§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Maude.]5.38 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
Yesterday, the House spent the entire day discussing South Africa. Today, the opportunity to consider, if the House wishes, the rest of the world has been truncated as a result of the proceedings so far. The House will be pleased to know that I do not intend to extend my sights that far. If points arise during the debate, especially if any hon. Member wishes to say anything further about South Africa, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office will deal with them when he replies to the debate. I shall concentrate mostly on East-West relations, the NATO Alliance and arms control. I shall also say a word about the European Community in the light of next week's European Council and the United Kingdom presidency of the Community, which starts on 1 July.
The previous full-day debate on foreign affairs was as long ago as November. One point on which there has been some development since then is terrorism. I shall not rehearse all the arguments provoked by the Libyan affair some weeks ago, but I underline the growing emphasis, which will be welcomed on both sides of the House, on the simple proposition that terrorism must not be seen to be a cost-free option for fanatics. It is of the utmost importance that the world, and especially the Western world, should continue to strenthen its practical defences against terrorism. We can take some encouragement from the significant progress made in that direction.
At the Tokyo summit and in the European Community, the Western approach has been increasingly concerted. The United Kingdom has played a key role in that search for consolidation and the important follow-up work is being undertaken with diligence and enthusiasm.
It is right, as hon. Members will remind me, that we should address ourselves also to the causes of terrorism. One of the most outstanding is in the middle east, where Her Majesty's Government continue to play an active role in diplomatic efforts towards a solution to the long-running Arab-Israel dispute. The House will recall my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Israel. I have had the opportunity to discuss in detail the position there with the American Secretary of State. King Hussein is again in Britain for talks, and the matter has been fully discussed in the EC Political Co-operation Committee.
The United Kingdom's position is unchanged; it remains based upon the principles of the Venice declaration. What is needed is action by the parties and, above all, agreement on who should participate in any talks. The judgment of all those with whom we have discussed it recently is that there is no scope for any new European Community initiative. During our presidency, we shall remain active and anxious to help in any way that we can.
That is not the only source of terrorism. The United Kingdom faces its own long-standing terrorist threat from the IRA. The House will be glad to know that the United States Senate has made valuable progress in its consideration of the extradition treaty. We warmly 1083 welcome the continuing commitment of the United States Administration to that extradition treaty and to the Anglo-Irish agreement.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that Mr. Geldof's remarks regarding the IRA and the murderers on the other side of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland have been useful and should be understood by those people in the United States who, perhaps wrongly, oppose the approval of the extradition treaty?
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that some people in Britain have been held responsible for terrorist offences in Italy? In a written reply that I have just received, the Home Secretary said that the cases are being kept under review. If we wish to be consistent, should not those people wanted in Italy for terrorist crimes be deported from Britain?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman spoilt what looked like being a unique occasion. I cannot comment on his second point at such short notice. On the first point, I congratulate him on having, for the first time, interrupted me to make a point with which I wholly agree. I almost included it in my speech, and I am glad to welcome the hon. Gentleman's unusual contribution. I am sorry if I have embarrassed him.
Sadly, terrorism was a topic discussed during my visit to India some weeks ago. I expect that it will be raised again in our brief meeting with the new Indian Foreign Minister when he visits London on Monday next week. His visit will give me an opportunity, which I also take now, to underline the firm commitment of Her Majesty's Government to the territorial integrity and unity of India, to renew the offer that we have made to the Indian Government and to strengthen our bilateral extradition arrangements, which are a practical expression of both countries' shared opposition to terrorism.
Another topic discussed in India was drugs. The House will welcome the fact that the Indian Government have agreed to the stationing of two British drug liaison officers in Delhi and Bombay.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Will the Foreign Secretary, in the context of his discussions with the Indian Foreign Minister, be able to discuss the help that India could give to bring about constructive discussions with Sri Lanka? It is extremely important that something is done to bring an end to that conflict, which cannot be resolved by military means.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I agree with that diagnosis of the state of affairs in Sri Lanka, which I was able to discuss during my visit to India. The Indian Government and Prime Minister take a close interest in it. If possible, I shall try to discuss it again later.
§ Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)
There has been some anxiety about answers given during a recent foreign affairs question time, that the agreement on the placing of drugs officers had been made in principle, but that the officers were not yet in place. Will my right hon. and learned Friend press the Indian Foreign Minister on that point when he meets him?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I understand the need to secure the implementation of the agreement, but it is proceeding along the lines that my hon. Friend would wish. I share his understandable anxiety.
1084 My journey to the subcontinent also included Pakistan. There I had the opportunity of seeing how well Pakistan is coping with the problems posed by the enormous number of Afghan refugees. I visited the Khyber pass and was immensly struck by the phrase used by the Pakistani Foreign Minister, who said that I should encounter there the noble ghosts of Britain's past. That was a striking and vivid phrase, but sadly, my impression after visiting that camp for Afghan refugees and also a Red Cross hospital was one of suffering on a massive scale. That is why the United Kingdom remains determined to keep high on the international agenda the Soviet Union's invasion and continued occupation of Afghanistan. If Mr. Gorbachev is serious in wishing to impress the world with the Soviet desire for peace, he should start in Afghanistan.
That brings me to the wider subject of East-West relations and gives me an opportunity to restate some basic facts about British foreign policy, starting with the fact that, for 40 years, the tragic division of the European continent has set the framework for a large part or Britain's foreign and defence policies. Of course, it must be acknowledged that history has given the Russians some cause to be suspicious of threats to their security, but it must also be said that, even on the most benevolent interpretation, their military posture constitutes the most massive over-insurance in history.
It is not just military tension that divides us. The Communist system has fanned Russian suspicions by preventing the free flow of people and ideas. The divide across the continent is not just military. It is also political and social. We cannot and should not seek a good relationship with the Russians at the price of ceasing to defend our values; that need not be the case. If we believed that, we should be counselling despair. The Government and I believe that East-West relations can be improved, and the tension reduced, through dialogue and exchanges.
If the search for improved relations is to be sustained, we must never allow ourselves to forget the vital difference between societies that are open and free, and societies that are closed and unfree. There is a difference.
NATO is a free alliance, based on genuinely shared values. Free peoples vote to join NATO as was evident in the resounding pro-NATO result of the referendum carried out by Spain's Socialist Government. But although NATO members are free, they are interdependent and they have freely chosen that interdependence. In that sense, Europe and the United States need each other. The commitment of American troops and arms to the defence of western Europe is central to our security. The contribution of Europe to the political cohesion and security of the free world is equally irreplacable.
I am glad to notice that there has been a growing enthusiasm among Labour Members for Europe as an ideal, not because they relish the European relationship for its own sake but because it represents a means of asserting their instinctive and growing hostility to the United States. For them, sadly, Europe is all too often an alibi for knee-jerk anti-Americanism. Our long-standing commitment to building up the strength and unity of Europe does not spring from hostility to the Atlantic relationship. Our aim is to strengthen that partnership and, for the sake of that partnership, the Alliance needs a stronger European partner to make it more balanced.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman comment on the reported remarks 1085 of Mr. Caspar Weinberger over the weekend that in future, NATO troops will not be confined to the area of the North Atlantic, but will be used anywhere?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I have not seen those reported remarks, although I know that the question of how NATO should react to out-of-area problems has been long considered. However, I would rather not be drawn into that discussion now.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I am glad to have some sympathy from the right hon. Gentleman.
Since 1979, the Conservative Government have done a great deal, and with some success, to establish Britain's place in the European Community, and have worked, again with some success, to make the Community more effective. As a leading European nation, we welcome Europes growing confidence and coherence in dealing with economic problems. From time to time, economic tension is inevitable, and not always just across the Atlantic. There are new sources of economic tension, such as Japan and the new industrialised countries.
A strong European voice helps to make each of these problems more manageable. They are some of the issues that will be high on the agenda of Britain's six-month presidency of the Community starting next month. The presidency gives us the opportunity to secure progress on many fronts. One immediate objective is to avert, if we can, a major trade war between Europe and the United States. This was discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council in the first two days of this week, and the proceedings of that Council are reported in a written answer to a parliamentary question, given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker).
On the single question of the transatlantic trade conflict, it must be said that the accession of Spain and Portugal to the Community has affected some sections of United States trade. The economic effects of that are of modest significance when compared to the inestimable importance of binding two more countries through treaty ties to the Western democratic family of nations. We in Western Europe have been ready to pay an economic price for that, and we are entitled to look for a similar willingness from our friends in the United States.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
In the context of the adjourned debate on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill—and I agree with everything that my right hon. and learned Friend has said about the need for greater political and economic movement within Europe—will he confirm that there is no intention to move, through the use of the Bill, towards any kind of federal Europe?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I confirm that that question, which my hon. Friend says arises from the adjourned debate on the Bill, is best left to consideration within that context. I shall not be drawn into any such consideration now. I ask my hon. Friend not to be unduly perturbed by fantasies of a federal Europe and to take the matter calmly. Instead, let him join me in ensuring that the Community focuses on another practical question and one of great importance 1086 —the world agricultural problem. It is of value and importance that that was identified at the Tokyo summit, which called for global action to redirect the policies and structure of worldwide agricultural production.
It is also important that the general agreement on tariffs and trade round will include agricultural trade matters, as well as trade services. The problems of the CAP are a part, but only a part, of this world problem. Europe has a cereals surplus of about 17 million tonnes while America's cereals surplus is about 80 million tonnes. All the countries that are seeking to look after their agricultural communities, and struggling with the resultant surpluses, know that we must address the problem in concert. The CAP must adapt to changing circumstances, which must be a continuing process, and the CAP will be high on our agenda in the Community in the next six months.
We shall be dealing as well with internal Community issues. We need to keep a tight rein on the Community budget so that we live within our resources. We have a great deal to do in opening up the Community's internal market. A few weeks ago, in consultation with Ireland and Italy, we made three specific proposals for employment growth into the next decade. We hope that that will be the basis for an action plan during our office.
At the heart of all this is our commitment to setting up the largest market place in the world, within which people, goods and services can circulate easily. The United Kingdom is playing a leading and active part in formulating the European positions on all these subjects. We are doing so because we are, in that context, trusted and reliable partners. That would certainly not be the position if we followed the policies of Her Majesty's Opposition. They would isolate us not only in Europe but within NATO as well. That is why it is so important for us to have a clear understanding of Britain's place in the world, of the real threat to Britain's security. Only if we understand those things can we play our full part in collective defence and the collective pursuit of arms control.
The facts are not always palatable, but we do not do the East-West dialogue any service if we refuse to face them. The underlying realities have not changed. During the past 17 years, while the United States has observed a unilateral moratorium, the Soviet Union has amassed 300,000 tonnes of chemical weapon nerve agents, many times more than the rest of the world together. In Europe today, between the Atlantic and the Urals, the Warsaw pact has a superiority of some 1 million troops over NATO, three times as many tanks, three times as many artillery pieces and twice as many tactical aircraft.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I do not know why hon. Members are so astonished. These are the facts, as set out in the defence White Paper each year. It may be uncomfortable for Labour Members to know this.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
No, I shall not give way.
Soviet military might on that scale represents a danger for our security that we neglect at our peril. In the face of that threat, nuclear deterrence continues to play a key role in the defence strategy of Britain and NATO. There is no room for the irresolution and gullibility of the Labour 1087 party on a question such as this. We are right to provide bases for the NATO deterrent and to maintain the credibility and effectiveness of the British deterrent, and we are right to keep our conventional forces up to strength.
It is interesting to see the way in which Opposition Members have helped to establish the case that I seek to make. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who is not honouring us with his observations today—he may he in unarmed combat with the other David—said on I June:we should be ready to replace Polaris with a minimum deterrent.I want to be even-handed and draw my witnesses from more than one place, so I agree, too, with what the right hon. Member from Leeds, East said a few days ago, which was:if you want to replace Polaris"—that is the aspiration of the right hon. Member for Devonport—there is, in fact, no alternative to Trident".That is precisely why Her Majesty's Government are committed to the Trident programme. That is precisely why the logic of the Social Democratic party will lead at least the leader of that party to support the Trident programme. It will no longer be possible for the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), within the SDP, to cobble together a fudge with the unilateralists in the Liberal party. They know that better than anyone. The leader of the Liberal party argues and claims that the party's policy position does not amount to unilateralism, hut with respect that is disingenuous.
A credible British deterrent in the 1990s means modernisation of the British deterrent now. By trying to put off that position, the leader of the Liberal party and the Liberal party are seeking to achieve unilateralism by obsolescence—obsolescence through inertia, a fate similar to that of the Liberal party in the past.[Interruption]I am astonished to be receiving such acclamation from the Opposition Benches.
The chasm between those who oppose an independent British deterrent and those who favour an independent British deterrent will not easily be papered over by an SDP-Liberal commission. Until recently we thought that we knew where this massive alliance stood on these issues, represented as it is by the somewhat solitary looking figure of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). Until recently we knew that the Liberals were opposed to the maintenance of an independent deterrent and that they were opposed to the deployment of cruise. We knew that the SDP supported the deployment of cruise and that it was ready to replace Polaris. The position was perfectly clear—total disagreement. Now there is a much firmer position—a firmly proclaimed maybe. The leader of the Liberal party got it right, I suppose, when he said the other day on "Weekend World":If we can't agree before we get into government, how are we going to agree in government?I am happy to say that that is a question he will be able to contemplate for many years to come.
I turn to the subject in a more serious fashion. The British and French deterrents are in fact very modest in comparison with the Soviet nuclear arsenal, but certainly they are not so small that Mr. Gorbachev ignores them. On the contrary, he knows what they are. He knows that they are an effective deterrent. That is why he hopes to persuade us either to abandon them or to let them fall into 1088 obsolescence. That is the basis of the beguiling suggestion that was made to the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), that the Soviet Union will cut one missile for every strategic missile that we cut.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
That may be so, but Mr. Gorbachev gave a different answer to the right hon. Gentleman.
However, the proposal conceals a fatal and important flaw. The Russians have over 50 times more missiles than we have. That discrepancy did not in the least discourage the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East from accepting the offer with enthusiasm. It would have been amazing to see the look of astonishment on the face of Mr. Gorbachev when they snapped it up with enthusiasm. Mr. Gorbachev knows, even if the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East do not, that this missile for missile offer is total and utter nonsense. Those are not my words. They are the words both of The Guardian and of the Daily Mirror. As The Guardian said, and I do not often find myself quoting it:The millionaire and the pauper do not equalise their status by each throwing away a few £5 notes.On that basis, the position of the Labour party—to give away our deterrent for next to nothing —is as dishonourable as it is ridiculous.
One wonders how it came about that the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East accepted this proposition. One can reflect upon the ventures of the Leader of the Opposition into the deeper waters of foreign policy and conclude that he is still not safe to he allowed out without his water wings, but when one comes to the case of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East we have a different explanation.
The House will remember that in the article he wrote the other day the right hon. Gentleman was positively carried away by the "sapphire skies" and "perfumed lilacs" of the Moscow spring. He waxed lyrical about them in The Observer. And increasingly it must be said, as we look at the right hon. Gentleman, that one gains the impression of someone who, in the twilight of his political career, is returning to his first undergraduate love. I only wish that he showed half as much commitment to the NATO Alliance as he brings to his self-appointed role as Mr. Gorbachev's PR man in this country.
Of course there is a role for dialogue between East and West. That is a dialogue in which the United Kingdom is playing and must play a leading part. Neither side needs to be armed to the teeth to be secure. Neither side, quite frankly, can afford to be armed to the teeth to be secure.
§ Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman allow me to say that the kind of response he is now making to Mr. Gorbachev was not the response of his Conservative colleagues when that meeting took place? I happened to be there. Will he tell the House whether he agrees that there should be a summit meeting between Mr. Gorbachev and President Reagan and, if he does, what influence he is exerting in that direction?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I am just coming to the point that has been raised by the hon. Gentleman.
I was saying that there is certainly a role for the United Kingdom in promoting the dialogue that all of us want. 1089 Neither side can be armed to the teeth to be secure. Neither side can afford to be armed in that way. Of course we acknowledge, as I acknowledged earlier in my speech, that Soviet anxieties about security exist. We have no doubt, however, that patient diplomacy can promote Western interests and security for us all. That is one of the reasons why I have made a point of visiting the Soviet Union and all the countries of eastern Europe; that is why we were very glad to welcome Mr. Gorbachev here in December 1984; that is why we intend to maintain the dialogue between the Prime Minister and Mr. Gorbachev; that is why, on the recent parliamentary visit to the Soviet Union. to which the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) referred, the Lord President of the Council did just that; and that is why I am pleased to be able to tell the House that the Soviet Foreign Minister, Mr. Shevardnadze, is coming to Britain on 14 and 15 July. It will be an important visit. I am looking forward to our discussions on arms control, regional and bilateral questions and human rights.
In pursuing that dialogue it would be foolish to expect that tremendous unilateral gestures by the United Kingdom will in themselves be a catalyst for agreement between the super powers. Certainly we wish that summit meeting to take place—and more than one such meeting in due course. The United Kingdom can, does and will continue to play a part in seeking, to bring about progress.
We believe that the Soviet Union is now seeking seriously to join the United States in the search for an agreement. Certainly it makes sense to proceed upon the basis of that presumption. That is what we mean when we say that we believe that we can "do business with Mr. Gorbachev." Mr. Gorbachev has his own reasons for wanting a significant arms control agreement. He knows the implications of a continued arms race for the Soviet economy, which cannot indefinitely satisfy both the military and the Soviet consumer. The Soviet arms buildup already absorbs—
§ Mr. Geoffrey Howe
I am not seeking to challenge that. One of the most profound reasons for seeking success in the search for arms control is the burden of arms expenditure on all nations. I do not need to be reminded of that. Indeed, anybody who has held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that as clearly as anybody else.
However, for the Soviet Union, the arms build-up already absorbs nearly 16 per cent. of its gross national product, and on present trends that percentage will continue to grow. So Mr. Gorbachev, like every other responsible leader, has a strong interest in reaching agreement on arms control.
§ Mr. Freeson
The reason for my intervention was that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was singling out one major power for his remarks in connection with the balance between economic prosperity and the arms burden. The whole world cannot carry on like this. Millions of people are starving in Africa, while millions of other people throughout the rest of the world are living in poverty. That will lead to war, unless all of us can do something about it, instead of just pointing the finger at others.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The hon. Gentleman is remaking the point that I made, but with this important addition. The countries of the Western world have to take decisions about their arms expenditure as a result of democratic consideration through the ballot box and the House of Commons. There is always the check of democratic control on the arms expenditure of democratic Governments. The Soviet Union, because of its political structure, is far better able to sustain the massive arms expenditure that it does. It is only on that basis that it is able to sustain the massive 16 per cent. of its GNP on arms. For the Soviet Union, as well as for other countries, the need to recognise the constraints of economic resources in the end begins to tell and that is why there is that motivation.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
Does my right hon. and learned Friend also agree that the Soviet Union spends far less on paying its troops and much more on hardware than we do?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
No, not now, I am sorry.—is how best to move towards the agreement that we want. Until recently, it must be said, the Russian approach has consisted mainly of unrealistic proposals, backed up by well-orchestrated appeals to world opinion. That is no way to proceed. But there are elements in the Soviet proposals, including those outlined by Mr. Gorbachev in his speech two days ago, which we believe deserve exploration. We must emphasise that progress can only be made not at press conferences but at the negotiating table. Of course, adequate verification measures remain all-important.
The recent discussion of SALT II has raised those problems starkly. The United States has been right to stick until recently to the terms of that agreement. It is right now to dismantle its two Poseidon submarines accordingly. But it must be said that the best should not be the enemy of the good. It is our hope that the United States will not feel the need to abandon the SALT II limits, despite the evidence that it has of Soviet non-compliance.
Of course, there is also an onus on the Soviet Union to demonstrate its willingness to respect those agreements strictly. If not, the mutual confidence required for future progress is in danger and everyone loses. So it is important to remember that a dialogue is taking place between East and West on these important issues. The latest Warsaw pact statements in Berlin and Budapest are now looking more like a serious response to the West's proposals.
Finally, let me remind the House of those proposals in simple terms—comprehensive and coherent arms reduction proposals that were reiterated by NATO members last month in Halifax. There are five distinct elements of the NATO arms control package—first, a 50 per cent. cut in strategic nuclear weapons; secondly, the 1091 total elimination of intermediate range nuclear forces an entire category; thirdly, a worldwide total ban on chemical weapons; fourthly, the progressive reduction of conventional forces in Europe, eventually covering the whole continent from the Atlantic to the Urals; and, finally, wide-ranging confidence-building measures. That approach serves the interests of not just the United Kingdom but the Alliance as a whole. It is an approach in support of which the United Kingdom will continue to play its full part.
Arms control has to be tackled responsibly. As a distinguished British elder statesman has said,it is the stability of the military balance between NATO and Warsaw Pact which has kept Europe at peace for over 30 years … NATO's nuclear strategy is an essential part of that balance. To threaten to upset it by refusing to let America base any of her nuclear weapons in Britain would make war more likely, not less likely".Those words are just as true today as they were then spoken in 1981 by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East.
We have taken account of the realities. We have worked and will continue to work to protect and promote British interests, not just in arms control and East-West dialogue, but across the whole range of foreign policy issues. We shall continue to go on doing just that.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I must start with the unfamiliar experience of congratulating the Foreign Secretary on a very lively speech. I have sometimes made rather unkind ovine comparisons about him, but I am bound to say that for much of his speech this afternoon he was frisking like a lamb, although on some occasions he presented a slightly less agreeable spectacle verging on the bizarre or even the macabre, like a dead fleece twitching. Nevertheless, taken all in all, I could not see more than six Conservative Members asleep at any time in his speech, and that must pretty well be a record.
Like the Foreign Secretary—unlike him I mean what I say—I plan to concentrate my remarks on the state of East-West relations and their impact on relations between America and Europe inside the Western Alliance. I want to discuss a little something that the Foreign Secretary hardly mentioned, although it is a British foreign affairs debate—the proper role of Britain in this complex situation. However, I must say one word about a matter which hears or could bear very directly on East-West relations and which the Foreign Secretary practically ignored, and that is the dangerous situation at the moment in the middle east.
We have a war in the Gulf between Iran and Iraq that could reach a climax this summer if Iran, as is not impossible, wins its summer offensive and then moves south into the Gulf states or exerts pressure on those states. This is an issue on which the Soviet Union and the United States seem to have recognised a common interest, but I am deeply disturbed that the new French Conservative Government seem to be attempting to intervene in that war on the side of Iran. I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies he will say something about Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards that new French adventure.
The other part of the middle east situation which presents serious problems is the growing tension between Israel and Syria. The Foreign Secretary may recall that only a few weeks ago when President Reagan was in Tokyo he made some remarks about Syria which were 1092 interpreted by Mr. Rabin, the Israeli Defence Secretary, in Washington that day, as implying the readiness of the United States to support military action by Israel against Syria. I am glad to say that Prime Minister Shimon Peres in Israel immediately took pains to deny that Israel had any aggressive intentions of that nature. But the party composition of the Israeli Government is due to change in October, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell us something about Her Majesty's Government's attitude—
§ Mr. Healey
I am sorry. I apologise for downgrading him. He certainly deserves to be Minister of State. I hope that he will also be a Privy Councillor. My word, what a wonderful life.
I hope that the Minister of State will say something about this because it is a situation which could turn dangerous at any time over the next few months, indeed during the summer recess.
Let me deal now with the major problem of East-West relations. I think that all of us in the House welcomed the summit conference between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev in Geneva last year. We all hoped that it had established a degree of personal confidence between the two leaders which would make rapid progress possible on major areas of disarmament and some of the regional problems which are currently the most likely cause of war, such as the middle east, which I have just mentioned, Afghanistan—I endorse what the Foreign Secretary said about that and we raised it with Mr. Gorbachev when we were in Moscow—southern Africa and Central America. I hope that he is as disappointed as we are that there has been no visible sign of progress in East-West relations since the Geneva summit. Rather, the reverse has been the case. In their press statement after the summit, President: Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev assured the world that neither side sought military superiority over the other. President Reagan has repeatedly made speeches since then which suggest that he seeks military superiority over the Soviet Union, and notably in a speech at a recent ceremony in a marine training school in the United States. Mr. Weinberger and his Mephistopheles, Mr. Perle, have frequently gone much further.
President Reagan has lumped Mr. Gorbachev together with Castro, Arafat and Gaddafi as enemies of peace, although when that was pointed out to him he said:I must have goofed some place because, believe me, I do not put him in the same category.Inevitably, world statesmen take seriously the words used about them by other world statesmen. In some areas the United States Administration have added to these verbal insults some real injuries. The bombing of Tripoli led to the postponement of the Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting which was supposed to set the agenda for the forthcoming second summit in the United States. The Foreign Secretary must agree that Britain's support for that bombing postponed the Shevardnadze visit to London, although I was delighted to hear from him today that that visit take place in a few weeks.
President Reagan's public decision to abandon the SALT 2 constraints next autumn on the eve of his proposed date for the next summit conference must be seen by everybody who follows these events as a damaging blow to East-West relations. In the same week Washington vetoed proposals to improve human contacts between East 1093 and West. Those proposals had already been agreed in Berne by the United States local representative and were supported by all of America's allies.
All these decisions by the United States Government were taken in flat defiance of the known views of all their allies. They deliberately sought to ascertain those views through visits by General Walters to Europe about the Tripoli bombing and a visit by Mr. Nitze to Europe about the denunciation of SALT 2. I am surprised that in the course of his speech the Foreign Secretary paid no attention to the great strains which have undoubtedly been imposed on the alliance as well as on East-West relations by those actions of the American Administration.
On top of the military and political strains on the Alliance there is now—the Foreign Secretary used these words—a trade war looming because the United States has decided to cut its imports of European food and drink in retaliation for what it sees as discrimination against some of its products as a result of the entry of Spain and Portugal to the Common Market. I fully endorse what the Foreign Secretary said about this matter, and I hope that his actions will follow his words. As an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, nobody knows better than the Foreign Secretary that a trade war between two parts of an alliance would have the most damaging political and military consequences.
§ Mr. Winnick
Does my right hon. Friend agree that what causes much offence in western Europe but certainly not to the Foreign Secretary and his supporters is the way in which the United States supports by various means terrorist regimes in Latin America in places such as Guatemala and certainly in Chile, while at the same time doing its best by military and diplomatic means to undermine a Government the United States does not like, the Government of Nicaragua?
§ Mr. Healey
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) on that matter. One thing that slightly surprised me in the Foreign Secretary's speech was his suggestion that his loyalty to all the divagation in American policy was strengthening Britain's position in Europe. He must know better than anybody that the apparent deceit that he perpetrated against his European colleagues on the eve of the Tripoli bombing, which he knew would take place, and his support for that bombing and his position on central America have all caused serious strains between us and our European allies.
While all that has been happening on one side, the Soviet Union has made a series of new offers to the United States and the West on all the major areas of the disarmament negotiations, and so far no positive response has been elicited from the United States or the West on any one of them. Mr. Gorbachev made it clear to the noble Lord Whitelaw and to the other members of the recent delegation to Moscow that he has no interest in going to the United States for a second summit simply as an actor in a television commercial, the purpose of which is to boost President Reagan's image as a peacemaker. Mr. Gorbachev will not go the summit if there is no prospect of concrete results coming from his visit. The British Government have always rightly taken the view that summit conferences which do not produce concrete results are likely to do more harm than good.
1094 There has been much speculation in the West, and we had a little from the Foreign Secretary today, about whether the new Soviet proposals were intended seriously and sincerely or were made simply to divide the Alliance. I recently returned from the Soviet Union. I was a member of an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation and I was deputy leader to the deputy leader of the Government—a sort of gentleman's gentleman. The impressions which I will describe of this visit would be endorsed by all the other members of the delegation. The delegation consisted of hon. Members from all parts of the House, and we would all agree on our impressions, although we might draw different conclusions about the policies that the Government ought to follow.
We all left the Soviet Union with the conviction that Mr. Gorbachev sincerely wants disarmament, not because he sees himself as potentially militarily inferior to the United States, because in some key areas he is potentially superior, not least in space, as was pointed out in "Jane's" this week. That is especially true in the shadow of the recent dsasters in the American space programme. Mr. Gorbachev sincerely wants disarmament because he knows that it will be much more difficult to carry out his plans for economic reform in the Soviet Union if he cannot make cuts in his programme of defence spending. I endorse what the Foreign Secretary said about that, although I found that the slightly contemptuous way in which he described the situation came ill from a key member of a Government who came into office pledged to increase defence spending by 3 per cent. a year and have just decided for economic reasons to cut it by 6 per cent. over the next three years. I shall come back to that in a moment.
We concluded that Mr. Gorbachev genuinely wants disarmament. Secondly, I think we all agree that he has brought from Stavropol a fresh mind to Soviet foreign policy and is trying to feel his way towards a new approach. The House will know that since the Russian revolution of 1917 Soviet foreign policy has been dominated by the doctrine of the two camps—the capitalist camp and, as the Soviets call it, the Socialist camp—which are doomed to be locked in everlasting conflict until the final victory of the Socialist camp. This doctrine was fleshed out in some detail by Zhdanov shortly after the second world war.
To me, as to any student of the Soviet Union, the most important single statement made by Mr. Gorbachev since he took over was made in his speech at the recent party congress in Moscow. In it, he buried the doctrine of the two camps for good, and invoked the concepts of Leninist theory in order to justify that burial. I should like to read what he said, because it was a speech to the party faithful by the head of the party and not a speech by the leader of the Soviet Union to foreign journalists. He said:The prevailing dialectics of present-day development consist in a combination of competition and confrontation between the two systems and in a growing tendency towards interdependence of the countries of the world community. This is precisely the way, through the struggle of opposites, through arduous effort, groping in the dark to some extent, as it were, that the controversial but interdependent and in many ways integral world is taking shape.That profoundly important statement was made by the leader of the Soviet Communist party and the head of the Soviet Union. It implies a totally different approach to the problems of the outside world. I believe that it will prove 1095 as cataclysmic in its consequences as the famous secret speech of his predecessor, Khrushchev, to another Soviet party congress 30 years ago.
The bombardment of new proposals from Mr. Gorbachev during the past 12 months represents an attempt to achieve that interdependence by, to quote him,groping in the dark … as it were".From our visit we gained the impression that a great upheaval is still going on in the personalities and structure of the machine that makes foreign policy in the Soviet Union. Mr. Shevardnadze, a man with deep party experience but no experience of world affairs, has been made Foreign Secretary. Mr. Dobrynin, a man with deep experience of diplomacy, who has spent 24 years in Washington, has been put in charge of the party machine. Mr. Yakovlev, who has served as ambassador in Canada, is a key figure in Mr. Gorbachev's inner Cabinet.
I think that we all agree that Mr. Gorbachev is now running Soviet foreign policy. That is a quite different situation from that prevailing during the latter years, at least, of Mr. Brezhnev, when Mr. Gromyko, now the President, was running foreign policy. We also gained the impression, which was recently confirmed in a public statement by Mr. Falin, the head of the Soviet news agency in Bonn, that because of the upheavals in the structure in Moscow, it is taking time for some of Gorbachev's publicly stated ideas to work through to the coalface of negotiations in Geneva.
One good example is the change in Soviet policy on research into star wars. Mr. Gorbachev first said that he thought that there should be a distinction between research in laboratories or universities, and the testing of models, in an interview with Time magazine journalists last autumn in Moscow. But that surfaced for the first time as a formal negotiating position in the recent proposals made privately by Mr. Gorbachev to President Reagan, the details of which have been slowly leaking out during the past few weeks.
If we are wise, we must accept that the real nature of the new Soviet negotiating position will take some time to work through. But it is already clear that in almost every aspect of disarmament Mr. Gorbachev is making his negotiators adopt a very different attitude towards the problem of verification. He has made it clear, as Mr. Zagladin made it clear to our delegation when we were in Moscow, that the Soviets are now prepared to allow on-site verification in many of the most important areas. I believe that those changes are important, and I deeply regret the fact that the Foreign Secretary completely failed to refer to them. He just treated us to a turgid rehash of the defence White Paper without paying the slightest attention to those very important new initiatives or to that important new trend of policy in the Soviet Union.
I shall now look at the American side of the equation. The Foreign Secretary, in his usual way, accused anybody who attacked any aspect of President Reagan's policy of being anti-American. Let me remind him that I have said nothing in criticism of President Reagan's policy that has not been said with far greater force by American ex-Ministers with whom I have worked, as Secretary of State for Defence and as Chancellor of the Exchequer, in Washington. I think, for example, of Mr. McNamara. Indeed, my criticisms of the President's strategic defence initiative had already been made by each of the last three American Presidents: two Republicans, Mr. Ford and Mr. Nixon; and one Democrat, Mr. Carter.
1096 The most telling criticism of President Reagan's foreign policy was made by one of the most outstanding contributors to American international policy since the war. I refer to Mr. George Ball, who served as Minister of State under several American Presidents. He said that American foreign policy today reminded him very much of a series of pictures in a strip cartoon called, I believe, "Peanuts". That cartoon figures a rather innocent young man called Charlie Brown and a young lady who bears some resemblance to our Prime Minister called Lucy. Lucy is talking to Charlie Brown, and says: "Charlie, you should know that on this great ocean liner of life, upon which we have both embarked, there is a sun deck and deck chairs. Some of us will put up our deck chairs facing the stern of the ship so that we can see where we are coming from, and some of us will put up our deck chairs facing the prow of the ship so that we can see where we are going. Charlie, where are you going to put your deck chair?" Charlie replies, "Well I just don't seem able to get my deck chair unfolded." That paints a picture of American foreign policy today.
The tragedy is that the struggle between the ideologues and the pragmatists that we witnessed when President Reagan first took over, still continues. We had a period of some months when the pragmatists appeared to be winning. We have had periods, such as the one in which we are now enmeshed, when the ideologues have been winning. Nothing shows that more clearly than the President's surprising and confusing behaviour on SALT 2. He began by saying only a few weeks ago that he would unconditionally break the limits imposed by SALT 2 and that SALT 2 no longer had any force. A few days later he told the world at a press conference that his decision would depend on whether the Soviet Union could be persuadedto join in things they are talking about: arms control and arms reductions.The President then said that he would have to break SALT 2 because it was blocking plans to modernise America's strategic forces. Of course all his acolytes joined in. Mr. Larry Speakes publicly contradicted the President and said that SALT was dead. The next day, the Secretary of State, Mr. Shultz, said:I do not like the use of the word 'dead'".There is similar confusion over America's reaction to the latest Soviet proposal for deep cuts in strategic forces on condition that the anti-ballistic missile treaty is prolonged for another 15 to 20 years. For the first time, the Russians have said that they would not oppose research into space weapons, provided that there were no tests of models. That is a proposal which the British Government should solidly endorse. The Prime Minister's only reason for opposing a ban on research into strategic defence was that it would not be possible to verify research, but the Russians are now offering to forgo a ban on the sort of research that cannot be verified and to have a ban on tests of models, all of which can be verified. When the Minister of State replies, I hope that he will tell us that, now that the Russians have removed the obstacle which prevented the Prime Minister from opposing star wars when she first met President Reagan on the matter some 18 months ago, the Government will change their mind.
We are told by the newspapers that Mr. Kampelman, the President's negotiator, believes that it is well worth exploring the offer and that. President Reagan sent an encouraging letter to Mr. Gorbachev at the same time. We read in this morning's edition of The Times, however, that 1097 a senior Pentagon official—Mephistopheles again, I suspect—Mr. Perle, told the defence correspondent of The Times only yesterday that America would reject the Soviet offer because it would block star wars.
It is difficult for any Government, allied or otherwise, to negotiate with Washington when its policy is so confused and contradictory. It is not anti-American to say that, because this criticism is made in the United States day in and day out by those who have been responsible for American defence policy, foreign policy and disarmament policy.
In spite of this, I think that we would all agree—those of us who visited Moscow recently—that there is no question but that the Soviet Union is anxious to negotiate on all these issues if it is humanly possible to do so. One advantage of having Mr. Dobrynin at the top of the party policy structure in this area with 24 years of experience of the Washington jungle and many close contacts—even friends—among senior American politicians and officials is that the Russians will not easily take no for an answer. Although the abandonment of SALT 2 by the United States, which is threatened for this autumn, could allow the Soviet Union to establish a commanding lead over the United States by doubling the number of warheads on their intercontinental SS 18s—as the Foreign Secretary will know, this is why the American chiefs of staff were insistent that the United States should observe the limits—I believe that their response to anything that the Americans do will be proportionate, and that they will wait and see before they take any action.
With American policy so contradictory and so confused, I believe that Mr. Gorbachev and President Gromyko—the latter made the same point when he met us—were sincere when they said that they hoped that the United Kingdom could play a constructive role in helping the super-powers to reach agreement. President Gromyko made a comparison with the role that Sir Anthony Eden had played on many occasions during on many occasions during and after the war. I have no doubt that this is why, in spite of disappointment with some aspects of British policy, Mr. Gorbachev has decided finally that his Foreign Secretary should meet our Foreign Secretary to discuss these matters.
I shall run quickly over the areas where I believe that the British Government could make a useful contribution. First, there is the ban on chemical weapons. From the way that the Foreign Secretary discussed the matter, one would not have thought that the British Government were deeply concerned about the American proposal to produce binary weapons and have refused to commit themselves to receive them if the American Government request them to do so. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will confirm that. No, he has sunk in a study of his papers. That is very wise.
Britain is chairing the discussions that are taking place in Geneva on a ban on chemical weapons. I understand that Mr. Issraelyan has been in London this week—he may still be here—to discuss this issue. I hope that the Minister of State will tell us something about the attitude that the British Government will take in the talks. We were told in Moscow that the Soviet Government are now prepared to allow the on-site inspection of the destruction both of stocks of chemical weapons and their production facilities. That certainly removes a major obstacle — 1098 perhaps not every obstacle—to an agreement. The whole world would breathe more easily if that could be achieved.
The second area in which I believe that we have a central responsibility is negotiation for a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests. We on the Opposition Benches—I think that I speak for all the Opposition parties that are represented this afternoon, but I am not quite sure what the latest position of the party for Devonport is on this matter—believe that a comprehensive test ban treaty would be by far the first and best contribution to a complete freeze on the development of new weapons.
Scientists have long believed that verification is possible even without on-site inspection. We were told that the Soviet Government have now agreed to on-site inspection of test sites both by national and international means, by which I would assume that they would accept the manning of monitoring stations inside the Soviet Union by representatives of the non-aligned states, which have promised to undertake this responsibility.
We are still told that the United Kingdom wants such an agreement; the Prime Minister has said so on many occasions. Why does she not invite the Soviet Union and the United States to meet Britain, as they did up to a few years ago when America broke off the talks, to discuss the introduction of a ban? Or are we sliding into outright opposition to a ban because the Ministry of Defence believes that we need tests to perfect the Trident warhead? I was confused, as I expect all Members were, by an answer given on 13 May by the Secretary of State for Defence, who said:We all wish that a way can be found as soon as possible of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether but. while they are there, testing is essential for safety and operational reasons.The British Government have never said that in the past. But then the dear old Secretary of State for Defence went on to say:The Government's policy is to do everything possible to negotiate a comprehensive test ban treaty as soon as verification can be made credible."—[Official Report, 13 May Vol. 97, c. 542.]What the hell is the Government's policy? Are they in favour of a ban if verification is possible, or are they against one as long as nuclear weapons exist? I hope that the Minister of State will clear up this disturbing confusion. Until the Secretary of State for Defence made his statement neither the Government nor any other Government had maintained that testing of existing weapons was necessary.
The third area where progress is possible and where we can play a role is on the strategic defence initiative. The Russians have now accepted the Prime Minister's position that it is not possible to verify a ban on research in people's heads or laboratories. It is possible, however, to ban the testing of models. Indeed, both sides announce these tests when they are carried out because they know that the other side will observe them.
Will not the Government reconsider their support for the strategic defence initiative? Any commercial gains that they might have expected from co-operation with the initiative went for a burton a long time ago. We know that British firms now expect at the most a few scores of millions of dollars against the $1,500 million for which the previous Secretary of State for Defence was asking. We know also that British participation in the research will be damaging to our own research efforts and will be subject 1099 to technological control by the United States. I hope that the Minister of State will tell us whether the Government are prepared, in the light of this new situation, to change their position on SDI.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
As one who has constituents in Heriot-Watt university working on optical lasers, may I tell my right hon. Friend that some of those engaged in the work are worried—and not before time about—intellectual property rights, an issue which has not been sorted out?
§ Mr. Healey
I am aware of that, and I hope that the Government will publish the memorandum of understanding. The German memorandum has already been leaked totally to a German newspaper and some of the features of the German memorandum of understanding are profoundly disturbing to us in Britain. There can be no security reason for the British Government not publishing the same details.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of SDI, is it not obvious that Mr. Gorbachev and the Soviet authorities are so anxious to come towards the West and scale down the expense of their armaments because the United States is developing SDI and the fear of the expense of that is too great for the Soviet authorities to contemplate?
§ Mr. Healey
The Soviet authorities obviously do not want to spend money on SDI. I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman has that feeling. We are always told by the United States that the Soviet Union is spending more money on SDI than the United States. That, of course, is totally untrue and I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with me on that.
The point about SDI is that the Soviet Union does not want to have to spend more money in an area which will compete with the introduction of new technology into its own industry. However, it is capable of doing so if it is forced. It does not want to spend more money on any weapons, nor do we in Britain—which is quite clear from the Government's decision—or the American Congress. The real question is whether we can turn those economic pressures into useful disarmament agreements. I believe that we are now moving into a world in which the pressure of defence spending on national budgets is becoming intolerable for everybody, for us in the West no less than for the Soviet Union.
The American Congress is imposing a cut on planned American defence spending of $80 billion over the next three years. The British Government, originally pledged to a 3 per cent. annual increase, have now announced a 6 per cent. cut in defence spending over the next three years. I have an increasing feeling, which some arms control experts have had for some time, that perhaps a series of leap-frogging unilateral cuts will be the way in which, in the end, some form of disarmament is finally achieved. It is vital that, as this process proceeds, the unilateral cuts which are made by the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union should not destabilise the balance between the two sides, especially in Europe. Again, that is where Britain's position is vital. Stability requires America's commitment to the defence of western Europe. Since the war NATO has always been an indispensable foundation for Britain's security. However, at the moment NATO is 1100 desperately one-sided and needs much more influence from Europe. I think that that is common ground between both sides of the House.
The key contribution which Europe can make towards NATO is in conventional weapons. That has been made clear again and again by American Administration spokesmen and by American Congressmen such as Senator Sam Nunn, who is threatening massive cuts in America's conventional contribution unless the Europeans improve their conventional contribution. There is no chance of Britain improving its conventional contribution if it goes ahead with the Trident programme. I am glad to see the Minister of State agree with that. Trident will be taking 40 per cent. of our budget for equipment in a couple of years. If that money was spent on improving the equipment of our reserve force, it is calculated that we could double our ready conventional forces in central Europe.
It is now more than 40 years since the end of the second world war. Enormous changes have taken place in every part of the world. Nobody, least of all the Government, who are chopping and changing their policies on all these issues from week to week, should be ashamed of confronting new situations with new policies. In 1945 many of us believed that George Orwell's prediction for 1984 was a realistic sketch of how the Communist countries might develop by that year. It has proved to be far from the reality. The Foreign Secretary, like me, went to Hungary recently. In many respects that country is more free than many countries in western Europe—certainly Greece under the colonels and Turkey. In many ways I think that Budapest has recreated the Austro-Hungarian empire in a far more effective form. Its relations with Austria are far closer than those with its Communist neighbour, Romania, as the Foreign Secretary knows very well. Immense changes have taken place in the Soviet Union even during the 25 years in which I have been a regular visitor.
In the United States power has shifted from the eastern seaboard, with its traditional and human concern with western Europe, to the southern and western states with increasing Hispanic and Asian populations which exert a growing influence on American policy. Whatever we do, American attention will be increasingly focused on Latin America and the western Pacific.
Those trends offer opportunities as well as some dangers for western Europe. In Britain we have every interest in seeking to build a new international security system based on co-operation between the two alliances and on co-operation, which I hope that the Foreign Secretary was attempting to suggest in one part of his speech, between eastern Europe and western Europe. I believe that in this new developing world, in which we in the West are groping in the dark no less than the Russians. Britain will play the central role which I believe it has the political and economic capacity to perform.
§ Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)
I am extremely flattered to be called this early in the debate, and it is an honour and pleasure to follow the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). I confirm what he said about the harmony of the recent delegation to the Soviet Union and I should like to pay a tribute to him, as he has paid tribute to the Lord President, for the way in 1101 which, in all the private meetings, he supported the Lord President and the delegation as a whole and our national position. We are much indebted to him for that.
I want to deal with these points in my own way during my speech, but, in a matter-of-fact way, I shall confirm what the right hon. Gentleman said about the four basic conclusions that came out of the Inter-Parliamentary Union visit to Moscow.
The first conclusion, with which I would agree— I shall confirm all four—is that Mr. Gorbachev sincerely wants disarmament. I would agree that there is a new approach to Soviet foreign policy, and I would endorse that rather telling quote from the speech at the Party Congress to the party. I would also confirm the third conclusion, that the structure of the making of foreign policy is very much Mr. Gorbachev's in the running thereof. That should not be forgotten. However, I would add that one gets the impression that he is running foreign policy with a relaxed and reasonably consulted and agreeable leadership. In other words, he is taking advice and is relaxed with those who advise him. I would agree with the fourth and final conclusion, that the Soviet Union is anxious to negotiate. I wanted to read all those into the record because they are important.
I shall make one preliminary point before I begin what I want to say. It is relevant to my own speech. It is nonsense, in terms of taking a grip and assessing approaches that come out of the Soviet Union, always to say that those approaches amount to propaganda, that their major motivation is one of propaganda and that anyone who happens to agree with any part of them is somehow being anti-American. I shall address the House frankly. I would say to the House, as has been said before —I have said it myself in previous debates on foreign affairs— that in the course of dealing with Americans and American policy one is only making the same points as many people in the United States are making themselves. There is grave concern in the United States, as we all know, over aspects of foreign policy. I shall deal with some of the specifics, although not at too great a length.
I should like to cover the current situation from both the Washington and the Moscow angle and then to concentrate a little on the position of Britain, the contribution that we can make, and how vigorously we should prosecute the options available to us.
It is impossible to ignore the United States in a foreign affairs debate, because our policy is rightly intertwined with that of our major ally. We are extremely dependent upon the Americans. Questions therefore arise as to how independent we can be in our approaches to them and our comments about them. I hope that the whole House also agrees that the NATO Alliance must be the backbone of any foreign policy that we may have. We are in the debt of the United States and we shall remain so. I approve of that and fully go along with it. Moreover, we are more dependent on the United States than most countries because, as a result of a decision taken in Nassau in 1961, we depend upon the Americans for our national nuclear deterrent. I fully agree with that policy and differ from the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and the Labour party on that aspect, although with the foreign policy aspects of the right hon. Gentleman's speech a large measure of agreement will emerge.
1102 My hon. Friends do not want to hear me go on about the special relationship with the United States, but it is important to acknowledge it. We are dealing with friends and with a democracy. We are dealing with people who differ among themselves and we can be reasonably vigorous in our approach to them. I believe that in the longer term we shall pay a price if we do not adopt such an approach.
At present the United States and Washington are under the domination—that is perhaps a rather extreme way of putting it—of a hard-line Right-wing Administration. There is no hiding that fact. They stood for election as such and were elected as such. Having attended the Republican convention in Dallas, President Reagan's inauguration, and so on. I confess that I had sincere hopes that President Reagan would want to go down as a man of peace in his second term of office. I have to tell the House, however, that I no longer believe that to be so, and I am not alone in that view. I shall refer to the Pentagon in less colourful terms than were used earlier, but aided by the newer appointments at the White House the Pentagon appears to all intents and purposes to be getting its way. Nevertheless, there are great divisions within the United States and in Washington. Congressional feeling is extremely strong. There are misgivings about SALT 2, about the rearmament programme and how on earth it is to be financed, about central America and even to a lesser extent about the middle east.
It is clear to anyone who visits Washington that there is also an clement, albeit not the predominant element, which firmly believes that the arms race and general policy can be conducted on the lines of stretching the Soviet economy because it is not strong enough to stand the competition and will eventually decline, if not collapse, with the possibility of a change in the system and the belief that in any event the capitalist system will eventually triumph. That is not the majority view, but it is a serious matter because anyone who tangles with Soviet patriotism or attempts to push the Soviet Union to the wall is adopting an extremely dangerous policy. The opposite is perhaps much better—the hope that Mr. Gorbachev's internal plans will be successful, leading to a more relaxed attitude to the outside world and progress on the important questions of human rights, contacts, transfers, visits, tourism and the rest. However, there seems little prospect of any change in the approach of the American Administration until the next presidential election in 1988.
My impression of Soviet policy is that the Soviet Union is playing it long and playing it patiently, but it will not go on doing so for ever and at some time we in the West may have to respond more positively. The views that I have expressed in previous foreign policy debates were unchanged by my visit to the Soviet Union. The last thing that I want is for the House to imagine that I have come back from the Soviet Union trumpeting out some great new view as a result of my visit. I am repeating the views that I have expressed before, but with the additional confirmation of a further visit to the Soviet Union and further contact with its leadership at the highest level.
I am absolutely convinced—this is most important—that the Soviet Union is genuine in its desire for peace and for dialogue. I do not say that naively. We are dealing with tough people who have a different system and the way ahead will not be easy. There will be hard negotiations ahead, but I believe that the desire of the Soviet leaders is genuine and will have to be met. They are not insane so 1103 they want peace, not war, but there are also practical reasons relating to the Soviet economy. They want to concentrate on their economy. With due respect to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) it goes a little further than the strategic defence initiative, although that is one element. The emphasis in the Soviet Union since the change in leadership has been to concentrate on internal change and the speed and extent of the changes have been remarkable by any standards, especially by conservative standards of conduct in the Soviet Union over many years under a system that tends to stagnate.
There is evidence that the Soviet leaders want progress in that direction and they know that they cannot afford the arms race as well. Nevertheless, they will afford it if they have to, because they are determined about it. The economy is the practical reason for their willingness to do business. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, we can do business with them, and I believe that we should get on with it as quickly as possible because the mood will not last forever. Even Communist leaders have to deliver to their people. Even Soviet leaders can stick out their necks only for so long before they suffer, hopefully not by being chopped off. A leadership that has been so dynamic in bringing about change cannot expect to be universally loved by all those who have been moved or dismissed. The moves have been extensive throughout the system, and we saw evidence of that.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
As my hon. Friend knows, I also visited the Soviet Union. On the important question of the economic problems facing the Soviet Union, does my hon. Friend agree that one of the problems is the need to earn hard currency to buy grain to make up its agricultural deficiency? The cost of that grain is between $6 billion and $7 billion per year and total earnings in hard currency are no more than that due to the collapse of oil prices and the halving of the 60 per cent. of hard currency earnings attributable to oil.
§ Mr. Temple-Morris
I agree with my hon. Friend that that is an important aspect. It was clear that the Soviet Union wished to trade with us to gain more hard currency rather than relying on the prices of raw materials such as oil. There are undoubted possibilities for British business. That point should be made loud and clear. Companies should get out there and see what they can do by way of joint enterprises, and so on.
By way of illustration of the difficulties that face bridge builders, when we were in the Soviet Union at one moment we were talking about the summit and the very next moment we heard on the news the United States pronouncement threatening abrogation of the SALT 2 treaty. That did not make life easy. At that moment I was not exactly proud of the Western Alliance.
In regard to the summit, I want to emphasise what has been said. I am sure that the Soviet Union wants the summit, but it must be able to deliver. Leaders of all systems have to deliver. That was put graphically to us by Mr. Gorbachev when he said that to go on any basis other than the agreement of something that was carefully prepared would be to deceive the people. It would deceive the people to talk agreeably for five and a half hours and come out smiling, as applied to only one summit. More has to be achieved at the next summit.
I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to bring what influence they can to bear upon the 1104 United States not to miss the opportunity of another summit, because the Soviet Union is willing to participate. The British people want and expect that. If things get difficult in East-West and international relations, commensurate with that difficulty will be a mounting electoral relevance of that aspect of foreign affairs. At the next election I do not think that any of us can expect not to mention foreign affairs. The worse things get, the more we will have to talk about it. I do not want us or our Government to be on the defensive.
In regard to the United Kingdom position, I have dealt with the need for a slightly more vigorous approach and greater independence. I appreciate the background of the United States and NATO, the fear of American isolationism and all the rest of it. Nevertheless, there is a duty to speak out on such topics as SDI and star wars, but I do not propose to go into detail because I have already done so in a previous debate. On SALT 2, I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government for doing their utmost to save the day.
Progress can be made, and we should speak out to achieve it, on chemical weapons, accompanied by verification, and on nuclear testing. The whole Soviet attitude on verification was simple. It was, "Just come on, try us and see." I do not see why we should not do that. If it did not work out, it would be simple to dispense with all that had been said as propaganda. In other words, the gauntlet was thrown down firmly and I think that it should be picked up.
As for the future, one deals very much with the United States and the Western Alliance in debates on East-West relations, but we must not forget our European links and our eventual future with Europe. Because of the dependence on the United States that I have been talking about, the British voice is regrettably getting weaker rather than stronger. That voice represents a considerable force for good in the world, but it can be exercised more powerfully if it is concerted with a policy that recognises our future as being within Europe.
There is a fundamental choice that has not yet been made. I say that advisedly and deliberately. People who try to have it all ways often end up with nothing. Our voice should always he fielded in these matters to the maximum effect. The world expects it. I am confident enough to feel that the world would like it too.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
It is a particular pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) in the debate, because he and I shared a car in the wanderings in the Soviet Union that have been described extensively. If the executive of the Leominster Conservative association and the executive of Leominster Liberal association knew the degree of political co-operation that we were able to develop as we discussed these issues, he and I might both be in trouble. Today he has spoken clearly, frankly and with much the same emphasis as so many members of that delegation shared in their reaction to the visit to the Soviet Union. The Minister of State should be aware that the hon. Gentleman gave a true reflection of reactions on all sides. Even though we may draw some different conclusions, our assessments were similar.
If there is one depressing thought that hangs over a foreign affairs debate in present circumstances, it is that to many of us there is no apparent distinctive British 1105 foreign policy, at least on the part of the Prime Minister. That impression was brought vividly home by her support of and direct complicity in the United States bombing of Libya, an act so misguided that it is now being openly questioned at the most senior level in the White House. The Prime Minister is President Reagan's most reliable and compliant friend, but it is of no value in a friendship not to be a candid friend and not to be prepared to take a clearly different view at times. That the right hon. Lady has failed to do. I say that as a dedicated supporter of NATO and our alliance with the United States.
I am strongly opposed to those who rank the United States and the USSR as two equivalent super-powers and two equivalent societies which pose the same threats and the same dangers to us and who are equally hostile to us. They cannot be viewed in that light by anyone who values democracy and the extent to which the United States exemplifies that democracy, but at present it happens to be the case that the foreign policy of the Soviet Union is moving marginally in directions of which I and my right hon. and hon. Friends approve, while the foreign policy of the United States has been moving steadily away from those directions over the last few years. That view is shared by a great many people within the United States of America.
I believe that many of President Reagan's foreign policies add up to a recipe for disaster. That is why I wish to see a stronger British challenge to many of those policies, including those on East-West relations and arms control. That is why I wish to see a stronger British effort to end United States support for authoritarian regimes like that in Chile, and of American attempts to overthrow the Government of Nicaragua. That is why I want to see a stronger British effort in other areas of United States foreign policy where the United States is exercising a damaging influence.
To take a specific example, let us consider Namibia, which we did not discuss yesterday in the extensive and good debate on South Africa. I hope that the British Government will seek to use their influence to keep Namibia on the agenda and to stop the current American attempt to link Namibia with the ending of Cuban involvement in Angola. I am in favour of the ending of Cuban involvement, but it is not relevant to the solution of the Namibian problem, nor is it reasonable to visit upon those fighting for the genuine independence of Namibia responsibility for Cuban actions in that other territory.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
How can the hon. Gentleman possibly express that sentiment in the light of the fact that South African policy on Namibia is significantly motivated by the Cuban presence in Angola?
§ Mr. Beith
South Africa involvement in Namibia has been to defy the United Nations, to defy the international community and to deny democracy and self-determination to the people of that country over a long period. Currently, the fears of the South African Government arc indeed exacerbated by their relationship to Angola, in which they have a substantial military involvement in backing the UNITA forces. In any objective assessment of the rights of the people of Namibia, it is irrelevant to seek to apply the criterion of Cuban disengagement.
On the issue of East-West relations, which has dominated the debate so far, all of us who took part in the 1106 recent visit to Moscow were impressed by the shrewdness and relative open-mindedness of General Secretary Gorbachev. We reached perhaps three similar conclusions. The first is that Gorbachev is serious about what he has to do to make changes in the Soviet economy and to raise the standard of living of the people. He is applying himself to that task. I see his recent visit to Hungary as part of the process by which he learns from other states and compares other relevant experience. There are great opportunities for British trade in the longer term as that process goes on. That will require some revision of our present COCOM rules and the extent to which we restrict technological imports of things that the Soviet Union can buy as single items freely on the open market in other parts of the world.
We all gained the impression that the Soviet Union means business about arms control. That impression is confirmed by more recent statements and by what Mr. Gorbachev said about SDI. That statement went much further than earlier ones. I believe that the US signals on SALT 2 are the wrong signals. They are symptomatic of the fact that around President Reagan are several people who simply do not believe in arms control. I acquit the British Government of holding that view, but there are among the President's advisers some people who do not believe in arms control and do not want it. They want a substantial arms build-up. They see a commercial advantage for a lot of people in the United States in that, and they are rushing like mad to get as many SDI contracts as possible in place before the end of President Reagan's term of office.
§ Mr. Flannery
The hon. Gentleman will recall that Mr. Gorbachev raised all these issues when he talked to us, but that President Gromyko spoke at greater length. He said that the American Establishment had dealt blow after blow against SALT 2 and had finally put a high explosive charge under it, but that he did not think the American people wanted to bury it. He made some distinction between certain politicians and the wishes of the American people. He made it quite clear that they wanted SALT 2 and that he hoped that we would help to do something about that.
§ Mr. Beith
The hon. Gentleman faithfully records what was said in answer to a question. It is rather interesting that President Gromyko did not himself raise complaints about SALT 2—his comments came in answer to a question raised by our delegation.
I must differentiate between my view and that of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). In some of his public responses he seemed almost to be eating out of the hand of General Secretary Gorbachev when he suggested arrangements that a British Government could come to with the Soviet Government. The Foreign Secretary made much of the incongruity of the proposition that we could achieve a great deal by reducing the number of Soviet missiles in exchange for removing British deterrent. That is not a useful calculation, for the reasons that the Foreign Secretary gave. The arguments for and against the British deterrent concern whether it has a real defence utility. That argument should be taking place rather more widely than in the confines of the alliance to which I happen to belong. It is a significant argument.
The Foreign Secretary did not refer to the other aspects of what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said concerning the possibility that, in exchange for the 1107 removal of United States nuclear bases in Britain, the Soviet Union would agree not to target its weapons on the United Kingdom. That proposition is so valueless that I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman attached any credibility to it. It seemed to me to be a way of getting some return for a decision, which has already been taken in the Labour party, to remove what I believe is the central feature of our nuclear defence.
Even those who are firmly wedded to the desirability, on wider political or strategic grounds, of having a British nuclear deterrent must concede that central to the defence of the United Kingdom is the presence of the NATO nuclear deterent on British soil. If that is removed, our fundamental defence stance is, to use the right hon. Gentleman's words, destabilised. It is the basis of our current defence. The British deterent poses a quite separate question, which is whether we could conceive of launching a nuclear response when the NATO deterrent was not brought to bear because the United States did not regard it as right to launch it. On that, as with the quite separate issue of whether there should be a direct exchange between the Soviet Union and Britain on the British deterrent, I do not believe that we should do side deals with the Soviet Union. Our role is to seek a wider settlement and an arms agreement which involves the two super-powers and us alongside, not to do a side deal, because that would not achieve general disarmament.
I should like to mention a third impression which many of us got but which has not been mentioned so far. I do not believe that General Secretary Gorbachev has addressed himself to the civil rights problems in his country or to the implications of changes in the style of the Soviet economy for what people will want in terms of civil rights and freedom. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) raised these issues on our behalf. I see no sign of any improvement in civil rights in regard to political dissidents or religious groups. There are many professing Christians who are imprisoned, and there are many Jews who want to emigrate.
We hope that we will get a positive response to some of our suggestions and the cases that we took up, but I see no positive sign yet of a crack in the basic Soviet attitude. The Soviet Union's efforts to win friends in the West would be enormously strengthened if it made changes in regard to civil rights. Moreover, it would greatly assist General Secretary Gorbachev's domestic policies if he ceased to make enemies of a great many people who would make perfectly good Soviet citizens if only he gave them a chance to be. Nobody should have any illusions that the significant changes in Soviet foreign policy or in how its economy is run signal, as yet, any change in basic civil rights—the position in that respect remains as worrying and unsatisfactory as I believe it has been for a long time.
§ Mr. Crouch
The hon. Gentleman referred to my raising human rights with General Secretary Gorbachev and the President. Does the hon. Gentleman remember that when I raised the matter with Mr. Gorbachev he smiled and said, "I know what is coming."? I think that I dared to respond, "This is no laughing matter." I told him and the President that this was an issue that clouded public opinion in the West and was taken serously here, that no matter how seriously we discuss disarmament, verification, SALT 2 and the like, human rights were of prime importance to us.
§ Mr. Beith
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We tried, and continue to try, as I hope do the Government, to get 1108 it across to the Soviet leadership that this is not some propaganda exercise. We do not raise these matters to belittle the Soviet Union; we raise them because they are of the deepest concern to our constituents and a great many other people in the West.
§ Mr. Beith
Much as I should like to give way, I shall not do so as I shall be in trouble with the Chair, because I have a number of other matters to raise.
I should now like to consider the middle east. I am glad that the Prime Minister visited Israel. I am glad that she was moved, as she clearly was, by her visit to Yad Vashern—a reminder of the horrific experience of the Jewish people. I am also glad that she found so much warmth towards Britain among so many Israelis. Those were welcome features of the visit. I am also glad that she made an effort to talk to some people from the Palestinian community, despite the difficulties attendant upon arranging that. I am deeply sorry, however, that the visit was able to achieve so little in advancing their cause or in advancing a general resolution of middle east problems.
There is no escaping the role and responsibility of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in the solution of that problem, and it is no use trying to bypass it or assuming that other leaders can be found to replace the PLO in that capacity. There is a lesson there for Israel, Jordan, Britain and the United States, which keeps looking around for means of avoiding talking to the PLO. There are also lessons there for Syria, which has been trying systematically to undermine the leadership of the PLO.
§ Mr. Beith
I have just said that I shall not. I will be in trouble with the Chair if I give way much more.
In a debate such as this, we must also pay attention to some of the forgotten or nearly forgotten conflicts of the world. I refer, for example, to Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union is still present in large numbers and increasingly embarrassed about it. It is looking for ways of reducing its commitment. We must keep up the diplomatic pressure to make the Soviet leaders recognise that the West cannot stand by and watch a country such as Afghanistan invaded and make no complaint or fail to raise the issue. I was struck, during the visit of Hu Yaobang of the People's Republic of China, by how strongly China still feels about the Russian presence in Afghanistan. That was a very successful visit, and Hu Yaobang brought life and sparkle to the diplomatic scene when he was over here. There is no doubt about the strength of Chinese feeling about the continued Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, and we should be as ready as the Chinese are to continue the pressure on that issue.
In Eritrea, there is still massive Soviet involvement in backing the Ethiopian regime with its denial of self-determination to the Eritreans. That battle is increasing, and civil war in that country makes a solution to the famine problems impossible. It greatly worsens the problems about which so many British people care deeply and in respect of which so many of them have tried to help and contribute.
Moroccan occupation continues in the western Sahara, and the people of that country continue to be denied their 1109 rights, despite OAU approval and the approval of about half the nations of the world for the recovery of their statehood and status, to which they are clearly entitled on any assessment of international law. I hope that the British Government will not rest on the rather cosy relationship that they have sometimes had with Morocco and that they will continue to press that case.
Earlier I mentioned the situation in Sri Lanka, and the Foreign Secretary kindly said that he would continue to press that point with the Indian Foreign Minister during his visit to see whether there are ways in which we can help to secure resolutions to a problem to which there is no military solution. Unless there is some constitutional development there, there cannot be a military solution.
§ Miss Boothroyd
I understand that in the last 48 hours the Sri Lankan Cabinet has agreed proposals to put to the all-party conference to be held next month in Sri Lanka, which will create provisional councils in that country with a considerable measure of devolution and opportunities for co-ordination between the regions. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would want to welcome those proposals and to wish them well, while at the same time wishing for a cessation of hostilities on the part of the security forces and the Tamil extremists.
§ Mr. Beith
I know that the hon. Lady takes a close interest in what goes on in Sri Lanka. I have not studied the proposals that she described, but I hope that she will use all her influence to ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka recognise that they must make significant constitutional moves if they are to avoid a continued, insoluble problem in that country.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Will he reflect that one of the problems in Sri Lanka has been the systematic exclusion of the Tamil people from the constitutional process? I believe that to be at the root of the problem, and it is compounded by the large number of arms sales by a number of western European countries to the Government of Sri Lanka, as a result of which the civil war is now raging. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one part of the peace process would be the cessation of arms sales to the Government of Sri Lanka?
§ Mr. Beith
I agree with the hon. Gentleman about arms sales. I am glad that I have allowed two balanced interventions on Sri Lanka.
We must be given back our self-respect in relation to foreign policy and should be given the right to an independent British foreign policy. On several occasions, it has seemed as if the Foreign Secretary has been on the point of doing precisely that. I felt so when he made his notable speech on the strategic defence initiative. There is no better critique in existence of the SDI programme than the 18-point summary of its weaknesses and drawbacks that was delivered by the Foreign Secretary, but scarcely 1110 had he made it than the Prime Minister came to the House effectively to dismiss it. She made it very clear, very quickly, that she would back SDI all the way.
When the Foreign Secretary spoke in Halifax, Nova Scotia and gave some indication of Western and European concern about the American attitude to SALT 2, he was beginning to show the signs of an independent British foreign policy, but it only needed the Prime Minister to come to the Dispatch Box and that independence quickly disappeared from the Government's stance.
Even today, I felt that there was a coded criticism of the United States in what the Foreign Secretary said about his hopes that the United States would feel the need not to breach SALT 2. I wonder whether the Prime Minister will come to the Dispatch Box tomorrow and find words to disagree with that as well and to make it clear that such independence is not to be tolerated.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tim Renton)
I remind the hon. Gentleman that in answering questions about SALT 2 the Prime Minister has already used almost exactly similar language and pointed out that she hopes strongly that SALT 2 will be observed by both sides.
§ Mr. Beith
What is it about our Prime Minister that makes even her choice of the same phrases as the Foreign Secretary sound totally different in flavour and meaning? There is something about our Prime Minister that makes her able to convince large sections of Right-wing Republican opinion in the United States that she is totally with them, while convincing many people both in America and this country who hold rather different views that she is very much against them. The Foreign Secretary evokes a rather different response.
Indeed, I think that the Prime Minister could win the Republican primary in California outright, but the stance that would make it easy for her to do so will help to make it impossible for her to win the next general election in this country. I believe that the lack of independence and self-respect in foreign policy is something with which the British people are becoming increasingly impatient.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
Fate sometimes smiles on Back Benchers, and, having failed to catch your eye in last night's debate on South Africa, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I welcome the opportunity of returning to that theme without apology, sure in the knowledge that I have on my side the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who declared yesterday that the South Africa debateis one of the most important issues which the House has ever debated".—[Official Report, 17 June 1986; Vol. 99, c. 901.]I do not dissent from that view. The passing of about 24 hours has allowed a few particles of dust to settle. It has given us some time for limited reflection. It gives us time to be selective and to extract from yesterday's debate points of commission, so to speak, of particular significance and points of omission of similar significance.
A debate on South Africa may to some observers be seen as the chosen battlefield for a cavalry charge by the Right wing of the Conservative party which is met by a counter-charge from the Left wing of the Labour party. That leaves quite a number of us as innocent bystanders, increasingly confused as the exchange becomes more heated.
1111 During much of last night's debate I felt that all too often the fundamental objective was overlooked. What in the de-imperialist and de-colonial era can we possibly do about South Africa? The objective of what we do and say must surely be to try to encourage those people who can create a fairer and more equitable society in South Africa to do so and to discourage those people who do not want that objective from pursuing their aims. During much of last night's debate, that fundamental simplistic objective was lost sight of.
I have chosen three themes, and I shall be selective and somewhat disjointed in my comments because I am aware that I am pursuing a debate that has passed. I want to talk first about the changes that have happened in South Africa. I want to look again at selected aspects of the debate on sanctions and then, in more detail, and perhaps more controversially, at what by implication we appear to be demanding from South Africa.
The hours of debate yesterday in my judgment produced insufficient and inadequate acknowledgement and recognition of the changes that have taken place in South Africa. I was in Pretoria in January 1985 and spent the best part of a week in discussion with what for convenience one can call the Pretoria establishment. That was 18 months ago. I listened to what they said and drew my conclusions.
In January 1985 I concluded that the Pretoria establishment did not want fundamental change. It was playing with words and would adapt superficially and insignificantly to preserve the status quo. Just over a year later, in February 1986, I returned to Pretoria and had almost identical discussions with the same people. I detected a fundamental difference. Within those 12 months the Pretoria establishment had changed its tune. It was no longer playing around for a superficial representation of apartheid. It was talking of fundamental change.
I shall not go much further than that because the next dimension of my analysis is that the Pretoria establishment did not know its goal or objective and, therefore, the route it should follow and, therefore, the speed at which it should go. Nevertheless, a vital change had happened in 12 months, which was that the heart of Afrikanerdom had realised that things could not continue as they had been doing and as, perhaps, in its heart of hearts it would like them to continue. Yesterday, Opposition Members debased, devalued and weakened their case. Obviously, there are strong arguments for the imposition of sanctions, but Opposition Members did not give due acknowledgement to a significant change that has taken place in the thinking of the Afrikaner.
I have now seen the video of last Monday's TV-am programme, which included an exchange between a spokesman from the South African embassy and the Leader of the Opposition. The embassy official argued that the South African Government had taken a number of significant steps towards dismantling and removing apartheid. The Leader of the Opposition dismissed him as a "fibber". We could spend a long time arguing about the delineation between grand apartheid, petty apartheid and the whole area in between, but during the past two years or more there have been most significant changes in South African society. I ask the House to consider the removal of job reservations; the repealing of the Mixed Marriages Act; of the Immorality Act; and of influx control; from the perspective of the Afrikaner, what amounts to the 1112 constitutional revolution of the establishment of the tricameral Parliament. There is also the extension of freehold rights for blacks and the declared objectives of education parity for all population groups. That is just a selection. Five or 10 years ago none of that was remotely conceivable in the history of the development of the South African nation.
The embassy official, whom I happen to know and respect, was not telling fibs when he said that Pretoria was no longer defending apartheid, but he did not go the whole way. The greater truth, which he neither contradicted nor asserted, is that Pretoria does not know what it is defending. That is an essential dimension of the crisis that is too often too little perceived by many people who presume to participate in the debate on South Africa. Pretoria does not know where it is going, the route it should take, or the speed at which it should travel. So much for the changes which have happened.
I now turn to the central issue of sanctions and the degree to which we should or should not impose further "effective economic measures" as the Opposition would' have us do. Last night the House dismissed that proposition, and it was utterly right to do so. However, I agree with Opposition Members on one essential point. The Government's amendment substituted for "effective economic measures" the phraseology "effective measures". I listened to virtually all the debate and left completely confused about what the Government meant by "effective measures". If the debate demonstrated, anything, it demonstrated the meaninglessness of that expression. There are no effective measures other than the wholesale economic measures which Opposition Members wish to see implemented. I was further struck forcefully by the Government's inability to attach any meaning to that expression.
For my part, I would neither support nor refuse to support the concept of "effective measures", unless it could be explained to me what those measures were. At present I am none the wiser.
§ Mr. Cash
Does my hon. Friend accept that there are considerable difficulties in setting out precisely what is to be done in this context at this juncture, and that we have several weeks in which to get things right? Furthermore., does he accept that it is absolutely essential to bear in mind that, although some people would like to see apartheid dismantled, as I would, others would indulge their moral consciences at the expense of the carnage of black people, if things went wrong.
§ Mr. Hunter
Once again, on this topic as on many others, I find myself embracing the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend. That is an added dimension to the complexity of the debate which we had last night and which will continue. I would prefer the debate to have been postponed until the Government had pursued negotiations with Commonwealth Heads of State, the European Community, the seven industrial nations and so on
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
Is not the hon. Gentleman being a little unfair? If he had listened carefully to the speeches of the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State, he would have seen at least some attempt to give signals, but one which could not be taken further because it was constrained by the complete intransigence of the Prime Minister in this area.
§ Mr. Hunter
No. Until the last sentiment I could agree with much of that. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue, I shall develop an answer to that point.
In our debate last October I declared my opposition to further economic measures against South Africa. During the intervening months the position has demonstrably and irrefutably deteriorated. This has led some of my hon. Friends to change the emphasis in their thinking and to believe that, perhaps, we should reconsider the position. Indeed, we should always reassess. However, I have confirmed and consolidated my opinion of last October that the imposition of further economic sanctions against South Africa would be highly undesirable. The arguments against sanctions were well rehearsed last night, so I will accelerate through them.
The first essential question is how effectively sanctions can be implemented. In a sense it is a peripheral point: I am arguing not about their merits or otherwise, but about the practical course of action to follow. If sanctions were not implemented universally, we would merely lose our commercial interests and hand over a free market to our competitors—the sanctions busters. That is peripheral. Let us assume, however, that sanctions can be implemented effectively.
There was one omission from last night's debate. I apologise if I am mistaken in saying that not one hon. Member pointed out that the first casualties of effective economic sanctions against South Africa would be.1.5million black immigrant workers in South Africa.
§ Mr. Hunter
I apologise if I missed that point. I do not recall it being made. It would be a long and arduous march home for 1.5 million people. Perhaps some would be herded on to cattle wagons and sent back by railroads. Many would not survive physically. None would survive financially. One and a half million is a lot of human lives.
The second victims would be the blacks in South Africa whose jobs, lifestyles, and financial expectations would be hit. More to the point, those to whom social spending and Government programmes are directed would be casualties.
The economies of the front-line states—the border states—would be savaged by effective economic sanctions.
A further dimension was not stressed sufficiently in yesterday's debate. The debate more or less assumed that, in the event of the implementation of sanctions, the South African Government would sit idly by and endure whatever had to be endured. There is a further dimension—that of counter-sanctions. Peter Younghusband, a South African journalist, in an article in the Daily Mail, of all newspapers, a week or so ago, said that counter-sanctions would wreak havoc on the economy of the entire African continent.
Each year, $200 million-worth of goods go from South Africa to the rest of the African continent. An amount of $1 million goes back to South Africa. If that $200 million were cut off, what would happen? Ninety-nine per cent. of Lesotho's imports are from South Africa. The figure for Swaziland is 91 per cent. and for Botswana 88 per cent. The President of Zimbabwe acknowledged that his country would last three weeks without its supply routes from South Africa. If we implement wholesale economic sanctions against South Africa, and if the South Africans 1114 indulge in counter-sanctions, within two months we would have to call off the effort because we could not finance the crippling burden which our policy would inflict on other countries, some of whom are independent Commonwealth countries.
There are two further misconceptions which, in my judgment, ultimately destroy the validity of the arguments for sanctions. The misconception of lesser importance is the proposition that sanctions are a nice, cosy, remote and non-violent means of creating change in South African society. They are not. Deliberately to impoverish and starve is to promote and provoke violence. Deliberately to promote and provoke violence cannot be right. To believe that by promoting and provoking violence in South Africa one can create a more just and equitable society is self-delusion, pure and simple.
A greater misconception is the ultimate fallacy in the argument in favour of the imposition of sanctions. Suppose they work. Suppose we irrevocably destroy South Africa financially. What then? Do hon. Members believe that by cornering an Afrikaner and destroying his economic well-being they will turn him, overnight, into a western enlightened liberal? They would achieve nothing of the sort.
We talk about the laager mentality of the Afrikaner. Once upon a time, the Afrikaner nation, in its embryonic state, was forced into an inner laager. On 15 December 1838, 10,000 black men attacked that inner laager. Six hours later, 3,000 were dead. The forces of law and order in South Africa have not yet started to deliver their goods. If we push the Afrikaner into a position of no hope and no retreat, we shall not achieve our objective of creating a fairer and more equitable society in that country.
Economic sanctions have worked—not economic sanctions imposed by politicians but economic sanctions which are the result of that indefinable quality, business confidence. There is no significant new investment in South Africa. Whatever disinvestment can take place under the law of the land is taking place. What Oppostion hon. Members seek to achieve, through advocating a policy for the future, is already the reality. Business confidence has gone. There is a remarkable naivety in the cry for effective economic measures. They have already been taken by the international business community, not by the politician. That is the tragedy. How is progress financed? How are social programmes financed outside a flourishing national economy?
Last night Opposition Members referred to education in South Africa. They pointed out the disparity in spending on a white child as compared with a black child. This year, the public expenditure programme in South Africa is running at 41 billion rands. If there were to be equality of spending on education for black children and white children, that amount must be doubled. If there is no economic base on which to finance that spending, where will it come from?
What do we expect of South Africa? The Government have said frequently that they do not seek to impose a form of government on South Africa. Rather, they seek the creation of a form of government acceptable to all races. I think that Opposition Members would broadly accept that. Perhaps they would prefer the expression "acceptable to the majority". In the debate yesterday, words such as "democracy", "freedom", "unitary state", and so on, were used. What do they mean in reality? If a President of Tanzania says that he does not believe in democracy and 1115 a President of Zimbabwe says that he does not believe in democracy—I ask the question only because I want to know the answer—why should a President of South Africa believe in democracy? Why do we demand of South Africa more than we demand of the rest of the African continent, Commonwealth countries included?
The forces of evolution are at work in South Africa. There have been significant achievements in the past two years. My belief still is that the forces of evolution in South Africa need help and encouragement, not discouragement, and that the House was right last night to reject the proposition of wholesale economic measures.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Torfaen)
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) has clearly learnt what most parliamentarians learn—never throw away the notes of an undelivered speech. I advise him that, if he is not to cause dissonances in House of Commons debates, he should put his notes in the drawer for longer than 24 hours.
All of us are concerned that the summit talks may be again at risk. It is inevitable when such an awesome possibility arises that people of my generation are bound to look back to the end of the war. How did it come about that all the high hopes of co-operation held by my generation during the immediate post-way years—that the West would work with the Soviet Union—were so speedily dashed? NATO was established and the long cold war began.
Our husbandry of our atomic know-how, for the sake of what proved, inevitably, to be a short-term advantage, was undoubtedly one of the main reasons. But there were good reasons for the Soviet Union, after the long appeasement years, to be fearful again. Even more important reasons were clearly shaping Russia's attitude. I recalled them vividly a few weeks ago when, for the first time in 40 years, I was in Vienna, observing the obscene election of Waldheim and witnessing the appalling manner in which the Austrians. unlike the Germans, seek to exculpate themselves from their own terrible guilt. I naturally thought of the immediate post-war years. By the accident of war, I had found myself awaiting demobilisation in a small RAF unit—the only one in Vienna—surrounded by a sea of Russian troops. That was my first contact with them. Some of their political commissars were Jewish and I was able to speak to them in my sort of Yiddish.
§ Mr. Abse
I may have spoken Yiddish with a Welsh accent, but those commissars were able to understand me. I dare say that those poor fellows were killed off in Stalin's paranoic years. The bulk of the troops however were kids, and I thought of them as such even then when I was a young man. They were simple, untutored men scraped up from the fringes of the Soviet empire. The depletion of the Soviet Union's manpower was tragically visible to us. That impress—the reminder of the 20 million Russians who had lost their lives—has always been with me and, more importantly and more relevantly, it has always been with the Soviet leadership who, until recently, were men of my age, or, indeed, usually older. A failure of imagination by the West to appreciate that those losses prompted the compulsive, often seemingly irrational, security needs of 1116 Russia led to the speedy contretemps and misunderstandings that, within two years of the end of the war, were to bring about the great and dangerous division that has extended, as has been emphasised, for almost 40 years.
Now, when I listen to the interesting contributions by hon. Members who had the privilege of visiting Russia with the delegation, it is clear that a new generation of Soviet leaders is emerging, less shaped, perhaps less distorted, by wartime memories. There is, too, a new awareness in Western Europe of the need to rethink policies towards Russia. I emphasise that that is not how the United States of America sees it. During an academic sojourn of four or five weeks in the United States during its pre-election period, I saw people who pressed home to me that the gulf between European and Reagan thinking was wider than the Atlantic ocean. Doubtless, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, there has been a shift from the more sophisticated east to the south and west of America which has played its part, but it is unhappily true that the British Government are colluding in widening the gap between the United States and Europe, as evidenced by the Libyan adventure. Constant apologies for our subjugation to American policies come from the Prime Minister and from the leader of the Social Democratic Party, who in the past few weeks has lectured us about the dangers of anti-Americanism. That constant refrain, which we heard again from the Foreign Secretary, is based on their belief that our defence security wholly depends upon America.
If we act on such an assumption, we are on the road to Armageddon. The aeroplanes from American bases here could one day carry H-bombs inviting our obliteration. It is nonsense to believe that military necessity leaves us with no alternative but to condone Reagan's self-indulgent caprices. The Libyan intervention shows how important it is that we free ourselves from our thraldom to the United States.
There are more than 250 million people in Western Europe with tremendous industrial resources and long military and diplomatic experience, who are potentially able to defend themselves militarily and diplomatically against some 200 million Russians who are contending at the same time with 1 billion Chinese on their borders, with the rising dangers of Islamic fundamentalism in eastern Russia and with all the disgruntled peoples of eastern Europe. If we had a Government who genuinely placed upon their agenda the Europeanisation of west European security, instead of attempting to sabotage it—as occurred with the Anglo-American attack on Libya—we might avoid the final disaster.
Those who accuse people who speak like me, British people, of anti-Americanism and those whose emotional attachment to the United States is similar to that of the Leader of the SDP or the Prime Minister—who complain that the British seem to have been seized with an anti-American mood—are mocking the realism which they lack. It is no use us pretending that Reagan's America is that of Roosevelt or of Kennedy. There is abroad in the United States a dangerous politicised fundamentalism, an unhappy form of Christianity, that is soaked in gnosticism, a belief that this world is so sunk in evil that rescue is necessary. Such gnostic beliefs lead to the conclusion that there is a demiurge, or a limited evil power. That power is said to be the satanic representative of cosmic evil. It can then be speedily identified as the Russians and, therefore, must at all costs he overcome.
1117 United States policies are ambiguous because they are worked out within the ambience of President Reagan's provocative "evil empire" speeches. Those who, out of old affections, plead, as I suspect the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) pleaded in his interesting contribution, that Reagan is a mere blink in the history of American Presidents, should stop deceiving themselves and those whom they seek to influence.
Last week, we saw Vice-President Bush's setback against a fundamentalist contender for the presidency. We are speaking not of a wild fringe movement but of a movement in the main-stream of American politics. Europe could, if we permitted it, become the victim of that primitive mythology. It is almost impossible to open a newspaper without encountering corroboration of that new mood. The last bastion in the United States of America—the Supreme Court—has been breached with the President nominating Judge Scalia and making William Rehnquist the Chief Justice. That was, of course, applauded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson, the fundamentalists who are having such an inimical influence upon America and upon American foreign policy.
The worst insanity that emerges from America's contemporary sick culture is Reagan's yearning for the fulfilment of what he has called his dream. That is the misshapen dream of star wars defence. Every depth psychologist would insist that what none of us can tolerate, and what we fear most, is to be reduced to utter helplessness—the utter helplessness of a babe. The goal of star wars is to be enabled to launch nuclear attacks upon an enemy without fear of retaliation. To aim to reduce the Soviet Union to helplessness is to invite pre-emptive retaliation. For Britain blithely to co-operate in such an adventure would be to co-operate in our suicide. Narcissistic rage, as the psychoanalysts describe it, can move groups as well as individuals. Such deep-seated rage, which has been provoked by concepts such as star wars, is relieved only by violence. But we should not be disengaging from American adventurism merely out of self-interest.
Last month, I wandered round Czechoslovakia. These days, in Britain, it is an almost forgotten country. No people in Europe have less deserved their fate. Betrayed at Munich by Britain, brutally ruled by Nazi Germany and then invaded by Russia, the Czechs nevertheless show extraordinary resilience, surviving the Russian occupation with wondrous ingenuity and pressing to their limits the parameters imposed upon them by the Soviet Union, yet never allowing their personal integrity to be eroded by the evasions that they are daily compelled to make. We owe it to such people to do everything possible to assist them. But so long as Britain and Europe remain locked into American policies, so long will the Russians wish to throw out their defensive perimeters to produce the greatest possible area within which they believe they have freedom to manoeuvre. That is why the hapless Russian service men, to whom no Czech will speak, remain in Czechoslovakia.
It is becoming increasingly clear that to assist such lands and ourselves, we need a considerable lurch in our foreign and defence policies. Fortunately, with the British people now taking an unusual interest in non-domestic affairs, there is every hope that, come the election, they will 1118 not be debauched by tax concessions and other bribes. I trust that, ere long, we shall have a Government more conscious of the fact that peace cannot be assured, as this Government believe, by deferring on almost every issue to dangerous American backwoodsmen.
§ Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)
Listening to the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Abse) and remembering what great campaigners both he and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) have been in the cause of Soviet jewry caused me to reflect that there must be a big improvement in the lot of those unhappy people before some of the euphoria that we heard from the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) is entirely justified.
As the debate started unnecessarily late, I shall not make a great tour d'horizon. I shall confine myself to the Western European Union.
The debate has prompted me to make two rather cynical observations. Listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) describing the oppressive South African measures that have been lifted from the backs of the unhappy black people—the marriage laws, the sexual repressions and others —reminded me that for many years successive Governments—the Conservative Government of which I was a member, and Labour Governments—so far from seeking to impose sanctions when all those oppressive
measures were still in force in South Africa, tried to encourage civil trade with South Africa. I make no comment, but merely make that observation.
I was inspired to make a second cynical observation after listening with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), who mentioned Afghanistan. It was right that he should remind us—and it caused me to reflect—that about a third of the population of Afghanistan have become refugees. Those who have been killed in Afghanistan can be numbered not in tens, or hundreds, or thousands, but in hundreds of thousands. The amount of coverage of Afghanistan by our media has been about two or three hours. The coverage of South Africa must run into hundreds of hours. I merely make those observations without comment.
I shall confine my remarks to the Western European Union, of which I have been a member for nine years, serving on the defence committee and on the General Affairs Committee. We participate in the Western European Union because we believe that it is a vital political forum concerned with the defence of the West, because it is the political arm of NATO—the Atlantic Alliance—and because it involves the important contribution of France outside NATO. The seven European countries which shared views on Europe formed the Western European Union by treaty, animated by a desire for collective defence and committed to the Atlantic Alliance and the European Community.
The cornerstone of the treaty is article 5, which states:If any of the high contracting parties should be the object of an armed attack in Europe, the other high contracting parties will, in accordance with the provisions of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, afford the party so attacked all the military and other aid and assistance in their power.I quote that to demonstrate the importance of the Western European Union. The wording of the treaty is in some 1119 ways more powerful than that of NATO. In addition, in an age of highly technical defence, often cloaked in great secrecy, it is essential that there should be an instrument which is an effective communication between the military authorities and European public opinion.
The Western European Union is also a forum for discussion of civil, military, technical, technological and scientific co-operation. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who is chairman of the Committee on Scientific, Technological and Aerospace Questions, plays a notable and distinguished part in the Western European Union. That should he recorded by colleagues here who are not aware of the good work being done.
No organisation remains stable. It either grows and adapts to change or it dies. Over the nine years that I have been a member of the WEU, I have observed a steady decline in its effectiveness. Therefore, I rejoiced in the move to reactivate it at the Rome meeting in 1984. I thought that the WEU would play an enhanced role and that other nations would be encouraged to participate. I thought that the Council of Ministers and our own Ministers would share that view.
Alas, at the WEU meeting in Venice this year, Ministers showed little intention of achieving this. They poured cold water on the whole idea. I know that recently in Paris the secretary-general announced some initiatives and set up agencies of a relatively minor nature, but no real assurance was given that the WEU was to play an enhanced role.
The hopes of many members were dashed. As so often happens in European matters, initiatives and enthusiasms sink in the bureaucratic and diplomatic sludge. The WEU Assembly is often treated by the Council of Ministers perfunctorily and with little more than contempt on some occasions.
It suits the Council of Ministers to have the Assembly as a cosmetic front, but it seems determined to avoid anything being done, any change being made or any proposal being accepted that would result in Ministers and their officials being shaken out of their cosy, comfortable nest. I regret that in the nine years that I have been in the WEU I cannot recall a British Defence Minister coming to address the WEU. We are always pleased to see Foreign Office Ministers, and we were delighted to see the noble Lady, Baroness Young, at our last meeting. Defence is a fundamental subject. Other nations manage to field their top Defence Ministers. Why do we not do so as well?
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, in a rather colourful phrase, described the dilemma faced by the Liberal and SDP Members on defence as meaning that they were likely to suffer obsolescence through inertia. I shall not burst a blood vessel if that happens to the alliance, but I do not want it to happen to the WEU.
I can give two recent examples of ministerial inertia. First, the President of the WEU, Mr. Caro, of France, proposed a powerful initiative for the WEU to help in the battle against terrorism.
In the Assembly of the WEU we spend hours debating this subject, condemning it, regretting it and deploring it, but nothing happens in the way of practical results. President Caro produced helpful ideas for the seven nations to co-ordinate their actions against this beastly modern scourge, but once again buckets of cold water were immediately poured on his idea by the Ministers. They said that they preferred to deal through the EEC, 1120 despite the fact that the EEC has shown remarkably little enterprise in this respect and, in the case of Greece, positive negligence.
Secondly, there is the problem of enlargement. The WEU either grows or it dies. I should have thought it was obvious that the inclusion of Portugal, which is keen to join and is a member of NATO, and later that of Spain, would enhance the interests of the WEU. It was most creditable of the Spanish people, so wisely led by the moderate Labour Government, to decide quite firmly that they wish to remain in NATO, despite the clamourings and squawkings of the lunatic Left. In addition, Denmark, Norway and even Turkey, if they so wished, could make a contribution to the WEU.
Such an enlargement is opposed by Ministers on the astonishing ground that in some way the political will of the Seven might be jeopardised by the accession of new candidates. What nonsense. What great political will does the WEU exercise now that would be disturbed by the presence of our oldest ally, Portugal? All that will be disturbed is the comfortable lethargy of the Council of Ministers.
Mr. Tindemans, the Belgian Foreign Minister, described what, in his view, were the three main obstacles to the enlargement or revitalisation of the WEU, all of which were completely inexplicable. The first was:the instinctive feelings of national and cultural identity that had to he overcome.What does that mean? The second obstacle was:The post-war political concensus in many European countries was in danger of breaking down.How will that be made worse by other nations joining the WEU? Thirdly, he said:Matters relating to security have to be dealt with in a discreet way, and should not be shouted from the rooftops.We all know that from our own Parliaments. At least he went on to say:The WEU could make a significant contribution to the cause of European unity, especially as its expertise encompasses the vital field of defence policy.So it can.
Ministers of the WEU, and that includes ours, must show a great deal more drive and determination to make this organisation work in the interests of the defence of the West. I have no doubt about the commitment of my right hon. and learned Friends to the European cause or to the defence of our nation and of the West. However, I should like my hon. Friend the Minister of State to give an absolute assurance that the Government wholly support the WEU and its revitalisation and will do all that they can to encourage the lethargic other Ministers in the WEU to secure its advancement as rapidly as possible.
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)
Like the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant), I shall in due course settle into my own corner of interest, but I shall first make a few detours, in view of what has so far been said.
It was sad to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) about South Africa, particularly the part that referred to the need to defer and avoid sanctions for the sake of the black people. Sometimes we should listen to the voices of those who are being persecuted when considering what should be done to prevent that persecution. I proclaim my own sad 1121 conclusion that there is no alternative to firm sanctions, and my great regret that they have not been imposed and will not be imposed by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Lawrence
Is not the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that those of us who share the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) are listening? We are listening to Chief Buthelezi, who represents the largest tribal grouping of black Africans and to Bishop Mokoena, who represents 4.5 million black Anglicans. They are both leaders of oppressed black groups who are asking us not to introduce economic sanctions.
§ Mr. Janner
There are matters about which the hon. and learned Gentleman and I agree. This is not one of them. His selective listening is, alas, in this case leading him to a false conclusion. The vast majority of black people in that country wish nothing more than an end to the vicious apartheid regime under which they are forced to live, and believe that it is only real and effective pressure from other lands that can bring that about. They further believe that they will not get it from our Government.
I listened with concern to the speeches about the United States. I share the prevalent distaste for its foreign policy, but I do not share the anti-American feeling that is pervading the House and entering too many debates in this country. I wholly abhor and hate many of the policies of our own Government, but I proclaim the freedom that we have to attack those policies. We do not attack our own country because we loathe the policies of this Government. We take steps to get rid of that Government.
We should apply precisely the same principles in our approach to the United States—a great and vibrant democracy in which huge numbers of its citizens not only loathe the policies of their Government but have the freedom to say so openly, clearly and vehemently. The pendulum, which today has unfortunately swung in the direction of the far Right in the United States Supreme Court, will, I trust, swing back as swiftly as possible. Meanwhile, let those who go to the United States, as well as to countries where people cannot speak their mind, never forget the difference between the freedom that is enjoyed in the United States and the West to attack the Governments and policies of the day as opposed to the lack of freedom that is to be found in totalitarian regimes, especially in the East but also in the middle east.
That leads me to my next point. I so greatly wish that hon. Members, not least my hon. Friends, would understand the difference between democratic lands, such as Israel, with all its failings, in which its citizens may attack its Government—Israel has a Government created by a curious form of democracy, as real as anyone can achieve— and the totalitarian dictatorships in, for example, Syria, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), and feudal monarchies: oppressive and wicked lands where there is no right to speak without being shot, unless one happens to agree with those who are in command. Any Arab who speaks against the Palestine Liberation Organisation is not only liable to be shot but too often is. That is the problem.
I do not see how my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East can be right about negotiations with the PLO, when the PLO is not prepared to recognise the right of 1122 those with whom it is asked to negotiate, to exist as a country and as a secure land; the PLO is not prepared to give up terrorism in any land, including this one in which we are so free to speak. We have the right to speak without the fear of being shot. All civilians should have the right, in any land, to speak their minds without being terrorised.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on her visit to Israel. I was glad that she went. I was there shortly afterwards. She is a Tory Prime Minister. Israel has a Labour Prime Minister who is a close friend of mine. The two of them got on and emerged after their talks saying that it would be boring if there was nothing to disagree about. Neither of them was bored. That is the civilised way in which people ought to do business. I was also glad that at the end of her visit the Prime Minister said that one could not look just to the PLO when negotiating for peace in the middle east. She pronounced openly and clearly that others must be involved in the search for peace in that area.
I cannot spend the time that I would wish in commenting about India, but what a marvellous and magnificent land that is. How it can be governed by anybody is beyond the belief of those who visit and who love it.
I am glad that India's Foreign Minister is to visit this country. Those of us who rejoice in democracy and in the freedom to speak, take pride in a land where 780 million people enjoy democracy. Democracy does not exist in any country next to it. Indeed, it does not exist almost anywhere else in that part of the world. Certainly democracy does not exist, other than in Israel, anywhere in the middle east.
The position in Sri Lanka is not as simple as many of my hon. Friends would suggest. I have been there. The Government of Sri Lanka have tried very hard to create conditions of peace with the Tamils. They have failed. We have failed in Ireland. We in this Chamber are not in a particularly marvellous position to criticise others for their failures. Ours stand before us in all the brutality of death.
I express appreciation to all those colleagues, on both sides of the House, who took the opportunity of their visit to Moscow to raise matters relating to human rights in general, with the Soviet authorities, and who also raised a matter that is very dear to me. All my grandparents were fortunate enough to emerge from the Soviet Union. I want others, not least Jewish people, to have the right to do the same.
I shall never forget that the Red Army was our ally in war. Those who are most hurt today by the Soviet Union's behaviour over human rights are its friends.
I hope that one day those who have won the award of the all-party Parliamentary Committee for the release of Soviet Jewry—people like Vladimir Slepak, Ida Nudel, Alexander Lerner—as well as Alexei Levin and others less known—will come to this House and be received in freedom. I hope that Shcharansky, whose freedom we celebrate, will come here one day and will receive the Bible that so many of us signed, in the hope but never in the belief that he would be free to receive it from us.
That leaves one matter upon which I shall spend a little time. On almost every occasion that I have sought to raise it I have been ruled out of order. I was invited to raise it on another hon. Member's Adjournment debate last Friday, but that debate did not take place.
It is right that we should look at the past in order to light our way into the future. We should look at what happened to British soldiers who were murdered after they 1123 were taken prisoner in order that we may see who did it, and why. We must try to ensure that the kind of people who followed the Fuehrer never achieve power here, as they have done, alas, in other lands, very recently. I refer to the Waldheim matter.
I wish to place before the House information that has not been placed before it ill the past. A number of British military personnel were arrested in Greece by German Army Group E. Lieutenant Kurt Waldheim was in charge of all interrogations. I have here a copy of a document that I have passed to the Secretary of State for Defence, which shows that in December 1943 Waldheim was in total charge of all interrogations by that unit.
In April 1944—at a time when, at one stage, Waldheim said that he was out of the army but when clear records show that this was a lie—a team of seven British commandos and three Greek partisans set out on a raid. They were captured. All of them were interrogated by Waldheim's unit, and probably by Waldheim himself. Only one of them survived, Captain William Blythe. He died several years ago. The rest, so far as we know, were sent for what was called "sonderbehandlung." I served as a war crimes investigator in the British Army of the Rhine. "Sonderbehandlung" was a hideous word which we all got to know. It means, very simply, elimination—the murder of prisoners and civilians.
All these British prisoners of war other than Bill Blythe were eliminated. I even have a telegram in German, which I shall translate. It referred to certain people, including a man called Carpenter, a radio operator, and a Greek sailor called Ligaris. The telegram was sent after Waldheim had asked what was to be done with these people after their interrogation was over.They are no longer required".said his opposite number,and they should be sent for 'sonderbehandlung' in accordance with the Fuehrer's order.They died. They were murdered.
I have managed to trace some of the brave commandos, in this country. Details have been provided to the Defence Secretary, along with another four names which came to light last week. Finally, a letter was received by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle), who was kind enough to send a copy to me. He is with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation in Gibraltar, and I thank him for his agreement that I should raise this case here. I thank my research assistant, Steven Cohen, who visited a man called Frank Notley, who kindly gave permission for his name to be used and who lives in Warrington. I shall read only two paragraphs from his extremely moving letter. He said:I was a regular soldier and after completing 23 years in the Army I retired in 1957. I was taken prisoner in North Africa and escaped on two occasions from camps in Italy and Germany. I know a little about this swine Waldheim. I first saw him at Camp 182 in Italy. He was present when approximately 30 British soldiers who had been shot dead were returned to Camp 182 for burial. The poor lads were slung out of the back of German lorries as if they were sacks of garbage. You may draw your own conclusion what hand he had in this matter. I again saw him at the Interrogation Centre where I was held.I hope that other British prisoners who saw this man Waldheim involved with the death of British troops will come forward and let it be known.
Waldheim was not brought to justice. I have a United Nations War Crimes Commission document which puts him in category A—the top category—of war criminals. 1124 He was accused by the Yugoslavs for putting hostages to death and for murder. He was never tried. Instead, he became Secretary-General of the United Nations. The first time around, the United Kingdom vetoed his appointment. The second time, we approved it. I hope that the Minister of State will explain why the veto was applied and why it was lifted on the second occasion. If he tells us that that was because of suspected inefficiency, no one in his right mind will believe it. Waldheim was an efficient senior staff officer in charge of interrogations and the veto was applied because we knew precisely what he had been up to during the war, including his part in the killing of Yugoslavs, Greeks, Italians and Jews. Perhaps we did not know about the British prisoners, but we know about them now.
When I first inquired about the British prisoners at business questions, the Leader of the House said:I see no particular profit in having a debate … or getting involved in the controversies that now rage between the World Jewish Congress and the supporters of Dr. Waldheim". [Official Report, 1 May 1986; Vol. 96, c. 1108.]That was a disgraceful statement which, I am pleased to say, he was good enough effectively to withdraw. He personally asked the Ministry of Defence to conduct an inquiry into these matters. We have not had the result yet.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will my hon. and learned Friend accept that many of us gentiles—if I can put it that way—non-Jewish people, are becoming increasingly concerned by what we are learning and particularly at the idea that a man could in any way be category A? What on earth were the United Nations and the British vetting systems up to?
§ Mr. Janner
I thank my hon. Friend. This is not a matter of Jewish concern; it is a matter of human rights concern, for everybody. It is true that Waldheim was in Greece at the time when almost the entire Jewish communities of Salonika and Rhodes were wiped out, but far more Yugoslavs, Italians and Greeks were killed by his unit and, directly or indirectly, not a few British.
Why that happened is a curious story. I have a feeling, which I hope one day to be able to prove, that when the war with the Germans was over we, and the Americans in particular, had only one main concern, and that was now to deal with the Russians. Therefore, thousands of Nazi war criminals were allowed to go free.
If one then asks why the Russians approved of Waldheim's appointment that is another question. They well knew what he was up to. The answer was probably that they were blocking a Finn whom they did not want as Secretary-General, partly because he was a Finn, partly, I fear, for other reasons, and perhaps partly because people sometimes like to have others in positions of authority over whom they believe that they have some hold.
What is now coming out is that all over the world there has been a cover-up operation, and I regret to say that it appears to extend to Britain. Researchers went to the Public Record Office to look for files about British prisioners of war and about Waldheim. Among the files, they found that a series was missing.
I asked the Prime Minister why those files were missing and whether we could see them. She replied that we could not see them because they were of military or security intelligence importance. I then asked what they were about. How, after 40 years, can that be? She replied that it was not customary to give details of the contents of files 1125 of that sort. I have written again and told her that I would not ask for anything to be revealed which could affect Britain's security in any way. No self-respecting Member of the House would do so. But I cannot believe that after 40 years there could be anything that could today affect Britian's security by one iota; that there could be anything from that time which could affect what happens today in the military or other intelligence sphere affect this land.
I believe that this concealment is part of a cover-up operation which applies to Yugoslavia, to the United States, the United Nations and certainly to the Soviet Union. I should like to think that Britain was not involved in it. When those missing files are opened up we will know. If they do not show complicity, let us see them. They cannot have military significance after all these years. If they conceal guilt and they are covered up, there will be a swell of feeling on both sides of the House. Hon. Members will demand that they be produced.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Ought there not then to be a Government statement on the operation of the weeding system?
§ Mr. Janner
I have been trying hard to obtain a statement from the Government and have failed. Perhaps if there is enough pressure—many hon. Members on both sides of the House feel strongly about this—we shall get the documents and people will see that this is not a vendetta against a man for what he did years ago. He has lied yesterday and today about the matter. He has been elected President of Austria and our Government have sent congratulations to him while we are holding an inquiry into his involvement in the killing of British prisoners of war. How could we do that?
When Waldheim is seated on the presidential throne, are we to send representatives to clap and to cheer? I fear that we shall and that we shall say that it is normal protocol because he was elected.
If that happens I remind the House that it will be a direct repetition of what we did, not in 1933 when Hitler was elected, but in 1934 when he became head of state. A reception was held at which British people were present along with the rest. We as a nation regretted that for many years thereafter.
There are standards of decency of which we in Britain can be hugely proud; standards without which some of us would not be in the House, proclaiming our freedom to speak our minds. But that freedom must be watched over and preserved. The Waldheim case is of great importance, as a touchstone of decency. There will be many in the House who will pursue it until we reach the truth.
§ Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)
I am glad to follow the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), whose work I admire very much. He is a great fighter for justice and truth. I hope that what he has said under privilege this evening is well substantiated. Knowing him, I am sure that it is.
I envied the certainty with which he spoke in the first part of his speech for several million blacks in South Africa and the certainty with which he spoke for several million whites in the United States. I wish that I could be as certain about the feelings of those in other countries as he is.
1126 It is on southern Africa that I want to spend a few minutes this evening, not South Africa, but a major country of great importance in south-west Africa —Namibia. I was there a few months ago with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Sir J. Osborn), who led our delegation.
I am speaking about Namibia because it is an important country for three reasons. They are little known but nevertheless they are important. First, it has enormous untapped mineral wealth and is one of the wealthiest countries in minerals that are least developed. The Rossing uranium mine in Namibia provides, I think, about 45 per cent. of all the uranium used in western Europe. That fact alone must give cause for thought.
The second reason for its importance is that it lies between Angola to the north and South Africa, which occupied many hours of parliamentary time recently, to the south. What happens in Namibia in the next year or two will have an impact on South Africa. Thirdly, the changes that are taking place in Namibia could be a lesson to us as to what, perhaps, could or should happen in South Africa.
Namibia is undergoing profound constitutional change. In June last year the new transitional Government was inaugurated and power was genuinely transferred from South Africa to this new Government. The Government have complete power and authority, except, at the moment, in foreign affairs and external defence. The Government are genuinely democratic and pluralist and there is no apartheid in Namibia, except in certain schools, and the new Government are in the process of legislating to remove that.
The Government are transitional because the leaders in the Cabinet, which contains only one white member, the rest being black, are not elected—they are party leaders. The House will know about the problem of the South West Africa People's Organisation. It is based in Angola and is leading guerrilla raids into the north of Namibia. It has refused to take part in this transitional Government.
§ Mr. Shelton
As the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) says, they do not have international recognition. That is why I say that they are transitional. That Government lost their case in the European Court of Justice, but their purpose, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman would support in general terms, if not in particular, is to form a new constitution which they will put to a referendum. If and when it is approved, they will hold internationally supervised elections which they hope will lead to international recognition.
Namibia stands at a crossroads and that is why I am drawing it to the attention of the House. One road could well lead to a Marxist-style unitary state, a closed state as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, along the lines of its northern neighbour Angola, or along the lines of Mozambique. Such a state would be hostile to our interests and probably wretched for the people of Namibia. The other road could just possibly lead in the opposite direction, to a free, prosperous, democratic, westward—looking open state. The road which Namibia follows may well depend upon the outcome of the offensive taking place in Angola against UNITA, and waged by Angolan troops led by Cubans, advised by 1127 Russians and East Germans and using jets that are piloted, I am advised, by Cubans and East Germans. That gives the House an idea of the state of play in that offensive.
The offensive has now started and its purpose is to crush UNITA and to drive Dr. Savimbi out of Jamba where he has his headquarters. If UNITA survives it will he because it has received help from South Africa. More important, it will also have received help from our friend and colleague, the United States. If UNITA survives it will be because of the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that have been supplied by the United States to the UNITA movement. One might say that South Africa should not help UNITA, but I say that it should, and the United States has also lent a helping hand.
Let us examine what would flow from the crushing of UNITA by Angolan forces. The Cubans would then be able to withdraw from the north of Angola. If that happened, the South Africans would, willy-nilly, have to implement their undertaking on resolution 435 of the United Nations, which I am sure the House knows about. South Africa has said it will implement that resolution if the Cubans have withdrawn by 1 August. That would lead to the abolition of the present transitional Government and, until the elections took place, Namibia would be ruled by a South African director general and by a representative of the United Nations. There would be elections, perhaps a year later, supervised by the United Nations.
In general, the Namibian people believe that the United Nations supports SWAPO. Why should they? In 1973 the United Nations said that SWAPO was theauthentic representative of the Namibian people.The House will know that it was the United Nations Assembly that said that and not the Security Council. However, such a distinction would pass unnoticed by the average Namibian voter. Secondly, the United Nations gives financial support only to SWAPO among the Namibian political parties. Thirdly, only SWAPO has the right to address the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly. Finally, only SWAPO has permanent observer status at the United Nations. Of course, United Nations observers would be neutral, but the result would be likely to be an overwhelming SWAPO victory and that would be due to the bandwagon effect often seen in Africa, because the Namibian voter would believe that SWAPO had the official backing of the United Nations and was therefore most likely to win. [Interruption.] If Opposition hon. Members will stop speaking for a moment perhaps other hon. Members might be able to hear what I am trying to say.
The implementation of resolution 435 would load the dice in favour of SWAPO. If UNITA is crushed and the Cubans go and if resolution 435 is implemented by South Africa by 1 August the elections that follow will he supervised by the United Nations. If the people of Namibia think that SWAPO is supported by the United Nations that would load the dice in favour of a SWAPO victory. An overwhelming SWAPO victory would not be in the best interests of Britain or of the people of Namibia.
Let me remind the House that in its 1976 political programme SWAPO said that it wanted to impose scientific Socialism, introduce the social ownership of all the resources of the country. and foster anti-imperialist international solidarity with Socialist countries. The Opposition may say that that is a good idea, but I do not, nor do I think it would be in our best interests.
§ Mr. George Robertson
The hon. Gentleman specifically wanted my attention. Is he saying that we should load the dice against an organisation in the unlikely event, at least in the short term, that there are free elections in that country? Are we going to choose who the new Government will be, or are we going to take a chance, as we did in the Zimbabwe settlement'?
§ Mr. Shelton
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his interest. It is possible to have elections in which the dice are not loaded. I am sure that he would favour that just as much as I would. But if elections were held against the background that I have described, the dice would be loaded in favour of SWAPO. Like, I am sure, the hon. Gentleman, I should prefer to see free elections.
If UNITA survives, the Cubans will not be withdrawn, because the Angolan Government will need them in order to defend themselves against it. Consequently, resolution 435 will not be implemented, which will give the new Government time to put the constitution to a referendum, to implement their legislative programme, which I hope will gain support, and to call elections by the end of next year. There could be independent observers, perhaps from the Contact Group or the Common Market, and SWAPO could be invited to take part in the elections. So far, SWAPO has always refused — [Interruption.] I am afraid that the interest shown by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) was very fleeting.
§ Mr. Shelton
On the contrary, it is the hon. Gentleman who needs a brief. If he listens to me instead of to his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench, he will get one.
If the transitional Government call elections before the end of next year and invite SWAPO to take part, SWAPO may well do so. Its base in Angola will be in some difficulty, because UNITA has not been crushed, and the Government may be achieving their programme in Namibia. Thus, SWAPO may take part in free independent elections. However, I very much doubt whether SWAPO will have an overwhelming victory.
So I say to the House and to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench, who no doubt are paying much more attention than those on the Opposition Front Bench, that if resolution 435 stacks the dice in favour of SWAPO, which could then form a Marxist Government hostile to our interests, our own Government should reconsider our unquestioning support of it. That is especially so if there is on the horizon an alternative road to genuine independence, which is more likely to lead to democratic government.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has told me that resolution 435 is the only option with which everyone agrees. But that is not so. In Namibia SWAPO's supporters may total 30 or even 50 per cent., but in general terms, no one else supports that resolution. I should like to see equal recognition of all Namibian parties by the United Nations and an extension of equal rights to them all.
The United Nations should stop paying funds to only one party, which probably represents a minority, albeit a large minority. Our Government should do all that they can to get SWAPO to talk to the transitional Government. Lessons can be drawn for South Africa from events in that neighbouring country.
1129 All the political parties, bar two, in Namibia, are co-operating with the white people, in order to move towards free elections and democratic government. That move forward does not spring from the men of violence. It is not SWAPO, but the moderate black peoples, through their political organisations, who have achieved that. Of course, they are accused of being puppets of South Africa. I do not believe that they are, but even if they were, it would not matter as long as they gained genuine freedom and democracy. Surely a peaceful process is better than a violent process.
That road forward must be right, and I urge the Government to support those endeavours.
§ 9.3 pm
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
A full-scale foreign affairs debate is almost as unlikely as a knighthood for Arthur Scargill. But this week we have had two opportunities, because there was a debate yesterday on South Africa and we now have this sprawling and wide-ranging debate. It is ridiculous that there should be inadequate opportunity for full-scale debates on individual international issues. I should like to contribute to a full-scale debate, for example, on arms control. Perhaps I should have said "the arms race", because there is precious little control at present. That is a subject on which the House has failed to make its voice clear. At the same time, the Prime Minister lamely defends virtually every act of the United States Administration in nuclear expansion.
We have not had a debate on the need for a chemical weapons ban, an issue which I raised yesterday in Defence questions and upon which the Government need full-scale chivvying if they are to show the will to come to an agreement.
I do not recall a full-scale debate on the middle east since the 1983 general election, despite the fundamental nature of the injustice and conflict in the area. It has a continuing potential to spread violence and to bring the world to the brink of war. I am one of the sponsors of early-day motion No. 948, which supports therights of the Palestinian people to self-determination within an independent sovereign stateandrecognises the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian peopleThere is a need for a debate on Afghanistan. A few cursory references have been made to it during the debate but that is all. I visited Afghanistan recently. Indeed, I was the first western politician to meet the new leader, Dr. Majeeb. There is a need for an informed debate in the House on Afghanistan. Instead, in the Foreign Secretary's contribution, we had a succession of slurs and remarks of undiluted hostility. That is no way to create the conditions that will lead to the Russian troops leaving that country and enable Dr. Majeeb to emerge with his country from feudalism.
Those debates and my contribution to them will have to wait for future opportunities to arise. I wish to address my remarks to the crisis in South Africa, on which there was a debate yesterday. I make no apology for directing my contribution to South Africa despite yesterday's debate because there was not an opportunity for me to participate in that debate. The pressure must be maintained upon the Prime Minister and her Government 1130 from inside and outside the House to end her deliberate intransigence, which so helps the current regime in South Africa. I understand that there will be a Cabinet meeting tomorrow, which means that this debate is a suitable occasion on which to point to the action that it is necessary to take.
British capitalism is the main support of apartheid. British companies are the main investors in South Africa. About 40 per cent. of direct investment comes from British companies, and that amounts to £5 billion. Over half the foreign companies operating in South Africa are controlled from the United Kingdom and British banks raised over a quarter of all the capital raised for South Africa. Barclays bank is one of the prime banking houses involved in South Africa. Incidentally, the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth), the SDP spokesman on economic affairs, is a paid adviser to Barclays bank.
It is the Conservative party, and especially the Prime Minister, which is the apologist for South Africa everywhere. It is the right hon. Lady and her Government who have been stonewalling and blocking sanctions at every opportunity in the Commonwealth, in the Common Market and at the United Nations. I have a copy of the memorandum that was presented to the Foreign Secretary today by the Anti-Apartheid Movement. It states:Britain has lamentably performed the role of protecting South Africa from international action. As worldwide opposition to apartheid has mounted, Britain has chosen to play the prime role in developing and sustaining this evil system. For example, British oil companies arc the main suppliers of fuel to the apartheid war machine. British banks dominate the apartheid economy. British electronic companies equip much of the South African police and military and British chemical companies sustain its explosives industries.What an indictment that is. The Government will not speak to the African National Congress but they disgustedly welcomed President Botha here in June 1984. They are prepared to sacrifice the Commonwealth in subservience to apartheid protectionist policy.
Let us dwell on how the Government have effectively put the boot into the Commonwealth. In October last year a Commonwealth accord was adopted at Nassau dealing with a mandatory arms embargo and economic measures. What is the Government's record on that accord in detail? One of the agreements in the accord was:A readiness to take unilaterally what action might be possible to preclude the imports of KrugerrandsThe Government waited seven months before they took any action on that score. That can be contrasted with the United States who took action within a few days of declaring its intention to do so. Another part of the accord stated:No government funding for trade missions to South Africa, or for participating in exhibitions and fairs in South Africa".The Leeds chamber of commerce visited South Africa with Government funding after the adoption of the accord. Trade with South Africa is encouraged by the United Kingdom South Africa Trade Association which enjoys the support of the British Overseas Trade Board. Government funds are still expended in the promotion of trade with South Africa through the presence of commercial attaches in the British embassy in South Africa.
Another agreement was: 1131A ban on the sale and export of computer equipment capabale of use by South African military forces, police or security forces".Such computer equipment can still be exported without a licence from this country to South Africa. The Export of Goods (Control) Order 1985 provides a massive loophole because it effectively removes control over the export of computers other than those specifically categorised in that order. Therefore, there is a great loophole of which the South African military can take advantage.
Another part of the accord provides for:A ban on new contracts for the sale and export of nuclear goods, materials and technology to South Africa.The British Government refuse to disclose information about the sale and export of nuclear goods. However, a formal agreement exists between the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and the Nuclear Corporation of South Africa. The agreement provides for access by South Africa to British nuclear technology and know-how.
§ Mr. Cohen
I shall give way when I finish dealing with the accord.
The accord also states that there should beA ban on the sale and export of oil to South Africa".No such ban exists. It also states:A strict and rigorously controlled embargo on imports on arms and ammunition, military vehicles and para-military equipment from South Africa.Nostrict and rigorously controlled embargoexists.
It also states that there should beAn embargo on all military cooperation with South Africa".No such embargo exists. It goes on:Discouragement of all cultural and scientific events except where these contribute towards the ending of apartheid or have no possible role in promoting it".Britain is not enforcing that measure. Funds are still provided through the British Council for visits and activities in South Africa which are not to do with the ending of apartheid.
What a dismal record the Government have on the Nassau accord.
§ Mr. Winterton
I am not sure who prepared the hon. Gentleman's brief for this important debate, but is he aware that the United Kingdom has honoured the arms embargo against South Africa in a unique fashion, unlike most other countries and particularly France, which stepped in to supply arms when the United Kingdom introduced the embargo?
With regard to the nuclear situation, is the hon. Gentleman aware that Israel—a country that he often supports in the House—is probably responsible for providing the nuclear technology now possessed by South Africa?
§ Mr. Corbyn
The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has often spoken of South Africa in glowing and admiring terms. His claim that Britain has adhered to the arms embargo is nonsense in view of the sale of 1132 computer equipment, chemicals and other back-up technologies for the assistance of the police state in South Africa. In that respect, the British Government are defying their own embargo.
§ Mr. Cohen
I agree entirely. I cannot recall the full details, but in a case last year it was the trade unions who managed to prevent the export of military equipment to South Africa by stopping it at the port.
The Government have treated the Commonwealth in a disgraceful fashion and seem prepared to sacrifice it altogether. In the past, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs spoke of sending a signal to the South African regime, but the only signal from the Conservative Government has been that they will appease and apologise for the South African regime at all times. There has certainly been no signal of any effective action to say that apartheid must end.
One of the reasons for that attitude is the Conservative party's ties with companies with investments in South Africa. More than 30 per cent. of donations to the Conservative party come from companies with assets in South Africa. Despite that, however, the Conservative party is split on this issue. On the one hand, there are the out-and-out racists who have crept into the party by the back door and those who have vested interests in South Africa.
§ Mr. Cohen
It is clear from the Register of Members' Interests which Members go on trips paid for by the South African Government and are directors of companies with investments in South Africa.
On the other hand, some Conservatives rightly regard apartheid as morally abhorrent. Others fear Britain's isolation in the world. Others rightly regard support for the South African regime as had for business with black Africa arid in the long term with South Africa itself.
The racist regime in South Africa is a vicious and murderous regime. In the last state of emergency there were well over 1,000 deaths and it has started again on a large scale. We know from our television screens how the news blackout has been imposed, and the official propaganda is blatant lies.
§ Mr. Corbyn
On the first day of the news black out—Soweto day — a whole congregation was arrested in church, but that could not be reported by any of the international press there. Is it not incumbent on all Western countries which maintain relations with South Africa to take on the role of telling people what is happening in Soweto and other townships in the hands of the South African military?
§ Mr. Cohen
I agree with that comment. Conservative Members who hear their hon. Friends supporting and justifying a Government who arrest a whole church congregation must surely think twice about having such people as party colleagues. Part of the nonsense we hear is that black is killing black. The main violence is carried out by the security forces of the regime and by the vigilantes who have been set up, sponsored and supported by it. Then there is the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and the harassment of Winnie Mandela and countless others who are struggling for freedom.
The regime also exports its apartheid to Namibia. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has just. 1133 made a speech about that, but he did not tell the House that more than 100,000 South African-controlled troops are in illegal occupation of that country and that the transitional Government is a puppet of South Africa. No wonder that Government do not have control over foreign affairs and other issues; SWAPO is the legitimate voice of the people.
The South African regime is also a threat to the whole region, as the attacks on the three neighbouring capitals during the visit of the Eminent Persons Group showed. Direct raids, destabilisation and subversion of neighbouring countries has cost billions of pounds and thousands of lives. Yet the British Government defend that regime.
The Government's excuses for not imposing sanctions are feeble. The first main excuse is the argument about jobs in Britain being at risk. What crocodile tears. The Government have not cared about jobs in this country during their seven years in office. They ignore also the opportunity for expanding trade with independent black Africa and the jobs that that would create. They ignore too the prospects for the security of those assets and investments and for trade with South Africa which will be so important for jobs when the inevitable change to black majority rule occurs. If we are frozen out then because Britain supported the racists, the prospects for jobs in Britain will be much worse.
The Anti-Apartheid Movement memorandum summarised the argument on jobs:At best it reflects a failure to grasp the dimensions of the crisis now facing Southern Africa and the possible consequences and costs for human life. At worst, they are a cynical justification for maintaining existing trade and investment patterns and the profits which flow from them. Those profits are from racist and murderous oppression.That is a very good summary.
The second main argument of the Government against the imposition of effective sanctions is that they will hurt the blacks. They should tell that to the families of the blacks who have already been murdered. The blacks want sanctions so much that they are imposing them themselves via strikes and boycotts. When Sam Nujoma, the president of SWAPO, addressed a Labour party meeting here he summed up the argument succinctly. He said that the Africans are a dispossessed people and that sanctions hurt the whites, not the blacks. The front-line states have been prepared to make substantial sacrifices to impose sanctions.
Let me give Bishop Tutu the last word on the erroneous and phoney argument of the Government about sanctions hurting the blacks. In a statement today he said:I cannot accept Mrs. Thatcher's argument that South Africa's black people would suffer most if sanctions were applied. Blacks are suffering now. We have prayed. We have pleaded for decades with the western Governments in the name of humanity to help end apartheid. Instead we keep being reminded of reforms. We do not want the chains around our necks to he loosened. We want them removed. Apartheid must be dismantled. Our suffering must end. If we do not have sanctions soon then Heaven help us. If sanctions are not applied soon then the future will be catastrophic.We should support those who argue for sanctions and those who are struggling for change with effective sanctions now.
We should take up the Anti-Apartheid Movement's call to break off diplomatic relations with the South African 1134 regime. We should support those who are fighting for a non-racist, democratic, majority rule South Africa. That will happen anyway. We should be supporting it, not because it is inevitable but because it is right.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
Before he became hysterical and beside himself with plastic indignation, the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) made a good point. It is often made and seldom reacted to by the usual channels. It is that we do not have enough foreign affairs debates. I believe that more hon. Members would be present if we had more debates on specific foreign affairs topics. If the hon. Member for Leyton had confined himself to making sensible points such as that, we could all have applauded his speech.
A little before him, the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) made what I think all of us would regard as startling and horrific revelations about the alleged activities of President Waldheim. They would shock us all, and further investigation is obviously vital. The Government must respond positively. I hope that there will not be any in this House who think that such revelations should be swept under the carpet because bygones should remain bygones. If the generation that has been born since the Nazi atrocities should ever be protected from such knowledge, is it not that much more likely that those atrocities could happen again?
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary made a wise and witty speech. It was witty in that the so-called dead sheep actually did savage the bruiser from Leeds. It was wise because it is wise for the Government to undertake no new initiatives in the middle east. Although they pay lip service to the Venice declaration, I am pleased that it now seems to be dead. Although they pay no lip service to Camp David, it sounds as though the Camp David agreement is being allowed to revive.
My right hon. and learned Friend's speech was wise because he spoke of the importance of the Atlantic Alliance, which is under strain, not least as a result of the behaviour of our friends who appear to have rewarded our brand of loyalty to them in a rather less than responsive way.
There is also the wisdom of our commitment to improvement of the world food supply to famine-prone nations. I am delighted to see that the Government Front Bench is now occupied by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, who has done much to help guide British foreign policy in Europe and in the Commonwealth to provide a better distribution of food supplues and resources that will help peasant farmers to provide more food of higher quality themselves. Many of my constituents and others will welcome the accolade of an award for Bob Geldof for the wonderful work that he has done to alert all of us to the pressing needs of the African sub-continent.
It was a wise speech because it referred to the need for nuclear strength as the strongest bastion of world peace and to human rights as the strongest bastion there is of a humane and happy society.
There is sanity from the Government over economic sanctions. I have been here for all the speeches, and it is ridiculous for some hon. Members to sound off as though in our resistence of economic sanctions we are demanding something that is contrary to the interests of the black majority in South Africa. To relieve our own feelings of 1135 guilt and the emotional hatred of apartheid which we all have, we are being pressed to cause economic collapse, because that is the object of the exercise. If we take away the jobs that are now being filled by 1 million or 2 million blacks in South Africa, they will go on to the streets and will be driven by leaders into revolution. They will therefore spark off repression, and there will be infinitely more bloodshed, infinitely more quickly, than if by negotiation we try to sort out the mess and confusion of South Africa.
I am told that this is against the wishes of the blacks, but Labour Members have a terrible hang-up about going to South Africa and meeting South Africans. They should meet those people, because when the leader of 6 million Zulus says, "No sanctions," and when the leader of 4.5 million blacks Anglicans says, "No sanctions," we are indeed listening when we say that economic sanctions are not the best way of getting South Africa out of this problem.
§ Mr. George Robertson
Before the hon. and learned Gentleman makes such statements, perhaps he will check the facts. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (M r. Anderson) are both going to South Africa next week with that precise purpose in mind. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East, who is our spokesman on South Africa, spent nearly a fortnight there last year consulting precisely that opinion to ensure that the opinions that we hold are as authoritative as possible.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
Order. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) made a remark from a sedentary position which I am sure he will want to withdraw. We ought not to allege lack of integrity and honour against any hon. Member.
§ Mr. Foulkes
I withdraw the second part of what I said. The hon. Gentleman is a paid apologist of the regime.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman accused me of being a Fascist. I ask him to withdraw. It is unjustified, and he says it without proof.
§ Mr. Foulkes
I withdrew that remark, but sustained my remark about the hon. Gentleman being a paid apologist of the apartheid regime.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
I am certainly not a paid apologist. If the hon. Gentleman can prove that I have received any money from the South African Government—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley again knows that that is an allegation of dishonour against an hon. Member that is not allowed, and he must withdraw it.
§ Mr. Lawrence
I was rather hoping that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) would repeat that outside the House so that I could offer my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) legal assistance, for which I would be paid.
§ Mr. Lawrence
Having praised the Government, I must also say that there are one or two inconsistent features of our policy. If we are determined, as the Foreign Secretary said we were—and I am sure we are—to take a stand against terrorism and violence, which we would all applaud — and to that extent we sent packing two representatives of the PLO who refused to renounce violence—why then do we call for the release of Nelson Mandela before he renounces terrorism and violence? That is an inconsistency.
On a less violent and more ideological level, the determination to enhance Britain's reputation and to foster adherence to principles of democracy and freedom under the law, which we all embrace and would like to see advanced, clashes somewhat with our reluctance to spend adequately on teaching overseas students in this country and bringing our system of education and the British way of life more closely into their lives. I sometimes think that the same is true of our reluctance to fund BBC overseas services properly, which would do more than anything to spread abroad the good name of Britain's democracy and our way of life and rule of law.
Perhaps I should tell my hon. Friend the Minister of State that a famous refusenik—I am sure he will not mind my naming him—Victor Brailovsky in Moscow told me that he thought the reason why the Soviet Union did not jam the BBC overseas services in English was that the authorities had some respect for the quality of the broadcasts, which were balanced, and contrasted with some of the other English language broadcasts from other nations, which will remain nameless. That is my tour d'horizon.
I now turn to the central issue of both Front-Bench speeches — United Kingdom-Soviet relations. Soviet leaders listening to the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and to a lesser extent to speeches of other Opposition Members, will have reason to pat themselves on the back for having taken in some important Members of Parliament. Obviously, Mr. Gorbachev is a new leader with a more presentable arid attractive face, and so has his wife. Surely it is far too premature to conclude on that evidence that this is a new Soviet Union with a new approach to the United States and Western Europe?
Hon. Members should ask themselves some questions. Would Mr. Gorbachev have come so far so quickly if he had not had the backing of the old guard, which means that he was endorsing their policies? Is there any reason to think that the international department of the Supreme Soviet, which inspired the invasion of Afghanistan, has changed its attitudes or policies? Does not the appointment of a Soviet Foreign Minister with little experience of foreign affairs—the right hon. Member for Leeds, East used that fact in support of his argument—mean that foreign policy is more likely, not less likely, to 1137 be guided by party officials—the apparatchiks? When we have weak leadership, Ministers or councillors, who takes power? It is the civil servants and local government officials. Is there any reason to think that the KGB or the GRU are to be wound down, or that subversion will be any less in the world than it has been in the past? What evidence is there that the Soviet Union has changed its ideological and opportunistic spots? It has not withdrawn from Afghanistan. It has not stopped banning Russian-speaking broadcasts. It has not improved the free flow of ideas. It has not done much to improve trade between our nations, and it has not made any noticeable concessions on human rights.
As the Foreign Affairs Select Committee stated in paragraphs 2.10 and 2.11 of its third report on United Kingdom-Soviet relations, which was published at the end of May:No one who has had direct discussions with contemporary Soviet leaders can fail to have observed their implacable ideological opposition to Western capitalism, their attribution to the United States and its allies of responsibility for the current causes of international tension, their belief (though declining) in capitalism's 'inevitable' demise, and their professed faith in the inevitable victory of world socialism…There was no sign of a shift away from these fundamental, ideologically-based perspectives in Mr. Gorbachev's recent report to the 27th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, nor could such a shift be expected.To conclude that the Russian bear after Mr. Gorbachev's accession is a different animal, or that the fresh mind referred to by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East is necessarily a different mind, is wishful thinking of the kind in which the right hon. Gentleman usually indulges to great excess.
Lest I sound despairing, I tell my hon. Friend the Minister that I am not. It is quite clear that a change of attitude is emerging in the Soviet Union from which the world could benefit. It is important to appreciate that we are dealing with a new position. We should not be deluded into thinking that we are dealing with a different adversary.
The change of attitude has come about because the Soviet Union is desperately anxious for nuclear disarmament. I think that all hon. Members welcome that and agree with it. The main reason for that change is that the Soviet Union has now to face the problem of a total lack of resources in the face of the strategic defence initiative. The problems facing the Soviet Union are many. It has difficulty feeding itself. It has difficulty running its economy efficiently. It has difficulty, in a world of mass communication, keeping its consumers happy. Its consumers will shortly, if they do not already, be able to see more clearly on their television screens the pleasures enjoyed by citizens of other countries. The Soviet Union has difficulty funding its satellite countries.
The Foreign Affairs Select Committee recently visited Vietnam. It was clear to us that the Russians have put a limit on the amount of money that they are able to pour into Vietnam and the army in Kampuchea. I think that that is why a date of 1990 has been set for their withdrawal, although that seems to me to be contrary to what one would expect to happen in the far east. If the Russians do not withdraw in 1990, there will be a loss of face.
The Soviets have difficulty funding Cuba, Central America, and all their activities throughout the world. 1138 They have difficulties within their own empire. One of those is the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, which is beginning to worry them greatly. They have problems of defence against China, ideologically as well as militarily, on their borders. They have difficulty controlling the far-flung provinces of the Soviet Union. Vladivostok is almost a million miles away from Moscow. One can see, when the Soviets have to deal with the leaders of those countries, how difficult it is for them to exercise control.
I do not know whether the stories from Chernobyl are true. Stories are coming out of Chernobyl that the extent of the medical disaster is more considerable than we would like to think. If that is so, the Soviet Union will shortly be trying, throughout the world, to gain access to medical equipment and supplies which it cannot provide.
As a result of all those problems and the strain on the resources of the Soviet Union, the new man with the new look has come in. He visited the United Kingdom in November 1984 as the guest of the IPU and the Select Committee. He came with his Foreign Affairs Committee. The Foreign Affairs Committee of this Parliament and the IPU visited the Soviet Union. The Soviet Foreign Affairs Committee is, we hope, to visit Britain again. The Soviet Foreign Minister is coming here in July. There is a greater exchange between the Soviet Union and Britain. I have no reason to think that the same thing is not happening with other countries.
The Soviets are wooing the United Kingdom in particular. That is not just because they have a certain admiration for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister which I think was manifest to us when we were in the Soviet Union. They have a certain respect for the prompt action that we took in the Falklands. They think that we are capable of putting a restraining hand on the United States of America. They hope that they can drive a wedge between the Atlantic Alliance and either Britain or Europe and stop the United States developing the strategic defence initiative. They are afraid of matching the expense of that programme. I cannot help but feel that those in Britain who press strongly for the reversal of that programme and for Britain to stop its support of it are playing the Soviet game.
In the face of such an objective, we should be strengthening the Atlantic Alliance, not weakening it, and backing the strategic defence initiative, not trying to kill it. When we were in Russia, it was clear that the Supreme Soviet was paranoid about SDI—as paranoid as some of those hon. Members who have spoken against SDI. If that is a fair assessment, that feeling provides the best hope of bringing the Soviet Union to the negotiating table, which it did, and keeping it there, which it is doing. We hope that the Soviet Union will come forward with more genuine, meaningful, and acceptable proposals for nuclear and conventional arms reductions. The card of the SDI is a strong one in Western hands.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman not deeply regret President Reagan's decision to abandon the latest SALT negotiations? Will he confirm that, in recent years, there has been no occasion on which the Soviet Union has walked away from negotiations? The Gorbachev plan is to enhance negotiations rather than to walk away from them. Would the hon. and learned Gentleman not do better addressing his remarks to President Reagan?
§ Mr. Lawrence
The United States did walk away in Geneva. It was showing a more solid face against the negotiating procedures in a number of other fora than we have seen since the SDI was launched. I agree with the Government's view, which, strangely enough, is shared by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), that we should try to persuade the United States to think again about its proposals on the SALT relationship.
Human rights — the release of Soviet Jewry, the honouring of religious freedom for Christians, Jews and those of any other religious sect and cultural freedom—are important to us. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) said to Mr. Gorbachev that the human rights issue was not a laughing matter because for us in the West it was important for its own sake. That point has been endorsed by a number of hon. Members.
But it is even more important than that. The Soviet attitude to human rights is an indication of how much we can trust the Soviet Union in a world in which the absence of trust is what separates the West from the East. If the Soviet Union fails to honour its undertakings to its own people, how reliable are its undertakings to other people? Paragraph 6.11 of the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs states:We would add that whoever those commitments may benefit, the fact that an internationally binding agreement, given in the glare of world publicity, fails to be honoured, can only undermine confidence that subsequent internationally binding undertakings may not meet the same fate. Lack of progress on human rights therefore remains a serious obstacle to public perceptions of the Soviet Union and its reliability and integrity. That is why the honouring of such an international undertaking as the Helsinki Accord is considered by other governments to be so important a test of the likely reliability of the Soviet Union in any other international undertakings which it may seek to make, particularly on arms control.The message that we have to get across to Mr. Gorbachev is that if the Russians want us to trust them when they promise to enter into binding undertakings on arms control, they must first honour their international binding obligations on human rights. When they do that, we can trust them and we shall be a united House in rejoicing when that end is achieved.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
I associate myself with what the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said about cuts in the BBC overseas service. The speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) was important, and many gentile Members would like to know about past British Governments and military personnel.
I shall concentrate on one subject. It is what my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) referred to as serious deceit over Libyan bombing, particularly that shown to European colleagues. This is a live issue. The "World in Action" programme on Monday, done by Ray Fitzwalter, David Mills and Eammon O'Connor, was a remarkable programme that posed questions that have to be answered. The programme said:As more terrorism threatens, some Americans argue the whole crisis is unnecessary and has been manufactured by President Reagan…Some prominent Americans believe the Reagan Administration has exaggerated the threat of terrorism and deliberately forced a confrontation with Gadaffi.Rear-Admiral Eugene Carroll, admittedly one of the critics of the Administration, said: 1140This has been very adroitly done. We have made Gadaffi an enemy, a symbol of terrorism.The programme continued:Tonight some of President Reagan's own advisers admit that the attack on Libya had less to do with terrorism and more to do with reversing years of humiliation that began with Vietnam.A clip was then shown of President Reagan, and the commentary said:In 1981 these past humiliations swept President Reagan to power. He promised things would be different in future.The programme continued:The obvious targets were either Syria or Iran…both had been deeply involved in many terrorist attacks on America.But both have powerful defences and are close to the Soviet Union.So the Americans turned instead to Gadaffi and Libya, a country with a tiny army and population half that of London.It then showed a clip of Gadaffi and said:Gadaffi was chosen not so much for organising terror but for taunting America. He became the perfect target for President Reagan.Mr. Jenkins, an adviser to the Reagan Administration, then said:you know the United States is brought up on stories that have good guys and had guys…heroes and villains.The programme then showed a clip of President Reagan saying:We have evidence which links Libyan agents or surrogates to at least twenty-five incidents.The programme said:Despite the rhetoric, incidents last year like this hijacking of a TWA jet were never proven to be directly linked to Gadaffi.Nor was the tragedy of the Achille Lauro.
Dr. Kupperman then said:The whole notion of bringing thirty capital ships well before we attacked Libya…to bait them, to cross this ridiculous line of death…our intention was to bait themThe programme then went on to comment about the next incident:That came in April with the bombing of this West Berlin disco and the death of an American GI. As with some of the earlier incidents there is now evidence that Syria rather than Libya was primarily responsible.On 12 June, I tabled a question to the Prime Minister asking herwhat information Her Majesty's Government received from the German authorities both before and after the decision by Her Majesty's Government to grant approval for the use of United Kingdom bases for the United States attack on Libya, regarding the evidence available to the relevant authorities in Germany of any alleged involvement by Libya in the recent bombing of a nightclub in Berlin.The Prime Minister replied:We have kept closely in touch with the German authorities on this matter. There is clear evidence that Libya was involved in the bombing of La Belle discotheque in Berlin on 5 April."—[Official Report, 12 June 1986; Vol. 99, c.287.]It is about time that this clear evidence was produced, because some of us have been deeply unhappy, from an early stage, about the whole episode.
I go back to 14 April. For the sake of time, I shall refer only to column 579 of the Official Report for 14 April 1986. On a point of order, I regretted that the private notice question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East—this was before the bombing—was never granted. Although I believe that Mr. Speaker's motives were wholly honourable—
§ Mr. Dalyell
No, not until I have finished my sentence.
It was deemed a great pity that the private notice question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East was not granted, as the obvious question about the use of British bases would have been asked. The House of Commons would then have had some input into events and the bombing of Tripoli before they took place rather than simply holding a post mortem. I now give way to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Faulds
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Is it not a fact that on that unfortunate Monday when the House was not allowed to express its views about the impending attack on Libya the Foriegn Office was apparently prepared to make a statement, that it was overruled by No. 10 and that, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker felt unable to allow questions on the matter? The significance is that, had the House uttered on that day, the Prime Minister's exercise in allowing the Americans to use bases in Britain might have been a little more difficult to project as something that was acceptable to the British public.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I have no proof of that. I am extremely careful to say what I know and what I guess to be the truth. I guess that to be the truth. My only comment is that when the House of Commons is in any way deprived of its say, it is not to the advantage of our country.
However, I suppose that one can understand the Prime Minister's decision not to reveal the use of British bases before an attack. What the House of Commons desires to know is to what extent the Prime Minister's senior colleagues were consulted. For example, the Secretary of State for Defence said on Radio Ayr:Something has got to be done. I think that my colleagues and I are very dubious as to whether a military strike is the best way of doing this. It is liable to hit the wrong people, it creates other tensions in the area. There are a lot of other things that can he done which my colleagues are certainly looking at very hard—further withdrawals of permission for diplomats from offending countries, action like reducing trade and reducing contacts of one sort or another, with those who refuse to outlaw terrorism.Those are not the words of a man who expected this action to take place.
I refer to Malcolm Spaven's chapter in Pluto's quickly produced hook "Mad Dogs". On the permission to use F111is and tanker aircraft from British bases, he said that British military forces were also involved and thatThe Ministry of Defence admitted on 17 April that RAF Nimrods at St. Mawgan, and possibly Gibraltar, were put on standby to provide search and rescue cover for the F-111s returning from the raid.If that is true, at least the Secretary of State for Defence should surely have known about it. I quote again from "Mad Dogs". Mr. Spaven said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr.Callaghan) told the House on 17 April 1986:it 'never occurred to anyone' when US bombers arrived in the UK in 1950 that these aircraft would be used for non-NATO purposes.So much for the Secretary of State for Defence. I ask, when was the Foreign Secretary consulted? Was it after or was it before anything could usefully be done to act on the considered advice of the Foreign Office? The Foreign Secretary said:No evidence emerged during the discussion that any Foreign Minister was aware during the meeting of a final 1142 American decision to attack. For my part, I had no confirmation of any decision by the President. still less of any decision to authorise raids that night, until I came back to London and met the Prime Minister."—[Official Report, 16 April 1986; Vol 95, c. 950.]These questions are not simply Opposition mischief-making. In his remarkable speech in the other place on 18 April, Field Marshal Lord Carver recalled at column 894 that the Prime Minister had said that discussions with the President covered a week. The Field Marshal asked Lady Young to tell the House who was consulted and who agreed. To date, the Field Marshal's questions have gone unanswered. The House of Commons deserves an answer.
The House of Commons is also entitled to press the Prime Minister as to her real motives for agreeing to the use of British bases. On 15 April, in answer to the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken), the Prime Minister said:That was a factor in the decision to use our bases and why those aircraft were especially right for the action that was undertaken.The hon. Member for Thanet has asked:Was she influenced not only by loyalty to an ally with a just cause, but by a much more practical consideration: that fewer risks were likely to be caused to Libyan civilians and to United States military personnel if the United States used the much more precise equipment, the F111, rather than carrier-based aircraft?To my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam), the Prime Minister replied:the F111s were required because they are more accurate on particular targets"—[Official Report, 15 April 1986; Vol. 95, c. 726.]
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.