude.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East rightly said that stability in the middle east is of great importance to the Gulf states themselves, to all the countries that depend upon oil supplies and to the Western world, let alone Britain.

In the context of the dangers of escalation, the principal and immediate concern is the freedom of navigation in the Gulf. This is important to countries on both sides of the Atlantic. I returned yesterday from the United States, where I had discussions with Vice-President Bush, Mr. Weinberger and Mr. Shultz about the Gulf, the middle east generally, and other issues.

I was surprised at the remark of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) that Mr. Shultz was quoted as being "not too worried" by Iran's position. The United States, Britain and all our allies, as well as the Gulf states, are extremely concerned about the dangers of an escalation of that war.

I took the opportunity this week to exchange views with the United States Administration on those issues. We shall keep in the closest touch with them, with other interested parties and with the Gulf states. We shall all seek to avoid escalation. Every effort must be made to seek a diplomatic solution to the problem. We take on board entirely the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the Soviet Union. I assure him that we have his point about the need to keep in contact with them closely in mind.

It is right to refer briefly to the danger that the Gulf may be threatened by closure. We hope that will not occur. In the context of the need to secure the freedom of the international waterways of the Gulf, we shall work with all other countries who have interests in the area to protect our interests. We shall exhaust all diplomatic avenues before considering military or other action.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East asked about insurance rates for shipping. Premiums have increased especially on ships going into the northern Gulf. That is a matter of commercial judgment. The best contribution that we and our allies and other interested parties can make is to seek to contain the war as best we can.

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned oil supplies. He was right to say that in reality there would not be a dramatic shortfall in supplies of oil to the free world if the Gulf were closed. The danger lies in the irrational panic that might result. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that Britain and the United States have made contingency plans within the framework of the International Energy Agency. We can also use strategic stocks if necessary to mitigate the effect of a shortfall in oil supplies.

We have heard many very good and interesting speeches on the Arab-Israeli dispute, including the contributions of my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters), the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West and the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). That dispute has been a running sore for decades and a solution is more urgent today than ever. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, our policies are based on twin principles: first, Israel's need for and right to security, against the background of United Nations resolution 242 and, secondly, our recognition of Palestinian aspirations and rights to self-determination. We welcome the moves made by King Hussein in his talks with Mr. Arafat, and the move made by President Mubarak of Egypt, but it is for the parties themselves to take the lead.

I cannot help recalling what was said by John Foster Dulles, for whom the House had great admiration. On one occasion, arriving in the middle east, he said that the middle east problem must be settled in a truly Christian manner. It is not for us to dictate to our friends in the middle east how they should sort out their problems. It is for them to take the lead.

Mr. Healey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Dulles was referring, of course, to the Maronite Christians?

Mr. Luce

I shall not be drawn into analysing what he was referring to. Our task is not to patronise or to interfere but to encourage positive initiatives. If such initiatives are made by interested parties, it is the job of Britain and the Western world to give every encouragement and support to them. In that context, we watch with great interest what King Hussein and other Arab leaders are doing and saying.

Equally, we attach great importance to a dialogue with Israel. I have visited that country. There is the forthcoming private visit of President Herzog, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has already announced that he will be visiting Israel in the near future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury referred to the West Bank. I reaffirm that we regard the settlements policy as not just illegal but unconducive to resolution of the problem in that part of the world.

My hon. Friends the Members for Leominister (Mr. Temple-Morris) and for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) spoke of the Lebanon. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has made it clear that we shall now withdraw our contribution to the multinational force. We are deeply concerned at the failure of the Lausanne conference. I saw Mr. Jumblatt this morning at his request and spoke of my great concern at the failure of that conference and the danger of further bloodshed. I urged him, as we urge all other leaders, to play his part in trying to achieve a proper ceasefire because it is the innocent people of the Lebanon who are suffering so badly in that terrible dispute.

Interesting speeches on southern Africa were made by my hon. Friends the Members for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), Havant (Mr. Lloyd) and Ynys Môn (Mr. Best). I agree with all of them that there have been..some most encouraging political developments in southern Africa, an area in which the United Kingdom has a great interest and long-standing historical ties. We have certainly been encouraged by the very significant agreement between Mazambique and South Africa, which we believe could contribute to greater stability in that part of the world. The agreement involves non-interference in each other's internal affairs, respect for territorial borders and the nonuse of force. We certainly hope that that agreement will lead to further co-operation in other spheres, including the economic sphere, from which I am sure both countries would benefit. We also hope that such agreements may be extended to to other parts of the world.

In Namibia, too, there have been some encouraging developments with South Africa's agreement to disengage and in Angola, with the joint monitoring commission, against the background of the meeting in February in Lusaka between the United States, South Africa and Angola. The momentum is being established. We strongly support it and will do everything in our power to encourage it in the hope that it will lead to a settlement in Namibia.

A number of speeches dealt with central Latin America. I am baffled by the degree of anti-American prejudice on the part of the Opposition. I am not a psychologist and I find it difficult to understand why they are so unbalanced. They indulge in constant criticism of the United States without any reference to outside intervention by Cuba and the Soviet Union in that part of the world. I find that quite extraordinary. The problems of central Latin America are long-standing and deep-rooted. Clearly our aim and that of any Government such as that of the United States is to support and encourage peace, democracy and prosperity, and a recent speech by President Reagan strongly supported those objectives. We support the Contadora initiative, which is designed to find a peaceful solution of the problem.

Mr. Anderson


Mr. Luce

I have only five minutes left and I want to deal with arms control.

I find it extraordinary that hon. Members are opposed to the idea of the British Government sending two observers to the elections which are to take place next Sunday. Surely, if we are to encourage democracy, the least we should do is to arm ourselves with the information as to whether those elections are legitimate and fair. That is all we are seeking to do, and that is surely constructive. I find it difficult to understand what hon. Gentlemen object to in this. Indeed, for the same reasons, we welcome the fact that elections are to take place in November in Nicaragua. If we get an invitation to send observers there, obviously we shall be very glad to consider that. Surely this is the most effective way to tackle that problem.

I come to the question of East-West relations and arms control. There were very interesting speeches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Ryder) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone). It seems to me—and I am sure that this is right—that the mood of the House is that our priority should be to do our utmost to get the dialogue going between East and West. Profound concern has been shown throughout this debate that this should happen. That is why I am sure that the House has welcomed the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is going to Moscow. I can, of course, assure my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk that we shall speak our minds as clearly as we can—that will be the value of our discussions—on a wide range of issues, including the points about human rights which he raised. It is surely better that we understand that, however different our systems are and however much mistrust there may be, we live on the same planet and must talk to each other.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East that we have to strike a balance between our security and defence interests and the very great importance of arms control and disarmament. We must say to the Soviet Union that it is in its interest as well as ours that it should come back to the negotiating table in Geneva and talk sensibily about the issues that concern its security as much as ours.

We welcome the fact that the MBFR talks in Vienna, have now been resumed and that the conference on disarmament in Europe is making some progress. We hope that there will be progress in the field of chemical weapons, where we have put forward our own proposals for challenge inspection and verification. I believe that there is a tide of international opinion running strongly in favour of an agreement banning the manufacture, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. We must catch that tide, and the British Government propose to take a strong line. We welcome very much the fact that the Soviet Union has responded positively to our proposals and that the United States is shortly to table a draft treaty.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set the scene in terms of our broad foreign policy. It was Dean Acheson who, in the early 1960s, said Britain has lost an empire and not yet found a role. For some 20 years, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, we suffered from introspection, economic decline and a lack of self-confidence. Now, domestically, we are far more competitive economically. Thanks largely to the contributions of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, we are more self-confident people. Abroad we have a role to play. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is one of the longest serving leaders in the Western world. It is in our own interest to play a positive role. We are no longer an imperial power, but there is a remarkable fund of good will towards Great Britain in many corners of the world. Much of that is inherited, and much is derived from our existing efforts.

We have a role to play in the world. We can hold our heads high in the world. It is in our self-interest to work closely with out allies, including the United States, to move positively in the East-West dialogue and with our friends in the Commonwealth.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without question put.