HC Deb 25 April 1985 vol 77 cc1010-108

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

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

When I opened the last full day's debate on foreign affairs during the debate on the Address in November, I told the House something of the work that we were doing to secure agreement in a number of important areas.

I am glad today to be able to remind the House that since then we have concluded the agreement with China on the future of Hong Kong; implemented the agreement with Spain and Gibraltar; set in place the measures to reform the European Community agreed at Fontainebleau; and continued to secure for Britain a leading part in the search for stable relations between East and West.

Those are all major achievements. Each is the fruit of careful preparation, and determined pursuit of British interests.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

rose

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall not give way. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's impatience, but he must allow me to develop my speech for a moment or two.

As we dealt with the many grave international problems that confront the world, we held fast to the ideals and values which this country has long cherished: peace, democracy and freedom. We have sought through dialogue and negotiation the common ground on which to build. We have not minimised the differences with countries of different ideologies and outlook, but we have sought to identify the interests that we share with others and to build on those. It is a role that this country is well equipped to play.

At the same time, we have represented British interests worldwide. The recent visit by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to six Asian countries, including five members of the Commonwealth, underlined the importance that we attach to our relations with Asia, and gave powerful support to Britain's commercial interests.

That is the basis upon which we are approaching the many foreign policy questions that hon. Members will wish to discuss today. I shall not try to cover every one of them myself. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will be ready to deal with further points raised during the debate.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way. There is an area of the world that he has not mentioned in which developments are taking place rapidly — Namibia. He may recall that the last time he made a foreign affairs speech I asked him whether he would deal with Namibia. He said that he would refer to it later. When he came to it in his speech he simply said that the issues of Namibia were complex and would have to be dealt with. In view of its importance, we need, expect and demand much more from the Foreign Secretary.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Member should have had the patience to wait until a later stage in my speech, when I shall be ready to deal with Namibia. I encourage myself with the view that my resistance to his first intervention was entirely justified by the later exchange.

As I said in November, the greatest and most important challenge facing the foreign policy-makers of the West is to find a way of establishing stable, peaceful relations with the nations of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. I have not changed that view. Indeed, I have been strengthened in it.

As the House knows well, this is a year of important anniversaries. On 8 May, in Westminster abbey, we shall mark the conclusion of conflict in Europe and the far east. The week after, I shall join my Austrian, French, American and Soviet colleagues to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Austrian state treaty. Later in the year we shall mark the 10th anniversary of the Helsinki agreement, and the 40th anniversary of the United Nations.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Sharpeville.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

That is an anniversary that the hon. Member can celebrate for himself.

The Government approach the anniversaries that I have mentioned as an opportunity to give thanks for 40 years of peace in Europe, to recall the great work of post-war reconstruction and the reconciliation that has been achieved between the peoples of Europe.

When I visited eastern Europe a couple of weeks ago, I was vividly reminded, as must other hon. Members be who go there, just how European those countries are. At all my meetings with the Governments of eastern Europe, both sides have recognised that we belong to different alliances, but we have recognised as well that we are fellow Europeans, with similar cultural traditions and common roots.

That recognition finds expression in the Helsinki final act, and it will find it again in the follow-up meetings taking place this year at Stockholm, Ottawa and Budapest. Whatever our differences—and they are still substantial — we shall continue to emphasise those interests, traditions and values that are common to all the peoples of Europe.

We look to the future in the hope that the present unnatural division between the peoples of Europe will diminish in importance and eventually become a thing of the past.

The United Kingdom has a distinctive part to play here, because we have historic links with all the peoples concerned. In many cases, those links have been tested by the fires of war. That was why for me it was no ordinary experience to stand, as I did a couple of weeks ago, by the grave of Father Popieluszko, mindful of the large Polish community in the United Kingdom, surrounded by a large crowd shouting, "Long live Britain," and to remember that this was the same country for which we went to war in 1939. The Polish word was "Anglia", which can be translated as either "Poland" or "Britain."

In Poland, as in all my meetings in eastern Europe, I underlined the sincerity of the West's search for security at lower levels of armaments. I made plain our commitment to the negotiating process and the pursuit of genuinely balanced and verifiable agreements. Again and again I stressed that NATO is a defensive alliance. I left them in no doubt about our own concerns, but I tried to allay their misgivings about the policies of the West.

I draw two main conclusions from experience of these exchanges. The first is that it is both possible and essential, without compromising British or Western positions, to conduct regular, wide-ranging exchanges with the Governments of the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.

We have made it plain that we shall not hesitate to take firm measures where our national security is concerned. But our continued vigilance in that respect is entirely compatible with our determination to seek better relations with the Soviet Union. To be genuine and lasting, any improvement must be based on consistent and predictable action where the essentials of that relationship are concerned. I hope that a line can now be drawn under recent events and that we can devote our energies to the key international questions confronting our two countries.

My second conclusion is that if we are to be true to ourselves—and true to the spirit of Helsinki—we must make plain our concern about the inadequacy of the performance of those countries on human rights and human contacts. The human spirit cannot for ever be shackled by censorship, by frontier posts or by walls. For that reason, I made sure that in my visits to eastern Europe I met a wide range of people — and I am sure that in doing so I had the support of the whole House.

We must face the fact that the search for mutual security for East and West is bound to be a long haul. We shall need patience and tenacity, but it is the goal to which this Government are firmly committed.

A key element in the search for improved relations is arms control. This Government will remain loyal to their principles and to their allies. Our strategy is built on firm foundations: resolute commitment to the defence of British interests, if they are threatened; respect for treaty obligations; and the rigorous pursuit of security at a lower level of arms.

That is why we welcomed most warmly the resumption of the arms control negotiations at Geneva. We attach the utmost importance to those negotiations and strongly endorse their key objectives—ending the arms race on earth and preventing one in space.

In all my talks in eastern Europe I was reminded of Mr. Gorbachev's recent statement about the Soviet Union's intention to freeze deployments of intermediate nuclear weapons. In all of them I pointed out that that proposal is not new.

At the same time, I stressed the fact that the Soviet Union has now deployed 414 SS20 launchers, each with three warheads. NATO, by contrast, has deployed less than one third of that number of single-headed cruise and Pershing missiles.

On that basis, Mr. Gorbachev's proposal was essentially a restatement of previous positions. It would perpetuate the present imbalance in the Soviet Union's favour.

That is why the latest Soviet proposal falls short of what is needed. When Mr. Gorbachev was in Britain before Christmas, the Prime Minister and I made it clear to him that attempts to drive wedges between the Allies are, and will remain, futile. We made it equally clear that it was no part of our purpose to divide their alliance. Neither side looks at the other through rose-tinted spectacles, but both sides should recognise their shared interest in maintaining peace and security at lower levels of armaments. That is why we were glad to receive Mr. Gorbachev in this country and to have wide-ranging talks with him.

We must continue to encourage the Soviet Union to perceive the mutual advantage in serious and constructive negotiations: negotiations at the conference table, not at the press conference; negotiations conducted for real, and not for show. I am sure that the whole House would want me to reaffirm that a serious, businesslike approach by the Soviet Union to the Geneva talks would be welcomed and reciprocated by the Western Alliance.

On the general question of nuclear weapons, about which I have been saying a few words, the issues are undoubtedly complex but to some extent they are already familiar. When we turn, however, to the prevention of an arms race in space—the second element at Geneva—the issues are not only complex, but present new problems. That is why we must take care to see them in the correct perspective.

One point that immediately stands out, but is often overlooked, is the extent of the wide-ranging space research programme which has been conducted over many years by the Soviet Union. In view of the considerable scale of these efforts, I find it hard to understand how the Russians can realistically argue for a unilateral ban on United States research, which is rightly designed to respond to their own.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Of course we acknowledge that both the Soviet Union and the United States have done a great deal of work on anti-satellite weapons. However, before the Foreign Secretary leaves the so-called strategic defence initiative, surely he will acknowledge that we are talking about a massive new technological development — an escalation of the arms race quite different from the anti-satellite weapons which the Soviet Union and the United States have at present.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

That, once again, encourages me in my resistance to further interventions. Before I leave the strategic defence initiative I shall certainly have something to say about that.

It is against the background of the massive Soviet research that the Prime Minister and President Reagan agreed at Camp David last December on the four crucial points which are the foundation of Her Majesty's Government's position—first, that the United States and Western aim is not to achieve superiority but to maintain balance, taking account of Soviet developments; secondly that deployment of active defences would, in view of treaty obligations, have to be a matter for negotiation; thirdly, that the overall aim is to enhance, not undercut, deterrence; and, finally, that East-West negotiation should aim to achieve security with reduced levels of offensive systems on both sides.

It is on that understanding that we give our full support to current United States research into strategic defences. Given the long-established and comprehensive programme of Soviet research, we cannot afford to concede to them a potential monopoly in this area. Moreover, current treaty obligations specifically allow for these efforts on both sides to continue; indeed, it is difficult to see how any verifiable agreement about constraints on research could be achieved.

But, while research continues, it is clearly recognised on both sides of the Atlantic that any steps towards deployment must be a matter for the most careful consideration. The Prime Minister made that point in her historic address to the United States Congress on 20 February, when she emphasised that, should research on either side lead to the possible deployment of new ballistic missile defence systems, that would of course be a matter for negotiation under the ABM Treaty. There is another crucial point to bear in mind when we consider developments in this area. This was made by President Reagan himself in the speech in April 1983 which originally launched the strategic defence initiative —that it will take many years of effort on many fronts before clear results will be achieved.

During the years when that research is taking place we shall all need to consider the impact that possible moves in the direction signposted by the concept of strategic defence might have on a number of strategic concepts. Those matters are already the subject of widespread and continuing discussion and debate on both sides of the Atlantic.

Already on a number of points a consensus is beginning to emerge. That was made clear in the important speech made by Secretary Shultz in Austin, Texas, on 28 March. I draw attention to some of his principal conclusions first, that for years to come we shall have to continue to base deterrence on the ultimate threat of nuclear retaliation; secondly, that any contribution by defences must be orderly, predictable and stabilising in its effect; thirdly, that any future decision to deploy defences that were not permitted by treaty would have to be a matter for negotiation.

Many of these questions were considered again earlier this week at the ministerial meeting of the Western European Union, which I attended with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves the question of star wars, can he tell us whether members of the United States Congress have had displayed to them very much more detailed information about Russian research into strategic defensive initiatives? I believe that that information is also in my right hon. and learned Friend's possession. It would help the debate in this House and in the country if he would illustrate, so that our countrymen could understand the issue, the extent to which the Russians have been engaging in that sort of research, and even in experimentation related to it.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising an important point. A publication that deals with the issue in substantial detail has been made available to the United States Congress. I think that it is also available in this country. I shall ensure that more is done to draw attention to it.

As I said, these questions were discussed at the WEU meeting. There was general agreement that the Camp David four points provide a good basis for future Western policy.

We considered also the invitation that each of the countries represented had received from the United States Government to participate in the SDI research programme. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the United States Congress on 20 February, we do indeed hope that British scientists can share in this work.

That was also the responsę of most, if not all, of the WEU Ministers at our meeting in Bonn. But they all attached importance as well to the need to sustain and improve the technological capacity of Europe as a whole. On that basis, Ministers agreed, in the words of Tuescay's communiqué, to continue their collective consideration in order to achieve as far as possible a co-ordinated reaction to the invitation of the United States. Obviously, there will be practical questions to resolve and practical arrangements to be made. Only detailed study can provide the answers. But the Government intend to respond soon, and to respond positively.

It is in exactly the same spirit that we have sought to mark out and follow a course for the future of the European Community.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

In the debate on the Queen's Speech, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, he said that he was looking forward to a visit to Great Britain in 1985 from Mr. Gromyko. Is that still the position?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Yes. The dates for the visit have been under discussion for some time, but have not yet been agreed. As I told the House earlier this week, I shall be attending at Vienna on the occasion of the Austrian state treaty, together with the other Foreign Ministers that I mentioned, and there will be an opportunity to meet Mr. Gromyko.

I come now to the European Community. The last few months have confirmed our judgment that the Fontainebleau agreement did reflect and will promote an important basic change of attitude towards the Community.

The Community has achieved a lasting settlement of the budget problem. The agreement on budget discipline, finalised in Dublin last year, was a further important step in the right direction.

Last year's price fixing brought about a reduction in prices in real terms in every member state. It included an agreement on guarantee thresholds for all products in surplus. It instituted the milk quota scheme, which has led to a production cut throughout the Community. Those measures inevitably cause hardship for farmers, but we have to take the necessary steps to secure a better balance between supply and demand.

Of course, those reforms will need to be carried forward into the years ahead. That will require persistence and determination, but we are now firmly on the right road. What was once considered heresy—that prices could not be allowed to go on rising inexorably year after year—is now widely accepted in Europe as sensible orthodoxy. While the Opposition remain undecided whether or not to participate in the Community, this Government have been securing real and practical changes in Europe in line with British interests.

We should also mark another success for Europe. After years of difficult and complex negotiations, Spain and Portugal are now on course to join the Community on 1 January 1986. That achievement will consolidate and broaden the base of democracy in Europe.

Meanwhile, if the Community is to sustain and promote democracy, its policies must be seen to improve the daily lives of its citizens. We are tackling that challenge in three ways.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that the Community is no longer a European economic community, but a political community? Perhaps at this stage it would be appropriate if he outlined the cost to this country of Spain and Portugal joining the Community. Can we afford it?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I think that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to raise those points during the course of the debate. He was certainly wrong on his first point, and his second point would require a long answer.

As I said, we are tackling the challenge in three ways. The first is through measures of the kind proposed by the People's Europe Committee — for example, for cheap and easy travel, common recognition of everything from professional qualifications to driving licences. We are on course to make open frontiers a reality within the Twelve.

The second is through the streamlining of the Community's institutions. Our purpose is to strengthen European unity and to improve the efficiency of our decision-making procedures, on which the Dooge Committee has just reported.

The third approach is through the new action programme drawn up by the European Council last month. That programme has put the creation of wealth and of employment, through the promotion of enterprise, at the very top of the Community's agenda.

Its specific objectives are to encourage the creation of smaller enterprises by cutting red tape—a proposal put before the Council by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister — to increase the efficiency of the labour market; and to strengthen the Community's technological base and the competitiveness of its industry—in short to achieve a real common market by 1992.

All those policies stand for economic growth; all those policies stand for more jobs. In the promotion of all those policies, the United Kingdom is playing a positive, and indeed the leading, role.

Let me turn now to some other areas in which this country has a real interest. Like many other hon. Members, I have had the grave problems of Africa very much in mind during recent months.

We shall continue our efforts to help the Nigerian Government to grapple with the economic problems that they inherited. Our traditionally friendly relations have, of course, been strained by the Dikko affair. I have emphasised to the Nigerian Government that our approach has to be determined by legal, not political, requirements. A further difficulty is the detention of some British citizens in unsatisfactory conditions. We are continuing to press for that situation to be remedied. We attach the utmost importance to the re-establishment of good relations with Nigeria, and we believe that the Nigerian Government share our desire to get back on course.

In South Africa, the evil of apartheid has been underlined yet again by the tragic events at Uitenhage on 21 March and the escalation of civil unrest that has ensued. Those events reinforce the need for the South African Goverment to promote discussions with the black community to tackle the fundamental problems of black political rights. Without such a policy, no lasting solution can be achieved.

We have made very clear our view of the Uitenhage incident, most recently when I saw the South African ambassador this morning. We believe with equal conviction that it is right to keep up the dialogue with the South African authorities. We cannot expect to influence the South Africans if we choose to ostracise them. That is an approach which I am confident reflects the views of a wide spread of British opinion.

Despite the continuing bitterness and strife in South Africa, there have been some promising developments in recent months. Many of them were foreshadowed in President Botha's significant speech on 25 January—for example, the suspension of forced removals, the extension of property rights to blacks in the Cape area, and the acceptance of a black township at Crossroads. Most recently we have seen action to repeal the Mixed Marriages Act.

The effect of those actions should not be exaggerated, but when seen in historical perspective they do have real significance. They suggest that a change in attitudes—a necessary precursor to political change—may be taking place.

Let no one doubt that we wish to see the major changes necessary to dismantle apartheid. But we reject policies that are calculated only to increase chaos and violence in South Africa. We must continue patiently and persistently to encourage the South African Government further down the road to reform. That is the only way to long-term peace and prosperity in the region.

Peace in the region, of course, also requires a solution to the Namibian problem. I was able to discuss this in depth earlier this year with the Heads of Government in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya. The interim administation for Namibia, announced on 18 April, can be no substitute for internationally recognised independence on the basis of free and fair elections. That is what is provided for in United Nations Security Council resolution 435, to which all parties remain committed. We shall continue to press for its implementation and give our full support to the negotiations now being conducted by the United States.

I also discussed with the same African leaders the tragic famine in Africa. As the House clearly appreciated in the excellent debate four weeks ago, the Government have done much to combat this, particularly in Ethiopia, by direct relief assistance, by support for the voluntary agencies, and through the actions of the Community. In the financial year 1984–85, we committed over £100 million to drought-related aid — a fourfold increase on the previous year. But that is not a long-term solution.

Changes need to be made in the internal pricing and marketing policies of the countries affected. More resources and research should be invested in agriculture. We are ready to help in the most effective way. But a large part of the responsibility rests, as it must, with the Governments concerned.

That is true also for the relief of debt. The debt burden remains a major problem for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It is one that affects many other countries throughout the world. Some have made considerable progress in the adjustments that are necessary if sustained growth is to be resumed. But, once again, they cannot tackle the problems by themselves.

Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)

On the question of debt, we look forward with interest to what the Foreign Secretary may later propose. On EC food aid and the cuts in such food aid programmes, I do not know whether the Foreign Secretary was in the House when his hon. Friend the Economic Secretary replied to points made from this side of the House, and said that the issue seemed to depend on the exchange rate. Will he make a statement later on whether or not there has been a cut of some 40 million ecu in the aid programme?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I was in the House during that exchange. I do not think that it is for me in my present occuption to add to the precision of a Treasury Minister's answer. That may be dealt with by my hon. Friend the Minister of State when he is replying to the debate. He will bring to it a degree of wisdom, covering all Departments, which befits his Scottish ancestry.

The economic summit in Bonn next week will be an important opportunity for the major industrial countries to develop their co-ordinated approach to these problems. Despite the improved growth rates of the past 12 months, there are a number of uncertainties, particularly over the pace of growth of the American economy. That makes a decisive reduction in the United States budget deficit even more urgent that before. As Secretary Shultz observed in his recent speech at Princeton, the current United States deficits are simply not sustainable indefinitely. The world's largest economy is also the world's largest net importer of capital. That casts a shadow over economic recovery around the world.

However, it is not only the United States that needs to take action. There are practical steps open to each participant at the Bonn summit which would make a real difference. Certainly the United States must tackle its deficits, but we in Europe must push ahead with liberalisation by removing the many rigidities that hinder the creation of new jobs, and Japan must match the other Western economies by opening its markets and financial system in a way that it has not done so far.

Above all, we need to strengthen the will of all participants to resist protectionism. We need to preserve the benefits of the open trading system for developed arid developing countries alike. A new trade round will be important in ensuring that, as far as possible, those who enjoy the benefits of full GATT membership should also share the obligations by opening their markets.

Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that it is not just a question of Japan opening its markets, as he has rightly emphasised, but that, as Japan now produces one tenth of the entire output of the industrial nations, its contribution to the defence of the free world is still grotesquely inadequate? Is it not also a question of pressing the Japanese Government to realise that their co-operation in stabilising the entire world trading system involves making a substantially greater contribution to defence?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My right hon. Friend has brought the attention of the House to a point that is obviously important. The pattern of Japanese economic activity also has an effect on the nature and spread of Japanese research and development activities. We should notice, however, that since the Williamsburg summit the Japanese Government, under the leadership of Mr. Nakasone, have been drawing their country into taking fuller responsibility for wider world questions. It is right that my right hon. Friend should emphasise that that he has still some way to go.

We shall be discussing those issues at the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government this autumn. That will provide a valuable opportunity to consider together the problems facing industrialised and developing countries and to do it in what has always struck me as an atmosphere of frankness and informality which it is not possible to achieve in any international gathering, except one held under the auspices of the Commonwealth.

There, too, we shall hear a report from the Commonwealth working group on Cyprus. We were, of course, disappointed that the meeting between President Kyprianou and Mr. Denktash in January ended without agreement. But we welcome the United Nations Secretary General's intention to bring the two sides together again. We shall maintain our support for his untiring efforts to achieve a settlement.

In the middle east, we are still no nearer a settlement of the conflict in the Gulf. We shall continue to support any initiative which offers hope for an end to that long and tragic war. Here, too, we have given our firm support to the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General to bridge the gap between the two sides.

The House will, I am sure, share my equal concern at the continuing violence in Lebanon, particularly the cycle of retaliation and counter-retaliation in the south. If that tragic country is to regain its independence and prosperity, there must be an early and complete withdrawal of all foreign forces, in agreement with the Lebanese Government. National reconciliation must be pursued with renewed vigour. We shall continue to do all that we can to assist. In particular, we will maintain our support for UNIFIL, which can and should play a larger role in restoring peace and security.

There are more encouraging developments in the search for an Arab-Israel peace settlement. King Hussein's courageous efforts to secure a joint approach with the PLO to peace negotiations, and President Mubarak's proposals, are welcome steps.

We must make the most of this chance to move forward towards the negotiation of a lasting peace. We are glad that President Reagan has agreed that the United States should renew efforts to that end, and that Ambassador Murphy is at present in the region exploring ways of moving towards direct Arab-Israel talks. That is the right approach, as the Prime Minister and I pointed out in our talks in Washington. In the continuing series of meetings which we have had with leaders in the area, we have given, and will continue to give, every possible encouragement to this process.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Is it the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) to meet any members of the PLO while he is in Tunisia?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

There are no plans for a meeting of that kind.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

rose

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I must get on, if my hon. Friend will forgive me.

In central America, too, the search for peace and stability must be pursued with urgency. We share the concern of many central and Latin American states at the build up of arms and troops in Nicaragua. That is why, with our Community partners, we strongly support the Contadora initiative which offers the best prospect for a settlement. We take every opportunity to emphasise our view that the situation requires the utmost restraint on all sides. The aim must be to find practical steps to strengthen peace, democracy and development in the region.

We warmly welcomed the restoration of democracy in Brazil. The whole House will wish to join me in sending our sympathy to the Government and people of Brazil at the death of the President-elect, Mr. Tancredo Neves. We wish the new president, Mr. Sarney, well and look forward to working closely with him.

We have made plain on many occasions our support for democracy in Argentina. The development of more normal relations between Britain and Argentina is entirely consistent with our firm commitments to the Falkland Islanders. But it requires a constructive response on the part of Argentina. I regret to have to tell the House that, despite all our efforts, that has not yet been forthcoming.

Finally, the House will recall that, following the tragic events outside the Libyan People's Bureau a year ago, I instituted a full review of the Vienna convention, its operation and enforceability. I indicated then that I would welcome the views of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Select Committee reported in January, and the outcome of the Government's review was published two days ago. I know that the whole House will join me in expressing gratitude for the valuable work done by the Select Committee, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw), and I am glad to say that the Government have been able to accept all the Committee's main recommendations.

We are applying the Vienna convention more firmly. Stricter standards are being enforced — in particular, on the size of diplomatic missions, notification of new staff, use of diplomatic premises, handling of diplomatic bags, breaches of criminal law and illegal parking. Heads of diplomatic missions in London have been left in no doubt about the Government's resolve to deal with abuse of diplomatic immunity. We have made it clear that the small minority of diplomats who seriously abuse their immunity —especially for purposes connected with terrorism—are not acceptable in this country.

I have tried to set out the Government's achievements in foreign affairs and to outline our plans for the future.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I think that I must bring my remarks to a conclusion now, if my hon. Friend will forgive me.

Britain is playing a central role in developing closer links between East and West, and securing lasting peace in Europe. Britain is playing a central role in charting the next phase of the European Community. Britain is playing a full part in the search for solutions to the other major international problems. Britain has set an example by the agreements that we have secured in relation to Hong Kong and Gibraltar.

We can be proud of that record. We have reached the targets that we set ourselves last year and we have shown that this Conservative Government's policies are achieving success in upholding and promoting Britain's interests around the world.

5.12 pm
Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

First, I thank the Government for arranging this debate, which comes at an exceptionally critical moment in world affairs.

The first round of the disarmament talks in Geneva has just broken up without any genuine negotiations having taken place, although I understand that there was a certain exchange of views. The prospect for a radical improvement in East-West relations opened up by Mr. Gorbachev's assumption of leadership in Moscow remains as cloudy as ever. I am bound to say, however, that I agree with the Prime Minister, who expressed the view that she should do business with that man, and I strongly support the Foreign Secretary's reported view that the arrival of Mr. Gorbachev opens a new phase in Soviet foreign policy.

At the same time, there have been a series of meetings about the world economy in OECD and the International Monetary Fund which have failed to reach agreement on any of the fundamental issues now troubling the world — exchange rate instability, the debt crisis, protectionism and, above all, unemployment. Those economic discussions were distinguished mainly by slanging matches between the United States and Europe, in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer probably played the most prominent role.

The Foreign Secretary knows as well as I do, as an exChancellor—this view is strongly shared by Mr. Schultz in the United States, who himself held similar responsibility — that if something goes wrong in the world economy it is bound to have the most far-reaching effects on international diplomacy and, indeed, security. After all, it was the slump of the 1930s that produced Hitler and the second world war. East-West relations and what is happening in the world economy should be the central issues in next week's summit meeting in Bonn, which may be the last chance to avert catastrophe in the world economy, so I shall concentrate mainly on those two issues.

The Foreign Secretary made a wide-ranging speech in which he covered everything from the nuclear holocaust until he reached his crescendo on illegal parking. Nevertheless, he rightly left some important issues — including one of the most difficult—to his hon. Friend the Minister of State. I was glad to note that there was a certain amount of traffic between the Front Bench and the civil servants' Box immediately following the handing over of that poisoned chalice. I, too, shall be asking my hon. Friend who is to wind up to deal with some of the major regional problems. I wish to comment briefly on just three of them.

In central America, the United States Administration have for some years been attempting to force a change of Government in Nicaragua by supporting terrorists who were originally followers of the deposed dictator Somoza, by covertly building a military base in neighbouring Honduras, where massive military exercises have been carried out for more than two years, by vetoing economic assistance to Nicaragua and even, as we learn from the President's latest missive to Congress, by threatening direct military action against Nicaragua if all else fails.

We are deeply ashamed that the British Government have done nothing to dissuade the United States Administration from that course but have simply echoed all the propaganda emitted by the White House. There was a further example of that at Question Time yesterday. I hope that the refusal of the United States Congress to continue support for the Contras will embolden the British Government to join the rest of Europe in pressing the United States to abandon the attempt to terrorise the Nicaraguan Government into changes of policy or indeed to overthrow that Government, and instead to put all its weight behind the Contadora process. A negotiated settlement through the Contadora process would be as much in the interests of the United States as in the interests

of Nicaragua and the West as a whole. I believe that the Nicaraguan Government's latest proposals, transmitted to the United States by two visiting senators, offer at least a starting point for such a process.

I should like the Minister of State to reply to one special point. I hope that there is now no question of going ahead with plans for training troops from El Salvador in Britain. The Minister must bear in mind that the Atlacatl battalion, which was trained by the United States, has been responsible for appalling atrocities in the civil war in El Salvador. I am sure that no one in Britain would wish our country to be implicated in that way.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

As there has now been a second election in El Salvador and a moderate Government have been elected, whom we should broadly support, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if we can help President Duarte in his fight against both extreme Right and extreme Left terrorism by training his forces that can only be in the interests of this country and of El Salvador?

Mr. Healey

I do not believe that assistance in training the El Salvador army would be in the interests of President Duarte. As I have said, the battalion trained by the United States has been responsible for the most appalling atrocities. I welcome the unexpected victory of President Duarte, but the important thing now is not to increase the military confrontation in that unhappy country and to give all possible support to attempts by the Contadora countries, especially Mexico, to achieve a peaceful settlement. There are already signs that commanders of the guerrilla forces are waiting for the opportunity to take up such negotiations.

With regard to South Africa, the Foreign Secretary was right to say that the whole world was appalled at the recent massacre at Uitenhage in which 19 people were killed without having offered any provocation and most of them were shot in the back.

The Foreign Secretary scarcely mentioned the fact that President Botha had given a slap in the face to United States and European members of the Contact Group, including Britain, by establishing a puppet Government in Namibia, contrary to United Nations resolution No. 435 and in the face of the most explicit warnings from Secretary Shultz. I hope that the Minister of State will tell us what action the Government will take in view of those offensive and damaging actions by the South African Government over Namibia.

I believe that the time has now come to exert direct economic pressure on the South African Government. The nonaligned Governments are right in saying that the best answer would be general mandatory sanctions through the United Nations. However, that is unlikely to be agreed. Therefore, we must consider what individual countries can do on their own. There is no question in my mind that the best possible action that we could take would be to follow the example set by many American banks of international standing and ban further loans and investment in South Africa until the South African Government change their policies. There are now 15 resolutions on that matter in front of the American Congress. Some are bound to be passed. I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will, at last, join that movement.

The arguments that the Government have put so far against a ban on loans and investment in South Africa are, first, that it is a mistake ever to use sanctions to achieve changes in the internal situation in another country—yet the Foreign Secretary has just taken credit for supporting the Solidarity movement in Poland. He will recall that this Government, along with the American Government and many others, imposed economic sanctions on Poland entirely and exclusively for the purpose of securing changes in the Polish internal situation.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

The right hon. Gentleman now seems to be pursuing the road of mandatory sanctions, which he has suggested before. If he is so keen on them now, why was he not when he and his party were in office? The Labour Government refused to put economic sanctions on South Africa. Why is there now this sudden change of heart?

Mr. Healey

Because the situation in South Africa has become much more serious since that time. The South African Government, since then, have violated their clear undertakings to help the process for giving independence to Namibia under article 435. This point is often ignored by Conservative Members. The development of economic pressure on South Africa is undoubtedly one of the factors that has produced changes in what has come to be called petty apartheid in recent weeks on the part of the South African Government. It was one of the objectives of the American movement in favour of banning loans and investment in South Africa and, contrary to what we were told by the Foreign Secretary, it has not produced a reaction in the opposite direction. On the other hand, it appears to have accelerated the movement towards dismantling some of the fouler aspects of apartheid.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I should like to refer to Namibia. In case the right hon. Gentleman has misled the House, will he confirm that Moses Katjiuonga, who happens to be the president of SWANU — an organisation that existed even before SWAPO, and a member of the multi-party conference — has clearly stated that the multi-party conference in no way undermines United Nations Security Council resolution 435, and he and his party will form only part of an interim Government who will in no way undermine the future implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 435?

Mr. Healey

All that I can say to the hon. Gentleman is, in the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies, "He would say that, wouldn't he?" What else would he be expected to say? He would say that because he does not want to incur action by the United Nations against steps that are in fact undermining progress towards independence for Namibia and are in direct contradiction of the courses urged by the American Secretary of State, among others, in recent weeks.

The third regional issue to which I shall refer is the appalling tragedy of the famine that is still sweeping the whole of middle Africa from the Atlantic to the Red sea. I hope that the Minister of State will explain why, in that situation, the United Kingdom Government are cutting aid in real terms by about 3 per cent. this year and why we agreed at the Common Market meeting this week to cut the Commissioners' request of 40 million extra ecu in food aid to 26 million, and did so just at the moment when the Commission is planning another great fire sale of 380,000 tonnes of Common Market butter to the Soviet Union at only one fifth of the price that is paid by housewives in Britain. I think that the House and the country would like an answer to those questions.

I should like to make a further point in that area. Several distinguished service officers who took part in the last world war and many who are serving at this time have supported a call by the International Peace Academy to use the anniversary of VE day for a declaration by all the belligerent Governments in favour of common action against natural disasters such as began to take place in Ethiopia last year. That would be an excellent initiative. It would be difficult for any Government to refuse such an invitation. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will reconsider their rejection of that idea and that the Minister of State will be able to say something about it when he winds up.

I shall now refer to the major issues. First, I shall make a short comment on the crisis in the financial markets, which could weaken Western unity far more deeply than any efforts by the most cunning Communist. I think that the Foreign Secretary will agree that the volatility in exchange rates in the past few years, created by the colossal cloud of funds that is slopping around the international markets, is profoundly damaging to the stability of the Western economy and, indeed, its financial system.

The best estimate that I have heard of the size of those flows is between $30,000 billion and $50,000 billion last year as against only $2,000 billion to finance the whole of world trade in goods and services. Those capital flows are creating havoc on foreign exchange markets. Foreign exchanges rates are bobbing up and down like a yo-yo. We have seen dramatic examples of that with sterling in the past few weeks. Exchange rates determine the flows of trade. Those oscillations encourage protectionism in all the countries concerned. Exchange rates determine the rate of inflation. They often determine interest rates and, through interest rates, they influence growth. I hope very much that that matter will be addressed at the summit next week, because if it is not addressed this time, it is unlikely that any effective action will be taken for at least another 12 months.

Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage)

In the light of what has happened, does not the right hon. Gentleman regret the thoroughly unconstructive and negative attitude taken by the Government for whom he was Chancellor of the Exchequer towards the creation of the European monetary system?

Mr. Healey

That is an issue on which I hesitate to admit that I agree with the views of the present Government. A purely regional system cannot have more than the most marginal effect on the oscillation in world exchange rates that we have recently seen. The hon. Gentleman should know that the deutschmark, which is a member of the EMS, has been as severely affected as the pound sterling by the recent chaos on the foreign exchange markets.

The other economic matter that I must say a word about was referred to by the Foreign Secretary. It is the debt crisis. If the debt crisis explodes, it will threaten financial markets, the fragility of which has already been demonstrated by the collapse of major institutions in the United States, Britain and Ireland. At present, Bolivia and Nicaragua are already effectively in default. Peru, which is also in effective default, may declare formal default when the Aprista Government take power in a few weeks' time. Owing to the death of Tancredo Neves, Brazil has now joined Argentina as a major debtor which is most unlikely to organise a further rescheduling in the foreseeable future. If the fall in oil prices, which most people expect, takes place this year, it could push the oil-producing debtors over the precipice. Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria and Indonesia could join the list of countries which are in effective default.

It has been possible at least to hope for the last two years that the sticking plaster or case-by-case approach to the world debt crisis might, somehow or another, get the world through. In the light of events in recent weeks, that hope looks increasingly vain. I hope that the Minister of State will be able to assure us that this problem will be addressed more honestly and vigorously at next week's summit than it was at the meeting of the International Monetary Fund a fortnight ago or of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which preceded it.

I turn to the issue of East-West relations, to which the Foreign Secretary rightly devoted the greatest part of his speech. He and I find ourselves in uncomfortably close proximity on this issue. I find it very difficult to criticise most of what he has done in recent months. I applaud very much what he said this afternoon about the unity of eastern and western Europe. I believe that he performed a great service by his recent visit to eastern Europe, in which he combined a proper respect for human rights with a genuine desire to improve relations between Britain and the countries of eastern Europe. This was one occasion upon which the patient plodding of Sancho Panza in eastern Europe did a great deal more for Britain and the world than the charge at windmills by Donna Quixote. I know how embarrassed the Foreign Secretary is by the contrast between the patient merit he showed on his recent visit to eastern Europe and the exhibition made by one of his colleagues in another part of the world, so I shall not press that matter further.

The Foreign Secretary was right to express the view that a new range of opportunities is given to the world as a result of the change in leadership in the Soviet Union. Those of us who have closely followed these questions over recent weeks have been surprised and impressed by the speed with which Mr. Gorbachev has established his authority in the Soviet Union—by, for example, filling the vacant places in the Politburo within a month of taking office as the Soviet leader. He has also made it crystal clear that he regards it as his prime task to improve the efficiency and integrity of the Soviet internal system and particularly to improve its economic performance.

So far, his public statements on foreign policy have added very little, with one exception with which I shall deal later, to what was said by his predecessors, but nobody who has been to the Soviet Union recently can deny that if the new Soviet leadership wants to improve Soviet economic performance it will have to offer better incentives for hard work and higher skills. It will be unable to offer those better incentives if it is compelled to make even bigger increases in defence expenditure. Therefore, I believe that the House is in agreement that the economic priority which Mr. Gorbachev has set himself gives him a very strong incentive to try, through arms agreements with the West, to reduce defence spending—which, we now know, has been very much lower than it was often made out to be.

The Central Intelligence Agency has recently stated that Soviet defence spending has increased by only 2 per cent. a year since 1976 and that expenditure on equipment has not increased annually over that period. We should bear in mind the fact that total expenditure in the Soviet Union has been no higher than that in the United States, but the increase in United States expenditure over the whole period has been twice as great as that in the Soviet Union, and since President Reagan took over as leader it has been four times as great. Therefore, the Soviet Government, like the British Government, have an overwhelming reason for moving as fast as possible in order to achieve the two main objectives set jointly by America and the Soviet Union in Geneva at the Shultz-Gromyko meeting: to prevent an arms race in space and to wind down and stop the arms race on earth.

It would make a great deal of sense to start with a freeze on arms development, since there is approximate parity in strategic and intermediate weapons. The figures that were given by the Foreign Secretary were most disingenuous. He knows as well as I do that in addition to the Pershing and cruise missiles which America has recently placed in Europe, SACEUR still retains control over 400 Poseidon warheads in case of war which must be added to the intermediate forces as well as a sizeable nuclear strike force based on American carriers in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Here, too, there is a rough balance.

I find it very difficult to understand, as an ex-Secretary of State for Defence, why the Foreign Secretary did not welcome Mr. Gorbachev's offer of a moratorium. If he looks at the figures, he must admit that we should have been far better off if we had accepted the Brezhnev offer of a moratorium in 1979. At that time, the Russians had deployed only 50 SS20s. Now, according to NATO sources, they have deployed 280 for possible use in the European theatre. I am sorry to have to say that, as weapons, the Soviet SS20s are very much more impressive than the Pershing 2 which the Americans now find is defective, which means that they are having to slow down their deployment in Germany, and the cruise weapons which Mr. Perle—a pearl beyond price indeed—told us three years ago had very little military value and which Mr. Weingberger told us the other day the Russians are already capable of shooting down. Indeed, he said that they had shot down one of their own cruise missiles over Finland, although he had to withdraw that claim almost as soon as it was made.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman has just destroyed his own argument. He cannot at one and the same time say that the West should have accepted the 1979 offer yet claim that today rough parity is still being maintained after the Soviet build-up of the SS20s.

Mr. Healey

The hon. Gentleman is fairly new to the House, although I know that he has great bureaucratic experience in foreign affairs. I put the answer to this question in very great detail when we debated the deployment of cruise missiles in November 1983. The fact is that, in the totality of weapons for use in the European theatre, there has been a balance for 20 years. That includes the deployment of SS20s. However, successive Governments in the West have consistently refused to count in the balance the 400 Poseidon warheads that were and still allocated to SACEUR. A freeze at this moment would be more advantageous than a continued race if it meant that without it the Russians doubled the number of their missiles and that more useless cruise missiles were deployed in Western Europe, as well as more Pershing 2s, which blow up on their launch pads in peacetime.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Healey

No. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] Of course I shall give way, but I do not believe in giving way every three seconds; otherwise I might prevent my hon. Friend from making the speech that he intends to make.

Mr. Lamond

It is on exactly that point that I wish to intervene.

Mr. Healey

All right, then.

Mr. Lamond

I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. He is making an excellent speech, but may I point out that the remarks made by Mr. Gorbachev were not in the nature of an offer or a proposal; they were a unilateral statement that the Russians would not deploy any more missiles until November. He did not ask for any reciprocal agreement from the West. He will carry on with that action whether or not we take any reciprocal action, which makes the matter rather different.

Mr. Healey

I am well aware of what Mr. Gorbachev said, but the plain fact is that a six-months moratorium in itself is not over-impressive. We all know that Governments phase in the deployment of weapons in batches. It may well be that the sacrifice that the Soviet Union makes is not an impressive one if the moratorium is limited to six months.

Moreover, I must also tell my hon. Friend that Mr. Gorbachev would have impressed NATO opinion more if he had offered to withdraw those missiles which he has deployed relevant to the European theatre since the Dutch Government stated that they would not deploy any NATO weapons providing that the Soviet Union did not deploy weapons in the intervening period. I hope very much that, as a result of this interchange, Mr. Gorbachev takes my advice. One must use all diplomatic channels available.

All of us must recognise, and none more than the Foreign Secretary, that the main obstacle to progress in Geneva has been the way in which the American commitment to the strategic defence initiative has changed over recent months compared with what Mr. Gromyko was given to understand by Mr. Shultz when they first met in January.

I had the opportunity, as has been mentioned, to visit America for a day last week when I was able to talk to people on both sides of the star wars argument. The impressive thing is that everybody who has expressed a view who has served as Secretary of Defence in the United States in the past 20 years regards the strategic defence initiative as dangerous nonsense. That goes for defence Ministers of both parties, Mr. Schlesinger of the Republican party no less than Mr. McNamara and Mr. Brown of the Democratic party. Indeed, it was criticised in similar terms by President Ford, a Republican, at a recent meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

To me and to many people in Washington, what was perhaps most impressive was that the strategic defence initiative was strongly criticised by General Scowcroft last week in the United States. I say "impressive" because General Scowcroft's report on the MX missile was accepted as the most balanced statement of the requirements for a stabilising nuclear strategy and it was accepted by President Reagan and the political opposition in the United States as well.

The real trouble is that the American Administration's position has changed in worrying ways since that initiative was first announced. In December, the national security adviser, Mr. Macfarlane, said that America would be prepared in negotiations to bargain about research as well as deployment. In January President Reagan said that America would not bargain about research but would bargain about deployment. But in recent months, Mr. Weinberger and many other American spokesmen have said that America will not bargain even about deployment if deployment appears to be feasible. That is a worrying situation, because nobody is still arguing in Washington that the United States will be able to protect is own people through the strategic defence initiative, still less that it will be able to make nuclear weapons obsolete, as President Reagan initially suggested.

The only purpose now suggested for that system, if it proves feasible, is to protect American land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and increasingly people in Washington are beginning to worry that the Russians may justifiably fear that it is intended to protect the remaining ICBMs against a ragged response by Soviet missiles to an American first strike. That fear was expressed by General Scowcroft last week.

That type of fear is fed by remarks by the American Defence Secretary, Mr. Weinberger, who said the other day: If we can get a system which is effective and which we know can render their weapons impotent, we could be back in a situation we were in, for example, when we were the only nation with a nuclear weapon. That is the clearest declaration of the interest that at least one member of the Administration has in acquiring not only superiority but the sort of superiority which no American Administration has ever sought at any time since the war.

I hasten to add that Mr. Weinberger is not the only spokesman for the Administration. Mr. Paul Nitze, in a recent series of speeches, one of which was in London, said that the strategic defence initiative would not be worth while unless the system it produces can survive an attack, costs less than measures to defeat it and increases rather decreases stability. All those are important criteria, although most people think that they rule out the SDI programme in advance.

Yet when the Foreign Secretary repeated those points in a recent lecture, the response that he received from supporters of the SDI on both sides of the Atlantic was one that I can only describe as hysterical rage. The Times leader was a model of bloodshot saloon bar apoplexy. To quote its more moderate remark, it said that the Foreign Secretary's speech was mealy-mouthed, muddled in conception, negative, Luddite, ill-informed and, in effect if not intention, a 'wrecking amendment' to the whole (SDI) plan". God protect him from his friends. It is a great pity that Mr. Rupert Murdoch has reduced the once mighty Thunderer to impotent spluttering whenever it comes across on argument or view with which it disagrees.

Not satisfied with the Times leader Mr. Richard Perle, a middle-ranking official in the Defence Department, rushed over to London and made a speech which was extraordinarily loutish and incoherent. I find that extraordinary because I have a long acquaintance with Mr. Perle and he has always appeared to me in normal circumstances to be an intelligent and courteous man. But when the presentation of reasonable doubts is met by this hysterical response, one is justified in doubting the conviction and rationality of the supporters of star wars. Indeed, there is no doubt, in my view, that Mr. Perle was essentially attacking his colleague Mr. Nitze and using the Foreign Secretary simply as a surrogate.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the principal problem with the SDI is that at the end of the day one cannot run what must be a political relationship using essentially only strategic technology?

Mr. Healey

If the hon. Gentleman is saying, as I suspect he is, that one cannot solve political problems through a technological fix, I agree with him. A worrying tendency in American policy for many years has been the desire to do precisely that, and it is always bound to fail.

The remarks of the Foreign Secretary awakened echoes of great sympathy throughout western Europe inside the Alliance. It is vital that those of us who have doubts about the course on which American policy appears to be set should express those doubts clearly and in public. There is no other way by which we can hope to influence the debate in Washington. It is important that if the European countries agree on this matter, they should state a concerted view because a concerted view from Europe will always be more influential in Washington than a series of different views.

I am sure that we should regard it a highly impertinent for Mr. Burt, who is a middle-rank official in the State Department, to have told the European Governments that they had no right to discuss these questions except in the presence of the United States, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary put a flea in his ear.

If Europe expresses its view firmly and collectively, we can turn the tide of argument in America. To do that, we must refrain from participating in SDI research, as the Americans peremptorily summoned us to do within 60 days of Mr. Weinberger giving the invitation.

I see no reason to believe that research into SDI will increase Europe's technological ability to compete with the United States; on the contrary. Japan has no military research in these areas but is knocking the living daylights out of American high technology all over the world, including in the United States. In the last three years, the Americans have turned a trade surplus of $10 million in high technology into a trade deficit of $5 billion. In my view, one reason for that has been their excessive devotion of research resources to military research.

Given the neurotic obsession of some in the present American Administration to prevent what they call the transfer of technology, it is unlikely that the European countries would be given any interesting areas of research into SDI, except on conditions which would, frankly, be commercially intolerable. I hope that the Government will not be seduced by the arguments of the aerospace industry, which in the United States recently described SDI as money from heaven. I hope that the British Government will resist this heavenly shower.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

While I greatly share the sentiments that the right hon. Gentleman has expressed on that topic, is he aware that an argument propounded in favour of our participating in the research programme, even if we are opposed to eventual deployment by negotiation, is that it enables us, individually or collectively in Europe, to prevent the Americans from making a unilateral decision eventually on deployment? If we participate throughout the research up to the point at which they would either negotiate or deploy, we are more likely to have a say in that eventuality than if we opt out of it.

Mr. Healey

I have some experience of working with the Americans in these matters. I assure the hon. Gentleman that no American Administration, least of all the present one, would ever make themselves so dependent on foreign contributions in this area as to give foreigners a veto over their actions. Anyone who believes the contrary has no knowledge of the post-war history of American co-operation with its allies in defence.

I hope, therefore, that the Government will resist the temptation to join the research programme. I hope that they will also point out to the United States that, if they have now come to the view that the only real purpose of a star wars system would be to defend their ICBMs against a first strike, there are many much cheaper ways of doing that. One which the British Government, in their present mood, should support to the hilt would be to put more Trident D5s at sea, because the Trident submarines are invulnerable and I understand that their warheads are just as effective against hard targets as the warheads of ICBMs.

What has confused many people is the argument used by the Foreign Secretary that, as the Russians have engaged in research, the Americans must do the same or the Russians might suddenly break out and deploy an antimissile system. In any case, it is said, there can be no verification of an agreement to ban research. I shall comment on that, because by examining the problem we may be led to the way through.

It is true that there is no means of verifying a ban on research, which takes place in people's minds or in laboratories. However, it is impossible to carry research in this area far without carrying out experiments which can be monitored by the Russians, by us or by anyone else. To prove that, the American Department of Defence has recently published a list of 15 major sets of experiments that it proposes to carry out as part of the SDI programme, nearly all of which could be monitored by the Soviet Union.

The Department published that list so as to argue that the tests were compatible with the anti-ballistic missile treaty, and a great argument has begun in the United States about whether they are compatible. We know that the Russians have carried out similar experiments which have been monitored by the United States, and each side has carried out experiments in anti-satellite warfare which have been monitored by the other.

Surely the answer, if we want to stop the arms race moving into outer space, is to tighten the ABM treaty— so that all these, currently grey, areas can become absolutely clear—and ban all experiments which are, or could be held to be, related to the future deployment of anti-missile systems. That would meet the American worry about some of the ambiguous Soviet measures, such as the construction of a phased array radar system, and it would meet Soviet worries about the Americans overtaking them.

If the Americans showed themselves ready to reach an agreement along those lines, the Russians should offer deep cuts in their intermediate range nuclear forces and in their strategic forces. Then rapid progress in Geneva would be possible, and rapid progress is necessary, too.

I have been deeply worried by talk in America of leisurely negotiations which could last for many years. During such a period, the arms race would move into areas which might soon become beyond control, in peace or war — for example, dual-capable cruise missiles which are easily hidden and systems which are so sensitive and which require to react so quickly that their use must be triggered by computers rather than by the minds of men. That is true, I fear, for most of the technologies which the Americans contemplate as contributing to the SDI.

Next week's summit meeting gives Europe a unique opportunity to make those points to the United States President and his closest advisers. On this sort of issue, the battle in Washington sways to and fro between the State Department, the White House and the Defence Department. A concerted attempt to put the issues clearly and courteously to the United States next week could have a major influence. We are only asking for the American President to return to the position that, on his behalf, Mr. Macfarlane stated in December — that America would negotiate about research on as well as deployment of the strategic defence initiative, provided that progress was being made in the other areas.

We have a unique opportunity. I hope that the British Government, who have taken the lead on this matter — I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on that — will take another great step forward. There could be no better way of celebrating VE day than to make progress on this issue.

6 pm

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

If I understood him correctly, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) dismissed the strategic defence initiative as "dangerous rubbish". He threw a great deal of doubt on its feasibility. He may be right or he may be wrong, but any discussion of the subject must take account of two factors.

First, there is the President's apparent confidence in the feasibility of the project and his commitment to it. It is hard to believe that the President would have committed himself so far or expressed such optimism unless he had good reason to believe, and had been given good advice to the effect, that it was feasible.

Almost more impressive, however, is the obsessive anxiety displayed last year by Mr. Gromyko and since then by Mr. Gorbachev about the strategic defence initiative. The Soviets have made some study of the matter. If they thought that it was not going to work, why would they complain about the Americans spending a great deal of money on it, or if they thought that they could do it better themselves, why would they complain about the Americans trying to catch up?

The problem will not go away. It will not be possible to put the genie back into the bottle. One cannot uninvent what has been invented and taken some way. That being so, what do we do about it? Only research will show whether the programme would be cost-effective at the margin—whether the advantages that would accrue from the system would cost less than the measures which the other side would have to take to counter it.

Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I think that we should be in on this development. We had the painful experience of the MacMahon Act, when we were cut off from all information on nuclear technology and had to relearn a great deal at great cost and effort. It would be wrong for us to put ourselves in that position in connection with this new technology. Until the reseach programme has been completed we cannot tell whether or not it will be of great importance to us.

I agree that it is right that such matters should be discussed within the Western European Union. Mr. Burt's intervention was, to say the least, undiplomatic.

I drafted the original memorandum that led to the setting up of the WEU. It stated: NATO is a box to keep the Soviets out of Europe. We need a box to keep the Germans in Europe. As long as there is a Soviet threat to Europe, NATO is essential. It is vital. It is the main system through which we face that danger. As long as that threat continues to exist, NATO must be our front line and our basic alliance. However, the concept of European union would remain valid even if the threat did not exist. We have a trade and payments union in Europe. There are meetings of Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers. However, we do not yet have a proper defence system. It would be good if, within NATO, we developed a European system. The WEU, suitably amended, would seem to be the natural forum for this. It would be in no sense an alternative to NATO. It would be a means of affirming, within NATO, the European contribution. If such a development helped to bring France a little closer into the Atlantic Alliance, so much the better. Europe cannot be defended without France.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East expressed substantial hopes about the possibilities arising from Mr. Gorbachev's arrival in office. Yes, there is something to be hoped for in that connection. However, in this context, I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on his two excursions into eastern Europe. There is always a dilemma to be faced on such visits. If one simply approaches them on a state-to-state basis, there will be a feeling among the people of the country that one is supporting the regime by which they are repressed. My right hon. and learned Friend's judical combination of formal discussion and unconventional excursions exactly resolved the dilemma.

Eastern Europe is not a monolith. It is not nearly as monolothic as it was even 12 years ago. Romania has a fiercely independent foreign policy and a rigid regime. In Poland, though it is not a pluralist society, the church and Solidarity function almost publicly as an opposition. Hungary has liberal trading traditions. East Germany is permeated by West German television. Czechoslovakia is the most rigid of the countries, because it has a common frontier with NATO's arms.

In their different ways, those countries are all subject to the attractions of the West. If we on our side can play a part in transforming the Soviet empire into a Soviet commonwealth, we will be half way to where we want to go.

Of course it is right to examine the possibilities offered by the new regime in Moscow but it would not be honest of me to say that I thought that we would make rapid progress. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that the Americans are taking arms control too slowly. Arms control is at the moment in the centre of the stage. We must remember — the right hon. Gentleman was factually wrong on this point — that the Soviets enjoy a substantial superiority in conventional and nuclear weapons at present and will not surrender that superiority lightly. They will make every effort to freeze the present situation. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that we should accept the freeze proposed by the Soviet Union. The Soviets will try by negotiation and propaganda to persuade us to do so. However, we must not allow a freeze.

It was because of the dangers posed by Soviet superiority that Chancellor Schmidt demanded that we should put new weapons into Europe to make up for the absence of German nuclear weapons under German control. That is being done, and the best chance of an agreement with the Soviets is for us to continue to build up our weapon levels while working at the negotiating table. We should build up our programme, as we have said that we will, while being ready to disarm with the Russians to a level acceptable to both sides.

Will we succeed? I do not know. However, the Soviet Union knows that it cannot win an arms race against the West. The Russians will try to delay, but if they see us going ahead they will have to decide whether to do a deal while they are still in a relatively strong position. It was the deployment of Pershing and cruise that brought them back to the conference table. It would have been nice if the right hon. Member for Leeds, East had admitted that that was a great triumph of President Reagan's policy and that of other Western Governments.

There is of course a risk that, while we continue rearming, the Soviets will wish to take advantage of the window of opportunity which is still open to them. The situation is fragile — we are almost walking on eggs. I do not expect it, but I do not exclude the possibility of their attempting some adventure in Europe to take advantage of the opportunity still open to them. There are other areas which are perhaps more advantageous to them. The middle east stands out as one. The Iraq-Iran war drags on. If Iran were to collapse, what was once the Shah's progressive empire would become a vacuum and the Soviets are well placed to fill it from the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. If Iraq were to collapse, the repercussions in the whole of the middle east would be chaotic. We must watch that carefully.

There is another danger area, which I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend is watching carefully. I refer to the Horn of Africa. Despite the ghastly famine in Ethiopia and neighbouring countries, the Marxist regime of the Dergue continues to wage civil war against the Eritrean and Tigrean freedom fighters. It has had great difficulty so far but matters are now easing up for the Dergue. The new Government in Khartoum have stopped the broadcasts to Eritrea and Tigre from the Sudan, although the Mengistu Government are helping the rebels in the southern Sudan. And the southern Sudan controls the oil without which Sudanese prosperity cannot be rebuilt.

Mengistu and his Libyan friends, who have money in their purse, have considerable means of pressure on the new Sudan regime. The situation in Khartoum is still far from clear, but it is clear that the new Government have called for better relations with Libya—there has beer a resumption of diplomatic relations — with Ethiopia and with the Soviet Union. It is also clear that the broadcasts against Gaddafi and the Ethiopians have been stopped. There is talk of ending co-operation with the American rapid deployment force. The Sudanese Government are dependent on the Americans for money, but Gaddafi has money too and control of the Nile waters is vital to Egypt, the leading ally of the West in the area. If anything should happen to Egypt, the moderate axis that has been built up from Cairo to Amman to Baghdad will be in danger, and with it the chances of a settlement of the Palestinian problem and peace with Israel. The stakes are high in the area and the possibility of East-West confrontation is apparent.

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend is aware that, whatever else happens, we should not let our hopes of a new potential in East-West relations blind us to the real dangers ahead.

6.13 pm
Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

I am sorry that we cannot vote on the Adjournment motion. To judge from what the two Front Bench spokesmen have said, in their euphoria, it looks as though there is a return to bi-partisan politics. I am sorry that they have both disappeared because I wanted to make a few remarks, especially about my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey).

The cold warriors are still at it, here and in the other place. There is no evidence of a new approach to good relations between East and West in recent debates in either House. Some pleasant remarks have been made lately. The Prime Minister said that it might be possible to do business with Mr. Gorbachev, but she has not proved that she has moved from calling the Soviet Union a vile society. She called its negotiators undemocratic, unrepresentative and untrustworthy and said that there was no basis of trust. We shall have to have a lot more evidence before we believe that we are moving away from the present frigidity. I hope that that evidence comes soon.

In Mr. Nakasone in Japan, Mr. Kohl in Germany, and our Prime Minister, allied to President Reagan, we have a reactionary quartet working in unison. All four are vying with one another to prove their aggression against the Soviet Union and to find excuses to explain why current talks are not making much progress. If there is an aggregate expenditure on arms, especially nuclear arms, of £150 billion a year, there must be an enemy somewhere to justify it. To justify that expenditure to taxpayers, they must claim that an enemy is knocking at the door. I look to the resumption of talks in Geneva at the end of May as a prospect of progress, especially in conjunction with the resumption of talks on the non-proliferation treaty, which start in September. I hope that the summit later this year between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev will consolidate preparatory work which I hope will have been possible in Geneva. We should not be misled by the present euphoria.

The West seems to be locked into anti-Soviet vigilance and the Soviets seem to be locked into anti-Western vigilance. The Foreign Secretary said that there had been no progress in Geneva and that it seemed to him that the Soviets were more concerned with propaganda than making progress. I do not know the basis for that statement or whether he has access to what has gone on at the negotiating table in Geneva. If that is his conclusion, it does not sound too good. The Foreign Secretary talked about Poland and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East rightly reminded him of Government initiatives on Poland and an alternative leadership there some years ago.

People throughout the world are looking for leadership, and it might be possible to have a moratorium on all nuclear weapons testing. That is the priority demand being made in all countries, especially Britain. Against that background we should consider what is happening at the talks. Western peace movements agree that secrecy is not on the side of peace. It is part of the arms race vocabulary and weakens the movement towards peace. Therefore, we should do everything that we can to break down the confidentiality agreed on by both sides in the current negotiations.

One of the priorities that we should attempt to achieve is an end to the secret numbers game, in Geneva particularly, but in all disarmament talks. We and the United States are particularly dependent on American information from the institute in Stockholm and from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. There are only the two sources of information. When any hon. Member uses numbers in his arguments, on what basis does he claim confidence for their accuracy? In my experience of 20 years of putting questions about the numbers of nuclear weapons held, either in warheads or in the yield that they are capable of producing, every Minister has refused consistently to confirm or deny the accuracy of the numbers. It has not been the practice of successive Governments to reveal anything about the number of these weapons.

There is no certainty anywhere. There is no open knowledge about what is being discussed at Geneva. Both the Soviet Union and the United States have agreed total confidentiality about the references put on the table. The evidence is that contradictory figures are being used, and some downright misleading figures are being used by this Government, about the possession of nuclear weapons either by Britain or the United States. The Soviet Union is not willing to divulge any of the precise figures that it is putting on the table either in Geneva or elsewhere.

I appeal to Ambassador Popov, the Soviet ambassador to London, to give a message to Gorbachev. The peace movements will be assisted by a break from these agreements about confidentiality. The Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, like a series of successive Conservative and Labour Foreign Secretaries have refused to budge from the fixation about the confidentiality of talks. However, if we are to make a positive contribution to peace, we have to break open the door so that we know more about the papers on the table. Let the world understand what the negotiations are about.

In this country, the figures cannot be classified to keep them from the Soviet Union—they are the figures that are on the table. What is good enough to tell the Soviet Union at the negotiating table is good enough to tell the British Parliament or the United States Congress. Let us tell the world the arguments that we are using, and ask the Soviet Union to do the same. The appeal must go out from the peace movements of the world to Gorbachev to have second thoughts about perpetuating the agreement on confidentiality, which can do no good to the peace movement or to the progress for which we are hoping when the summit takes place and the serious matters are discussed.

I move on to the Labour party's attitude towards nuclear weapons, and that of particular sections of the Labour party, and to some of the ideas under serious discussion. The Labour party's position is clear. The party stands for, and I understand will fight the next election on, unilateral nuclear disarmament. That means no Polaris, no Trident, no nuclear bombers, no cruise bases, no Pershing bases, no United States bombers or submarines based in the country, and no United States bases. There is unanimity in the Labour party on that, from the Front Bench backwards. That is the clear basis on which the Labour party will campaign for acceptance. There is bound to be a tremendous shift once a Labour Government start to implement that policy in their first years.

Under those circumstances — the sheer size of the task that a Labour Government will have to face in carrying out that policy, the changes that, of necessity, there must be in the Armed Forces, particularly the Royal Navy and the Air Force—we must have the stability of a NATO understanding. Those parts of the Labour movement and the peace movement that are arguing that, simultaneous with unilateral nuclear disarmament, we must withdraw from NATO, are doing no good to the cause of peace, and to the Labour movement which is trying to pursue that policy. Those in the Labour movement who advocate coming out of NATO overnight should recognise the significance of the arguments that they are using, and the political damage that they will inflict by pursuing those arguments, in spite of the progress that has been made, and the unity between the leadership and the whole movement.

I cannot emphasise too strongly the irresponsibility of those who argue for the severing of the Atlantic relationship. They are doing no good to their cause or to our arguments about a method of bringing about the profound changes to denuclearise Britain in the way proposed by the Labour party. The solidarity, leadership and strength of the moment will be weakened if people believe that there is a short cut to establishing Scandinavian-type neutrality in Britain before we get rid of nuclear weapons.

Both my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East and the Foreign Secretary referred to the strategic defence initiative. My right hon. Friend said that it is nonsense. I do not know whether that was a profound statement based on his scientific and engineering knowledge of what is happening to space mechanics. I want not only the Labour movement but Britain to take seriously what is happening in the United States and in its attempts to develop an antiballistic defence system. It may have profound effects and significance for all of us in Europe, particularly the Soviet Union, and on what happens at the negotiating table. We should take seriously the potential of what is being discussed and accept without qualification that such a system can be effective by 1995. There are no technological or scientific reasons why that cannot be so.

We know enough about the technology that is involved, as it is practised on earth, to know that in 10 years such a space defence system is technically feasible. Beam technology and the superb electronics of surveillance systems already exist. If the distances involved in a space defence system were limited to a mile or so, it would be possible to use the technology that is already available. Engineering firms in Britain and the United States have proved that beam technology can be used to punch holes through one-inch steel plates a mile away. The question is whether that technology can be extended to the dimensions of space. We must seriously consider the means of synchronising all these technologies to perfect our defence system.

Within 10 years, the United States and the Soviet Union could make the changes necessary to develop this space defence system. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East said that the Japanese are beating us hands down in developing this technology, but that is not true. The Japanese do not have an equivalent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The technology in Japan is not in the same class as the developments in Massachusetts or other defence research institutes in the United States. A giant technological infusion is occurring, with Soviet scientists being seconded to operate here. Those scientists have an intimate knowledge of some of these technologies.

It is a matter of dimension, not of finding the technology. The success of the technology will be determined by the way in which it is extended to take account of the size of space.

Documents produced by American scientists have referred to the possibility of producing souped-up, supersonic, low trajectory missiles capable of hugging the contours of the land. Such missiles could carry sophisticated electronic navigational equipment and new forms of rocket motors and fuels. These developments would produce before too long a new generation of weapons, which will shift the emphasis towards nuclear technology.

President Reagan originally questioned some aspects of ballistic missiles. He started to say that alternative methods of nuclear defence should be investigated, but scientists were moving towards a different concept, away from Trident, Polaris or similar weapons. They were searching for alternatives.

There are tremendous advantages to be gained from talking about defence against ballistic missiles. An important change is taking place. Such a system is a disadvantage to the Soviet Union and to Europe. The creation in space of a defence system against ballistic weapons would shift the emphasis to those weapons capable of cruising close to the ground at supersonic speed. Such weapons would need to be based close to their targets, and there is no other place but Europe for such bases. Weapons with megatons equivalent to those of the proposed Trident missiles can be launched from the back of a lorry close to the Soviet border.

The Americans talk of the 80 per cent. effectiveness of an anti-ballistic missile system in space. They say that they can exclude the United States from the theatre of engagement. They can shift the business of nuclear conflict to Europe and confine the conflict to a small area. It is possible to confine the whole of a nuclear conflict to the width of Europe—to the area between Cornwall and Moscow. America can thereby think itself safe from ballistic weapons.

There is a political and military significance to star wars which is ignored and which has profound effects on Europe's defence. We should note seriously what is happening in the laboratories of the United States which are developing these ideas. These forms of technology are feasible, and we should accept some of the statements that have been made about them.

We are on the verge of making progress. I conclude as I started. The peace movement and Labour Members are looking for concrete evidence from the Government that they are serious about wanting to create a new climate in the world to bring East and West together to establish greater confidence in peace in the future and build a system that will make the next generations proud of our efforts.

6.37 pm
Sir Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) is right about star wars. If it works, it will confine the battle to Europe; if it does not work, it will increase the nuclear threshold. Either way, it will make relationships between the United States and Europe difficult. But there has always been this difficulty between the United States and Europe. The Alliance has held so far. I was glad to hear what the hon. Member for Tottenham said about NATO. I hope that the Alliance will hold in the future.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary referred to diplomatic immunities. I welcome the Government's acceptance of the report by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. There is really only one difference between the Government's view and that of the Committee. The Committee thought that the Government had been a little too kind for too long to the Libyans when it was obvious that they were misbehaving. The Government may feel that that is a statement made with hindsight, and of course it is. I suppose that every dog must have its first bite. I believe that the Foreign Office should put the matter down to "experience", which is what I usually call my mistakes.

The Committee was disappointed that no mileage could be gained for the proposal to change the Vienna convention. There are two reasons. The first is the opposition to change—there are 144 other signatories—and the second and more important is that the convention only expresses customary law. Even if the convention were altered, that law would not go away. Therefore, we would not be much better off.

I agree with what the Government have said about crime. Despite the headlines in newspapers, the incidence of crime among the diplomatic corps is fairly low. The crimes are fairly petty, usually involving children whipping something off the shelves of Marks and Sparks.

But more than 100,000 parking offences a year are committed in London. That is unreasonable. Diplomatic immunity does not give a person the right to disobey the law of the country concerned. It only enables the person to avoid the penalty. We can do without those who arrogantly break our law repeatedly.

I have a question about diplomatic premises. Does the Government's answer mean that they can direct where embassies shall be located? I call attention to the plight of the two boroughs of Westminster and Kensington where nearly all the embassies are to be found. They have a tough time with parking, parties and the lack of rates from embassies. It is justifiable to ask that an embassy should be located in a reasonably convenient place.

My second question arises out of paragraph 39d(iii) of the Government's reply dealing with property. The Government apparently envisage that they could sell abandoned or empty premises. Does that mean that the Libyan embassy in St. James's square could be put on the market? It has an awful look at the moment. It looks disagreeable and unkempt. It should not be there. What about the Iranian embassy? It is a danger and about to fall into the street. Are we not entitled to sell them both and send the money to the countries involved?

I shall comment upon our relations with Russia.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My hon. and gallant Friend has been talking about problems of law. Is he prepared to comment on the ridiculous claim made, as it were, by European members of Parliament that they should be outside the civil law in any country within the Community? Does he support the Government's current position that that is outrageous and unacceptable?

Sir Anthony Kershaw

It is outrageous. They are claiming diplomatic immunity. There is nothing in the convention which says that Euro-MPs are diplomats. I do not think that they are. I dare say that we can counter that suggestion by calling on the book. My hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson) is a fine diplomat, but I do not believe that he should be classified as such.

I shall deal with relations with Russia. Her Majesty's Government have been right to insist on the Soviet Union keeping the rules about spies. If we were much softer, we should not obtain any more co-operation, nor would it alter its conduct.

Mr. Gorbachev's first moves on the international stage have been disappointing. His offer to freeze Soviet superiority, timed to provide the dafties with appropriate slogans at their Easter parades, was almost contemptuous in its flagrant disregard of Western interests. Plainly, he had no expectation that we would accept. It was also in disregard of the understanding that diplomacy should be conducted not by loud hailer but by agreement in private at Geneva. It reveals that Gorbachev's object at Geneva is to obtain a political advantage rather than achieve disarmament.

When Mr. Gorbachev was here and we had the pleasure and honour of meeting him, his swift reaction to human rights questions showed that the Helsinki ideals are no more likely to be realised now than they were before the change of regime. I am afraid that Mr. Gorbachev's value as an interlocutor cannot be assessed as highly as his youth and obvious intelligence seemed to warrant. The leopard has not changed its spots, nor was it reasonable of us to expect Communism to change so soon. Communism breaks; it cannot bend. Nevertheless, my right hon. and learned Friend is right to go on trying, and so long as he uses a long spoon, we wish him luck.

I wish to deal with the Foreign Office. Last year, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs said that the cuts in our overseas services had gone far enough. Our opinion has not been listened to. Salami cuts have continued. The latest cuts have resulted in the closure of 10 posts overseas including, sadly, the embassy in Santo Domingo which has given much offence in that country and that part of the world. We were the first country to recognise Dominica in 1853 and the first major country to close its embassy. It is a sad commentary upon our relations.

Even before matters go as far as closure, the reduction to mini-missions in so many countries harms our interests. That reduction can be seen from the figures. In the past five years or so, second rank officers in the Foreign Office have been reduced by half. That implies that a mini-mission consists of a head of mission and no one else. He does the filing and the washing-up. He even looks after the car. He does almost everything and his value as a diplomat is thereby diminished. He spends so much time administering himself that he has less time for diplomatic work.

Since 1969, we have seen a 20 per cent. reduction in the manpower of the Foreign Office. Morale will suffer. Recruitment is suffering now. I fear that standards may have to be lowered.

I shall say a word about the British Council. I fear that I have bored the House about it before. It suffers, like the Foreign Office, from the cuts. Since 1979, the British Council has been cut by 20 per cent. Cuts continue every year. This year the British Council, for example, has been left to absorb £1.1 million in cuts, in addition to £600,000 of excess home costs which it must also absorb. It is a further 2 to 3 per cent. reduction in its disposable income.

In addition, delays in identifying overseas risen costs, which hang over for months, have made it impossible to plan with certainty even one year ahead. Some of the consequences are plain to see. We have had to cancel at short notice the opening of a new post in Shanghai after much preparation. We have closed nine or 10 other posts with long-term damage to our interests.

I should have less to complain about if the British Council had merely shared a misery equal to that of other Departments, but that is far from being the case. It has been cut far more than other Departments. It needs a small increase of about £2 million a year for the next two years. That would mean a 15 per cent. cut since 1969 instead of a 20 per cent. cut. That is a fairly modest claim. As with the Foreign Office, the subject of the morale of the service arises. No one wants to be part of a declining organisation or to work for a firm that loses money every year, because it will obviously go phut. A public organisation does not go bust, it merely loses heart. Its members wonder whether their work is worth it. It is the Government's responsibility to maintain the morale of those services.

I shall refer only briefly to the BBC overseas service not because I do not attach the highest importance to it but because this year, largely because of the progress in capital expenditure, the figures do not look too bad.

My final point is about overseas students. There is no doubt that the abrupt raising of fees a few years ago was a bad mistake. It offended many of our friends overseas. It has reduced the number of overseas students in this country from 91,000 to 56,000. It reduced the number of postgraduates from 19,500 to 17,000. That is a vast reduction—30 per cent. I fear that in the future we shall have fewer friends.

Today, as the House realises, I know, 24 overseas countries have leaders who were educated in Britain. That is to say, one in eight of all world leaders were educated here—12.5 per cent. of countries have British-educated leaders. As a matter of interest, France is next with 7 per cent., the United States has 6 per cent. and the USSR has 2 per cent.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the increase in overseas students' fees to such astronomical levels does not just militate against students coming here to study, but means that those who come tend to be from the wealthier families? That militates badly against the poorest people from Third-world countries who are looking to receive some kind of decent technical or higher education in this country.

Sir Anthony Kershaw

The hon. Gentleman is right. I was about to make the same point, and I am grateful to him. The tendency has been that we get not such good students from richer countries and the brilliant people from the poorer countries cannot afford to take part. With our history and advantage of language, it is folly not to try to make friends for the future.

I could make a number of detailed suggestions about the arrangements for overseas students, but will not weary the House with them now. I maintain, however, that it is manifestly in our interests on political and economic grounds that we seek urgently to repair the damage which we have done to our reputation. It is badly dented and we should seek to restore it to what it was until very recently.

I know that it is maddening for my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) and for the Government generally when people do what I am doing now — commending frugality in general but advocating expenditure in particular. But I firmly believe that the welfare of this country demands that our external affairs be conducted in future on a more ample basis than they have been in recent years. That will not cost much, and not to do it might cost us a great deal in the long run.

6.51 pm
Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

rose

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Earlier this week, following events in which you were closely involved, it became known that the Procedure Committee was considering the amenities for third parties in the House. What arrangements have been put in hand to advise the Procedure Committee that on this important occasion no member of the Social Democratic party has sought to catch your eye from any seat in the Chamber? Could the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston) indicate whether he is speaking on behalf of the Liberal party, the SDP, or the two jointly, and whether he made any application to speak from the Dispatch Box, which is normally reserved for official spokesmen for the Opposition?

Mr. Johnston

I observe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have made no attempt to respond to those questions. I am speaking on behalf of the Liberal party, with the agreement of the Social Democratic party.

Mr. Madden

And the hon. Gentleman is quite happy with his seat?

Mr. Johnston

I have been happy with it for 20 years, which is somewhat longer than the hon. Gentleman has been in the House.

I agree very much with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Stroud (Sir. A. Kershaw) about the cuts in the British Council, the introduction of fees for overseas students, and the long-term damage that has caused. In this area the Government have been profoundly negative and harmful and in many respects plain stupid. For a Government who continually pride themselves on furthering British interests and seldom stop talking about them, this is clearly an area in which they have not done what they have said they are doing.

We are having a debate which, because of numbers, is, I understand, to be extended to midnight — which I regard as a very ungodly hour at which to discuss anything. Nevertheless, I shall be here at midnight, and so will many other hon. Members.

There is a wide range of issues which are important in their own right, but perhaps not sufficiently important, except in exceptional circumstances, to lay claim to a separate debate. I believe that the strategic defence initiative merits separate treatment and that—perhaps in the sort of context that was provided by Lord Home of the Hirsel in another place on Tuesday—there should be a debate on this issue in this House. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider that carefully and discuss it with the Leader of the House. I do not propose to deal with the SDI today, but it is evidently of enormous importance, as has already been stated by a number of hon. Members. We on this Bench are extremely doubtful about it. We cannot see any proven merits in it, but we have not discussed it in any great detail. It is clearly going to be hugely costly, and it is uncertain and potentially escalatory, as the hon. Member for Stroud remarked.

One should remember the suggestion of a freeze is not a policy, but simply a mechanism for improving the circumstances in which negotiations can be undertaken. Nor is it, as could be inferred from what the Foreign Secretary said, an open-ended matter. One might have looked at the possibility—suggested by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—of building on the proposed Gorbachev moratorium rather than simply dismissing it out of hand. Six months might be inadequate, but there could be a longer period.

It goes without saying that we feel that the coincidence of the changed leadership in the USSR and a United States President in the early part of his final term offers the best chance of real progress for many years, and that opportunity must be seized.

I hope that the Minister, in winding up, will say rather more about how the United Kingdom, by itself, or within the mechanism of the European Community, can make an effective input at Geneva, for the Foreign Secretary said little about that.

I shall deal as succinctly as possible—although my first point will take a little longer—with six issues. The others will be dealt with very briefly, so hon. Members need not get excited. I do not, in the main, make long speeches in the House.

There have been very little discussion in Britain about the Dooge report, to which the Foreign Secretary referred, and I think that its importance has been underrated. I stress that it is not, as were earlier reports—such as those of Tindemans and the three wise men—merely an advisory statement on how the Community might be reformed.

As hon. Members know, the Dooge committee was decided upon by the European Council at Fontainebleau last June, following the adoption by the European Parliament, on 14 February 1984, of the new draft treaty for European union. The members of the committee were personally chosen by the Heads of Government — the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) was thus chosen by the Prime Minister—and they expressed the views of the Heads of Government. The conclusions of the report and the reservations to it are therefore the opinions not of some stray committee, but of the Heads of Government.

It is clear to me that the Prime Minister is once again taking a negative line on crucial questions. She has been joined in this by Greece and Denmark. Mr. Papandreou's reaction is not surprising, given his general attitude towards the Community. The Danish Prime Minister's reservations reflect the fact that his is a minority Government and that there is no majority in the Folketing for going towards anything, much less European union. Mr. Dooge, on behalf of Dr. Garret FritzGerald, has made an inevitable, if important, reservation about security policy.

There is no doubt, however, that the objections which have been made by the hon. Member for Pentlands on behalf of the Prime Minister are regarded as the most significant. That is why I thought that the bland, not to say disingenuous, responses made by the hon. Member for Pentlands during foreign affairs questions the other day were quite inadequate.

That is not only because of the relative importance of Great Britain, but because the Dooge committee comes out strongly in favour of British Government policies on, for example, foreign and security co-operation and the establishment of the internal market. Yet the Government and the hon. Gentleman, speaking for the Government, oppose the procedural reforms without which these policies will continue to be blocked.

I think that the Government must review their approach, for two reasons. The first is for the sake of British interests, about which, as I said, they are always talking. For the British to find themselves once again missing the bus, as Sir Anthony Eden, as he then was, did in Messina, and isolating themselves from their closest partners at a time when it is becoming increasingly obvious that it is only by making the European Community a political force that we can hope to exercise real influence on the policies of Washington and Moscow, seems to me to be quite insane.

The second is for the sake of the Community itself. British self-exclusion—as I and, I am sure, many hon. Members know — might well produce a collective sigh of relief from the other members of the Community, but in their hearts all far-sighted people know that it would be a disaster for Europe.

It must be obvious that the Ten cannot work while the veto power is maintained in its present form. That is even more obvious with the accession of Spain and Portugal. The reservation of the hon. Member for Pentlands on the powers of Parliament is indefensible if one believes in democratic parliamentary control of Community policy. Dooge proposes not taking away power from national parliaments but, rather, bringing the Council and the Commission under parliamentary control when they act on behalf of the Community.

The British Government must participate in the special conference to take decisions on European union, which will be convened following the European Council in Milan. It would be a good earnest of our intent if we indicated, at last, an intention to join the European monetary system.

We should not be in any doubt that attitudes towards this country have changed. One of the members of the European Parliament delegation which was here earlier this week told me that if the choice were to be between inaction and going on without the British, they would go on without the British. I know that that is a reluctant view, but it is a real view. When the Minister replies—after all, he served on the Dooge committee—I hope that he will respond to those questions and give us some insight into what the Foreign Secretary said to the delegation.

On central America, the Alliance believes that the vote of the House of Representatives was very welcome. It is a mistake for people to think that it is simply a matter of a House dominated by Democrats rebuffing a Republican President. Anyone who visits the United States knows that things do not operate in the rather closed way to which we have become accustomed in the United Kingdom. It was a very real rejection of a counterproductive policy.

As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said, the Government should take more positive action to support the Contadora initiative and urge the United States to be more positive, more conciliatory and more prudent. I hope that they will do so.

There is a rising tide of democracy in Latin America, which is greatly welcome. That is true not only in the Argentine, but in Brazil. I associate myself with the remarks of the Foreign Secretary about the tragic death of its President. A sad exception is Chile, which has an appalling record on human rights, yet the British Government continue to sell it arms and refuse fully to condemn the position there.

I go now across the world to Afghanistan. No one has said very much about that country. If there was some place where the United States was engaged in repression, with 3 million refugees on the border of that country, the Left in British politics would book Trafalgar Square non-stop for two years, yet we hardly hear a cheep about Afghanistan. That shows an extraordinary and unbalanced view of human rights.

I regret that the Soviet Union still has a closed society, so there is no open debate about Afghanistan in the way that the United States has an open debate about Nicaragua, as evidenced by the Congress debates, and as it once had about Vietnam. It is important to consider what will happen in Afghanistan. I do not think that the Russians will leave. Eventually, there will be an absorption of the north. The Pathans in the south up to Kabul—they are, of course, the same people as the Pathans on the other side of the border in Pakistan — will make for a continuing instability.

In discussing refugees, it is not illogical to refer to the poor Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong. The Home Office Select Committee has recommended that the Government should take action. I do not blame the Hong Kong Government because I know that they face many difficulties. At least they do not turn back any refugees. However, because of internal circumstances, the refugees have been in closed camps for more than two years. I have seen them. It is rather like people living in luggage racks in a station. That must come to an end. Britain has a responsibility to take the initiative on international action.

I associate myself with those who complimented the Foreign Secretary on his east European visit. However, there is a new campaign of repression in Poland—170 people have been arrested, including leading opposition leaders. I wonder what pressures the Government are bringing to bear. The balance that the Home Secretary struck was good. The right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) recently asked what the Foreign Secretary would think if a Russian leader came to Britain and acted in that way. I think that we should welcome that. I would not have the slightest objection to a Russian leader coming to Britain and criticising anybody. I would probably also criticise people. We live in a free society. I wonder whether we can devise some form of relationship between an improvement in human rights in Poland and access to the International Monetary Fund.

The problem with these debates, even when they last until midnight, is that there is never enough time to cover important issues throughout the world. For example, what is happening in Matabeleland is awful. I know that many people in the House are friends of Robert Mugabe, who is a highly intelligent and competent man. He must be pressed to show restraint and leniency. Not only would it be disastrous if Zimbabwe were divided simply on a tribal basis: it would do deep damage to any faint residual chance of a peaceful solution in South Africa—to make no mention of any prospect for more immediate progress in Namibia. I welcome the Foreign Secretary's unequivocal rejection of the unilateral proposition on Namibia by South Africa.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East referred to the United Kingdom cutting off aid to the famine belt in central Africa. That is a bad policy and should be explained by the Minister when he replies to the debate.

The middle east remains a powder keg, with people moving around it with lighted torches. It could blow up at any time. Yet, despite the appalling position in the Lebanon, I am absolutely certain that there is a window of opportunity. The President of the United States has great power. Traditionally, the Republicans in the United States are less under pressure from pressure groups than the Democrats. The President has a chance to do something. The peace initiatives from Hussein and Mubarak should be pressed. If we do not assist the moderates in the middle east, they will be overwhelmed and will disappear. There will be either a Left-wing regime, such as that in Syria, or a fundamentalist uprising, such as that in Iran. That will not only do enormous damage to the stability of that area, but will undermine the future of Israel. I defend the future of Israel, which will not be secured by its temporary military domination. It can be secured only if it succeeds in reaching agreement. We have failed sufficiently to press the United States on this matter. It was wrong at the United Nations for us to abstain on the resolution on Israel and the Lebanon.

Our position on the Iran-Iraq war is deeply unsatisfactory. There is no doubt that trade helps Khomeini. We trade more now than ever before — for example, in motor car parts which help to carry the flower of Iranian youth to the border, where they are shot down by Iraqi machine guns. It is not something of which to be proud.

The Foreign Secretary said that the basis of the Government's foreign policy was the pursuit of peace, freedom and democracy. I can hardly argue with those principles. Sadly, as I think I have brought out in some of my remarks, one must question whether it has always been done. It reminds me of the days when British Airways was always telling us that it took better care of us when it was manifestly obvious that it did not.

The Foreign Secretary also mentioned British interests. As I have said, not for the first time, if one's sole concept of British interest is either British advantage or the furtherance of the ideological priorities of a transient Government, that is inadequate. Britain's real interest lies in the search for fair Solutions in the world through developing international groupings, such as the European Community. I point out to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) that Europe's interests are Britain's interests and that Britain's interests are Europe's interests. Agreements that will safeguard human rights, the pursuit of fair trade policies in the developed world, a generous approach to trade in the Third world and a persistent disciplined search for peace are the sort of things that should animate our foreign policy. I have yet to see that they do.

7.10 pm
Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

I welcome the dialogue that my right hon. and learned Friend is conducting with the Soviet Union and with eastern Europe. I hope that it will produce substantial and lasting improvements in relations between East and West, but we have to be realistic and recognise the serious limiting factors that there are in the way of that result.

The most serious limiting factor is the nature of the Soviet system itself. In the important debate in another place two days ago a former Foreign Secretary said about the Soviet state: it is by its nature a propagandist state; it believes that it has a cause to promote throughout the world; it believes that it is the ultimate destiny of the world to come after greater or lesser, more or fewer upheavals under communist rule, and that it is the duty of the Soviet Union to assist in that process. In holding that view the Soviet Union does not consider itself bound by any treaty obligation that conflicts with that ultimate view."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 23 April 1985; Vol. 462, 1051–2.] That was said not by a former Conservative Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs but by Lord Stewart of Fulham, a former Labour Foreign Secretary. I find it difficult to disagree with his statement.

The implications of that statement, if it is correct, are that we are in for a long haul if we are to get substantial and lasting results. That is the context in which Mr. Gorbachev has come to power. I do not know, and I doubt whether anybody in the West knows, what Mr. Gorbachev's ambitions and intentions are, but we have to recognise that he has come to the top in a ruthless, rigid and dogmatic school which does not change easily. The motives of the leaders of the Soviet Union are, internally, to retain power for the Communist party of the Soviet Union and, abroad, to expand. They have never known an election. They have not had much economoc success. Their successes have lain in the military sphere arid in keeping that extraordinary country together.

People in this country are not aware of the degree of militarisation in the tone of Soviet life. Most Soviet children from an early age have military training at school. A distinguished commentator pointed out the other day that is misleading to say that the Soviet Union has a war machine; it is a war machine. That is the school in which Mr. Gorbachev has been brought up, so he has a long way to go if he wants to make an improvement in relations between East and West.

The first fallacy of some Opposition Members, as shown yesterday at Question Time, is to call for a gesture to Mr. Gorbachev—because he has come to power they think that the West should make a gesture to please him and to show him our sincerity. Against the background that I have outlined that is a naive call.

In reality, is there hope for a long-term improvement? I think that there may be. I believe that the Soviet system contains within it the seeds of failure. We shall find over the coming decade that increasingly it is failing economically. It will be unable to cope with the computer revolution that faces the West. We see some stirrings of dissent that are ruthlessly suppressed. We see those stirrings also in countries of eastern Europe. At some time—exactly when, we cannot predict — the Soviet Union may soften under pressure and may become more liberal; indeed, it may even collapse. Our task, put simply, is to survive until that occurs.

It is wrong to imagine that change is impossible in the Soviet Union's attitude towards the outside world. We saw an important change under Khrushchev when he abandoned the dogma that war between the Soviet system and the free world was inevitable. That was an important step forward. If we hang on and are firm and united it is conceivable that an equally important change may come in future in the outlook of the Soviet Union.

In the meantime, we must expect to see a continuance of the efforts of the Soviet Union to change the correlation of East and West. It will want to establish a greater advantage for the Soviet Communist system over ourselves; in particular it will want to drive the United States out of western Europe. The Soviet Union pursues that objective by military intimidation, by political means, by psychological means, by subversion, by spying, by economic pressures and by fooling us by its use of words. We should not ignore the importance of that last point. For example, the words "peaceful co-existence" and "detente" have an entirely different meaning to the Soviet Union than they do to us.

The second fallacy is to imagine that unilateral concessions from us help to achieve a better attitude on the part of the Soviet Government. The opposite is true. It is only too easy for the Soviet Union to take unilateral concessions by the West as an indication of a loss of will.

There are many fallacies. The third is to imagine that the expulsion of Soviet spies can cause a serious blow to relations between the Soviet Union and the West. The expulsion the other day of the Soviet attaches who had been spying will be forgotten in a fairly short time. It happens regularly. The Soviet Union, which has spies all over the world wherever it has a mission, accepts that it is inevitable from time to time that a few of its people will be expelled. I do not think it makes any difference whether the expulsions are public or whether the people are asked to go privately. When the Labour Government were in power they, to their credit, kicked out a few Soviet spies, sometimes publicly and sometimes in private. If it was done in private, possibly it was not so much out of a fear of a Soviet reaction as a fear of the reaction from their own Back Benchers.

What are the main lessons that I draw for Western policy from the background that I have sketched? One is the overwhelming importance of unity among the Western allies. The main danger to the freedom of the West is in the political sphere. I do not think that there is a danger of an attack against western Europe by the Soviet Union so long as we have sensible defences. The main danger is that the allies will fall out among themselves and that, as a consequence, the United States might withdraw from western Europe. That is the principal objective of Soviet policy in its totality.

The main hope of progress in the disarmament negotiations lies in western unity. The reason the Russians are back in Geneva negotiating about three subjects—strategic missiles, intermediate range nuclear missiles and space defence—is the unity of the western Alliance when faced with a propaganda barrage from the Soviet Union over the installation of cruise and Pershing. That is why the campaigns by CND and other organisations were potentially damaging.

That unity is equally important now that the Geneva talks are under way. I believe that there is a real possibility of proposals on the first two issues—strategic and intermediate-range missiles—being accepted by both sides. I fear, however, that the Soviet Union is all too likely to succumb to the habit into which it has always fallen in past disarmament negotiations of trying to divide the West. I have experience of such negotiations. In 1962, the Americans, British and Russians negotiated for a year in Geneva without any movement on the Soviet side while the Soviet Union tried to divide America and Britain. Because we survived that probing, we eventually achieved the agreement to ban nuclear tests in the atmosphere. That was one of the early breakthroughs in the negotiations between East and West. We should not have achieved it at that time, although we might have done so later, if we had not been united.

It is in that context that I set Mr. Gorbachev's statement that the Soviet Union proposes to freeze deployment of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. I believe that it was a propaganda statement, for two reasons. First, if it was intended as a serious negotiating proposal he would have made it privately instead of making it in public and having it splashed across every Western newspaper. Secondly, the Soviet Union made a similar statement in 1982 when it declared a moratorium on further deployment of SS20s, but they made no attempt to keep to it in subsequent months. I believe that there will be further pressure from the Soviet Union on the hinge between strategic and intermediate-range missiles and space defence. That is where unity will be important.

It is in that context, too, that I set the agreement between the Prime Minister and President Reagan in December last year, to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary referred today. The agreement covered four important points. First, the Western aim is not to achieve superiority but to maintain balance. Secondly, deployment of any space defence would have to be a matter for negotiations. Thirdly, the overall aim is to enhance and not to undermine deterrence. Fourthly, negotiations should aim to achieve security with reduced levels of offensive systems on both sides. I believe that that is an immensely important agreement.

If the Western Alliance supports the America research programme, as we must because the Soviet Union is certainly conducting its own research, but also supports the United States undertaking that deployment would take place only after negotiations, I believe that that is a posture that the Alliance could sustain and which, through unity on those two points, could enhance the prospect of agreement in Geneva.

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

I must confess to listening with some anxiety to speeches such as that of the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker). The right hon. Gentleman's speech was heavy with distrust and dislike or even hatred of the Soviet Union and determination not to move an inch from the position that he has taken up. Not so long ago, the right hon. Gentleman was a Foreign Office Minister and was even a member of the negotiating team trying to reach agreement. He told us today that he expected the Soviet Union to make more than gestures towards reaching an agreement. He seemed almost to be suggesting that the Soviet Union should abandon, its whole political philosophy so as to reach agreement with us. I am sure that the Soviet Union does not expect us to abandon our political philosophy, but it would do us no harm to make at least some small gesture. In international negotiations, as in anything else, if a bargain is to be struck there must be something in it for both sides. Each side must gain something from any agreement. If we are not prepared to move an inch, we are most unlikely to reach any agreement.

I congratulate the Foreign Secretary in his absence on his very interesting speech. I do not believe that he has quite the same hardened attitude that we saw in the past. He began his speech today by telling us what had been achieved since he spoke in the debate on the Queen's speech. He is to be congratulated on the agreements that he reached on Hong Kong and Gibraltar. Those agreements are extremely important to the many people living in those places and although the agreements did not please everyone—no agreement would be likely to do that—in all fairness we must congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on a good job well done.

The Foreign Secretary referred to another matter of great importance to me. It is a shame that we have to try to combine a debate about disarmament and peace with a debate about foreign affairs generally. The range of the debate is vast and a number of important matters such as overseas students' fees have been mentioned. The conduct of foreign diplomats, too, has a place in parliamentary debate, but I believe that raising topics of that kind on occasions such as this detracts from their importance. In my view, disarmament should be discussed on its own because it is fundamental to everything else that we discuss in the House.

We have great difficulty in financing all that we want to do in our own country. Yet we still spend between £18 billion and £20 billion per year on defence. If we could claw back some of that, we could make some progress towards improving the social conditions of our country. Therefore, quite apart from whether we are likely to survive to see the end of the century, which is questionable in view of the way the world is going, in the meantime we are spending an unnecessarily large amount on defence.

Several hon. Members have referred to the strategic defence initiative. I believe that President Reagan first mentioned it in 1983. He said that he was planning to embark on research into the project and that the cost of the research alone would be $26 billion. Attitudes have changed a little since then, but at that time President Reagan maintained that if the research was successful it might end the threat of nuclear missiles to the whole world because he would be prepared to share the fruits of his research with the Soviet Union. I do not know how many right hon. and hon. Members remember that.

However, is it not interesting that when the Prime Minister came back from addressing Congress in the United States, where she had thrown her full weight behind the stategic defence initiative, she said at the Dispatch Box that it was necessary to go ahead with that research because the Soviet Union had been engaged on it for so long? Seven years was the time that she mentioned. Is it logical to suggest that the Soviet Union has been engaged in that research for seven years, and then for President Reagan to suggest that he would share the fruits of his research with the Soviet Union if it was successful? If the Soviet Union is ahead of us by seven years, it will certainly not be waiting around for the fruits of President Reagan's research. And of course the Soviet Union does not believe that President Reagan would share those fruits in any case. Is it sensible to believe that any country would spend S26 billion trying to get ahead in the arms race and then, at the end of it, freely, without charge and without any obligation, hand over the results of that research to the country it regards as its sworn enemy? I doubt it very much.

When the Soviet Union sees the research going on, it must carry out its own. It is reluctant to do so. Of course that is so. Every penny in the budget that is spent on defence is a penny less from what could be spent on improving the conditions for the people in the Soviet Union, in the same way as the £20 billion that we spend in this country comes from the pockets of taxpayers, and as such cannot be used to give us the things that we sadly lack at present. I need not go into them because we continually discuss all the things that are required to be done to improve conditions in our country.

If one thinks that one can go ahead with a research project valued at $26 billion and, at the end of it, call a halt if one decides not to go ahead with the project, one is mistaken. A business will be built up on the back of the expenditure, and many scientists and other workers will be involved. So much profit will be made from it and there will be so much investment by big business that the project will be carried on simply by its own momentum. All those things will carry it forward to such an extent that one will be unable to stop it when the research comes to an end. To begin and go on with the research implies that the whole project will be carried out, in my opinion.

What is the defence initiative for? If it is a defence mechanism, it is hardly foolproof. It has now been admitted that it cannot be regarded as 100 per cent. certain in its results. Even if there is only 5 per cent. uncertainty, the whole reason for having it is destroyed. If it is successful, it means that it is a shield behind which the United States can sit and dominate the rest of the world. It certainly will not share that with the Soviet Union. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, this has already been likened to going back to the days when the United States was the only possessor of the atom bomb. The Americans could hold the world to ransom at that time. If this shield is successful and they sit behind it, once more they will be able to dominate the world and try to push it around.

Let us not forget that the United States contemplated using the atom bomb even after it had used it for the first time at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many hon. Members will recall that Mr. Attlee, who was Prime Minister at the time, had to fly out there to dissuade the Americans from using it.

Sir Anthony Kershaw

Will the hon. Gentleman deal with the problem that SDI, if carried out correctly, is entirely a defensive mechanism and is not aggressive? That is different from the situation that he was describing when the United States had a monopoly of aggression.

Mr. Lamond

I shall try to explain briefly. If the United States is successful in developing this 100 per cent. foolproof shield behind which it can sit, it can defend itself against everyone else, but the Americans' weapons are available to them because no one else has the shield that they enjoy. Therefore, they would have the same monopoly that they had when they alone possessed the atom bomb.

I should like to give my personal point of view about one or two matters. First, I should like to look at the facts about who is responsible, not just in the past few years, but since the end of the last war, for the arms race. I have looked at the information provided by "World Military and Social Expenditures 1981", of which, I am sure, many Conservative Members will know. It is certainly not a Soviet publication. In it one can see a history of the arms race. In 1945 the United States had the atomic bomb. In 1949 the USSR perfected its own. The Russians were four years behind in that arms race. In 1979 NATO was formed. I accept that it was a defence alliance, but it was formed fast. As a response to NATO, the Warsaw pact was formed in 1955. We should remember that. We should also recall that the Warsaw pact countries have, on several occasions, suggested that both NATO and the Warsaw pact should be dissolved and that we should go forward towards that position.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Lamond

I do not want to give way too often because there is pressure on time, but I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman.

Sir Bernard Braine

This historical excursion is of great interest. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whose tanks rolled against Hungary in 1956, who seized control by the same means in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and who has shot down Polish workers? Has there been any comparable invasion of the eastern Europe of the Soviet Union by NATO forces in that period?

Mr. Lamond

Again, I do not want to stray too far from what I intended saying, but I remind the right hon. Gentleman that we in this country were a little inhibited from being too critical at that time because of our own actions in Suez. Some people would believe that that was also an attempt by force to invade a neutral country. We could trade those statements for a long time, but I should like to look at historical facts.

One of my hon. Friends has just told me that I made a mistake when I gave the date for NATO. It was in 1949 that NATO was formed, and in 1955 the Warsaw pact was formed.

In 1954 the United States perfected the hydrogen bomb. A year later the USSR did so. With regard to intercontinental ballistic missiles, I must be fair, because on this occasion the Soviet Union led the way. It had them in 1957 and the United States had them in 1958. In 1966, however, the United States perfected its multiple warheads and in 1968 the Soviet Union followed suit. In 1983 the neutron bomb was perfected by the United States. The Soviet Union has not so far perfected such a bomb. Those facts lead one to believe that the arms race has been led by the West, and by the United States in particular.

I should like to ask who is serious about disarmament. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said that we should try to inform people about what is going on not only in peace negotiations and talks, but at the United Nations, because it is extremely difficult to obtain any information in this country about resolutions that have been passed at the United Nations, who voted for them and even what the resolutions contained. However, the United States alone voted against several resolutions that were carried at the United Nations.

On the prevention of an arms race in outer space, only the United States voted against the resolution. Great Britain, to our shame, abstained. On the prohibition of chemical and bacteriological weapons, a resolution which urged the intensification of efforts to establish a working group to negotiate a treaty, only the United States voted against it. On the resolution welcoming the report of the Palme commission, an independent commission on disarmament and security, which many hon. Members welcomed, only the United States voted against it.

Again, only the United States voted against the resolution on the prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction. With the exception of Greece, the NATO nations abstained. Only the United States voted against the resolution calling for a study on the naval arms race. On the call to implement the decisions of the second special session on disarmament, only the United States voted against the resolution. The NATO nations, with the exception of Greece, abstained. On bilateral nuclear arms negotiations, a resolution urging the USA and USSR to examine the possibility of combining into a single forum the two series of negotiations they have been carrying out and to include 'tactical' nuclear weapons", only the United States voted against. I shall not weary the House by mentioning other United Nations resolutions, but there have been many. The actions of the United States do not reflect very well upon that country.

I do not think that many British people realise that these resolutions were opposed by the United States and that sometimes Great Britain abstained from voting. A great deal could be done to interest people in the struggle for world peace and development. It was agreed at the second special session on disarmament at the United Nations that peace studies should be encouraged in our schools. That must come as a surprise to certain Conservative Members of Parliament. They object to peace studies in our schools and do not seem to realise that we agreed to their introduction when we accepted the United Nations resolution.

The resolutions of the United Nations ought to be given greater publicity, because it is very difficult to obtain information about that body. Even the United Nations parliamentary group, of which I am a member, is a sickly organisation. Very few hon. Members bother to turn up and take part in its activities. I wonder why. There seems to be a conspiracy to try to blacken the name of the United Nations because the West, in particular the United States, cannot get its own way there. When it was founded, the United States did not believe that in time many independent nations would become members of the United Nations and might vote against US proposals.

I believe that there should be regular statements in the House about the progress of the peace talks. Those which have just ended in Geneva were bilateral. However, this country is directly involved in the Stockholm peace talks and we shall be involved in those which are to take place in Ottawa and elsewhere. This country is also taking part in the Vienna peace talks. Surely it would be reasonable for the Foreign Secretary to tell us from time to time about the initiatives which have been taken by this country. If this country is doing all that the Foreign Secretary referred to in his speech, why should we not take credit for it? Why should we not bask in the glory of having taken such initiatives? If we were told about them, it would be encouraging. I am perfectly happy to give the Foreign Secretary credit where credit is due. I should not attack him for taking the initiative in peace talks, but I would like to hear about them.

Hon. Members may have noticed that certain United States Congressmen were present at the recent peace talks in Geneva. I believe that they were members of the team. Members of the Select Committee on Defence or the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs should attend the talks in Stock()lin which are to continue for about three years and should provide the House with information upon their return. The very important peace work that is being carried on should be publicised. This House should be the vehicle through which encouragement is given to the community as a whole to take an interest in it. It must be left to Government representatives to conduct the negotiations, which ought to be greatly encouraged. Parliament is the means by which information can be channelled to the public, and I believe that those who attend the negotiations would be only too happy to let the public know what is happening. Even a little more information about the negotiations would be well worth while.

Several Hon. Members

rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

About 20 hon. Members are still hoping to speak in the debate. Therefore, I appeal for short speeches.

7.47 pm
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

The hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond) has not, I am afraid, allayed the fears of my hon. Friends after the allegations made in another place by my noble Friend Lord Orr-Ewing. However, I am sure that we all agree with the kind and generous remarks of the hon. Gentleman about the Foreign Secretary's negotiations over Hong Kong and Gibraltar.

Mr. James Lamond

rose

Mr. MacKay

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Lamond

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, for I wish to refer to his opening remarks. I deliberately refrained from dealing with that matter in my speech because I did not want to take time on it. However, I have already said in the House, and I repeat it now, that all that was said about my membership of the World Peace Council is correct. It is contained in the reference books and in my declaration of interests. I am proud of it, and I would not deny it for a moment. However, I deny the allegation that the World Peace Council is financed by the Soviet Union. I have already said in the House, and I repeat, that if anybody can prove to me that money for the World Peace Council comes from the Government of the Soviet Union, or from any other Government, I shall resign immediately from it. I can say no more than that in answer to the allegations. It is impossible to prove otherwise. However, those who make allegations have a responsibility to prove, if they can, the truth of those allegations.

Mr. MacKay

It is for hon. Members to decide whom they wish to believe.

I am conscious of the fact that many hon. Members wish to take part in this immensely important debate, and the House ought to have an opportunity to deal in general rather than in specific terms with foreign affairs. It is also important for the House to have an opportunity to judge how successful the Government have been in that area.

If we are to assess the Government's record, we must look first at the aims of their foreign affairs policy. Our aims should link with those of our allies—to ensure that there is British and Western influence in the world. that British trade should be successful, that our friends throughout the world are sustained and that those friends are people of whom we can be proud.

An important aim of our policy should be long-term peace and security. As many countries as possible should join in the parliamentary democratic experience and enjoy the sort of human rights that all British citizens have.

Another aim of our policy should be that those organisations of which we are proud to be members, such as NATO, the European Community and the Commonwealth, should prosper and have influence throughout the world. Let us look at each of those briefly and individually.

Mr. Soames

I hope that my hon. Friend will be brief.

Mr. MacKay

I promise my hon. Friend that I shall be brief. I know that we are all particularly anxious to hear his contribution to the debate.

It is vital that we have a policy which is firm and fair. That was well illustrated in our policy on the Falkland Islands and in gaining a settlement in Hong Kong and Gibraltar. It is recognisable that throughout the ages the bully or the aggressor will not attack if it can be seen that we are prepared to defend ourselves. That was true in the 1930s and it was true of General Galtieri only two or three years ago. That is why our policy has been successful in standing up to Soviet aggression and why, since Afghanistan, Soviet expansion has been restrained throughout the world.

We were told that there would be a domino effect in south-east Asia after the fall of Vietnam and Cambodia, but that has just not happened. Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are strong, vibrant and economically successful. In Africa, important strategic countries, such as Egypt, Somalia and the Sudan, are no longer under Soviet influence. Further south in that continent there are considerable changes in Mozambique and Angola.

Only 10 years ago the phrase "the soft underbelly of Europe" was used extensively. There were fears for Italy and real fears for Portugal, Spain and Greece. All those fears, due to strong Western policy, have been ill founded. As has been mentioned earlier during the debate, there is also movement within the Eastern bloc. That is why my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's recent visit behind the iron curtain to eastern Europe has been so widely welcomed on both sides of the House. I entirely endorse what my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) said earlier. That will lead to a real possibility of progress at the peace talks.

We are now living in an atmosphere of reality. Like other hon. Members, I welcome the accession of Mr. Gorbachev. We should not be starry-eyed about his leadership, but it has two great assets. One is that there is a fair chance, if his health holds up, that we shall have the same Soviet leader for a decade or more, which has not been the case for the past 15 years in the Soviet Union. Secondly, we have a man of a generation which at least understands how the West works. Therefore, under his leadership, mistakes will not be made within the Kremlin in the foreseeable future.

The second aspect of our policy is the backing of good friends and the influencing of our allies. It is fair occasionally to be critical of our American allies. In the past they have often backed regimes which have been unsavoury, to say the least. If a regime has been anti-Communist, that has been sufficient reason for them to support and sustain it. I am sure that the Americans would not be having their difficulties in Nicaragua now with the Sandinista regime if they had not backed General Somoza for so long. That was a major mistake.

It is immensely encouraging that in central America now the Americans, together with their allies, are backing democracies and ensuring that parliamentary elections take place. It was particularly encouraging that in Belize, which was our particular responsibility, there was a peaceful and successful election a little earlier this year.

Developments in Honduras and Guatemala are mildly encouraging and in El Salvador they are immensely encouraging. That is why I took issue earlier with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who, after my intervention, rightly acknowledged his support for President Duarte and the fact that two elections have now taken place in that unfortunate country which have led to President Duarte's party, a moderate centrist party, being elected.

If we wish to sustain and encourage moderate democratically elected leaders in central America, we must give them the aid that they request. If the Government of El Salvador request military assistance, such as the training of some of their troops, that should be forthcoming. President Duarte has a major internal terrorist problem, from both extreme Left-wing guerrillas and Right-wing despots. It is only by having a well-trained, incorruptible army, which we can organise, that he will have a fair chance of survival. El Salvador and the Contadora initiatives are the two most pivotal aspects of long-term peace in central America. When the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) sums up for the Opposition, I hope that he will have second thoughts about what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said earlier. That is not something that the Opposition should sustain.

Elsewhere in the American continent we have also seen a return to democracy. Rightly, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary referred to the tragic and untimely death of President Neves. We all hope that Brazil will continue along the democratic path. The signs are good. Anybody can return briefly to parliamentary democracy, but it is only when a Government are defeated and a new Government of a slightly different political persuasion come in that one realises that parliamentary democracy is taking root. I am referring to Peru. It is in that continent's interest that Argentina has returned to democracy. It is encouraging that its democratically elected Government are bringing to trial those previous leaders in military juntas who allegedly committed most serious crimes against humanity and the people of that country.

In the longer term, I believe that it will lead to a settlement of the Falklands dispute and, because it goes hand in hand, the resumption of diplomatic relations between Britain and Argentina. I appreciate that that will take time and that the wounds of the Falklands war will have to heal. We should not push the democratically elected Government in Argentina too quickly, but in that centrist, democratically elected Government there lies a real chance for a better relationship in the longer term, and we should wish them well.

Mr. Soames

Has my hon. Friend concluded his remarks?

Mr. MacKay

If I seemed to pause somewhat overlong, it was because, in deference, among others, to my hon.-Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), I was dispensing with several pages of my notes, so enabling other hon. Members to take part in the debate.

We should consider the way in which we have sustained democracy in southern Europe—a matter that is vital to our long-term interests. The inclusion of Portugal, Spain and Greece in the European Community should be welcome. A few years ago there was the possibility of a return to military rule in those countries or of extreme Left-wing Governments taking over. That is no longer the case, largely because of their inclusion in NATO and the EC.

The portents for elections this summer in Greece are not good. What Prime Minister Papandreou has done so far this year is not encouraging. One must wonder what would happen in the European Community—I appreciate that this is hypothetical—should democratic elections not take place in a member state. We must watch carefully what happens in Greece in the next few months.

It is important for the House to have regular debates of this kind. We have an important and influential role to play in the world as an individual nation, as a member of the EC, as a member of NATO and because of our position in the Commonwealth. We also have a Prime Minister who is widely respected on the world stage. Trips such as her recent visit to south-east Asia should be encouraged, not discouraged, because they act not only in the interests of British trade and influence but in the interests of world peace. We should be heard more in the councils of the world. I hope that the Prime Minister will make many more such highly successful visits.

I caution Opposition Members who attempt to rubbish trips of that sort. My experience in my constituency, during the county council election campaigns and on other occasions, has been that their efforts in that respect have been counter-productive electorally. The Government's record on foreign affairs is extremely good. Their policy has been sustained, and we wish them well in the future.

8.5 pm

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

While I welcome this opportunity to take part in the debate, I must express slight disquiet, as have other hon. Members, about it being such a general debate when many specific issues should concentrate our minds.

I shall concentrate on the issues of Namibia and South Africa. The House will not be surprised when I say that I was disappointed by the Foreign Secretary's speech. I concede that it was an improvement on his previous speech; on this occasion he uttered two sentences about Namibia, whereas last time he uttered only one. Beyond that, he told us nothing new.

The issue of Namibia is important because it is an international matter. It has concerned people throughout the world since the League of Nations awarded the mandate for South-West Africa to South Africa in 1922. The territory has come to be known as Namibia.

It is worth spending a while considering the definition of the purposes of the mandate system. In 1917–18 there was a great deal of discussion about the possibility of the League of Nations awarding mandates. Credit for the definition of the purposes of the mandate system is generally attributed to General Smuts, who wrote in 1918 in his book, "League of Nations: A Practical System": The mandatory state should look upon its position as a great trust and honour, not as an office of profit or as a position of private advantage for it or its nationals. He went on to write that the basis of the mandate system lay in the fact that the well-being and development of primitive peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation. I accept that General Smuts was referring, in particular, to the Austria-Hungarian, Russian and Turkish empires and that Smuts never considered Germany's African colonies as being suitable for self-government. Nevertheless, the principle of a sacred trust for civilisation was admirable.

Notwithstanding General Smuts's derogatory attitude and feelings towards Africans, the League of Nations nevertheless awarded the mandate to South Africa, and it is worth considering briefly the South African Government's record in discharging that sacred trust of the mandate for Namibia.

The facts are that 60 per cent. of the land, including the main diamond and mineral bearing areas, is reserved for the white population, who form only 7 per cent. of the population; 40 per cent. of the land is designated for blacks, who form 93 per cent. of the population. The per capita income for whites is double that of blacks, and well over half of all black workers are migrant labourers, often working hundreds of miles away from home. In other words, the sacred trust has been a sacred trust of exploitation.

When we discuss Namibia — we have, of course, been over this many times before—certain matters must be borne in mind. The House will recall that in 1978, South Africa sabotaged the immediate implementation of Security Council resolution 435 by organising its own "internal elections" in the autumn of that year. That so-called interim, or transitional, Government in Namibia collapsed.

Since the Conservatives came to office, they have expressed optimism that resolution 435 would be implemented. In 1980, the present Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, then the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, anticipated the prospect of Namibian independence in 1981. However, in January 1981 the United Nations pre-implementation meeting in Geneva broke down. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour), then the Lord Privy Seal, told the House: There is no question but that the failure of the conference in Geneva a few months ago was the fault of the South African Government, who decided at that stage that they did not want an agreement."—[Official Report, 7 May 1981; Vol. 4, c. 284.] However, the Government and the so-called Contact Group of five persisted in trying to reach agreement with South Africa. In the autumn of 1981, officials of the Contact Group visited Africa and on 10 December 1981, in a joint communique, the Foreign Ministers of the Contact Group expressed the hope that the agreement of all concerned can be reached on the earliest possible date, thus opening the way for the implementation of S.C.R. 435 in 1982". It is now 1985, and agreement is as far away as ever. We now understand that progress has been impeded by the South African and American insistence that the issue of Cuban troops in Angola must be linked with the independence of Namibia.

On 6 September 1982, the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), then the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, wrote to the secretary of the Ani Apartheid Movement saying: The Five are doing all they can to hasten implementation of Security Council Resolution 435 and have made encouraging progress in recent discussions in New York. Certain aspects still have to be finalised, but all those involved in the talks have shown themselves ready to move as quickly as possible to implementation. Time has passed, and we still make no progress. I have told the Government many times that South Africa has no intention whatsoever of implementing the Security Council resolution. Their past and present prevarication is clear proof. Last week the South African Governmen: said that they intended to impose a transitional Government based on the so-called multi-party conference proposals. That is clearly in defiance of the United Nations, and a massive snub to the Contact Group of five of which our Government are a member.

I understand that Mr. Shultz of the United States warned South Africa not to proceed with that plan. No attention has been paid to that warning.

What do the Government intend to do? At best, the idea of a transitional Government will delay Namibian independence. South Africa will say that the transitional Government need time to establish themselves. Later, they will say, as they attempted to do in 1981, that South Africa is no longer the negotiator and that the negotiations will have to be conducted with the transitional Government. That will mean that no negotiations can proceed.

Precisely what is the Government's attitude to the idea of a multi-party Government for Namibia? Will the Minister say unequivocally that our Government will have no truck with it? That must be made clear, because it appears that the Federal Republic of Germany takes a different view. I shall quote from a broadcast by the Johannesburg radio home service on 17 April: Our Africa desk reports that the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the FRG parliament, Dr. Werner Marx, says the FRG Government supports an interim government in South West Africa. The committee, together with the FRG Department of Foreign Affairs, determines the country's foreign policy … In an interview with the South West Africa information office in Bonn, Dr. Marx said the FRG supported an interim government in the territory, as long as it did not make a unilateral declaration of independence and did not lay claim to international recognition. Such a government could bring great advantages to the territory and there was no reason why the FRG should not support it. Whatever may be said about the transitional Government not being a substitute for resolution 435, experience tells us that the Government always say that they have to deal with realities. Technically, the British Government's position on the linkage of the question of Cuban troops with Namibian independence is that it is not a formal precondition and not part of resolution 435, but that it is a reality that cannot be discounted and must be part of the negotiations.

It is clear that honeyed words from the Government simply encourage South Africa in its intransigence. As a matter of urgency, the United Nations Security Council should be convened to discuss the issue of Namibia, and should under chapter 7 of the United Nations charter impose mandatory economic sanctions. Otherwise, there will be yet further delay. Governments who fail to act will carry a heavy responsibility for the loss of life in Namibia, the continued repression, the detention without trial and the torture carried out by South African police and troops.

As soon as sanctions are mentioned, Conservative Members will say, first, that sanctions hurt the blacks much more than the whites and, secondly, that the majority of blacks are opposed to sanctions. The Minister of State said that during a recent foreign affairs Question Time. The South African Government often use that line of attack. I find it incongruous that the South African Government will pray in aid the fact that the majority of blacks are in favour of investment in white-owned industry, but will not discuss with them the democratic running of South Africa.

Mr. John Carlisle

It is not South African figures that show that blacks are opposed to disinvestment. The figures are taken from the most recent opinion poll, carried out by the MORI organisation. According to that poll, 75 per cent. of blacks questioned opposed disinvestment.

The Schlemmer report, too, had nothing to do with the South African Government. It was completely independent, and came to the same conclusion. The hon. Gentleman cannot lay that at the door of the South African Government.

Mr. Hughes

The first part of that intervention reinforces my point. The South African Government are prepared to use public opinion polls to determine black attitudes but they are not prepared to negotiate with the blacks about democratic rights in their own country.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman drew my attention to the Schlemmer report.

Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central)

Is my hon. Friend aware of the report in The Guardian this morning, to the effect that Mr. Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, has parted company with President Reagan and has introduced a Bill on sanctions that will probably be passed, because it has all-party support? Are not the British Government now in splendid isolation on the issue of sanctions?

Mr. Hughes

I shall take up that point later.

I concede — I have never denied it — that there are black people in South Africa who oppose sanctions. However, it is likely that many more people would advocate sanctions and disinvestment if to do so was not probably an offence under section 54 of the Internal Security Act 1982 to make such statements.

As the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) said, a study has been published entitled "Black Worker Attitudes—Political options, Capitalism and Investment in South Africa". It is by Lawrence Schlemmer of the Centre for Applied Social Sciences at the University of Natal, Durban, and was funded by the United States Department of State. The survey was conducted among black workers in the sector in which most multi-national companies operate — the manufacturing sector — the sample was restricted to black male production workers". A total of 551 interviews was conducted. There are some 15 million Africans in the country.

Mr. John Carlisle

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Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman need not deny ft. It is all in the report. Does the hon. Gentleman wish to deny that the number was 551?

Mr. John Carlisle

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Mr. Hughes

If the hon. Gentleman is denying that 551 black workers were surveyed, I shall gladly give way to him because I have the figures here. The sample can hardly be regarded as representative. I do not doubt the integrity of the study or its methodology, but it is a quantum leap to deduce that 551 workers represent the majority of black opinion.

There are many parts of the Schlemmer study on which people are silent. For example, 56 per cent. of those surveyed said that they supported armed confrontation by blacks to achieve Namibian independence. When asked If the African National Congress were to come in secretly asking people to help it, which of the following would happen in your area? Most people would help it. Not most but a large number would help it. Only a few would help it. no fewer than 42 per cent. said that most would help the African National Congress. We do not hear anything about that.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the majority of those in the survey showed enthusiasm for armed revolution and support of the ANC, does that not suggest that his other argument—that it might be unlawful in South Africa to advocate economic sanctions—is unlikely to have had any effect on those who were asked their opinions?

Mr. Hughes

Precisely the opposite conclusion can be drawn. If there were no restriction on what people could say, they would speak much more openly. Some of the attitudes revealed by the Schlemmer study must be a warning to the South African Government, which lay great store by the survey. I could quote the survey almost for ever because it reveals interesting attitudes, but I shall not.

If such a survey were carried out now and used precisely the same methods, I believe that it would reveal great change because recent events at Uitenhage have shocked and horrified the world. The mass arrests, detentions and denunciation of the United Democratic Front leadership demonstrate that the South African Government cannot tolerate any freedom of discussion or any democratic organisation which opposes their views.

Any internal call for the ending of apartheid is regarded as treason, and attempts are made to crush them by every legal means and every means of brutal repression. It is said that there have been reforms which should be welcomed, but they are intended not to end apartheid but to buttress and entrench it. The tricameral Parliament is a cruel and callous charade because there is no real change and white Members of Parliament outnumber Asian and coloured ones. The South African Government's defence of that is perfectly simple and logical. They say that there are more white Members of Parliament than Asian and coloured ones because their numbers represent the ratio of such groups in the country'. That argument merely reinforces the idiocy of there being no black African parliamentary representation. Logic compels one to the conclusion that there should be a majority of black Members in the South African Parliament. The South African Government cannot have it all ways.

We have recently heard the promise to repeal the Mixed Marriages Act. I accept that that will help individuals. If people are allowed to marry across the colour lines, much hardship and heartrending will be avoided. However, it hardly dents the apartheid system. Indeed, the ending of that Act creates as many problems as it cures. For example, where will the partners of a mixed marriage live? They are still restricted by the Group Areas Act. How will their children be classified as to race? One South African commentator has said: there will be no upward mobility". A white man who marries a black woman will be downgraded and any children will not be classed as their father.

I do not subscribe to the view that there is a comprehensive change in attitude or climate for the democratic process in South Africa. I fear for its future, as the prospects for peaceful change are receding. Recent events show that, 25 years after Sharpeville, the South Africans have learnt nothing. They still intend to maintain their domination of the non-white population by brute force of arms. They cannot succeed in the long run. They must realise that, but, in the long run, they will cause tremendous bloodshed and chaos.

The Foreign Secretary said that the Government cannot support policies which cause violence and chaos. I tell him more in anger than in sorrow that that is exactly what he is doing. The Africans in South Africa have shown a restraint and constraint which is altogether quite exceptional. There has been no retaliation against the white population for Sharpeville, Soweto or Uitenhage. How long that can continue is anybody's guess. Whites have a lot to thank the African National Congress of South Africa for, with its policy of non-racialism.

If there is to he dialogue on the future of South Africa, the Government will have to shift. The most significant move would be the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela, Govan M'Beki, Walter Sisulu and all African National Congress and Pan African Congress political prisoners and the legalisation of ANC and PAC. Such a move would reduce tension dramatically and generate optimism for the future.

It is regrettable that experience shows that the South African Government are incapable of changing the character of apartheid or of learning from past tragedies. Regrettably, it appears that the British Government are incapable of doing anything to assist change. The South African Government will not change unless they are compelled to. It requires sanctions to convince them of our seriousness in favour of ending apartheid.

If we do not act soon, we shall perpetuate South African repression and share responsibility for the consequences. If the Government are serious in their condemnation of the evil of apartheid, they must act now, before it is too late.

8.27 pm
Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will forgive me if I do not follow his interesting speech on Namibia. I was delighted to hear his tribute to Jan Smuts, who was a great South African and a statesman of world stature who, it will be recalled, was the author of the concept of a commonwealth of nations. It is tragic that no man of his stature has emerged in South Africa since his death.

I join those who have paid tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, especially on visiting so many iron curtain countries recently and yet managing somehow to convey the concern of the West at the continued violation of human rights characteristic of all of them.

I do not know whether any other hon. Member has done so, but I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute also to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who paved the way for my right hon. and learned Friend. His conduct and bearing in Poland not only moved the civilised world, but earned him the lasting admiration and gratitude of the extensive Polish community in this country.

It was right for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to visit Poland and Czechoslovakia, and equally right for him to talk to Church leaders there and to identify our people with the murdered priest Father Popieluszko, the manner of whose death symbolised all that is so cruel and repellent in Communist countries. My right hon. and learned Friend came to two conclusions: first, that it is possible to conduct wide-ranging discussions with the Soviet Union and eastern and central European countries; and, secondly, that we should make plain in such discussions the inadequacy of their human rights performance.

We should not be under any illusions. What matters is not discussions, but performance—not words but deeds. I wonder whether my right hon. and learned Friend, after his experience, does not have reservations in his heart. Does he believe that a genuine and lasting detente with the Soviet Union is possible, and that there is a real possibility of our ending the arms race?

I ask that question because it is not arms that make for war, but the tensions and rivalries, the hatreds and misunderstandings that trigger off problems and disrupt relations between states and within states.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Yalta protocols in 1945, I put down an early-day motion at the beginning of the year, which attracted an almost unprecedented number of signatures drawn from all parties. There were 246 in all. The early-day motion noted that the Soviet Union unilaterally broke both the letter and the spirit of the Yalta protocols within months of their being concluded. It went on to say that the House deplores the resultant widespread and systematic abuse of human rights which still continues to this day; supports peaceful endeavours by the peoples concerned to regain their rights; and urges Her Majesty's Government… to declare its refusal to accept the division of Europe into spheres of influence and to reaffirm the right of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe to genuine self-determination. Why was it necessary to put down such a motion? Why did so many Members feel that they had to sign it? The answer is that for the peoples of eastern and central Europe —some of us remember the sacrifices of the Poles and Czechs during the war in defence of these islands—and for their displaced emigre survivors, time has stood still since 1945, while the rest of the world has moved on. In the period when self-determination was the order of the day, when General Smuts's vision of a commonwealth of nations was developing before our eyes, when western colonial empires were being dismantled, the Soviet grip on an area hitherto composed of independent states, save for temporary Nazi occupation, was tightening and consolidating.

My right hon. and learned Friend spoke of 40 years of peace, and I then became a little sceptial. Who paid the price for that peace? Who stood in the way of the Soviet tanks that roared into Hungary, and of those who slaughtered Hungarian patriots and hanged their leaders in 1956? Who was it who moved the newly formed Warsaw pact forces into Czechoslovakia to destroy the smiling face of Socialism in 1968? Who shot down Polish workers, ending the first ray of light out of eastern Europe—the Solidarity trade union? Who was responsible for all that?

A decade ago, gradualist hopes were invested in Poland. Today, the Hungarian experiment engages our attention. Sadly, experience shows that, at the end of every tunnel of hope in central and eastern Europe, there stands a Communist thug in police uniform or a Soviet tank to shatter the dream. For the West to view Yalta as no more than an unfortunate historical event, as some have pretended it is, is to fail to understand the underlying cause of East-West tensions. Yalta left an ambivalent legacy that wrong-footed the search for peace and security from the outset and it continued to obstruct all attempts to ensure East-West co-existence and to promote orderly and reassuring change.

World leaders as widely different ideologically as President Mitterrand in France and President Reagan in the United States have denounced Yalta. According to the USSR, however, Yalta legitimised its hegemony in eastern Europe, and Western denials merely add to existing tensions. Confusion surrounding this issue surely makes reassessment desirable.

Stability in eastern and central Europe is desirable. It is essential to the Soviet Union—we are the first to recognise that—but it is also essential to us and to world peace. It is self-deceptive to assume that the people concerned—the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians—will remain sullenly submissive at all times if the West does nothing but encourage false hopes. The Solidarity trade union and the continuing underground opposition in Poland are living proof that dissent does not need Western prompting. Although the lessons of Hungary in 1956 have been thoroughly digested by people east of the Elbe, the Soviets can never hope to placate and satisfy their hostages under existing rules and conditions. Yet the system over which they preside makes it almost certain that opposition movements—some small, some dangerously large—will emerge.

A few days before his murder, Father Popieluszko gave an interview to the journalist Mary Craig. He affirmed: I'd be happier meeting death in a worthwhile cause than sitting back and letting injustice go unchallenged. Others may feel the same. His was only a more eloquent expression of the view that is gaining ground rather than weakening in eastern and central Europe. It is surely irrational and unjust to expect heroic people of this kind to pick up the bill because the West finds it convenient to do and say nothing. It is shortsighted, too, since, the region may exert an increasingly destabilising effect on world peace. Clearly, there has to be a new approach.

Does my hon. Friend the Secretary of State envisage a further period of no war, of phoney peace, so that our children and grandchildren in the early decades of the next century will still be faced with Warsaw pact forces on one side, standing over prostrate bodies of once independent nations, and NATO forces on the other? Will this uneasy, unsettled situtation go on and on? Of course not. The bubble must burst. Western leaders could begin by ending the hypocrisy that has been practised for more than 40 years by formally denouncing Yalta. Such a declaration should make it clear that the minutes of the meetings of the Big Three did not constitute a treaty or an international agreement, because the intention that the document should create legal relationships was absent.

I have no illusions about this. It is ludicrous to admit that the Soviet security interest in dominating half of Europe reinforces Soviet fears of the West's aggresive intent. There has never been such an intent. NATO is a defensive alliance. The peoples of the West long for peace and justice. We may differ here in our approach to the subject, especially nuclear arms, but there is no man or woman in this country who does not want a peaceful understanding with the peoples of the Soviet Union and eastern and central Europe. No one here wants collision and conflict.

Why not accompany a repudiation of Yalta with a reaffirmation of commitment to the Helsinki final act, which guarantees existing frontiers in eastern and central Europe? Why not proclaim an unwavering conciliatory programme of economic and social contacts designed to promote understanding and common interests? Such a trumpet call would not bring the walls of Jericho tumbling down, but the cruel mould of Yalta would be broken and the way opened, as never before, to intensive rethinking about the future of all Europe.

In the modern world, foreign policy cannot and must not be divorced from human rights. I agree with-the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston). We have moved on from the days in the middle of the last century when Lord Palmerston said: Our guiding rule is to promote and advance, as far as we can, the interests of the country to which we have the good fortune to belong and which we have the honour to serve. We have no lasting union with this or that country — no identification of policy with another. We have no natural enemies, no perpetual friends. That was as good a definition of foreign policy as anyone could have found in the heyday of British imperial power when the Royal Navy guarded all the seas. But such a definition is totally inadequate in today's world. With the advance of communications technology, the globe has begun to shrink and to shrink fast. As a result, there are no more remote places. No part of the world is now safe from the missiles of a determined enemy or can hide itself from the all-seeing eyes of vehicles in space. Whether we like it or not, the condition of independence is, paradoxically, that we accept a growing measure of interdependence. We are no longer free to do what we will and to ignore the consequences. We are discovering that our industrial effluents can poison our neighbour's waters; his atmospheric pollution can lead to acid rain destroying our forests. Our joint survival requires recognition of our duty to one another and the acceptance of sensible rules.

As an outward expression of this growing interdependence, we have created supranational organisations and rules of conduct. To resolve disputes, we have the United Nations. This imperfect organisation and these arrangements have not always worked very well, but if we did not have them, we would have to invent them. As the world shrinks, so we become increasingly conscious of what is happening beyond our shores. People in Britain and north America are shocked to find that the basic freedoms that we enjoy in the West are denied to a large part of humankind. One has the impression that more people are imprisoned without trial, deprived of civil rights, tortured and murdered than ever before. We are confronted by a monstrous evil in every continent, a kind of corruption, a sort of pollution, which, if unchecked, can undermine our societies.

Double standards abound. It is not too much to say that they infect us here. I am not arguing that a crusade for human rights is a substitute for the patient diplomacy to which my right hon. and learned Friend has given his name, with increasing success. The Hong Kong agreement is one of the great diplomatic achievements of the century. The agreement opens the way to understanding and cooperation with China — the only state that has the capacity to alter the strategic balance. I predict that China will alter that balance, if not this century then in the early years of the next. The Hong Kong settlement is a greater achievement than people in this country or even, perhaps, people in China have begun to realise.

There may, therefore, be areas where the easing of tension between East and West can be secured by means of patient diplomacy. That is surely the hope of my right hon. and learned Friend. But it is imperative that Western Governments cease to practise double standards, fooling themselves that detente, as we have known it, is an acceptable policy, when the only result of the Helsinki agreement inside the Soviet bloc so far is that most of its citizens who bravely sought to monitor compliance have been imprisoned, sent to psychiatric hospitals or silenced in some other way.

Those of us who have the good fortune to live in democracies must insist that our Government do not delude themselves into believing that they can achieve a genuine and lasting peace by ignoring the continued violations of human rights or by denying whole peoples the right to self-determination. Our own Government should measure every proposal for co-operation with the Soviet Union or its satellites by what it will yield in positive gains, especially in human freedom. For every "quid", there must be a tangible "quo".

Several Hon. Members

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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Order. The debate has been going on for four hours and only 11 hon. Members have been able to contribute. I know that some hon. Members have been present for the whole of the debate. I appeal once more for brevity.

8.48 pm
Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan)

I do not intend to stray into a consideration of many parts of the world; I wish to refer to one particular subject — the strategic defence initiative. I shall not be present for the reply by the Minister of State, for the good reason that I hope to be on the 11.20 sleeper to Edinburgh. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would like to be on that train as well. I have not been able to change my constituency arrangements tomorrow morning.

I should like to discuss the dangers in the strategic defence initiative, of which the Government are aware and about which I hope they are prepared to talk more frankly. With a degree of courage that we have not come to expect in recent years from Conservative Foreign Secretaries, there has been a willingness to disagree in public with the American Administration on major issues. I hope that the Government will take future opportunities to prevent our ally from going down what we consider to be a dangerous road.

I recognise that this evening's remarks by the Foreign Secretary were primarily about research. There are three stages in the development of the strategic defence initiative. The first is research, then development and then deployment of whatever comes out at the end of the process.

In some respects, the only matter on which we can be specific at the moment is research. My understanding is that there is only limited scope for European participation in that research. The conditions which the American Government have put down on matters relating to technology transfer would greatly inhibit any major European participation in SDI, even if we wanted it.

Secondly, it is clear that there are dangerous problems for any programme of research which goes both ways across the Atlantic and which I imagine would result in a further exacerbation of what has come to be known as the "brain drain". I cannot see the best of British researchers being kept in Britain in the present climate.

The dangers for the further distortion of our research work in universities and institutions generally is great, because it is now widely accepted that with the limited resources available for research we probably put too much into defence and armaments-related research.

The experience of Japan has been quoted; we may dispute it, but to some extent research for non-defence purposes flourishes in Japan.

I should not be happy for us to commit ourselves to a programme such as star wars, which would invevitably mean fewer resources going to other much-needed research. There would be an even further and greater distortion of the technology available to our manufacturing industry.

I draw attention to the fact that the high technology companies in America are the main backers of the star wars programme. Those companies are more likely to benefit areas of the United States than western Europe.

Other aspects of research, apart from those internal ones, are of even greater significance. Not least are the consequences for the ABM treaty. The 1972 treaty was explicit in seeking to make clear the areas where research would not be regarded as helpful.

It is possible—I only say "possible" because as yet we are sailing in uncharted seas—that we could create conditions in which there would be massive breaches and examples of non-compliance with the treaty. The United States has made great play of the fact that one of the trigger mechanisms for its right to participate in that SDI are the steps being taken by the Soviet Union.

Much has been made by the United States of the radar installation at Krasnoyarsk. It is said that it was first noted by the Americans in 1983, after the President's strategic defence initiative speech. The installation has not been completed and the Soviet Union's line on that—one must be honest enough to say that it needs to be taken with a fair degree of salt—is that it is only a satellite tracking station. I am not sure, and I do not think any of us are.

The present arms race includes technological leapfrogging. It is possible that Krasnoyarsk will be a station capable of affording the Russians the opportunity to participate in some massive breach of the ABM treaty. At the same time, Ambassador Dobrynin has made it clear that once that installation has been completed it will be possible for American observers to visit and examine it.

I realise that such offers can often be meaningless, but nevertheless the offer has been made. A Conservative Member who is no longer in the Chamber said that there is a great deal of information about Krasnoyarsk and asked why it should not be made available to the House. As I understand it, the document on Soviet military power to which he was referring has an illustration of what the establishment will probably look like once it has been finished.

When I took that up with American officials, they told me that the American security community was so worried about letting the Soviet Union know how much it knew that it was not prepared to let the American people know how much it knew.

I become suspicious when such information is one of the main pillars and foundations of the Americans' argument in favour of proceeding with star wars developments. I am not fully convinced that that is an argument that will justify it. If the Americans proceed with star wars, it could lead to breaches of the ABM treaty which legitimately could be taken before the standing consultative committee. In recent years, the Americans have made a great issue of breaches of the treaty, but under the Reagan presidency they have made nothing like the use of the standing consultative committee which was established to examine such issues. We have not had the useful dialogue between the Soviet Union and the United States which took place in the 1970s and which ironed out many problems.

Lack of United Kingdom enthusiasm for the star wars proposal is, to an extent, based upon the switch from mutually assured destruction to mutually agreed survival. It could result in the United States becoming invulnerable to Soviet threats, or so we are led to believe. It could enable the Americans to attack the Soviet Union if they so wished. I am not suggesting that the Americans will want to do that, but it is a perception and construction at which the Soviet Union could arrive. It could mean that, even in the event of deterrence failing, there being a nuclear war and the SDI operating to the full extent, it is likely that there would be some penetration of the shield which star wars would afford and considerable destruction in the United States and elsewhere.

The Soviet reaction to this kind of argument will, I believe, be negative; it will further alienate the Soviet Union from arms control. The road to Geneva has been hard enough for both sides already, and I do not think that the massive commitment of the United States to star wars at this stage, if only on a propaganda basis, is going to help the Geneva talks in these brittle and fragile early stages. Rather than encourage the Soviet Union to participate in arms control, this will give it a green light for saturation deployment of intercontinental missiles.

If the star wars proposals were put into effect they would certainly cause problems for Europe, because the purpose of star wars as discussed at present is primarily to deal with long-range nuclear weapons and there would be no meaningful cover against the kind of intermediate weapons which the Soviet Union would direct against the countries of Europe. If that were the case, there would be a reaction in Europe against the Alliance and a very severe strain would be put on it.

We also have to recognise that in many respects any United Kingdom or French deterrent would be meaningless.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

In pursuing this particular line of argument in which my hon. Friend discusses the idea that western Europe would not be in a position to take advantage of a star wars scheme, can he also see the parallel for the Soviet Union? The Soviet Union may well be able to create its own star wars programme in defence of ICBMs from the United States, but not be able to create the same kind of defensive shield for missiles based in western Europe or, indeed, on the coasts.

Mr. O'Neill

I think that my hon. Friend is correct; a number of options can be explored in this context, but all of them have the effect of confusing the arms control talks that we have available to us at the moment. There could be a setback to any hopeful signs which exist at the present moment—things that will not bear fruit by Christmas, but will take many years. As long as a constructive dialogue is taking place, there are hopes that the worst aspects of individualist action or initiative will be avoided.

It is likely that at the moment we in Europe do not have the technology or the resources to commit ourselves to creating an effective anti-nuclear defence system such as is suggested by star wars. Even if we had such resources, there is no guarantee that we should be able at the end of the day to establish it.

There has been a fair amount of discussion tonight on star wars, and the measure of controversy which the Foreign Secretary's remarks have raised in this debate and in previous speeches that he has made warrants a longer debate on the subject. We could go into the various ways in which the strategic defence initiative could be frustrated, at relatively low cost. We know that the deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system as envisaged would be a destabilising influence and would start the arms race again. Any arguments about stability from the Americans must be taken in the context that stability will not be secure with unilateral development and deployment. If the Americans cannot get the Russians to participate with them—there is no question of that happening; I think it is fair to assume that—it will gravely jeopardise stability.

Furthermore, if the United States insists on pursuing this, it will put a considerable strain on our Alliance. Dependence on technology for its own sake is very dangerous, because then we see automatic systems being created and all the problems which that can lead to. Then we are more likely to have nuclear war by accident than peace by design.

The Foreign Secretary has gone a considerable way for a Conservative Minister in dissociating and distancing himself from this scheme, but he must go further. His private fears and misgivings have to be made public. We have to have a debate within the Alliance, because I know that none of the Socialist parties within NATO is enthusiastic about this. None of them, if returned to power at subsequent elections, would agree to participate in this or be prepared to acquiesce in it. We know that in Germany the Christian Democrat party—which in many respects is even more slavishly pro-American than the British Government — has expressed considerable misgivings.

We must have a debate within Europe so that the 60-day period does not pass and somehow virtual silence is not taken as assent. The American President's full weight and authority has been placed behind a scheme which at its best is ill thought out and at its worst extremely dangerous. I urge the Foreign Secretary to work with his colleagues in Europe and within NATO to ensure that the Americans are made to understand fully how out of step they are with the remainder of the Alliance.

9.6 pm

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

I listened to the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) with interest. He spoke mainly about technology. I hope that he will not mind if I stick to earth-creeping politics, taking my cue from my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine).

We have had some progress in East-West relations, but we should remember that new progress often brings new pitfalls. The West has had some difficulty in staying in line during the past few years, and I anticipate rather more difficulty when we try to move forward in some sort of decent formation.

We should begin by looking back over the past couple of years. In doing so, we shall be struck by the quite extraordinary tension that has existed and we should ask ourselves whether that was really inevitable. There was bound to be some tension as the West, quite rightly, responded to the Soviet increase in SS20s. However, that tension could have been better controlled with better results in domestic politics.

The most striking aspect of all has been the volatility of Western assessment of the Soviet Union, and it is about that simple point that I wish to speak tonight. During the past three years we have again, in a rather primitive mode, gone through the old arguments about whether we prefer our Russians fat or thin, as though we had a straight choice. We have again discussed, quite unrealistically, whether we could starve the Russians into submission by denying them imports. We have again discussed, quite fruitlessly, the relationship between ideology and nationalism in Soviet policies, as though it made any difference to the Afghans whether they were occupied by ideologues or nationalists. We have gone through many of these debates quite fruitlessly, and have ended up exactly where we were before.

The Soviet Union with which we are faced today is precisely the same country as it was five years ago. It is still occupying Afghanistan; it is still pressurising Poland; it still locks up its most creative people; and, as we saw only last week, the KGB's activities do not wax and wane according to our volatile assessment of Soviet reality—they just bang on regardless. That is an important lesson to remember as we face the future.

What does public opinion make of the extraordinary volatile assessments in the West about the Soviet Union? At one moment the public are told that the Russians are such evil people that we should not even talk to them, and at the next moment they are told that we can and must talk to them. At one moment they are told that Western defence and security has rested for 40 years on the nuclear deterrent and that that will continue, and at the next moment they are told that deterrence in that form is both immoral and unreliable and must be stood on its head in favour of a wholly new concept that does not yet exist in practice and may never exist because who knows where science might or might not lead us. That form of instability can be extremely dangerous.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that a good deal of that volatility comes from the American political system. That system will not be changed. If I may recall one incident in the early 1970s, virtually overnight the United States changed its policy on China. To make the point graphically, I point out that when a certain highly placed American, not Henry Kissinger, first met Chou En-Lai, he emerged with tears in his eyes. Not only was he overcome by the historic nature of the occasion, but he was probably very struck by the strong personality of the statesman he had met. Chou was a ruthless man, but on that occasion his ruthlessness was not on display. No doubt the American had pictured him as a kind of yellow devil. That illustrates precisely the sort of worrying thinking that we still see, I am sorry to say, in our greatest ally.

I do not expect for a moment that the Americans will break down in tears when they have their first meetings with Mr. Gorbachev, but we should be prepared for the same element of instability to re-emerge in America attitudes over the next year or two. We must have a stable and, in some senses, an assertive British foreign policy ready to counter any American volatility.

We are already in danger of under-estimating the natural propensity of the two super-powers to gravitate towards a privileged and exclusive dialogue. It has happened in the past, and my guess is that it will happen again. When it happened before, there was an automatic tendency for us not to be told every detail of what was going on between the super-powers. On this occasion it is all the more imperative, if there is a privileged dialogue, that we should know what is going on, because we have reached a stage in East-West relations when there is an unhealthy concentration on arms and arms control. On all three major aspects—star wars, cruise missiles and strategic missiles—this country has a close and continuing interest. Anything that is discussed, decided or hinted at confidentially between the super-powers will have an effect on this country's interest in one of those areas.

The main purpose of my intervention is that I do not want ever to see British Ministers, of whatever party, standing at that Dispatch Box answering to the British people about matters at the very heart of the defence of the country without being fully informed of what is happening between the super-powers. I am not saying that we have reached that stage today, but there is an inherent instability of which we should be aware. It could be very dangerous for the defence of this country and, above all, for the consensus about defence which all responsible Members want to maintain.

That consensus must involve three factors. First, we must have a defence which we can afford. Let us be frank about it; there are competing demands from the Health Service and from education, so we have to keep that factor in balance.

Secondly, we must be seen to be having a reasonable and civilised dialogue with the Soviet Union. I pay great tribute to the accomplishments of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary in that regard. The Foreign Secretary particularly has established an exquisite balance in his dealings with the Russians, as we saw last week, and in his recent visits to eastern Europe.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I believe that the British people will back any Government in power provided that that Government are seen to stand up for British interests. That means that if we have doubts—and there are deep doubts in this country about the strategic defence initiative—any British Government must be seen to articulate those doubts as frankly as is sensible in terms of our continuing alliance with the United States. Like many other Members, I must admit to having felt a twinge of anxiety when I first heard my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's speech on SDI, but the more I thought about it, especially as there was no sensible and moderate public reply from the United States to the extremely cogent points that my right hon. and learned Friend raised, the more convinced I became that he was right to articulate those very well grounded doubts as clearly as he did. I believe that that is the general view in this country.

This is not an anti-American speech. I believe that the Americans respect people who discuss these matters openly with them. As a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends have said, there have always been ups and downs in the Alliance. The great thing for this country is that we should be seen to stand up for British interests and be very vigilant in watching for any change of policy by our allies.

There has been some suggestion that Europe should develop its own foreign policy, but that seems to me to be slightly misguided. To have our own foreign policy we must have our own power, and Europe does not have the power to maintain a foreign policy completely separate from that of the United States, even if that were the right thing to do. The United States, however, has the power to change its foreign policy—if necessary, without reference to Europe. We must be realistic and frank with our allies about that. The Alliance is mature enough to bear that frankness.

Therefore, although we have made progress, we should not think that we have now hit a beautiful balance. I believe that there will be a further change in American policy, and we must watch out for British interests.

9.17 pm
Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow)

I agree with much of the interesting analysis of East-West relationships set out by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden). I intend to concentrate more on our relationships within the Western Alliance, not because East-West relationships are not important but because our relationships within the Alliance bear serious discussion in a debate on foreign affairs in the British Parliament.

I was disappointed with one aspect of the Foreign Secretary's opening speech. Nowhere did he give any general picture of the relationship between Britain and the United States, our principal ally and friend in the world, or of political co-operation in the EEC.

In recent years, our foreign policy has increasingly tended to swing like a yo-yo between craven support for the United States, whatever that country happens to be doing in various parts of the world, and ritual obeisance to EEC polical co-operation. I believe that both those alternatives are completely unacceptable as a basis for British foreign policy.

As a result of our craven support for some United States policies we have lost not just influence but dignity and integrity in the world, especially the Third world. I give just three brief examples.

First, the United Nations conference on the law of the sea concerned one of the greatest international treaties to be negotiated in the post-1945 world. That treaty has been signed, though not yet ratified, by many countries thoughout the world, but opposed by the United States. Unfortunately, the United States opposition was supported by Britain, West Germany and two or three other, minor, nations. The opposition from both the United States and Great Britain was based entirely on narrow commercial grounds, some of which are extremely hypothetical. It is far from certain that there will ever be much financial incentive to drag the sea bed for manganese nodules and all the other things that are supposed to be lying down there just waiting to be collected.

By lining up with a few rich nations against the rest of the world—not merely the poor, but many rich nations siding with the poor—we have once more shown that we prefer a world in which resources, the common heritage of mankind, should not be shared. We have undermined our wider strategic interest in many parts of the world as a result of our failure to sign and ratify that treaty.

I refer next to UNESCO. Again, here was an area where the United States led and then, a year or so later, Britain cravenly followed. What happened last autumn? There had been no talk previously in the press about Britain's withdrawal from UNESCO or giving notice of withdrawal. The United State put some pressure on. The former Australian ambassador to UNESCO came to this country in October; members of the press were Seen and entertained; the right people were seen; a big PR campaign was mounted; there were articles in all the newspapers and magazines for about six weeks; questions were asked in Parliament, mainly by Conservative Back Benchers; and there was pressure on the Government. The Government said that as there was all that pressure they would give notice of withdrawal from UNESCO. Again, we followed where the United States led. I challenge the Minister of State to deny that if the United States was still in UNESCO, we would be contemplating withdrawal.

My third example is central America. I shall not go into it in detail because it has already been mentioned by several hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). We have followed all American policy in central America. We pay lip service to the Contadora process, but there has never been a peep out of the Government protesting about American military assistance to the Contras about the mining of Nicaraguan ports. Nothing has been said about the fact that the United States, a founder member of the United Nations which is obliged, if other nations agree, to submit international disputes to international arbitration, has withdrawn from the International Court of Justice because it was to be taken there by Nicaragua over the mining of Nicaraguan ports in peacetime. We followed United State policy in every one of those cases. We were wrong to do so, and we have lost influence, prestige and, above all, integrity as a result.

The story is not completely one-sided because in two issues we have managed to separate ourselves from the position of the United States. How on earth we managed to do it I do not know. We managed to retain a vestige of independence and integrity. The two illustrations are these. Two years ago the United States Administration decided that they were not going to replenish the International Development Association with the amount of money that the World Bank required. It asked for $16 billion. Previously it had had $12 billion in a three-year period. Because of a decision taken by the Administration of the United States—not by Congress—the amount was reduced to $9 billion, as a result of which there will be far more poverty, deprivation and death.

Someone talked about human rights. What about the human right to life, dignity, education, food, health and clean water? Much of the world's population will be deprived of those rights over the next few years because the World Bank will not have sufficient funds in the IDA as a direct result of American action. Fortunately, this country, to do the Government and the Foreign Office justice, took the lead in trying to see what could be done to mount a rescue operation. Unfortunately, we failed. I cannot blame the Government for that. They did their very best.

One other example of where we managed to segregate ourselves from the United States policy was in the second world population conference in Mexico City last year. The United States was alone in the world, out of 130 nations, in mounting a campaign against the International Planned Parenthood Federation because of what it was doing in a few countries to finance health programmes that also had abortion-related activities. We went along with the great majority. That is the first international conference since the second world war in which the United States has found itself in a minority of one. For once, we were on the side of the angels. I only wish we could do that more often.

I should like to refer to political co-operation in the EC. All that one can expect and hope for is the lowest common denominator of agreement among 10, soon to be 12, nations. The declarations of political co-operation from time to time have had relatively little impact in the world. All that they evince is a polite response from the client states of the Common Market—that is, those under the Lome convention who know which side their bread is buttered, and also states which have an association agreement.

The rest of the world ignores those declarations. They have no practical effect. Most hon. Members would agree that the Venice declaration on the Middle East was very statesmanlike, but it has had no impact on events in the Middle East. If that is all the political co-operation that will be involved, it is just a meaningless ritual.

The reason why political co-operation in the European Community is so popular is that it gives EC Ministers the illusion of power and influence in a world which no longer has time for political pretensions. People should be judged not by their power and influence but by their views and the action they take to resolve world problems. As for the future of political co-operation in the European Community, I do not believe that that institution will ever be a great political influence upon the rest of the world because Europe, both east and west, is a declining force in the world, both economically and politically. That is to be expected. Efforts to halt that process, let alone reverse it, are completely misguided and are doomed to failure.

I turn to what ought to be another pillar of our foreign policy, apart from the United States and Western Europe, but which is much neglected because of our addiction to those two; that is, the Commonwealth. When did we last hear from Ministers a panegyric about the possibility of Commonwealth co-operation to resolve many of the major world problems? Outside the United Nations and its associated bodies, the Commonwealth is unique in linking rich and poor countries. We ought to make much better use of it, in association with the Commonwealth secretariat and the other member states. Heads of Government in the Commonwealth meet only once every two years, and it is pot luck whether education Ministers meet every three or four years. Some Commonwealth Ministers, unlike European Community Ministers, hardly ever meet their compatriots in other Commonwealth countries.

The Commonwealth is a force which could break down the barriers between rich and poor countries. Things get bogged down in the United Nations and its agencies. Better use could be made of the Commonwealth by holding regular meetings. Above all, we should ensure that we consult our Commonwealth partners—they are genuine partners, unlike our competitors in the rest of western Europe—on major issues, especially when economic summits attended by the rich countries are to be held. Then we should bring not only our own views as a rich country but the views of the Commonwealth as a whole to the proceedings. In that way we could try to demolish the barriers which have been erected since the North-South dialogue broke down after the failure two years ago of global negotiations at the United Nations. We should consult the Commonwealth, both formally and informally, not only before economic summits but before UNCTAD and GATT meetings. In that way we could do more about trying to bridge the gap.

For example, when the only world summit meeting of rich and poor countries took place at Cancun, Mexico, in 1981, 23 world leaders from rich and poor countries were present, including our own Prime Minister. Seven of those 23 countries were Commonwealth countries. Despite persistent questioning by me and by other hon. Members, the Government made no attempt whatsoever to get together with the other Commonwealth countries to try to establish a joint position on the two-day Cancun summit agenda. The direct result of that and other factors was that the summit failed lamentably. Had there been adequate preparation in the form of a Commonwealth dialogue beforehand, I believe that the summit could have succeeded. Even if it had not succeeded, it could have resulted in the establishment of a proper dialogue between North and South. The Commonwealth needs to be taken much more seriously.

Finally, I turn to the United Nations, another much neglected organisation. This is understandable, because during the last 15 years the old western influence, with Soviet vetoes from time to time, has been replaced by the dominance of Third world countries.

What ought to be our foreign policy objectives in the United Nations, the major forum in the world? First, we should recognise that the rich-poor divide in the world is making the world a much more dangerous place. That was a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) when he talked about the debt crisis in the Third world. Is it beyond the wit of the Foreign Office at least to suggest to our allies that they should use the United Nations and perhaps invite United Nations observers to the economic summits in the Western world to try to regulate the financial and economic affairs of the whole of the planet, not just rich countries but rich and poor alike.

The nuclear arms race is becoming more and more dangerous. Why could there not be United Nations observers at the Geneva negotiations? One accepts that confidentiality may well have to be the case for the time being, although I take the point by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) that the sooner we get down to open diplomacy the better, so that people can see what is being done and make positive suggestions to help.

The non-proliferation treaty is not directly a function of the United Nations but a review conference is coming up later this year and the House and the country will hear a lot more about it in the months to come. That review conference genuinely gives us a last chance to try to prevent a disastrous spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world. We shall not have another five years after 1985, as we have had five years since the first review conference in 1980, to put our house in order. The rest of the world is waiting with bated breath to see whether the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain, the signatory powers — I think that they are the guardian powers — are the ones to which people in the rest of the world are looking to show that they are trying to cut their nuclear weapons.

We have heard that the Geneva talks may have been disappointing at the moment but I hope that we shall recognise in the non-proliferation treaty review that we must also show that we are genuine in our desire for a comprehensive test ban treaty. We are in a logical dilemma with the test ban treaty. In answer to questions, Ministers have accepted that the reason Britain needs nuclear weapons testing—no doubt it goes for the United States and the Soviet Union as well—is to maintain the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent. Therefore, it follows that if we have a comprehensive test ban treaty the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent would begin to diminish over time because we could no longer test nuclear weapons and warheads. The same would be true of the nuclear weapon arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union. So the review conference and the idea of a test ban treaty acquire a new significance. It is not just a case of saving the world from nuclear testing, fallout and so on, but of saying that this is the only way in which we are likely to halt the nuclear arms race between the major powers and to prevent, at one fell swoop, the spread of nuclear weapons to other states.

I hope that the Government will take the nonproliferation review conference seriously and not just use bland words to allay suspicions and alleviate fears. I know that there are difficulties about verification, but they cannot be allowed to hold up progress for ever. Advances have been made in countries such as Norway where scientists have developed a method of detecting low grade explosions to distinguish them from earthquakes. I hope that our Ministry of Defence experts will look at what the Norwegians have done. The United States Defence Department is interested. We should take seriously the prospects for a successful conclusion of that conference. That will mean much more progress than we have made so far.

Above all, if we do not succeed at the non-proliferation review conference in September, the world will be embarking on an even more dangerous course which will be beyond the capacity of the great powers to control, no matter how many times they sit down together and no matter how many top level summit meetings they have between various combinations of leaders. The nuclear arms race will have so spread that it will have become unstoppable. Nuclear weapons will spread to half a dozen other countries and others beyond which are just waiting to see whether the great powers are as good as their words under article 6 of the original non-proliferation treaty. That is the biggest challenge that faces British foreign policy in the next year. I hope that we shall hear something from the Minister tonight about the Government's attitude.

9.35 pm
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) down the road that he took, although I agreed with his comments about the Venice declaration, a subject to which I shall return.

I wish at the outset, like hon. Members on both sides of the House, to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues on a highly successful period for British affairs in the world since we last debated these matters.

I also pay a warm and unqualified tribute to the staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the excellent work that they do throughout the world on behalf of us all, sometimes under gravely difficult circumstances, and all too often on a shoestring budget. The conduct of our diplomats under circumstances of grave difficulty and danger is rightly the envy of the world, and they are to be congratulated.

On European affairs, I am in considerable agreement with the hon. Member for Walthamstow. European politics seem to be conducted, here and elsewhere, on the basis of the apologists of the "let the dog see the rabbit" school. From the point of view of having a true and real Common Market, it would be of advantage to us all if this rabbit could be produced at the earliest opportunity.

It is vital, as my right hon. and learned Friend and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, that the Common Market is seen to have real meaning and relevance in everyone's life if it is to have any force in Britain. Political co-operation is crucial to international affairs, and in respect of European affairs in the wider world, we must put some meat on the bones.

By now we should have built on the Venice declaration. It is to Europe's shame that it has, to all intents and purposes, sat on its collective hands. I do not believe that the Americans have either the inclination or the power to do anything in the Middle East. They are a mercurial people who are unduly swayed by sentiment and prejudice rather than by reason or even consideration of their long-term interests in the area, and their policies are, to an exceptional degree, at the mercy of the electoral process.

For that reason, in relation to Israel and the middle east, they are neutered. America is truly emasculated by the Zionist lobby and can do nothing in the middle east. Europe must therefore shake off its sloth and defeatism and try to make some cohesive political progress on a settlement in the middle east, which is one of the most depressing parts of the world in terms of achieving anything.

Mr. Johnston

I agree that we should love to see Europe make an impact, but it has no leverage. The United States has the leverage on Israel. What can Europe do beyond making statements such as the Venice declaration? I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it was a good statement.

Mr. Soames

The hon. Gentleman and I are at one in wishing that Europe could do more. It is no longer any good asking what we can do. We must try to find a way forward. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) that it is difficult for Europe to achieve much in that respect when it is perceived as having no power. We must develop that power and the institutions that go with it. Europe must be seen to be credible and to have a role in the world, and there can be no finer place for Europeans to make a start than by taking a lead in the middle east.

The subject of disarmament has been much discussed in the debate. We have a duty to explain that arms control is a means to an end and not an end in itself. The ultimate goal of all arms control talks must be stability. I hope and believe that western Governments realise that calming political opinion comes a poor second to the prospect of real stability. What are we aiming for in the talks? We need an agreement or a set of agreements that contain unambiguous and effective provisions for full verification and total compliance. That is the only way in which these transactions will be seen as credible, and the only way to create confidence that the Governments will observe the agreements when duly signed. It would be a great mistake on the part of the United States and her allies to go for a bad agreement just for the sake of having an agreement.

The first objective of the West should, in my view, be broadly equal numbers of warheads and missiles. Secondly, there should be a real cut in the present numbers of weapons. Thirdly, there should be satisfactory and credible provision for verification. Fourthly, taking account of the strategic defence initiative, there should be defined limits on modernisation and new developments.

That is a formidable shopping list, but it is the first step on a long, difficult and tortuous road. The key will be to find the right mix of imagination, common sense, and—hardest of all — real respect for the legitimate security interests of both East and West and an acknowledgement that one cannot, at the end of the day, run a political relationship using solely strategic technology.

Our aim must be to achieve a credible, consistent and realistic framework for the future conduct of East-West relations. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues on the significant progress that they have made. We need a policy that above all recognises the realities of Soviet power and takes all necessary precautions. In my view, the Soviets will always behave badly. They will always advance where we weaken. I was amused by Lord Home's remark that two years after he had sacked 150 Soviet diplomats in this country, he found, when visiting Yugoslavia, that one of the diplomats had been sacked again by President Tito for the same offence. So long as we remain aware of the intentions of the Soviet Union in this country and in any country where freedom and democracy reign, we shall have nothing to fear.

In broad outline, a possible definitive framework for an agreement would contain, first, a recognition that adequate defence and detente are not incompatible. Secondly, we must recognise there are important areas of common interest between East and West. Thirdly, we must remember that a process of continuous dialogue and communication is crucial for its own sake.

To all the players—both principals and fringe—I make one point. There can be no excuse for bowing to domestic political or tactical pressures in these matters. To do so would be to display dismal weakness. The political and moral strength of the West will remain the key to the successful conclusion of the talks.

The conduct of international affairs demands courage, intelligence, patience and, above all, unfailing good humour. My right hon. and learned Friend, his colleagues, British diplomats and the British people by and large have many of those qualities in abundance. Our integrity is greatly respected in the world. We have an enormous store of good will on which to draw. We do not capitalise upon it enough.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw) has great experience of these matters. He has drawn attention to student fees. On that question the present Government committed an act of folly in broad terms inimical to our long-term interests.

We run an enormous network of embassies arid diplomatic representatives. We must do more with trade and foreign policy, and use our missions and outposts to greater effect to serve British trading interests. Great strides have been made, but endless opportunities remain unexploited, largely for want of information and vision.

Security and prosperity are the legitimate goals of British foreign policy. For a trading nation, prosperity is extremely important, but it must remain secondary in the long run to security. I hope that the Government will continuously review every aspect of our foreign policy to ensure that we retain this good and healthy balance.

9.44 pm
Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

The hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) reflected the theme that has run throughout the debate on East-West relations. I hope that he will not mind if I do not follow him. There are other points that I should like to make and, even having heard the debate, I must confess that I am still an optimist. I believe that the Soviet Union, under Mr. Gorbachev, must recognise that it cannot continue to have an economy worth talking about if it continues with its present emphasis on defence expenditure, and that the United States must be told in pretty clear terms by Western and developing countries that they are not prepared to continue financing an American deficit on its present scale.

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) in drawing the attention of the House to what I hope will be a continuing discussion on UNESCO. The Government's announcement was made without there having been much debate, without much information having been given to the House and on the basis of arguments that were especially lacking in substance and seem incapable of standing up to much examination. The Government have told us that there is no firm decision. I hope that it might be possible for the matter to be put before the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is chaired by the hon. Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw), so that we can have a reasonable discussion on the merits of the argument and reach a conclusion which I hope will be in keeping with the great history and contribution of UNESCO.

The Foreign Secretary said that the human spirit cannot for ever be shackled. I believe that he is right. I also believe that right hon. and hon. Members have been right to pay tribute to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his recent activities, his visit to eastern Europe and the stand that he took there. The House cannot be selective in its attitude to human rights. There was a clear distinction between the Foreign Secretary's contribution and that of the Prime Minister, especially in regard to Indonesia. I hope that the Minister will take on board many people's grave reservations about the absence of human rights in that country and the fact that intolerable suppression is taking place.

Only last week, the press in Jakarta talked of the forthcoming executions of three more political prisoners. Those men were sentenced in 1975, having been arrested in 1968. We all regard that as utterly intolerable. Even if our Commonwealth friends, especially Papua New Guinea — we are all delighted that the Prime Minister of that Commonwealth country is in London this week—do not have reservations about Indonesia's intentions of aggrandisement, such as it has shown with East Timor, its record on human rights ought to have caused the Prime Minister to comment during her visit. We deeply regret that she did not find it possible.

I move on to Nicaragua. I join my hon. Friends in giving a loud welcome to the decision taken the other day by the House of Representatives. It shows that there is hope for the American people. The President said that he will address the American people over the heads of their elected representatives, but perhaps he should be modest enough to think that the American people might be sending him a message via their elected representatives. The message that I think that they are sending him is that they are not prepared to accept or see another Vietnam on the basis of the flimsy evidence that the President put before the House of Representatives, which, happily, it did not find convincing.

I hope that, on aid, we shall learn the lessons that invite themselves. I hope that we will bear in mind resolution 325 about aid to the Contadora group. We should also remember that Nicaragua has suffered not simply because of the American attitude to it—it is time that America got off the back of Nicaragua—but because its aid has been considerably reduced as a result of the prejudices of the American Administration — prejudices that our Government have tended to reflect.

In the Queen's Speech debate the Foreign Secretary talked about fighter aircraft from the Soviet Union going to Nicaragua, but not a shred of evidence has emerged showing that that is the case. There was the inexcusable mining of Nicaraguan ports, showing yet again that the Americans sometimes have an infinite capacity for making enemies out of potential friends. I hope that, in our attitude to central America, we ignore the same temptation.

I am worried about the arms race in the Third world. We are discriminating in sending aid to some countries, while to others, such as El Salvador, we are sending arms to an exent that is unhelpful. It does not help if the Americans, in response to the situation in Afghanistan, send arms to Pakistan, because that in turn leads India to think that it should build up its arms, and to the possibility of nuclear weapons. That should be a great worry to us.

I move on to the report on refugees published a few days ago by the Home Affairs Select Committee. The Minister of State will not be surprised that I raise this matter, because time after time I have referred to the situation in Hong Kong. I was delighted when the Committee drew the attention of the House to the fact that there are 11,900 refugees in Hong Kong. The report says that if Britain accepted up to 500 more refugees from Hong Kong, given that more than one in five of the refugees has spent more than five years in a refugee camp, that might send the correct message to the rest of the world. If we do that, not only will it be right in the circumstances of Hong Kong, but it will give encouragement to many other countries to respond, as I hope our Government will, in the way recommended by the Select Committee.

The Foreign Secretary said that the human spirit cannot be shackled for ever. That is right, and this debate has shown that we are a long way from achieving the objective that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the House set in these matters.

9.55 pm
Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage)

I hope that the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) will not mind if I do not follow him across his wide range of subjects. I propose to follow the example of some other hon. Members in concentrating on a single topic—the subject with which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) dealt. In January, I visited Namibia for the third time as the guest of the South African Administrator-General, and I want to take this opportunity to say a few words on the present position in Namibia, based on that experience.

I should say, first, that I make no apology for visiting that part of the world as a guest of the South Africans. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said in respect for the hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond), we must make use of all diplomatic channels. Seeing Namibia as a guest of the South Africans gives one a first-class opportunity to look at the Namibian scene from the South African point of view, to see it through their eyes and get a sense of the way in which they view their interests. And it is surely appropriate to try to look at the issues in that perspective in a situation like that in Namibia, since it is clear that, for the foreseeable future, there will be no settlement of the Namibian question without South Africa's co-operation.

Let me take a moment to say why I think this is so—because it is certainly true that at a quite recent time it seemed that a Namibian settlement could be imposed on South Africa from the outside—in the spirit of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East today. During the second half of the 1970s, it seemed that a combination of several factors might achieve that result—the growth of the pressure of SWAPO's "armed struggle" after the Portuguese collapse in Angola; the prospect of the stepping up of the Cuban or Eastern bloc, or even possibly of Soviet, military pressure across the Angolan border; and the threat of economic sanctions by the Western powers, led by the United States under President Carter. The Western powers at that time were anxious to head off the growth of Soviet influence in southern Africa in the wake of the Portuguese collapse, and to pave the way for the removal of the Cubans from Angola by securing the removal of the South Africans from Namibia.

Today, however, it is apparent that these factors no longer operate to make it possible to envisage the involuntary removal of the South Africans from Namibia. From what little I was able to see of the South African preparations to counter SWAPO's latest rainy season offensive this year, it was apparent that the threat of SWAPO's arms struggle has been effectively blunted. Some SWAPO fighters are apparently still able to get through the exclusion zone in southern Angola which the South Africans have got the Angolans to agree to try to enforce. But those fighters are few and exhausted, and their influence in the northern border lands seems to be in substantial decline.

As for the other pressures on South Africa, it is clear that South Africa's sponsorship of Jonas Savimbi's UNITA movement in Angola has succeeded in heading off the possibility of Eastern bloc pressure on South Africa in Namibia. And, concomitantly, the threat of Western economic sanctions to force an early settlement has receded. Far from a South African withdrawal from Namibia opening the way for a Cuban withdrawal from Angola, the boot is now on the other foot, with Cuban withdrawal now being considered as a precondition for South Africa's withdrawal from Namibia.

And so it seems clear that, for the foreseeable future South Africa is master of the game in Namibia. It behoves us, therefore, to consider the position from the South African point of view.

Mr. Anderson

Why should we view the position from the South African point of view? Would it not be better to see it from the view of the Namibians who are under the trusteeship?

Mr. Jackson

The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to speak later. Fundamentally I propose to consider this matter from the British point of view, which is the view that the House should take.

Let us look at the problem for the moment from the angle of the South Africans, since they are in control of the situation. The South Africans have five options. The first option is to build up their position in Namibia as a base for supporting Dr. Savimbi in a big military push to win power over the whole of Angola, leading to the forceable expulsion of the Cubans.

The second option is to transfer the reins of Government in Namibia to internal parties acceptable to the South Africans, irrespective of the lack of international recognition of the result.

The third South African option is to continue indefinitely in more or less the present position, using the Cuban presence in Angola, or some other excuse, as a device for procrastination.

The fourth option for South Africa is to implement its agreement to the Western plan for an internationally supervised election leading to a transfer of power under United Nations resolution 435.

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

Ordered,

That, at this day's sitting, the Motion in the name of the Prime Minister for the Adjournment of the House may be proceeded with, though opposed, until Twelve o'clock.—[Mr. Major.]

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

Mr. Jackson

South Africa's fifth option is to implement resolution 435 after obtaining further reassurance by negotiating further improvements — I emphasise the word "further" —in the western plan, in addition to those previously negotiated between 1978 and 1982.

I shall rapidly review these five options. With regard to the first—support for an all-out campaign by Savimbi—probably none of us can assess UNITA's capability for such a task. But the South Africans are experienced in the perversities of African warfare and they had their fingers severely burned in Angola in 1975. They are also no doubt following closely the improving relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. I do not believe that they will take too many risks in their policy towards Angola.

Similarly, unlike the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North, I view with equanimity the current moves in Cape Town and Windhoek to associate the Multi-Party Conference with some of the functions of Government in Windhoek. I do not believe that the South Africans would be so foolish as to take the option of transferring power definitively to the internal parties in Namibia. As long as South Africa has the responsibility for Namibia's defence, it will want to keep hold of the power in Namibia. I prefer a more optimistic interpretation of what is intended by these dealings between the South Africans and the Multi-Party Conference—that the South Africans are now trying to rebuild the moderate forces in Namibia in the hope of strengthening their position vis-à-vis SWAPO in an eventual free election.

Of the five options that I have suggested I suppose that it must be said that the option of further delay is the most likely to be followed. I agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North on that point. After all it is the course that South Africa has followed—the hon. Gentleman was right about that—so effectively ever since it agreed to resolution 435 in 1978.

Nevertheless, I came away from my most recent visit to Namibia—unlike previous visits—with a feeling that I had not experienced previously. I felt that there was a growing measure of recognition among responsible South Africans that procrastination was not a course which could be pursued indefinitely.

After the accords of Nkomati and Lusaka, the South African position in the region is strong. It is more likely to weaken than to become stronger.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the South Africans have delivered neither on their side of the Nkomati bargain nor on the Lusaka agreement?

Mr. Jackson

The application of those agreements by all the parties is difficult in the circumstances that obtain on the ground. There is some evidence that the South Africans have been doing their best in particular on the Nkomati accord, but it is difficult in the circumstances.

What those accords show is that the South African position in the region is now strong. It will become weaker rather than stronger in the future. I believe that that is why the South Africans are beginning to recognise that now is perhaps the time to cut a deal in Namibia. At the same time, the events of the past two months have underlined what wiser South Africans have known at least since the crisis of 1976—how fragile their underlying position is. Further, the South Africans are also aware that they are unlikely to have an American Government in the future who are more favourably disposed towards them than the present Administration.

For all these reasons, I believe that the case for withdrawal from Namibia by the end of President Reagan's term of office in 1988 must now be under more serious consideration in Pretoria than at any stage since 1978.

We come now to what I have described as South Africa's fourth and fifth options—that is, withdrawal under the Western plan as it stands, or withdrawal after obtaining further amendments to the plan to give South Africa further reassurance.

I do not think that, in spite of their agreement to it, the South Africans will be prepared to implement the Western plan as it stands. The fundamental problem is not that SWAPO might win the election. Intelligent South Africans know that SWAPO is bound to be a dominant, if not the preponderant, voice after any free election. They also know that, for reasons of geography and economics, an independent Namibia, even under SWAPO rule, would hardly be able to breathe without a South African by-your-leave.

The fundamental problems are twofold. The Western plan as it stands does not provide sufficiently clear constitutional guarantees for minorities in Namibia after independence. Even more serious, it leaves too much scope, and gives too much time, for a collapse into chaos during the long, indeed indefinite, period of transition envisaged in the Western plan between South African withdrawal and the achievement of independence on the conclusion of the constitution-making process.

I had the honour of serving the last British Governor of Southern Rhodesia, Lord Soames, as special adviser to him during his brief tenure from mid-December 1979 to mid-April 1980. I remember very well the many moments of tension in that very brief period—moments at which his fragile authority might have dissolved into farce or tragedy. I do not believe that he could have sustained our position in Southern Rhodesia if the Lancaster House constitution had not provided some basis for reassuring white opinion and if the election had given rise to a parliament with no clear majority, leaving the task of constitution-making to be debated indefinitely within that parliament for month after month before a conclusion was reached enabling independence to take place.

One of the many strokes of genius in the Lancaster House settlement—and I see one of the authors of it on the Front Bench, my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce)—was that it limited the period of transition to independence by establishing the constitution before the election rather than leaving it to be settled after it. Yet the Western plan for Namibia, which was admittedly conceived before the Lancaster House experience, does not reflect that experience. It leaves the constitution to be settled after the election in Namibia—an election which is more likely than was ever the case in Rhodesia to lead to a parliament with no clear majority.

So, in conclusion, I believe that South Africa, or important elements there, may now at last be prepared to move towards an internationally acceptable settlement in Namibia. I believe that it is in the British, European and Western interest to advance that movement. I believe that in order to do so we must be prepared to recognise that in Namibia, as in Rhodesia, nothing can be achieved without the co-operation of the party in possession, which in the case of Namibia means South Africa. I believe that if the South Africans come forward with precise and constructive ideas for the further improvement of the Western plan under resolution 435 we should be prepared both to consider those ideas positively and to use our influence to persuade others in SWAPO and in the frontline states to do so. Other postures may seem—I repeat, seem—to be morally more attractive and politically more comfortable, but, if the choice is between half a loaf and no bread, I vote for half a loaf.

10.9 pm

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), but I shall not follow him throughout south-west Africa. However, if he sees the diplomatic process as one of looking entirely at narrow self interest, and if we look at matters in a vacuum, we reach some unfortunate conclusions. That may be the case with British foreign policy as it applies to central America.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) has already pointed out that the British Government's view is very much allied to that of the United States Government. For example, yesterday the Parliamentary Under-Secretary spoke about the Cuban influence in Nicaragua. I challenged the Minister—as he has already been challanged by my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke)—to produce evidence of Cuban involvement. That supposed involvement underpins America's claim to its adventurism in Nicaragua, yet there is not a scrap of evidence to support that.

Mr. Deakins

Does my hon. Friend agree that what the Americans are really worried about, and what the British Government may be worried about, are not Cuban soldiers or advisers, but Cuban doctors, educationalists, social workers, architects and engineers?

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That sharpens finely the distinction between the Cuban presence in that region and the economic colonialism practised by the United States in Mexico. That country, which is self-sufficient in beef, exports virtually all its beef to the United States, while its children go hungry. Compare such American domination in the region with the possible Cuban export of doctors, services, education and training.

The British Government are so hooked on the American doctrine that yesterday the Foreign Secretay said that the United States sought a peaceful solution in Nicaragua. That peaceful solution consists of arming the people to engage in bloody warfare—people against people, brother against brother, as happens in any civil war. That is what the Americans mean by a peaceful solution, and I am afraid that that is also what our Foreign Secretary means by a peaceful solution. That is why we must accuse the Government of moral bankruptcy in central America.

That compares, sadly, with the way in which we construct our policies in the whole of the central American region. Guatemala, which is not so far from Nicaragua, has an atrocious human rights record that is almost beyond belief. Even the remotest political opposition to the state is snuffed out. Only this month a member of a group that supports the families of people who have disappeared was killed by security forces, together with her brother and her infant child, because she represented opposition. Yet the United States wants to restore military aid to that Government. Fortunately, it is having difficulty in persuading Congress to agree to that.

I pay a limited tribute to the British Government because they have so far consistently supported resolutions at the United Nations in condemnation of Guatemala. However, there are signs that there is pressure upon western Governments to restore aid and assistance. For example, economic aid is becoming more acceptable. There is talk of EEC aid for certain operations. There is no talk of military aid, of course, but the giving of economic aid invariably leads to other forms of spending, especially on military equipment.

The hypocrisy of the American approach lies in the almost naive view of the domino theory, already referred to in the context of south-east Asia. It was not a realistic theory then, and it is no more realistic now for central America. Yet, because of America's simple-minded view of that region, it is prepared to block any form of social or economic progress throughout the region and to prevent the export of advancement—whether from Cuba to Nicaragua, or from anywhere else—if it ultimately results in a change of attitude in or the political position of Mexico because of American paranoia about the Mexican boarder. Because Mexico is so important, Guatemala must be kept safe, and, because Guatemala must be kept safe, so must El Salvador and Honduras. That is why there is a bloody war in Nicaragua. The logic is so frighteningly stupid that, if it were not for the fact that many human beings are suffering enormously in that region, it would be a farce.

The Government should reaffirm that there will be no steps towards the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Guatemala and that they support the Contadora peace process. They should not simply pay lip service to that peace process but criticise and condemn the United States when it violates the principle of Contadora. When the President of Colombia went to the United States, he felt that he had been deliberately misled by the Government. When he left the country, he told the world about how he had been misled. That is what we should be doing. We should support the action taken by the United States Congress, to which many of my hon. Friends have already paid tribute. The British Government are more faithful to the American President than even his own Congress. That is a disgrace for a nation that claims to be independent.

The subject of star wars has dominated the debate. Because of the 60 days that we have been offered by the United States Government, it is important that there should be a debate in this country about star wars. Whatever anyone may think about the merits or demerits of star wars, that policy represents a turning point in the context of the arms race and its technology.

With star wars, one side may achieve a degree of domination that has not been possible for a considerable time. Misunderstandings may arise because of the inability to grasp what the other side is doing. That may undermine the whole process of deterrence. I make no bones of the fact that I believe that Britain has no role as a military nuclear power. Nevertheless, we will be severely affected by star wars, whatever steps we take, if only because we will be technologically outdistanced and will not have the capacity to follow the lead of the United States.

The star wars concept is throwing up a shield to protect the United States against inter-continental ballistic missiles, but that is of no value in the context of western Europe to Britain or to the Soviet Union. When we consider the lack of symmetry, the threat of star wars is tremendous. Therefore, it is important that a debate should take place and that we recognise that even if the star wars programme is successful, it will threaten us enormously. If it is only 80 per cent. successful, it can give the illusion of success and may force the Soviet Union into a massive counter-response which will militate against the trust that must be built up if the talks in Geneva are to succeed.

Those talks can succeed only if trust is established between the United States and the Soviet Union. At the moment there is no sign of such trust developing, and it is unlikely to develop in view of the rhetoric from the British Government and the United States that it is necessary to have massive superiority before they are prepared to talk. The attitude seems to be that only an arm-wrestling approach to talks can achieve anything.

All my life I have listened to such talk. Yet, as each decade has gone by, no significant step away from the arms race has been achieved. In fact, there has been an intensification of the arms race interrupted by an occasional bout of negotiations. If we are serious, we must develop a climate of trust, but that trust cannot coexist with the development of the star wars programme.

10.19 pm
Mr. Richard Hickmet (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

I wish to deal briefly with a topic not touched upon in the debate so far, save by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary in his opening speech—that of Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean.

In examining the policies pursued by the British Government, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Turks, the Greeks and various other people in relation to Cyprus, it is legitimate to set the scene by reminding the House that it is now 30 years since the first EOKA atrocity was committed by Grivas's gang on 1 April 1955 That period of 30 years has seen the EOKA movement, the granting of independence to Cyprus in 1960 with guarantees for the Turkish minority, the unilateral abrogation of that agreement by Archbishop Makarios in 1963, the crisis of 1967 when the Turkish minority retreated into enclaves and finally the coup d'etat of Nicos Sampson organised by the Greek junta in 1974. In that year, Turkish forces intervened in Cyprus and the island was effectively partitioned, about 180,000 Turks remaining in northern Cyprus and between 500,000 and 600,000 Greeks remaining in southern Cyprus.

In the 11 years since 1974, there have been various negotiations and attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has been charged to use his good offices to try to secure a peaceful solution and the British Government have made it clear that they repose their confidence in his endeavours.

Cyprus is one of the few areas in the world in which the British Government still have a substantial influence. Whatever the Secretary-General of the United Nations may say or do, the view of the British Government is very important and influential on the island. That is no doubt why the leader of the Greek community, Mr. Kyprianou, has met the British Prime Minister five times in the past 12 months.

On 17 January this year, Mr. Denktash met Mr. Kyprianou in New York with a view to signing an agreement for the resolution of the Cyprus problem. I think that all parties involved and certainly the Secretary-General agree that very significant concessions were made by the Turks in the five months of proximity talks preceding the New York meeting. Indeed, a draft agreement was prepared by the Secretary-General for signature by the two sides in New York and everyone expected that it would be signed. The Secretary-General publicly gave credit to Mr. Denktash and the Turkish community for what he described as their favourable reaction to all elements of his presentation.

To obtain that peaceful solution, the concessions made by the Turks had included surrendering about 8 per cent. of the territory that they occupied. In addition, they abandoned their previous position that the presidency of the island should rotate between the Turks and the Greeks. Those were significant concessions. They were recognised as such, and they were contained in the agreement drafted by the Secretary-General, and the Turkish community was prepared to accept that agreement in its entirety.

As we know, at that high level meeting, there was no agreement. That was due entirely to the decision of Mr. Kyprianou, the leader of the Greek Cypriot community, to challenge the United Nations plan in its entirety. That decision negated the progress made over the previous five months at the United Nations proximity talks. United Nations officials have described Mr. Kyprianou's conduct as questioning the basic principles worked out by the United Nations Secretary-General for an accommodation with the Turkish Cypriots, including, most importantly, the concept of bizonality and equal political status for both communities. Since 17 January, Mr. Kyprianou has been censured by the Greek Cypriot Parliament, blaming him for the failure of the talks between himself and Mr. Denktash. Also, recent reports show that Mr. Kyprianou is now prepared to accept the Secretary-General's documentation, but with certain provisions.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able to deal with this point. I believe that it is absolutely essential that the British Government support the concept of a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution. As to the reports that President Kyprianou is prepared to accept the 17 January documentation, I should like to draw to my hon. Friend's attention the fact that that was denied by a United Nations Secretary-General spokesman at a press conference in New York on 19 April 1985.

Similarly, I should like to draw to my hon. Friend's attention the fact that Mr. Iacovou of the Greek Cypriot Administration, at a press conference held in Vienna on 17 April, stated that the Greek Cypriots do not and will not agree to a territorial agreement as indicated in the documentation of 27 November 1984. They will not agree to limitations on rights of settlement, property ownership and movement in the republic, nor will they agree to security guarantees being undertaken by the republic of Turkey.

If that is the Greek attitude, there can be no possibility of achieving an agreement on the basis of bizonal, bicommunal federation with equal political status for both communities. As I am sure my hon. Friend the Minister will agree, that is the whole thrust of the Secretary-General's negotiations and attempts to achieve a peaceful solution in Cyprus. The Turkish community is simply not prepared to return to the situation that existed from 1955 to 1974.

The Greeks cannot expect the withdrawal of Turkish troops as a prerequisite to agreement, particularly when they have 17,000 men under arms themselves on the island, all of whom are under Greek mainland officers, and 5,000 of whom are Greek mainland troops.

The Greek behaviour in New York on 17 January 1985 demonstrates, as does the statement by the Secretary-General's spokesman on 19 April and the statement by Mr. Iacovou, that the Greeks are not seriously seeking a solution within the framework of the Secretary-General's proposals. Her Majesty's Government must make it crystal clear that they are committed to the bizonal, bicommunal federal state as accepted by Archbishop Makarios in 1977 and as proposed by the Secretary-General.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke of the influence and importance of human rights in the framing of British foreign policy. For too long, Britain's attitude to Cyprus has been dictated by what are described as wider interests. It is not just, nor is it consistent with basic human rights, that the Turkish community should continue to live in an economic ghetto in northern Cyprus. This is particularly the case when the Turks have demonstrate their bona fides.

I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State whether a just solution can be achieved when about $12,000 million in aid have been given to the Greek administration since 1974 while about $30 million in aid have been given to the Turkish administration. Following the events in New York, I would ask my hon. Friend to investigate the possibility of direct scheduled flights from Heathrow to northern Cyprus and to accord to the Turkish economy the assistance which is needed in order that it may be developed in the same way as the Greek economy in the south is being developed.

On recognition, I know that the Foreign Secretary's policy is to support the efforts being made by the Secretary-General, but if those efforts do not result in a solution because of Greek intransigence, Her Majesty's Government will have seriously to consider granting recognition to the Turkish republic of northern Cyprus. At the very least, there should be de facto recognition. The Turkish community in Cyprus will listen very carefully to my hon. Friend's response.

10.30 pm
Mr. Mark Robinson (Newport, West)

I welcome the fact that this debate is being held today, particularly in view of the present crossroads we have reached in international affairs. It is not just that the Soviet Union have come back to the negotiating table at Geneva and that there is a new leader in the Soviet Union; certain basic points are being made by the new leadership in the Soviet Union which are glossy and glamorous in terms of public relations but these reflect no change whatsoever in policy.

Whatever initiatives may be taken, it is what happens in the arms negotiations at Geneva that will ultimately matter. Even if a temporary moratorium is proposed, it will be of no account if at the end of the day no agreement upon deterrence can be reached. Deterrence has served us well in securing peace for the last 40 years.

The West has been modernising its generation of nuclear weapons, and the Soviet Union has, quite unashamedly, been doing the same. Paul Nitze, in his recent Alastair Buchan lecture, underlined this view of deterrence: The question remains, now as then"— he was referring to the time when he was involved in monitoring the effects of the two nuclear explosions in Japan— how to maintain a sure ability to retaliate with devastating nuclear destruction but concurrently to increase our ability to deny an aggressor the possibility of military success, and thus reduce our dependence on the threat of mutually devastating nuclear destruction. In recent weeks, we have heard a great deal about the strategic defence initiative. One disservice that the President of the United States did to this argument was to translate it into terms of modern popular thought—the so-called star wars concept. Although it may be translated into meaningful language in the United States, it has very different connotations in Europe and in the process does much to undermine what is required to convince the public that only a strong policy of deterrence provides the best route to security.

At a transatlantic conference I attended recently in Berlin, many European delegates were at pains to point out to their American counterparts that in questioning SDI they were not attacking the United States. They felt that they had to preface their remarks in that way to explain to the United States that it was not the carping Europeans raising those issues in debate, but the fact that we needed a genuine dialogue on the whole issue of SDI in exactly the same way as that debate had been going on in America.

The Times was unjustified in a leading article in attacking, in my view, my right hon. and learned Friend in the way that it did, using terms such as "appeaser", when he was simply reiterating the arguments that have been developing on both sides of the Atlantic. He reminded his audience that the purpose of the American decision, which Britain backed, was to ensure that the necessary research on SDI was undertaken, but that that in no way meant that any decision on the implementation of an SDI initiative would be taken without proper discussion.

My right hon. and learned Friend went further and pointed out that, under the ABM treaty of 1972, the US could not unilaterally implement SDI following the conclusion of its research without negotiation with the other signatory to the ABM treaty. That important point must be remembered.

We must not allow ourselves to be seduced by the new approach to foreign affairs by the Russians. They should be reminded of their contribution to international diplomacy and to the Third world. It is all very well for the Soviet Union to tell us in the West that we must do more to help the Third world, but their philosophy for many years has been built on guns rather than butter.

It is a telling factor that, compared with the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent., the Soviet Union is well below 0.2 per cent. in its economic aid, and much of that is tied to harsh stipulations that often result in the recipient country, in meeting those stipulations, being worse off than if it had not received the aid in the first place.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting will take place in the autumn. It will be an important moment in the development of the Commonwealth because there has been a big change in its leadership, and, apart from the leaders, some of the principal actors are new. For example, there are new Prime Ministers in Canada, New Zealand, India and Barbados, and the Prime Minister of Australia is relatively new.

When the British Prime Minister visited Malaysia, the Prime Minister there, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed, went out of his way to question some of the traditional values on which the Commonwealth was based, That frankness and informality, to which my right hon. and learned Friend referred, is extremely important, and it will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, including the British Prime Minister, to educate and lead, as it were, so as to inculcate into the newcomers the qualities of the Commonwealth which we continue to apply. Those qualities enable us to cross the North-South, East-West divide and to negotiate in a manner that is not possible in more structured and rigid forums.

Later, when the United Nations celebrates its 40th anniversary, it will be useful for that body to ponder where it has arrived after 40 years. It might consider whether many of the ritualised resolutions which it passes take it further away from the art of the possible, a concept which the founders of the United Nations and drafters of its charter carefully built into its operations, particularly for the work of the Security Council. The United Nations could learn from the Commonwealth, for example how to talk to one another and how to reach the consensus which is so important in diplomacy.

10.40 pm
Mr. Michael Knowles (Nottingham, East)

Two reports on European union are currently in circulation. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development knows as much as anyone about the Dooge report; he was one of its principal authors. The European Parliament report covers the same subject.

It is not necessary to spell out the dangers posed to western Europe by the Soviet Union. They are all too stark. They are written across the pages of history in blood. However, Europe faces other dangers and other opportunities. One other danger—this may seem strange—is posed by the Americans and in a sense by the Japanese. We are influenced by the Americans in every sphere. In defence, our dependence on them is obvious. In economic matters, the effect of the dollar on every other currency is evident. The Americans are benevolent friends and allies, and the alliance has lasted for more than 40 years, but will it still exist in another 40 years' time?

America has her own interests. For the first time last year, her trade with the far east was greater than her trade with Europe. A people's interests are bound to follow their trade, and so, in the end, are their defence interests. Europe has been given time — so far we have squandered it—to do something to help itself.

The obvious historical analogy is that of the Greek city states. Those wonderful cultures, trapped between the Roman and Persian empires, were in the end absorbed. They were absorbed by the Romans, but they might have been absorbed by either power. That is the prospect that faces western Europe, but we have time to do something about it. That is the inspiration behind the two reports.

Union is the only answer. Europeans respond to ideas and ideals, good and bad. There is still a danger of nationalism in Europe. If Britain wishes to follow a more nationalistic path, it will be hard for us to argue with other countries that may wish to do so too, including Germany and all the states that formerly constituted Germany. There cannot be one law for some and another for others.

Europeans are different from Americans. If one tells Americans to go out and make a fortune, they will respond. Their society is built on those lines. That is not true of Europe as a whole. People may make fortunes, but they respond to ideas and ideals, usually political, and wealth may be a consequence.

We have an ideal that could light Europe up. That ideal is union. Spinelli said that the new treaty would arise out of despair and not enthusiasm. He was right. There was a time when people really wanted to go forward. Now they feel that we must go forward because if we try to stand still we will fall apart. The Community is not moving rapidly enough to deal with all the major issues that face it. We must clear the decision-making process. We must return to the Treaty of Rome and do away with the Luxembourg compromise. Those are the starting points that we must tackle before we embark on anything more dramatic.

I hope that we shall have a full debate on the subject before the Milan conference. It is clear, talking to friends and colleagues on the continent, that seven out of 10 members of the Community want to go ahead with virtually another Messina conference. Their line might be simple and run, "We will hold the conference. You are welcome to come, but if you do not, we shall go ahead anyway." What will be the Government's and the House's response to that?

We made the mistake of standing back 30 years ago, believing that the Messina conference would not work. We then had to join later, on what everyone perceived as disadvantageous terms. It might be forgivable to make a mistake once, but a second mistake cannot be excused. Nevertheless, that is what could happen in the next three or four months, never mind one year. We signed the Stuttgart declaration and there were the events at Fontainebleau. The bill for signing those documents is now being presented.

I understand why the Government do not want a new treaty. The idea of having to back it through the House cannot be attractive. It will be a hard fight, but the difficulty is partly of the Government's own making. We have happily signed all of the declarations. I do not believe that what we are hearing from our friends in the Community is sheer rhetoric. The time for prevarication is past.

In the next few months, we shall have to make crucial decisions that will affect the future of Britain and Western Europe as a whole. The consequences of Messina are coming to the boil and the time for Tindemans' reports and the other failed hopes are over. People want to move. We must face up to whether we want to be part of that movement. My answer is simple. It is yes.

10.46 pm
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

The House will not be surprised if I concentrate on South Africa, perhaps to correct some of the anomalies and misnomers of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). I tell him, as I tell those who follow the line which he follows and which the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) might take up, that it is easy, in the cosy atmosphere of Westminster, to pontificate on human rights in another country some 6,000 miles away and on how its system should be run.

Whatever wrongs are going on in that part of the world, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North lacks—he perhaps will not admit it to the House—the knowledge that South African society is probably the most complex in the world today. We do not help that society or members of it, whatever the colour of their skin, by lambasting attacks such as the hon. Gentleman made on the South African Government and those who are genuinely trying to help from within South Africa.

During the past 24 hours I have been heartened by the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues that, despite all the proposals that have been put to them by the opposition parties, we are standing firm, trying to achieve some co-operation with South Africa and trying to understand circumstances there. Part of that country's problem is that many claim to be leaders. Bishop Tutu represents only the fourth largest church organisation in South Africa, but he seems to speak, as he says, for all blacks in South Africa. Many of those who put forward their own arguments, including Opposition Members, try to give the impression that their view is the only one that the black in South Africa wants to be put forward. I tell them and Bishop Tutu that there are large bodies of opinion in South Africa which are completely at variance with their opinions. Many are seeking for some co-operation from us, and some understanding of their problems. Pontification from Westminster Members in not helping.

Encouraged though I am by Her Majesty's Government's attitude to the problems in South Africa, I am discouraged by the continuing presence here of the African National Congress, and by the respectability that we seem still to be giving to the United Democratic Front. It is worth quoting an article that appeared in the Daily Express this week about the activities of the ANC, so that the House can understand that both the ANC and the UDF are bent on revolutionary change, which will inevitably mean death and bloodshed in South Africa. My quotation comes from an article on Tuesday 23 April, and the words of a leading member of the ANC, Mr. Sereste Khoabi. He said: This is the beginning of the intensification of the revolution in South Africa, and the violence will continue until victory is obtained.

In the past we have not indulged in the reckless killing of human beings. We attacked the economic instruments of white power.

But that will not necessarily be the case in the future. In future we will be agressive.

Mr. Robert Hughes

rose

Mr. Carlisle

I do not have time to give way.

The House will understand that while we continue to give sanction to people using such talk, we are seen by many countries, concerned in the argument about human rights, to be harbouring terrorists who are bent on violent revolution in South Africa.

If we are to solve the problems of that troubled country, and the problems of the various races and tribes there, we must think of co-operation. I am pleased that the words that we heard from my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, and from other Ministers, have been on that basis. They are right to reject disinvestment. It was interesting to hear the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) put forward a policy that he did not have the courage to pursue when he was in office in 1976. He said that the situation is worse now than it was in 1976, but that is nonsense. Between the riots of 1976 and the position of the blacks today there is a dramatic difference. In 1976, as the Opposition will know, the job opportunities for blacks were limited, the blacks were not able to join trade unions, the wages disparity between blacks and whites was far greater than it is today, and education and other social services were much worse.

To take the words of Mr. Harry Oppenheimer in a speech to the South Africa Club only last week, one can half understand the riots of 1976 because there was no hope for the blacks then. What the South African Government have done by the many and varied changes that have taken place, changes that are far more than cosmetic for those who are trying to assist the country and understand its problems, has meant that there is hope. Those circumstances should be seen as the background for the sad events of Uitenhage in the past few weeks. I condemn and deplore what happened at Uitenhage, and I regret what happened, as every hon. Member has, but that must be seen against the background of the violence encouraged by members of the UDF and the ANC. We would do well to learn from that violence, and offer sympathy and understanding for the terrible problems that that country faces.

10.54 pm
Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

I should like to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on his speech and especially one line that I particularly liked. He said that the Government intend to stand up strongly in terms of our defence and to seek to improve relationships with the Soviet Union, but not by dropping our guard in any way.

It is interesting to compare the fundamental strengths and weaknesses of the totalitarian states, such as the Soviet Union, and the democracies, such as the United States, when considering the East-West power struggle. The totalitarian state's strength is its ability to sustain armed conflict when no direct threat to the home country exists; its greatest weakness is its inability to generate real economic wealth. The great strength of a democracy such as the United States is its ability to generate enormous economic wealth; its weakness, especially since Vietnam, is its inability to conduct sustained military operations in defence of freedom and other democracies when there is no apparent threat to the mainland of the United States. We should learn that lesson and always be conscious of it.

It is always much better for us to use our economic power in preference to risking being placed in an inherently weak position where we have to use our short-term military power. If Britain had not been so penny pinching in defence, we would not have had to pay such an enormous price in the Falklands. If we had not been so penny pinching in defence before the second world war and had used our economic power, we would not have had to face the tremendous cost of that war.

Last week, when I was in Washington, I had the great privilege and honour of meeting President Reagan when I was trying to persuade Senators and Representatives—my efforts proved to be in vain in the House of Representatives—to support their President and to use economic power in Nicaragua in the defence of freedom rather than eventually face the threat with military power. In President Reagan, the free world has a dedicated friend. He is a man of political integrity who means business. The United Kingdom also has a great friend in the President.

The United States and the Soviet Union are locked in an arm wrestling exercise in Nicaragua, through the activities of surrogate states. There is a threat not only to the United States but to the whole free world. For if the United States fails to back its strong card in central America by using its wealth, it will eventually be forced to guard its southern borders with military forces. Those military forces will largely be drawn from other parts of the world, including Europe. That is a threat to us. Imagine the morale of NATO and Europe if American forces were withdrawn to defend the United States' southern borders.

I had the honour of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Gorbachev when they were in London. Although Soviet goals have not changed in any way, its style of leadership and diplomacy certainly have.

Mr. Gorbachev is alert, highly intelligent and well-educated. He is a tough and dedicated communist, a good speaker and a thoroughly professional and modern-style politician. That in itself is a new image in the Soviet leadership. Mr. Gorbachev has a sense of humour and a ready smile. In fact, he has style. He has charisma—western-style to exploit that charisma, he is prepared to use the western news media. He will not have liberal policies or policies similar to those of the President Kennedy. He is a tough Communist. But he will have a great effect on the world. It is important that we should recognise the significance of his charisma. For although it is good news for the Soviet Union, it presents a new and greater challenge for the western world.

Mr. Gorbachev will use his power in the Soviet Union to motivate the work force, and to persuade the reluctant Soviet nomenclature or elite to accept the desirability and advantages of economic change.

In China, one of the most fundamental revolutions is occurring thanks to the Hong Kong treaty negotiated by the Government. Deng Xiaoping is not communising Hong Kong; he is capitalising China. He does not have a nomenclature or an elite, because they were all done away with in the cultural revolution. He is much nearer to his revolution than the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union will see these enormous changes as a direct challenge. I believe that Mr. Gorbachev will therefore persuade the Soviet elite to accept the need for change.

Mr. Gorbachev will be the first Soviet leader to be able to use the western news media to appeal directly to western grass roots over the heads of western leaders and negotiators. That will make it harder to deal with the CND, the anti-nuclear movement and all the other internal, surreptitious and anti-democratic forces with which the West has to contend.

Mr. Gorbachev will use his power of persuasion directly and personally with western leaders. He will exploit to the full the smallest splits that appear, such as the one about the SDI programme. Some western leaders feel that to take the nuclear element out of the nuclear deterrence might be dangerous. Some may also feel that it may be more dangerous on the front line—the first defence tier may be only 55 or 60 per cent. effective, and so on.

Like many other speakers, I believe that the SDI heralds a new era. Soviet research on SDI is already with us. The implications of that are so serious and important that the subject deserves a separate debate.

The Soviet goals have not changed under Mr. Gorbachev, but the Soviet style has and will continue to change. Out will go the brutish Russian bear and in will come the new image of the Soviet Union—responsible, reasonable and reassuring. The dirty work will be done by surrogate states—North Vietnam, Cuba, East Germany. and so on. Whilst the hammer will be kept available, it will be replaced by the sharp sickle. The backdrop, however, will be the same—red, Soviet red, blood red. We must not forget that.

There are three other areas of Soviet activity which are hardly ever mentioned but which are worrying. The first is Malta. The links that the Soviet Union has forged with that Government through the Libyans deserve our attention. Libyan military hardware and men are now near the soft underbelly of Europe.

The next is Iran. If Iraq wins the war, what will happen in Iran? We hear that about 300 mullahs left Iran a week or so ago. What will be the effect of the 1926 Soviet-Persian treaty if there is a debacle in Iran? Will it provide the pretext under which the Soviet Union could walk into Iran without being asked?

Finally, there is Antarctica. I agree that the United States and many other countries have camps there. However, the Soviet Union has seven. Two of them have 2 km runways and one has a 3 km runway. There is also a regular Soviet shuttle service from Minsk via Cairo, Aden and Maputo to Vostock. Is there not a suspicion that this activity indicates more than a peaceful, geological survey going on there? In this light we must reconsider the strategic defence of the United States and Europe. All our defence forces face north, east and west, leaving the southern window open. I predict that the Falkland Islands may prove to be more important strategically for the West in the future than is generally believed today.

I support and congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend upon his speech.

11.5 pm

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

To speak at this time of night one needs a thick skin and a rapid delivery.

I want to concentrate my remarks on East-West relations. I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's positive contribution to the improvement of these relations and also that of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), who, as has already been said, paved the way for the recent visits. I very much agree that we should have a disaggregated policy towards the countries of eastern Europe, keep up the pressure on human rights, develop trading links and cultural contacts and explore the options for arms control and disarmament in all the various forums which are involved. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue patiently and seriously with that policy.

I also agree that we should have practical and businesslike contacts with the Soviet Union since, as the Foreign Secretary has pointed out on a number of occasions both in the House and elsewhere, rapprochement between East and West should not be based on arms control alone. Indeed, arms control is likely to be successful and to be turned into genuine disarmament only if it is against the background of a warmer and more positive political relationship between East and West at all levels and in all forums.

I also agree very much with what my right hon. and learned Friend said in his wise and cautionary words on the strategic defence initiative. Indeed, it is clear that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister takes the same view. I am heartened that there is a good deal of caution about this controversial matter, because it is clear that the Washington Administration, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, are very heterogeneous in these matters. I think that one can pin a lot of faith on the very sensible views of Secretary Shultz and Mr. Paul Nitze.

If the Camp David four points, to which reference has been made earlier, are to take on their true significance, there must be no leap-frogging by the United States to catch up and then surpass the alleged state of the art in the Soviet Union; no breaking of the 1972 ABM treaty, which is still an essential pillar of the precarious edifice of arms control between the two superpowers; not early abandonment of the tried and tested doctrine of mutually assured deterrence—as my right hon. and learned Friend rightly called it—which is, of course, based on the ability of each side to inflict unacceptable damage upon the other with an assured second-strike capability; and no succumbing to the temptation to escape into technological fantasies about space defence systems at the expense of real and urgent progress on disarmament with regard to the offensive capabilities in strategic nuclear weapons of both sides.

The United States policy, as it is advanced by Mr. Weinberger and others, is in danger of putting the Soviets into a sort of Morton's fork. If they do not go ahead, they will lose credibility as a superpower in the one dimension in which they lay claim to that position. If they do go ahead, it will prejudice their more reasonable domestic objectives and give another alarming twist to the spiral of the arms race. I think it is likely that a mixture of both things will happen, that there will be no total and foolproof development of SDI, whether in this century of the next, and that ICBMs will be developed and modernised in parallel.

In the meantime we must ask whether the Americans are really keen on the research stage of SDI in order to negotiate away the subsequent stages on the pattern of the 1972 ABM treaty; or whether President Reagan, in particular, is committed to a technological dream which he may not fully understand and which was apparently sold to him by the notorious Edward Teller? If so, there is a real danger of decision-making being pre-empted by technological determinism and of the superpower relationship being fatally destabilised.

Hitherto, since the late 1940s, deterrence has been the basis of our defence in the West. Can we be equally sure that in the future any form of defence would provide sufficient deterrence? I think we should heed the adage, better the devil we know.

In conclusion, I think that my right hon. and learned Friend was absolutely right in his splendid RUSI speech to point out: Complete protection [against nuclear attack] is not available to any country. The best that can be hoped for is a balance of capability matched by mutual confidence about intentions. It is precisely those two points that we in western Europe are most right to be cautious about with the present obsession in parts of the American Administration with SDI, and it is on those two points that we should found our continuing policy advice to Washington.

11.10 pm
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I shall be as brief as possible. The visit of the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) to the United States was, fortunately, not successful in persuading Congress of the need to support the President in his attitude to central America.

Mr. James Lamond

He tipped the balance.

Mr. Corbyn

My hon. Friend may be right—perhaps we should be grateful to the hon. Member for Winchester. It is significant that the President has suffered a major rebuff on his obsession with creating another Vietnam in central America. It is good news that Congress has voted to refuse funding for the Contras. It must be bad news for the Federation of Conservative Students who have been going around with posters saying, "Ann the Contras" and "Victory to the Contras".

The position in central America is serious, especially to world peace and in relation to the attitude of the United States towards the remainder of the world. A statement was made recently by Senators Tom Harkin and John Kerry and Congressman Norman Minetta about the attitude of President Reagan towards central America, in which they catalogued the Reagan Administration's record on central America. They said: The disturbing, systematic record of deceit documented by this report exposed a growing credibility gap which undermines the Administration's accountability to Congress, and threatens the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. It is the opposition to President Reagan that has been mounted in the United States that is very significant at the present time.

When the Minister replies, he must come clean about the Government's attitude to central America. I listened carefully to the Foreign Secretary when he opened the debate. He said that the Government supported the Contadora process. They may well make protestations in support of that, but their record on central America is quite the opposite. Their record is, first, to refuse all aid to Nicaragua since the revolution in 1979; secondly, to give Nicaragua the lowest possible export credit guarantee rating so that there is virtually no trade; thirdly, to open aid to El Salvador and offer training facilities to the El Salvador army for its oppressive work; and, fourthly, to continue trading in arms and spares with the Government of Honduras—an aggressive Government who do not recognise human rights in their own country. When the Minister replies he should give us some facts on that.

I wish to inform the House briefly about the human rights position in El Salvador. Recently a delegate from the committee for the defence of human rights visited Britain. He said that under Duarte the number of human rights violations had gone down, but it was due to an increasing level of sophistication in the Government's methods of repression. Yet that has been used by the United States in its pro-Duarte propaganda. It is both difficult and important to counter that campaign. It is important that the House recognises that there are selective and systematic violation of human rights; there are selective and systematic killings of opponents of the Duarte Government. A civil war is still going on in El Salvador.

If the British Government continue to give aid and support to the Government of El Salvador, they are aiding and abetting that civil war. They are putting themselves outside the process the Contadora countries have mounted.

El Salvador has about 1 million refugees, and there are millions more within central America who face daily the consequences of American policy supported by the British Government. They suffer a terrible plight. Many of those people are living in difficult circumstances and have been refugees for years. Many of the children are growing up in refugee camps. That is the reality of American policy in central America.

Recently the Transnational Institute, which is based in Amsterdam, published a European response to the American crisis. It has been forwarded to the Foreign Office and to many members of Congress and of the Senate, who have been asked to support it. The report gives four views of what is happening in central America. First, it says: The roots of the crisis in Central America lie in the social and economic problems of the region. A durable peace in the region can only be established through political solutions and economic development, and these must be rooted in a reasonably just social order. Secondly, it says that the tensions in central America are not manifestations of the East-West crisis, as the American Government would continually have us believe, but that they are to do with the desire of the people of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and the other countries in central America for decency, an end to hunger, and an opportunity for their children to grow up in a peaceful and just world. It is the obsession of the United States with the Monroe doctrine and the control of that region that prevents that.

Thirdly, the document calls for a diplomatic rather than a military solution. Fourthly, it says that Nicaragua, with a democratically elected Government who are determined to improve the lot of their people, should be able to do that in peace and should not be forced to spend so much of its precious resources on defending its territory against American-backed Contra forces and agents.

We should not stand aside and do and say nothing about central America when the United States is obsessed with starting another Vietnam war in that region. The Government of the United Kingdom have a role to play. If they support the Contadora process, as they say they do, it is incumbent upon them to stop aid to El Salvador, to stop military sales to Honduras and to support genuinely the search for a just and lasting peace in central America which can be achieved only by recognising and respecting the elected Government of Nicaragua and the peaceful intentions of the Nicaraguan people.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Mr. Donald Anderson.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it a tradition and custom of the House that Members should attend for the opening of the debate, then disappear and only come back at the end of the debate, expecting to be called, and should then be called, when other Members have been in the Chamber throughout the whole debate except, in my case, for a brief period when I visited my son in hospital? Is that a tradition and custom of the House? If it is, it is a waste of time Back Benchers being here.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the selection of speakers is a matter for the Chair. It is a very difficult exercise, particularly today when there have been so many long speeches and so many hon. Members have wanted to take part. I think the hon. Gentleman knows the traditions of the House as well as I do.

11.18 pm
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

May I begin by expressing a fellow feeling with the Minister of State who will be expected in a period of 20 minutes or so to respond to a debate which has lasted for some seven hours, with 23 speakers, on a wide variety of topics? We look forward to the many replies which he will give.

As is usual in overall foreign affairs debates, the area covered has been extensive. The many hon. Members on both sides of the House who have contributed have displayed considerable expertise. Perhaps the most effective speeches have been those which have concentrated on one subject instead of ranging widely over the world. We have reacted to the major crises and points of interest in the world today. Not surprisingly, East-West relations, the significance of the new Soviet leadership and the significance of the star wars debate have taken up a substantial part of the debate.

The starting point was the star wars speech by President Reagan, which was perhaps more reminiscent of a western film than a serious contribution to a debate on strategy. His officials, particularly Mr. Nitze and others, have been trying to interpret and re-interpret that speech, which was in very apocalyptic terms.

The Opposition and, I believe, the country as a whole felt considerable admiration for the Foreign Secretary's think-piece speech to the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies setting out the legitimate concerns of the people of Western Europe, who clearly have a major contribution to make in that debate. The points made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman were extremely valid. The psychological impact on the Soviet Union of the concept as elaborated by the United States President in his initial speech, the fears of a Maginot line in space, the deferment of consideration of the overall strategic implications of the new doctrine, the scepticism about the extent to which the dynamic of the research would be followed by deployment and the fears about where political control would be established are all major considerations which should properly be put. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) pointed out, however, they were met with a somewhat hysterical reaction from The Times and indeed from Mr. Perle who was hurriedly sent over here. It is only sad that there is some evidence of backpedalling by the Foreign Secretary since he gave that major think-piece to the RUSI.

In this, as in other areas, the Government must learn that an ally need not be blind supporter—a point made eloquently and well in the helpful contribution of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden). In too many instances we have discarded our own judgment and interests at the behest of the United States Administration. The decision to leave UNESCO, for example, would clearly not have been taken if the United States Administration had not decided to do so, with the consequent pressure of interest groups in the United States and in this country on the British Government. The same applies to our position on the law of the sea convention and, perhaps most markedly of all, to our docile acquiescence in the absurdities and contradictions of United States policy in central America, as was clearly illustrated by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston) and my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke).

The absurdity of British policy was perhaps most clearly shown in the extent to which we yielded to United States pressure by sending observers to the elections in El Salvador in March and May last year but refused to send observers to the elections in Nicaragua in November. We could not even vote against the mining of Nicaraguan ports by people armed and trained by the United States Administration. Do we accept the United States analysis that Nicaragua is already behind the Iron Curtain? Do we not perceive the contradictions of United States policies — for example, in demanding power sharing in Nicaragua between the Sandinista Government and the Contras but insisting that there should be no power sharing in El Salvador between the President Duarte's Government and the FMLN/FDR?

Do we not shudder when President Reagan describes the Contras as the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers and pledges to do everything in his power to win the central American struggle, which means by extension that if the current siege of Nicaragua, politically, economically and in every other way, does not succeed the end of the road will be direct military intervention? Yet in not one instance have the British Government in any way distanced themselves from those contradictions and absurdities of United States policy in central America. For example, do we not recognise that the record of Nicaragua on human rights is infinitely better than that of both Guatemala and El Salvador?

On the general problem of human rights, may we again applaud what the Secretary of State did in his visit to Poland? In a dramatic way, he showed this country's concern with the problems of human rights not only in Poland itself but in Eastern Europe as a whole. Apart from his singing of Welsh hymns, which, personally, one much approves of, one noticed his symbolic visit to the grave of Father Popieluszko and his meeting with Solidarity activists.

I should like to put this matter to the Secretary of State. We approve of that initiative, and the style and symbolism of his activities in Poland, but when will he, in a similar way, pay tribute at the grave of Steve Biko? When will he meet representatives of the African National Congress? When will he earn a rebuff from the South African Government as well deserved as the rebuff that he received from the Polish Government?

With regard to human rights, I simply repeat some of the questions about Hong Kong, to which I hope the Minister of State is ready to respond. Questions were raised about the Government's likely response to the recommendations of the Select Committee on Home Affairs relating to the Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong. There are roughly 12,000, over half of whom are in closed camps. Do the Government accept that they should make another effort in the hope that we can persuade, by our example, other Governments to admit those who have been languishing in the closed camps? I concede that this is a delicate matter, but perhaps the Government will tell us of the current state of negotiations with China about the composition of the joint liaison group. We understand that there are problems and that the Chinese are insisting that there be no representative of the Hong Kong Chinese included within that joint liaison group. Perhaps the Minister can say whether such is the case and what our policy is in respect of the joint liaison group.

There has been less concentration on the middle east than in most foreign affairs debates, but I should like to ask the Minister about a matter raised by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber on whether the Government accept that there is any role for the EEC in respect of the solution of the problems of the middle east, and whether it is now possible to build on the precedent of the Venice declaration. There are some signs that Syria, which, on any analysis, following the Lebanese problems over the past few years, will have a veto on events in Lebanon itself and possibly over the future of Israel, would welcome a European initiative. Everyone accepts that, because of ethnic politics in the United States, and because of the natural caution of the United States after the last debacle in Lebanon, the Reagan Administration are understandably proceeding with some caution. The signs are that the visit of Mr. Murphy as the emissary of President Reagan has not met with any real chance of success.

I shall seek now to deal with the problems of South Africa, on which I shall concentrate my remaining remarks. The matter has been touched on at length by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and by the hon. Members for Wantage (Mr. Jackson) and for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) and others.

New forces are at work in South Africa. Domestic unrest is unlikely to fade away, as happened after previous periods of unrest in 1960 and 1976. Today it has been reported that there have been further disturbances in Alexandra, Soweto, the Free State and the Northern Cape. It would be quite wrong for the Opposition to claim that the developments since the state President's speech on 25 January have been without significance. Reform of the marriage laws affects perhaps only 1,000 people out of a population of 26 million and has only symbolic importance, but the decision to end the forced removal of blacks from white areas may have a real impact upon blacks in the Republic. Nevertheless, the essential ingredients of apartheid remain. The structure upholding white power remains in existence. There is no suggestion that the blacks, forming roughly 73 per cent. of the population, will be brought into the national political dialogue.

As for Angola and Namibia, even though the South African forces have been withdrawn south of the border with Angola they remain poised to return to Angola if they deem it necessary, and South Africa is still firmly in illegal occupation of Namibia. Negotiations have been offered to Nelson Mandela if he abandons the armed struggle, yet at the same time the South African Government arrest leaders of the United Democratic Front—people I have met like Archie Gumede and Albertina Sisulu—because they demand a non-violent end to apartheid. This is part of the reality of life in South Africa. The trial of the 16 members of the United Democratic Front who are charged with high treason is likely to begin in May and will probably last for 18 months. There will be real advance only when the black majority is taken into the political dialogue instead of the leading representatives of the black majority being placed in indefinite custody. In September 1984 they were placed in detention without trial under section 28 of the Internal Security Act 1982. Now—something which is just as bad—they are placed in detention with trial, a trial which will last for no less than 18 months.

What has been the reaction of the Government? The hon. Member for Luton, North is an ardent and consistent apologist on behalf of the South African Government and made his point about the United Democratic Front, but has he read resolution 560 that was unanimously adopted by the Security Council on 12 March 1984 and therefore was supported by our Government? It says, inter alia, that our Government, along with other members of the Security Council:

  1. "2. Strongly condemns the arbitrary arrests by the Pretoria régime of members of the United Democratic Front and other mass organisations opposed to South Africa's policy of apartheid;
  2. 3. Calls on the Pretoría régime to release unconditionally and immediately all political prisoners and detainees, including Nelson Mandela and all other black leaders with whom it must deal in any meaningful discussion of the future of the country;
  3. 4. Also calls upon the Pretoria régime to withdraw the charges of 'high treason' instituted against the United Democratic Front officials, and calls for their immedaiate and unconditional release;
  4. 5. Commends the massive united resistance of the oppressed people of South Africa against apartheid, and reaffirms the legitimacy of their struggle for a united, nonracial and democratic South Africa".
That resolution was adopted by the Security Council arid supported by the British Government. It shows the extent to which the hon. Member for Luton, North, in his consistent advocacy and apology for South African Government policies, is out of step with his Government.

Mr. John Carlisle

rose

Mr. Anderson

I will not give way, because I have 20 minutes in total in which to make my speech.

Although we agree with what the Government have done in the Security Council in that respect and in other matters, on the whole their attitude towards South Africa has been a policy of appeasement with which we fundamentally disagree. For example, in June of last year the Government welcomed President Botha during his visit. What did that visit achieve? Would they adopt the same attitude today to such a visit? In August of last year the Government did not condemn the new tricameral constitution. In September of last year they acted in a totally supine way on the issue of the Coventry four. In a letter to me dated 13 November 1984 the Secretary of State wrote: Malcolm Rifkind strongly condemned the South African Government's breach of faith and made it clear that, following the issue of warrants of arrest, we expected the South African Government to do nothing further to impede the return of the men to face the charges. I remain strongly of that view. For that reason, I do not think it would be right for us to take punitive action which would remove any prospect of bringing the four men to court. What prospects are there now of bringing those four men to court? What reason can now exist for not taking strong action in view of the South African Government's total breach of faith after their agent, their first secretary at their embassy, had given an unconditional undertaking—had pledged the credit of the South African Government—that they would return those four men so that they could stand trial in our courts on charges of illegal arms dealing? On that matter, as in so many others, the British Government have been totally supine towards the South African Government. Imagine what would have occurred, for example, had the Nigerian Government broken faith in that way. Would the British Government have taken a similarly docile attitude?

Yet the Minister of State continues to repeat the refrain that the blacks are against sanctions—despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North said—and that the courts in South Africa have a healthy reputation for independence, when that is disproved by the facts.

Do the Government accept that the Crocker initiative on Namibia is now dead as a result of the internal settlement agreed by the South Africans? The hon. Member for Wantage made some clear and logical comments on the issue. He said that there should be a constitution before elections. What validity would the participants in a constitutional convention have? He must know that there would be no chance of such a convention being accepted by the United Nations.

What is the Government's response to the call by the non-aligned movement for the whole matter to be returned to the United Nations, where sanctions should be imposed on the South Africans because of their illegal occupation of the territory? That illegality is accepted by the Government. From that illegally occupied territory, the South Africans menace and threaten neighbouring Angola. Will the Government at least give a clear assurance that they rest on Security Council resolution 435 and will have nothing to do with the interim Government?

In relation to South Africa, the Government must use both stick and carrot. They must commend any moves in the right direction but recognise the enormous gulf between what has been done and what must be done to ensure a peaceful future for that country. Do the Government accept that the EEC code should be strengthened? Are they happy that so many British companies have not filed any returns in respect of that code—major companies such as Marley? The Government are perceived to be colluding with apartheid and our credibility is at risk.

Why cannot the Government decide to meet representatives of the African National Congress? That would have a considerable symbolic significance.

Mr. John Carlisle

Terrorists.

Mr. Anderson

The apologist for South Africa says "Terrorists". There is no parallel between the ANC and, say, the IRA. The IRA may participate in elections if it wishes. The ANC, like all black opinion, is totally excluded from participation in elections. Why cannot the Government decide to meet representatives of the ANC, as they have properly met representatives of the South West Africa People's Organisation?

There will be profound changes in South Africa. We will have to show whose side we are on, and whether we support profound political and economic change in that country. Our position in respect of pressures was made clear earlier in the debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East; and we stand firmly behind him.

11.42 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

I agree with the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) about the quality and breadth of all the speeches made in the debate, but I must apologise to the many hon. Members whose speeches I shall not have time to comment on.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) and the other hon. Members who complemented the diplomatic staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth office on their work. If, as many hon. Members have said, there have been a number of important successes in our foreign policy in the past 12 months, the greatest tribute must be paid to the dedicated work of our professional diplomats who work hard and successfully in pursuing our national interests.

I listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). I thank him for his complimentary remarks about the speeches — and, indeed, the work—of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. His compliments compared favourably with his barbed exchange with his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond). One appreciates the strain from which the right hon. Gentleman must often suffer in his relations with his colleagues. In a recent Fabian tract, he wrote that working only with socialists was, as Nye Bevan said▀¬ a policy for hermits. No one would dream of accusing the right hon. Gentleman of hermit-like tendencies at any time in his career.

The right hon. Gentleman's comments on arms control issues and, in particular, his reaction to the recent proposals by Mr. Gorbachev, showed that there is considerable confusion within the ranks of the Opposition. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker). There is significant confusion, and I can see no clear answer to it. When Mr. Gorbachev first made his proposal a couple of weeks ago, the initial reaction of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Leader of the Opposition was to condemn the Government for not reacting more favourably to that encouraging initiative.

When the hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton raised the same point today, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East correctly said that he was not very impressed with a six-month delay of weapons which would probably not have been deployed in that period in the first place. That suggests a certain confusion, but it is nothing compared with the other confusion in the right hon. Gentleman's mind in these matters.

When NATO started deploying Cruise and Pershing missiles, the right hon. Gentleman was the first to denounce that and to call for an instant freeze on the grounds that Pershing was a most sophisticated and highly technical and dangerous weapon which would clearly be destabilising. We heard the call for a freeze again today, but on the ground that Pershing is so completely useless and the SS20s so technologically superior that it is essential to have a freeze before too many SS20s are deployed by the Soviet Union.

Mr. Healey

I regret to say that, when I made my first remark, I was not aware that Pershing II was such a bum weapon and that the United States had been compelled to delay its deployment because it blows up on the launching pad. I hope that the hon. Member will feel that he was conned as much as I was when the thing was first deployed.

Mr. Rifkind

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He has just confirmed to the House that he has a fixation about the need for a freeze, irrespective of whether Soviet weapons are more or less effective than NATO's. His view does not arise out of any serious analysis of the threat that the West faces from SS20s and other weapons; he simply has a fixation about the need for that reaction by the West and is not prepared to examine the matter on its merits. That is a matter of sadness and regret, because it is not up to the standards applied by the right hon. Gentleman when he was Secretary of State for Defence and which we believe he would still be capable of if he were not tied to a party with the views of which he only partially agrees.

It is unfortunate that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and his right hon. and hon. Friends seem able only to condemn every central American country other than Nicaragua, for which they can find no fault. When he criticised the suggestion that the Government should give military training to some representatives of the Salvadorean armed forces, my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) correctly said that Salvador has an elected President and an elected Administration and that it is not unreasonable that we should give some military assistance to support a democratically elected Government in central America who are fighting insurgents. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have been the first to agree with that.

On European Community food aid, the right hon. Gentleman asked whether there was a sinister explanation for the fact that the agreed amount of food aid had been reduced from the original estimate of 40 million ecu to 26 million ecu. He alleged that there was a sinister explanation for which the Government are responsible. The original 40 million ecu was proposed by the Commission, based on the original draft 1985 budget. The Commission reduced that figure to 26 million ecu because of the changes that had already been made in the final budget. It was a technical matter and involved no element of policy. There was no disagreement among any of the member states, and the right hon. Gentleman was wrong again.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw) for his comments on the White Paper which has been issued recently. I confirm that the Government will consider legislation to enable us to ensure the disposal of surplus diplomatic property and to have some influence on the location of diplomatic premises.

I listened carefully to the important speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Hickmet) on Cyprus. I do not have time to go into details on that matter, but we continue to strive for a policy that will meet the legitimate aspirations of the Turkish and Greek communities there.

The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston) criticised my position on the Dooge committee.

Mr. Jackson

He was right.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman was not right. He suggested that the United Kingdom was holding up the progress of major reform. However, I must say to him, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles), that the United Kingdom is with the majority in believing in the need to have quicker decision—making in the Community and more majority voting. We insist that it is also essential to retain the ultimate right of veto, and that view is held not simply by the three member gates that expressed their view on the Dooge committee but by many other member states. Only this week, the West Germany Agriculture Minister referred to the Germany policy on cereal prices as a "vital national interest". We all know that when any EEC Minister uses that phrase, lie has something particularly in mind.

Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends spoke about East-West relations. I very much agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who reminded the House that the Soviet Union is still an empire, and possibly the only remaining empire.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), not only for his kind words to me but for reminding the House that the Soviet Union in its policy has never objected to using force when other methods have not met its requirements. The examples of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland have constantly to be borne in mind.

I particularly enjoyed the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden), who made a thoughtful speech and rightly pointed out that if Soviet policy, and the Soviet Union, had not experienced any significant and major changes in its attitudes over the past few years, there would be an even greater need for western continuity of policy. We should not allow a volatile situation, which can only be damaging to our interests.

The hon. Member for Swansea, East concentrated his remarks on South Africa. To deal first with Namibia, I re-emphasise, as the hon. Gentleman asked me to do, that the policy of Her Majesty's Government continues to be based on Security Council resolution 435. We have made it clear that we believe that the recent developments announced by the South African Government are not acceptable either to the United Kingdom or to any of the other members of the Contact Group. That has been made clear to the South African authorities in bilateral representations made by the ambassadors of each of the countries of the Contact Group in South Africa.

I have read with interest the various articles and other material that my hon. Friend the Member for Wanrage (Mr. Jackson) has written on South Africa, and I listened carefully to what he said. Security Council resolution 435 represents the best prospect for an internationally recognised independence for Namibia. We have always made it clear that if all the parties in Namibia—the South West Africa People's Organisation and internal parties—were to come forward with improvements or changes on which they could all agree, it would not be the business of the rest of the world to stand in the way of any change. However, that must be on the basis of the agreement of all the parties.

To a large extent, there has been a significant consensus in the policy of successive Governments, Labour and Conservative, on South Africa. We have an equal and genuine abhorrence of apartheid, and we have recognised and implemented both the United Nations arms embargo and the Gleneagles agreement on sporting contacts with South Africa. I remind Labour Members that successive British Governments have refused to countenance the policy of economic sanctions, believing that it would be inappropriate, ineffective and undesirable.

I find the right hon. Member for Leeds, East guilty of some confusion again. When he was challenged as to why his position has now changed, he suggested that it was because the situation in South Africa has deteriorated since the previous Labour Government. Not only was that view not credible to the Government, but it was bluntly contradicted by the hon. Member for Swansea, East. Although the hon. Gentleman is not especially enthusiastic about the changes that have been announced in recent months, he acknowledged that there had been some significant changes and important reforms. Although he believed that they did not go anywhere near what was required, they represented progress. If there has been progress, that does not assist the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, who seeks to justify a policy of economic sanctions, which was not accepted.

Mr. Healey

Why did the hon. Gentleman support economic sanctions against Poland to change the internal situation, but not against South Africa for the same reason?

Mr. Rifkind

First, as the world knows, the sanctions that were taken against Poland were essentially symbolic in nature to express disapproval. Secondly, they did not work. Although there have been some improvements in Poland compared with the position when martial law was announced, Poland remains a country where Solidarity is banned and freedom has not been restored.

Mr. Healey

Is the hon. Gentleman telling us that he thinks now that the Government were mistaken in imposing sanctions against Poland? If so, why does he not remove the remaining constraints on Poland's access to international credit, and so on?

Mr. Rifkind

I am saying that there may be cases where, for symbolic reasons to express disapproval, sanctions may be appropriate.

Mr. Healey

Bullshit.

Mr. Rifkind

That is a very reasoned response—one that is slightly superior to the right hon. Gentleman's earlier comments.

The arguments that we have heard until now have not been that sanctions should be imposed for purely symbolic reasons, but that they might actually work. All the experience of the international community, not just for five years, but for 50 years—whether against Italy over Abyssinia or against Rhodesia over UDI—shows that sanctions are not a method of achieving fundamental change of the kind that the House would dearly like.

It is unlikely that sanctions could be enforced effectively against South Africa. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East will be the first to admit that sanctions against Rhodesia—a small, landlocked country—proved to be extremely difficult to implement and almost impossible to achieve.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rifkind

I am sorry, but I do not have time to give way. The speech by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) was longer than the time I have available to me.

A policy of economic sanctions which was effective and sealed off South Africa from the economic activity of the rest of the world would not only damage the Republic but profoundly damage, if not destroy, the economies of a number of its neighbours. It is impossible to conceive how Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe or Mozambique could do other than suffer enormously if sanctions were effective.

I accept that opinion within South Africa is divided. I freely accept that there are many blacks, including responsible blacks, who, whether through a sense of frustration or genuine conviction, believe that this policy would be attractive and that it should be supported. It is equally the case that many other prominent blacks in South Africa take a different view. A lively debate is occurring in South Africa, involving for example, Chief Buthelezei—a determined opponent of economic sanctions—and Bishop Tutu. Even Bishop Tutu has not yet said that he supports sanctions. He has said that he may express that view, if there is inadequate political change in the months to come.

I emphasise that this policy, which was never supported by any Labour Government and which was never advocated by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East—either at the time of Sharpeville or when South Africa was going through the worst excesses of apartheid — is hardly likely to be a sensible policy to pursue when, by the very admission of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues at the Dispatch Box, South Africa has experienced some progress in dismantling apartheid in recent months.

We all know that the various announcements that have been made with regard to mixed marriages, freehold tenure for blacks, legalisation of trade unions, the removal of job reservations and the various other developments of considerable significance have made an important contribution to the provision of at least the possibility of peaceful change in South Africa. The great unanswered question is whether the process of reform will be sufficiently fundamental to deal with the group areas legislation and with political rights for urban blacks and, by so doing, provide the fundamental change that we all want. At least that process has begun. It is a process that we should welcome, not condemn; recognise, not ignore. We should do what we can within our power to influence—

It being Twelve o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put, pursuant to the Order this day.