HC Deb 14 November 1986 vol 105 cc221-84 9.37 am
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)

It is five months since the House last had a full debate on foreign affairs, and obviously much has happened since then on which I could report to the House. However, I propose to begin with the most recent event.

Last Monday, the Foreign Ministers of the Twelve European countries meeting in London under my chairmanship, agreed, following Syria's plain involvement in the Hindawi affair, on four measures to be taken against that country: no new arms sales, no high-level visits to or from Syria, close controls on Syrian diplomatic and consular missions, and tighter security surrounding Syrian Arab Airlines' operations.

Even a few years ago, such effective agreement among so many countries would have been unthinkable. Today it is a reality, and a striking demonstration of the value of political co-operation with our Community partners. There is probably no other area where joint international action is more valuable than in the fight against terrorism. Decisions reached at the London and Tokyo summits and by the European Community earlier this year have begun to forge an effective weapon against international terrorism. Her Majesty's Government have played a central role in securing those decisions.

We have more than once found ourselves in the front line. This happened when Woman Police Constable Fletcher was shot down so outrageously outside the Libyan People's bureau and when Hindawi was arrested while trying to blow up an airliner that was carrying 400 passengers. In these two instances, the responsibility of the Libyan and Syrian authorities was clear beyond doubt, and in each case our response was plainly justified. In both instances, our decision to sever diplomatic relations received widespread domestic and international support. The Government are determined to deal decisively with states that sponsor terrorism.

This does not preclude contacts with those who may be able to help secure the release of hostages. We remain deeply concerned about the two British hostages in Lebanon, Alec Collett and John McCarthy, as well as Brian Keenan, the dual Irish-British citizen. Our hearts go out to them and their relatives, who do not know, any more than we do, whether they are alive or dead. We are doing what we can to secure their freedom, if they are still alive, while maintaining the principle of no substantive concessions.

At a meeting of the 12 Interior Ministers on 25 September, the so-called Trevi group, our Community partners reaffirmed their determination not to make concessions to terrorists. That is a commitment to which we attach much importance. In our view concessions lead to more hostage taking, not less. This Government will not do deals with terrorists for the release of hostages. This is not an easy policy to follow—sometimes it is agonizing—but it is right.

This is all the more reason to sustain our efforts to promote a settlement in the middle east. We are keeping up the search for a way in which the parties may be brought together in the peace talks. We are also giving practical help to people suffering from the failure to reach a settlement. We are among the largest contributors to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees. We are giving more aid to the occupied territories. We proposed the recent European Community initiative for an improved aid programme for the occupied territories and for preferential access for their agricultural and industrial products in the European Community market. We all want a negotiated settlement to bring peace to the middle east. Terrorist violence does not bring it closer. Instead, it sets it back.

That maxim applies to the middle east and to another area where I have been closely engaged on a matter of European political co-operation. This has been in my important mission, on behalf of the Twelve in July, to southern Africa. My task was to visit countries in the region and, in particular, to urge the South African Government to summon up the courage to bring apartheid to an end, to urge them to make the great leap forward that is necessary and to begin a genuine dialogue with black leaders, freely chosen and free to take part.

As the House knows, the South African Government remained obdurate. That being so, the seven Commonwealth Heads of Government who met in London in early August, including my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, concluded that further action was required. In September, together with our partners in the Community, we decided on certain new measures, both positive and restrictive, designed to bring home to the South African Government the need to move from repression towards dialogue.

Since then, alas, President Machel's tragic death has inevitably heightened tensions in the region. What is needed now is time for his successor, President Chissano, to promote the stability of Mozambique. It is certainly not in anyone's interest that relations between South Africa and its neighbours should slide into out-and-out confrontation and economic warfare, least of all if that offers fresh openings for the Soviet Union and its friends.

Political co-operation on issues of this sort has been an important aspect of our presidency. On the international trade front too, the Community has been able under our leadership to take some crucial steps. These include launching the new Uruguay GATT round, starting action in the GATT to bring down Japanese non-tariff barriers to trade, beginning with whisky and other alcoholic drinks, and reaching agreements with the United States on steel, pasta and citrus products.

This week we have achieved a radical reform of the Community's food aid programme to developing countries, to cut out waste and help the programme meet their needs, and above all to respond to emergencies more quickly. Within the Community we are pressing ahead with practical measures to set up the largest market place in the world. We are seeking to knock away, one by one, the rules and regulations which limit competition in Europe, so that goods, services and people can circulate freely. We are getting good results with real benefits to our citizens.

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

What about air fares?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The right hon. Gentleman asks, quite rightly, about air fares. I am delighted to hear him pressing that question. It reflects an acceptance of the principle of liberal, competitive conditions and a recognition—

Mr. Healey

The Government have not secured an agreement in practice on air fares in Europe.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Come along and help us. We shall be delighted to have the support of the Opposition. No one will cheer more loudly than 1 on hearing the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues proclaiming the virtues of free market competition. These are the principles that we have applied to the liberalisation of coach transport in Britain, in the teeth of opposition from Opposition Members. These are the principles that we are applying to bus transport, again in the teeth of opposition from Opposition Members. If they have now repented their foolish opposition, we shall be glad to cheer. Let them acknowledge the importance of what we have achieved in Europe.

There is a substantial majority already in favour of the liberalisation of seat and route allocations. There is not complete liberalisation, but we are on the way. This is within the Community that the Labour party so long opposed. It is within the Community that we have been able to achieve this headway. We are getting good results with real benefits to our citizens. We are helping business and stimulating jobs. Our latest initiative is a Communitywide strategy for helping small businesses and encouraging training.

We are ensuring that the removal of obstacles to trade and tourism is matched by common action against terrorists, drug traffickers, passport forgers and others who seek to abuse the openness of our societies. Again, thanks to United Kingdom initiatives, there will be more pooling of intelligence, a police hot line, a seven-point action plan on drugs, and more co-operation on visas. That is the sort of protectionism that we want.

The British people increasingly understand and value these facts. They see that the United Kingdom's future lies with a prosperous and united Europe, and that is the Government's objective. That is in contrast to the policies of the Labour party. I use the word "policies" loosely in that context, because identifying the Labour approach to the Community is a task which would defeat the most skilful political sleuth. I find myself driven to cite no less an authority than Mr. Alf Lomas, the leader of that body of distinguished men and women who are Labour's Members of the European Parliament.

Mr. Healey

The Thatcher of the Labour Party.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The right hon. Gentleman may call Mr. Lomas what he likes. There are many interesting observations to be made about Labour's Members of the European Parliament. So many of them are symbols of the underlying unity of the Labour Party. For example, Mr. Les Huckfield arrived triumphantly from Strasbourg to represent his party in Knowsley, North. He was dismissed by Labour's national executive committee. I choose these witnesses with some care, and even the Labour Party has to handle these people with long tongs.

I have referred to Mr. Alf Lomas, who recently argued that Labour's policies for state control and direction of industry and finance, and for protectionism, would be incompatible with Community obligations. He ended with a call which I am happy to support, as I am sure is the entire House. He said: We call upon the Labour Party to determine, with a clarity which does not at present exist, its policy towards our continued membership of the European Communities. I have been speaking, of course, of co-operation in Europe, but let us remember that this kind of co-operation is taking place in only one half of the continent. In the West, the process of economic integration is proceeding within what is undoubtedly the most effective international legal framework for upholding human rights in world history. By contrast, eastern Europe remains gripped by a Soviet-imposed system. Some countries have tried to assert their individuality, and we all know the results. This year is the 30th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising, which was brutally crushed by a Russian military invasion. It is the 25th anniversary of the building of the Berlin wall. The Prague spring was another authentic popular move towards freedom and democracy. It was crushed in 1968. In Poland, the Solidarity mass movement was beaten down by martial law in 1981.

Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are falling behind the rest of Europe. Their economies can barely pay their way, they cannot feed their people, and they are ill placed to adapt to new technologies which depend on free flows of people, ideas and information. This is the setting in which Mr. Gorbachev is proclaiming his ambitions for greater openness and more critical debate. These are, perhaps, hopeful signs. But they have yet to lead to any measurable improvement in the lives of his people.

It is that yawning gap between words and deeds that I underlined in my speech on behalf of the European Community at last week's opening of the Vienna conference on security and co-operation in Europe. A copy of the speech has been placed in the Library. That is why, during the Vienna conference, we shall he pressing the Soviet Union and her allies to live up to the international standards on human rights to which they have subscribed. It is their failure to live up the Helsinki commitments that inevitably impairs our confidence in their readiness to stand by their obligations in other areas. So too must the Soviet Union's appetite for military expansion. This can be—and in Europe since World War 2 has been—deterred. But, again by contrast, let us look at what has happened since 1979 in Afghanistan.

Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Afghans have been killed. Four million Afghans have been driven from their country — almost half the world's total refugee population. Some people try to explain away this terrible story. Let me recall what George Orwell said:— the awful thing about actrocities is that they happen, even though the Daily Telegraph says they do. As Afghanistan and the fate of eastern Europe since World 2 demonstrate, the Soviet Union will use its vast military might against countries which cannot defend themselves. For all the "new thinking" in Gorbachev's Soviet Union, for all the skilful presentation and dramatic initiatives, the facts of the East-West division remain basically the same. The Soviet Union talks far more about peace and disarmament, but, in practice, it has not stopped steadily building up its already massive forces. Any party which refuses to face up to that fact cannot be trusted with the defence of the United Kingdom. Yet if, unlike so many right hon. and hon. Members opposite, one starts from a clear recognition of those facts, it is possible to make progress.

In September we saw the welcome conclusion of the Stockholm conference — the first major East-West agreement on security issues for years. The House is aware of the details of the agreements reached, especially those measures which provide for notification, inspection and verification of troop manoeuvres. Once again, the United Kingdom played a leading part in bringing about those agreements.

I suggest that two lessons can be drawn from that successful conference: First, that the safe and sure way to progress is by careful, patient negotiation; and, secondly, to the extent that they are not irrelevant, unilateral gestures are likely to be destabilising and damaging. Indeed, these truths are now well established in all categories of arms control negotiations. The fact that the Reykjavik meeting between Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev improved the prospects for significant cuts in the super-powers' nuclear arsenals gives these basic principles extra significance.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister leaves today for important talks with President Reagan, which will concentrate on East-West issues. As she explained to the House on Wednesday, we see the following arms control areas as particularly promising. Efforts should continue towards an early INF agreement on the basis of the outline suggested at Reykjavik. The Russians should not back away from their earlier commitment to a separate INF deal by insisting now on linking INF with SDI. On strategic systems, work should proceed towards 50 per cent. cuts. We have always supported that idea. It would be a dramatic step forward. On chemical weapons, the need is to achieve an effective global ban as soon as possible. This, too, is a field in which the United Kingdom has taken important initiatives on verification.

However, it seems that Mr. Gorbachev is now trying to make progress of any sort depend on progress on SDI. He wants a super-restrictive interpretation—more probably a revision—of the ABM treaty, and a veto over any future deployments before questions about their feasibility are answered. This approach carefully overlooks the Russians' own activities in these areas. The United Kingdom continues to support research within the restrictive interpretation of the ABM treaty.

Among all the technicalities and complexities of these issues we must not lose sight of the really basic point, which is that nuclear weapons have prevented any war in Europe for the past 40 years. As successive Governments have acknowledged — I emphasise "successive Governments" — the United Kingdom's own nuclear capability has been essential both to give our country security and to deter nuclear blackmail. While the Soviet Union and its Warsaw pact allies retain a massive superiority in conventional forces and chemical weapons, we must keep our nuclear deterrent. It would be folly indeed to abandon nuclear weapons and so make Europe safe for conventional or chemical warfare.

This Government take a consistent and sensible approach to these questions. We insist that our defences should be maintained, but we are also ready for dialogue with the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. We believe that such contacts allow us to influence the Soviet leadership and, gradually, to build up co-operation. The Soviet leadership for its part acknowledges that the United Kingdom can make an important contribution to greater confidence between East and West and a more stable and secure world.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

On the important point of arms control, will my right hon. and learned Friend revert to the INF question and address himself to the issue of whether it is wise to go for a zero-zero option at this time in view of the fact that the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, West Germany and ourselves have gone through a painstaking political process to gain acceptance for the deployment of ground-launched cruise missiles and Pershing 2s? Since we began to deploy in 1983, the Soviets have built up substantial short-range ballistic missiles—SS21s, SS22s and SS23s—in eastern Europe.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

There is no doubt about the legitimacy of going for a zero-zero INF deal, but my hon. Friend is quite right to draw attention to the parallel importance of short-range intermediate nuclear weapons. It is important that any INF deal should contain a constraint that deals with those. Subject to that, which has been made clear many times, the basic INF zero-zero option remains a legitimate one. It is in pursuit of such objectives that I followed through my earlier meetings with Mr. Gorbachev and President Gromyko by meeting Mr. Shevardnadze three times this year to discuss arms control, human rights and regional issues.

That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be visiting the Soviet Union on Mr. Gorbachev's personal invitation in the first half of next year. The General Secretary respects the Prime Minister precisely because she is not weak, or ready to surrender Britain's interests, but because she combines firmness in our national defence with patience and creativity in negotiation. [Interruption.] That is indeed the case.

At the very moment when years of patient diplomacy to bring the Russians to the negotiating table are starting to pay off, with substantial new agreements in sight in different areas, the Opposition propose that we should throw in our cards. It is not as if one-sided disarmament is a new idea, or has not already been tested. If we look at the record we see that, between 1972 and 1979, the United States exercised one-sided restraint on new strategic nuclear systems, deploying none. The Russian response was to introduce no fewer than six new ballistic missiles or missile systems. Over the same period, NATO deployed no new nuclear forces in Europe which could reach the Soviet Union. The Russian response was to introduce the Backfire bomber and the mobile SS20 missile.

Perhaps most striking of all, in the late 1950s, Britain gave up all its chemical weapons. The United States has had a 17-year moratorium on the production of chemical weapons. What has been the Soviet response? It has been a massive build-up of no less than 300,000 tonnes of nerve agents alone — of chemical weapons capacity — which seriously threatens Western security. It must be said again and again that one-sided disarmament has been repeatedly tried, and it has repeatedly failed.

That must be contrasted with the experience of recent years. In 1978, the NATO Alliance decided to respond to the Soviet build-up by deploying Pershing 2 and cruise in Europe— the very point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip—Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). In spite of a massive propaganda compaign, the European allies illustrated their determination to implement that decision. What has been the result? The Russians have committed themselves to significant arms reductions and have engaged in serious negotiations. It is difficult to believe that, at precisely this point in history, any major Western party committed to the survivial of our pluralist democratic society, not to mention peace and disarmament, would try to pull the rug out from under the NATO position. Yet that is precisely what the Labour party would do.

The British people will not fall for that, any more than they will fall for Soviet propaganda. They will not accept the hollow and naive policy of the Labour party. They will not he willing for Britain to renounce our nuclear weapons for nothing in return — nothing, that is, apart from smashing the Western Alliance which has underpinned our freedom for 40 years.

Her Majesy's Government will continue to pursue a measured but determined approach to foreign policy issues. We shall not give away something for nothing and so put the United Kingdom's defence at risk. We shall continue to work for confidence between the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. But we shall not take that confidence for granted. Leadership and consistency will remain the hallmarks of our policy. We shall continue to promote Britain's interests. We shall continue to do what is necessary. We shall continue to do what is right.

10.1 am

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

The Foreign Secretary reminded us that it is five months since the House debated international affairs. In his rather flaccid speech, I do not think he did justice to the fact that, during those five months, the shape of international affairs has been transformed. The summit meeting at Reykjavik produced what his American colleague, Mr. Shultz, called "breathtaking" progress on disarmament, even though final agreement was not reached. In that period—the Foreign Secretary did not refer to this, either — the United States Congress overrode the presidential veto and imposed on South Africa economic sanctions which go far beyond what the Prime Minister would allow the Commonwealth or the European Community to impose. Despite her opposition in principle to what she calls punitive sanctions, the Prime Minister has imposed punitive economic sanctions against Syria. In fact, the Foreign Secretary has just taken credit for that decision. I only hope that the precedent which has been set for Syria will be applied in other areas, such as South Africa, which are equally important to world peace.

I find it difficult to share the rosy picture painted by the Foreign Secretary of international progress in dealing with terrorism. In the past few weeks, we heard Prime Minister Chirac of France and President Reagan of the United States refuse to follow the example set by Her Majesty's Government on Syria. We now find that President Reagan has been sending arms to Iran in the hope of securing the release of American hostages. The Foreign Secretary rightly denounced that practice, but he did not have the courage to refer to the issue to which this is most relevant at present.

The Khomeini Government in Iran are not only a sell-confessed sponsor of international terrorism but are the main enemy of all western interests in the middle east. Yesterday, President Reagan told the world that he engaged in bargaining with this regime in Iran at the very moment he asked the British Prime Minister to make British bases available for the bombing of Tripoli, and he made speeches on American television in which he put Iran first among the countries that are sponsoring international terrorism.

The French Prime Minister told the Washington Star News last week that he and the German Government believe that the Hindawi affair was not the responsibility of the Syrian Government but was a provocation organised by Israeli intelligence. In his interview with the Washington Star News, he even suggested that that provocation might have had some support from British intelligence, too.

I ask the Foreign Secretary to clear up one matter. From what he said, we understand that the British Government had their own evidence, which did not come out in the court case against Hindawi, about the involvement of the Syrian Government. We have all read a report in The Times which quotes a security source in Whitehall as saying that telephone tapping and bugging of the Syrian embassy has been going on for two years. That is an extraordinary statement to be made to a British newspaper by an agent of the British security services. What are the Government doing about it? They have despatched to Australia the famous camera-toting Secretary to the Cabinet to bully the Australian Government into refusing to allow an MI5 agent to publish a book about what M15 did 20 or 30 years ago. I hope that, in his reply, the Minister will tell us what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken to identify and punish the security source who gave that information to The Times. If he is unable to give us assurances on this matter, I suggest that he immediately drops his attempt to gag Mr. Wright in Australia.

None of the dramatic events to which I have referred was reflected in the Queen's Speech. It was a concatenation of limp phrases straight of the Foreign Office word processor. The Foreign Secretary's speech was fully worthy of those phrases. He attacked the Soviet Government for the yawning gap between their words and deeds. Most of the words on foreign affairs in the Gracious Speech are flatly contradicted by the Government's actions. Let us examine a few. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary is listening to the Minister of State, who is probably better-informed on some of these matters than he is himself, but I realise he is not saying very much.

The Gracious Speech states that the Government will work for fundamental change in South Africa, in consultation with their partners in the European Community and with the Commonwealth. But, at the Commonwealth conference, there was very little co-operation by Her Majesty's Government with other members of the Commonwealth, On the contrary, the British Government, on the matter of sanctions against South Africa, were totally isolated from every other member of the Commonwealth. The Government were in a minority of one. They practically handed over the leadership of the Commonwealth to the Prime Minister of India, who fulfilled that responsibility with his usual grace and diplomatic skill. A few weeks later, there was a meeting of the European Community to discuss sanctions. This time, the Foreign Secretary did a little better—he was in a minority of two, along with Chancellor Kohl of Western Germany. At present, the British and German Governments are the only protectors of the apartheid regime.

I suggest that the Foreign Secretary takes a lesson from the United States. Let him now persuade the Government and the Community to accept the same series of sanctions against South Africa as the American Congress has proposed and make those sanctions mandatory under the United Nations, as the overwhelming majority of members of the United Nations Assembly demanded this week. The Government have sought to defend their policy on South Africa by talking about Britain's economic interests there, but I hope that the Foreign Secretary has had drawn to his attention a report from Johannesburg by the United States Department of Commerce which describes South Africa as a chronic debtor, import-starved, ridden with ethnic diversities, a repressive regime unable to manage its own domestic constituency in any positive way, whose only leverage is its ability to manipulate foreign governments"—such as the British Government— and attract international attention—for better or worse. This is not an ambience which can attract US trade and investment. Nor can it possibly attract British trade and investment. In fact, there is a haemorrhage of Western interests leaving South Africa because of the truth of the description I have just quoted.

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

The right hon. Gentleman may like to comment on the fact that American capital has been flowing into South Africa since the management takeovers and other superficial withdrawals were announced in September. There has been an increase in United States investment in South Africa, not a decrease.

Mr. Healey

The hon. Gentleman may believe that, but it is not the view of President Botha. He said exactly the opposite only last week at his meeting with South African business men. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman verify his references before he again makes such a fatuous remark.

I shall pass to another flaccid phrase in the Queen's speech, which is that the Government will continue to seek more normal relations with Argentina. The Government sought to achieve that by the declaration of a unilateral fishing zone without consulting the United States Government—a decision that led Secretary Shultz this week to throw his weight behind Argentina against the United Kingdom at a meeting of the Organisation of American States, and not only to support but to draft a resolution that condemned the actions of the United Kingdom Government and asked us to negotiate with Argentina on all issues, including sovereignty. As I predicted when the Foreign Secretary announced the decision a fortnight ago, the decision to impose a unilateral fishing zone has further reduced the minimal support for the British position on the Falklands Islands and made it much more difficult to make progress with Argentina. I hear that the progress that has been made in recent months on relaxing Argentine trade controls against the United Kingdom has now come to a complete halt.

Let us look at another contradiction. The Gracious Speech states that the Government will support attempts to achieve settlements … in Central America. But, in spite of the Government's apparent dedication to a fight against state-directed terrorism, we have not heard one word of protest from the Government against the state terrorism financed and organised by the United States against the Republic of Nicaragua in defiance even of its own United States Congress. On the contrary, we learnt from The Times that our representative at the United Nations was instructed the other day to attack Nicaragua for what he described as the "political use of the world court". But Nicaragua took its dispute with the United States to the International Court of Justice. The Court decided that it had jurisdiction, supported the Nicaraguan complaint and found the United States guilty of breaking international law. Not only did we not hear a word of protest against American behaviour from the British Government but we had criticism of the Nicaraguan Government for taking steps to uphold international law as laid down in the United Nations charter. I suggest that, if one compared what the Government say in the Queen's Speech with their behaviour on Nicaragua, two-faced hypocrisy could go no further.

Let us look at the problems of the middle east. Here I find myself, I hope, in closer agreement with Her Majesty's Government. Their undertaking in the Queen's Speech to look for solutions to the problems of the Middle East implies, according to a Foreign Office briefing of the press the following day, support for an international conference on middle eastern problems. I hope that the Minister of State will tell us whether that is the Government's policy and especially whether the Government will now support President Mitterrand and ask the Security Council of the United Nations to set up a working party to prepare such an international conference on the middle east.

I hope that the Minister of State will also tell us the latest position regarding the Israeli Government's response to the British Government's inquiry of five days ago as to the circumstances in which Mr. Vanunu left the United Kingdom. If the hon. Gentleman is not able to give an answer, he had better put his skates on and get one by Tuesday. It is intolerable that Mr. Vanunu may well have been kidnapped from the United Kingdom by members of the same organisation that helped to organise Mr. Dikko's kidnapping to Nigeria not long ago. I hope that the Minister can give the House some information and will not lie supine and inert, as so often is done, when this country's laws are broken by another country which is supposed to have good relations with the United Kingdom.

I return to my point about an international conference on the middle east. I believe that that is now the only hope for progress, especially now that President Reagan has broken ranks with all other Western countries by supplying arms to Iran at a time when Iran is known to be planning what it hopes will be a final offensive against Iraq which, if successful, would set the whole Muslim world ablaze with anti-Western fanaticism — stretching from Morocco in the west to Indonesia in the east—deal a shattering blow to all the West's remaining friends in the Arab world and risk imposing a massive increase in the price of oil which could well, by its effect on the debt problem, bring down the western financial system.

I found President Reagan's attempt to explain his behaviour on television last night stupefyingly incredible. I hope that the Minister of State will be able to tell us what the Prime Minister will say tomorrow to President Reagan about this extraordinary behaviour which is so damaging to western policy in the middle east and to western unity in trying to devise a common approach to the problem of international terrorism.

As the Foreign Secretary said, the main issue in the Prime Minister's talks with President Reagan must be disarmament. The Gracious Speech promises that Her Majesty's Government will work for new agreements on arms control and will seek greater co-operation and trust between East and West". There is a need for trust, because President Reagan is still trying to reconcile what he and Mr. Shultz told the world and the American Congress immediately after Reykjavik with what he is now saying he agreed with Mr. Gorbachev on the same occasion.

According to the Financial Times, which is well briefed by the Foreign Office on these questions, Her Majesty's Government still do not know what happened. They do not even know what the American Government are claiming happened. Having first said that America agreed with Russia on the abolition of all strategic nuclear forces by 1996, not just ballistic missiles, but also nuclear bombers and cruise missiles, the American Government are now saying that they agreed only on the abolition of ballistic nuclear missiles. However, sometimes in the same speech American spokesmen said that they agree only with the abolition of strategic ballistic nuclear missiles. The distinction between those various definitions is important to all of us and very important to arms control. Has the Foreign Secretary got the slightest idea what President Reagan agreed to or what he is now saying he agreed to? I am blessed if I know and I have read all the handouts from the American embassy in London very carefully.

What does seem to have been agreed, because it is not disputed by either side, is the zero option on intermediate nuclear-forces in Europe, a 50 per cent. cut in all strategic nuclear weapons, bombers and cruise missiles as well as ballistic missiles over the next five years and the total abolition of all strategic ballistic missiles or, perhaps all ballistic missiles, in the following five years. It is important to know the British Government's view on that set of agreements. I read in The Guardian the other day that a well-placed diplomatic source in Washington—I suppose it must have been a British diplomatic source—had told The Guardian correspondent It's as if the summit leaders had adopted the Labour Party policy. That is very good news for the Opposition. It is, perhaps, not quite such good news for Her Majesty's Government.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tim Renton)

Which Labour party?

Mr. Healey

We are coming along now. The Government Front Bench is listening now. It pretended that it was not listening for a while, but it is now clear that I have it on tenterhooks. I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will be as glad as I am to know how alert it has suddenly become, despite the early hour.

Those are impressive sketch agreements. However, agreement in practice was blocked by two factors. The first was President Reagan's determination to continue with the strategic defence initiative in violation of the narrow interpretation of the ABM treaty, which the Prime Minister and Chancellor Kohl both accept and which I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary endorse in his opening speech. The Foreign Secretary will know that that is not the position of the American Government. They have a series of experiments in mind which would violate the narrow interpretation of the ABM treaty. They have told the world that they believe in a broad interpretation of the treaty, which was invented by two lawyers whose previous expertise in that area was when they were involved in operations against the Mafia in New York.

There was another set of obstacles put in the way of practical agreement. They were put in the way by the Soviet Government. I agree with the Foreign Secretary that it was wrong for the Soviet Government to tie an agreement on intermediate nuclear forces to an agreement on SDI, since the Soviet Government had said in public to President Mitterrand earlier in the year that they were prepared to reach an agreement on INF separate from an agreement on SDI and strategic weapons. The Soviet Government were also wrong not to include in an INF agreement the shorter range intermediate weapons which they put into East Germany and Czechoslovakia after the deployment of cruise and Pershing by the west, Mr. Shevardnadze said in a public speech earlier this year that if there was an agreement on cruise, Pershing and SS20s, it would naturally cover the shorter range missiles as well. Both Governments have to take some of the blame for a failure to turn their outline agreements into practical agreements at Reykjavik.

I hope that when the Prime Minister sees President Reagan she will suggest that through his team in Geneva and other contacts he should explore Soviet hints, which have been multiplying since the Reykjavik meeting, that the Soviet Union might be prepared to redefine the ABM treaty provisions so as to permit some testing outside laboratories. Indeed, one leading Soviet space scientist, Mr. Sagdeev, suggested they might even include some experiments in space. It seems that there is an element of apparent flexibility in the Soviet position which, if it can be properly exploited, could remove one of the major road blocks to agreement. I also hope that when the Prime Minister is at Camp David she will insist that the United States should not break the limits imposed by the SALT treaty. I understand that that was her position earlier in the year. In fact, perhaps the best-informed account of relations between the super-powers between the two summits, which appeared under the name of Mr. John Newhouse, says that her interview with Mr. Nitze arid the American ambassador on the SALT II issue was perhaps the most aggressive and rebarbative of all she has ever had. By golly, that is saying something. I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker that you will agree with that.

The most important matter is that the British Government, and more importantly the American and Soviet Governments, should not allow the progress already achieved at Reykjavik to be wrecked by bringing in new linkages, as the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) suggested should be done. I agree with what the Foreign Secretary said in an interview on television last weekend, that in this extremely complex area of arms control we must move step by step, building confidence as we go along. I must confess that, even if the super-powers reached agreement on the lines achieved at Reykjavik, both sides would still have a ludicrous overkill in strategic nuclear forces and would have achieved very little reduction in the burden of defence spending; a burden which their political systems are compelling them to reduce with or without agreement with one another.

The only way to cut defence spending—as an ex-Secretary of State for Defence I know this very well—is to cut the number of people in the conventional forces and the equipment that goes with them. The balance in conventional forces is far more favourable than the Foreign Secretary admitted or described in his speech. The International Institute of Strategic Studies—it is now an international body and one of the most respected nongovernmental bodies in the world—states in its military balance document for the current year, published only a week ago, that in conventional manpower worldwide, the gap between the west and the east is only a gap between 1 and 1.02. In fact, it is statistically quite insignificant. In Europe, where the Soviet Union keeps a larger proportion of its forces than the United States, the gap in manpower between the two alliances is only between 1 and 1.45.

Both sides could achieve equal security with far smaller forces than that, but the International Institute of Strategic Studies says again, as it has said year after year, that the superiority on the Soviet side is nothing like sufficient to tempt the Soviet Union into an attack on western Europe and, indeed, General Rogers, the American Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, told the press only three weeks ago that there is absolutely no danger of an attack by the Soviet Union out of the blue on western Europe.

What risk there was has been enormously reduced—I agree with the Foreign Secretary, and I praise the Government for the contribution that they made—by the agreement on confidence-building measures at Stockholm, which would make it far more difficult to mobilise a surprise concentration for an attack on the West. It could be made much less likely, too, by the adoption of the nuclear-free corridor in central Europe, recommended by the Palme commission, with the agreement of the leader of the Social Democratic party, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). It was also endorsed in an agreement in the past few weeks between the Social Democratic party in Germany and its opposite number in the German Democratic Republic. Such an agreement would be highly advantageous — [Interruption.] I wish that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar), who may have had some distant acquaintance with military matters at some time in his youth, would listen to this point. If nuclear weapons are taken out of a corridor 150 km either side of the dividing line in central Europe, that would rob the Soviet Government of the great majority of their nuclear missiles and of their airfields in East Germany while having little effect on the number of missiles and airfields on the NATO side in West Germany. It is a sensible idea from the straight security point of view.

Even agreements, which I would strongly support, on strategic nuclear forces and conventional forces would not in themselves stop the arms race because cuts in existing forces have no effect on the arms race if both sides are busily producing new weapons and new types of forces, as is now the case, as the Foreign Secretary said, not only in the Soviet Union but in the United States. What we need if we want to stop the arms race is a freeze. We need to stop the development of new military technologies. That is perfectly feasible now by a combination of a ban on all nuclear tests, which could be verified, and a ban on the testing of new delivery systems, which also could be verified now by what are called national technical means — photographic satellites, electronic intelligence-gathering satellites and so on.

The big question that many people have asked themselves since Reykjavik is: was it all a propaganda battle, or was it a genuine attempt by political leaders in the Soviet Union and the United States to reach real agreements? I have had the opportunity, as no doubt the Foreign Secretary has in the past week, to speak to both Americans and Russians who were at Reykjavik and took part in the talks. They both agreed — this was very impressive to me—that it was a real breakthrough. Each has more confidence in the sincerity of the other side than before the talks—at least the sincerity of the leaders of the delegations in Reykjavik, if not all their advisers. On both sides there are some questions at the back of people's minds as to whether all the advisers in Washington or, indeed, Moscow are as sincere as President Reagan and Mr. Shultz on the one hand and Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Shevardnadze on the other hand. But I believe that, that being the case, the most important single task facing the British Government is to try to build on that development of trust and confidence between the two sides, and to try to change the shape of the world as it has been developing since 1945.

To me, the most impressive single statement by Mr. Gorbachev since he took over was in his address to his party conference when he used the jargon of Marxist dialectical materialism to justify renouncing the whole doctrine that has guided Soviet foreign policy since 1917, the doctrine of the permanent struggle between the two camps. He said that he thought that science was slowly creating an interdependent or even integral world. He used a phrase such as one has never heard from any Soviet leader, that we must move towards that world groping in the dark, as it were. Again, that shows a degree of wisdom and understanding of the nature of the international problem that has been lacking in most Soviet leaders.

I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will support that attempt to move towards a new international security system, because we all know that if the present system should break down and a nuclear war is fought between the super-powers, civilisation and even life as we know it may disappear, at least in the northern hemisphere.

I hope that the Minister of State can tell us that it is not the case that, according to the newspapers, the tragedy is that the Prime Minister may try to sabotage the agreements reached in Reykjavik because they threaten her major electoral weapon in the election, which many people believe may come in the next 12 months; it must come with the next 18 months. She believes—and she is right—that if progress is made along the lines laid down in Reykjavik, she will not get Trident because the abolition of all strategic ballistic missiles will take place between 1991 and 1996.

That is precisely the period in which the right hon. Lady was hoping to receive Trident ballistic missiles from the United States. The real question is: will she make Trident an obstacle to an arms agreement that could be reached and has already been sketched out between the United States and the Soviet Union? It would be a tragedy if she took that line because the progress sketched out at Reykjavik offers us a far safer road to security for mankind than the continuation of the arms race by the multiplication of nuclear weapons and the development of further, more expensive nuclear weapons every 10 years.

The cancellation of Trident would leave Britain free to maintain its conventional contribution to NATO, which is what the Americans most want — both Mr. Weinberger in the present Administration and Senator Sam Nunn, who may be in the next Administration. He could be Secretary of Defence in two years' time. They have both said that they would both prefer Britain to maintain and improve its conventional capability than buy Trident if that were the choice. The Prime Minister has made it clear that she believes that it is the choice.

The Foreign Secretary had the usual bit of party fun with the Labour party for believing that there were some unilateral measures of disarmament that would contribute to overall security. The Prime Minister clearly takes the same view because she has decided unilaterally to cut her defence budget by 7 per cent. in real terms over the next three years irrespective of what our allies want and of what the Soviet Union does. We are beginning to discover the impact of that on the armed forces if Trident goes ahead. The towpath papers, the set of Royal Navy documents conveniently discovered on a towpath near Richmond by a passing journalist — what an extraordinary set of coincidences— revealed that slashing cuts in the Royal Navy were under way.

We are also hearing of the damaging effects on the Rhine Army and the Royal Air Force. If Trident goes ahead, on top of the 7 per cent. overall cut there will be a 20 per cent. cut in new equipment over the three critical years of Trident spending. If that is not one-sided disarmament, what is?

The Foreign Secretary is studiously avoiding listening to me, although I can see signs of anxiety on his face that suggest that he is still alive and well, and even living in London and sitting on the Government Front Bench.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Come on.

Mr. Healey

I am trying to say something in my speech, but the Foreign Secretary spoke for 20 minutes and told us virtually nothing—and what he did tell us was tripe, such as when he referred to his great success in achieving European and international co-operation in the struggle against terrorism.

The tragedy of the present position is that the only way the Prime Minister can hope to persuade the British people that it is worth while wrecking disarmament in order to pay for 'Trident, is to misrepresent the nature of the Soviet threat and return to the paranoic stereotypes of the cold war. We had an example of that in the House on Wednesday and also in the right hon. Lady's speech at the Mansion House. However, the British people, the people of the West and of the Soviet Union have had this type of cold war propaganda right up to the gills. The Prime Minister says that if Britain did not have nuclear weapons, the Russians would drop nuclear weapons on us. What about Germany, Japan and Canada?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Eggar)

What about Afghanistan?

Mr. Healey

The Russians have not dropped nuclear weapons on Afghanistan, or have I missed something in the news? The hon. Gentleman's intervention from the Government Front Bench baffles comprehension. All those countries I have mentioned inside the Alliance and all those outside have been free from nuclear attack by the Soviet Union, although none of them have nuclear weapons. I think that that would be equally true of the United Kingdom. I appeal to Government Ministers to use their influence with the Prime Minister to cease making what she wrongly regards as an election weapon, an obstacle to an agreement on disarmament that is now within our grasp.

10.42 am
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

It is always entertaining to follow the intellectual aerobatics of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), and he certainly did not let us down as he danced from one crisis area to another, giving an interpretation of defence—which is still obscure. I suppose that he is baffled by the difficulty of trying to reconcile his own past opinions with the present defence strategy of the Labour party. He seems to have found a straw to grasp in his own probably ill-informed interpretation of what might emerge as a consequence of the Reykjavik conference, but which seems extremely unlikely to happen.

The right hon. Gentleman said that he was opposed to linkage in these matters. But, of course, there was a considerable element of linkage at the Reykjavik conference. There were two sub-committees — one on arms control and the other giving attention to regional problems and human rights, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State stressed in his remarks. The two topics cannot and should not be regarded separately, because after all the objective of summit conferences and of relations between the East and the West is not arms control itself but to arrive at some kind of detente. The arms race has really arisen not simply because the Soviets rearmed when the United States did not; it has been largely caused by the advance of Soviet imperialism during the Carter era in Southern Africa, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Central America.

Surely all these matters must be considered side by side if there is to be any progress towards arms control. It is no good reducing our arms strength if the Soviets remain ensconced in the areas that they took over during the Carter years.

As this will be a short debate, I will confine myself to one regional area that is of considerable importance — although not the most important factor—in the whole context of East-West relations, and I refer to South Africa. As on previous occasions, I declare an interest in that country. In the five months since we last discussed foreign affairs, we have had the opportunity to get a rather clearer picture of the situation in South Africa. My right hon. and learned Friend spoke about the importance of dismantling apartheid. There is, in principle, general agreement about that, including the State President of South Africa, although what different people mean by dismantling apartheid is not at all clear.

However, the reforms to which the South African Government say they are committed have been dribbling out bit by bit. If the newspapers are right the Group Areas and Registrations Act is likely to be amended fairly dramatically in the next few months. That is not surprising, since the Act has already been breached in practice in major cities such as Johannesburg and Durban. The emergency continues in South Africa, but it appears to a considerable extent to have been contained.

The picture that has been emerging from South Africa is already very different from the dramatic picture that stirred so many emotions last summer. Desmond Tutu has been enthroned in public as Archbishop of Cape Town. Mr. Motlana continues to give press conferences about the position in Soweto and Mr. Ramaphosa, the trade union leader, is busy negotiating with the mining houses. Indian and coloured Members of Parliament and Ministers are now part of the political process; and although the United Democratic Front is worried about a possible threat to its funds from abroad, it appears to be pretty active too. Some 50 per cent. of the black population are governed or misgoverned by black African Ministers, officials and policemen. I refer to the homelands of the so-called independent or so-called autonomus states.

I regret that President Botha did not bring some of the business community into the Government in his last reshuffle, although admittedly he had no great incentive to do that. His reforms have alienated a number of Afrikaners who would normally have been part of his constituency. His reforms have brought him scant thanks from abroad and conciliated very few of the more prominent black African leaders. President Botha is not in a strong position to endear himself to this House or even to the Foreign Office. After all, he is white, he is not pro-Soviet and not even anti-British. That is rather a weak position to be in at the moment.

I want to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for having kept a cool head when there was so much emotion about this issue. She realised only too well the dangers of getting on to the slippery slope of sanctions and where that might lead. Nevertheless, there is uncertainty about what my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary means when he talks about dismantling apartheid. Does he mean progress towards power sharing between the different ethnic groups in South Africa or a transfer of power — and if so, to whom?

On his mission to South Africa, my right hon. and learned Friend certainly created the impression that what he wanted above all was the unbanning of the African National Congress and the release of Mr. Nelson Mandela. He will not be surprised to learn that that has been perceived as designating the ANC as the natural partner in any dialogue between Pretoria and the black communities. I am not sure whether that was my right hon. and learned Friend's intention. It would certainly be a curious one, as the ANC is a self-proclaimed coalition of Communists and nationalists based largely on the Khoza tribe with support from the intelligentsia in all communities and its policies, so far as we know them, are certainly non-aligned if not pro-Soviet. When Mr. Gavin Relly took some business men to see them in Lusaka, the ANC leaders made no secret of the fact that nationalisation of the commanding heights of power, including the mines, would be one of their main policies, which scarcely makes the ANC an organisation calculated to promote the interests of Britain or of British trade and investment.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that, because the ANC believes in the nationalisation of the means of production and distribution it is not in the interests of British trade—in other words, that anyone who believes in the socialisation of anything is a natural enemy? I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speeches for years but I still do not understand him. Indeed, he seems to get worse as he gets older.

Mr. Amery

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's sympathy, but he cannot be surprised if I think that nationalisation in South Africa would be bad for British trade. It would clearly be bad for British investment because it would mean the takeover of important British interests, but it would also be bad for trade. If, as I firmly believe, nationalisation led to the rundown of the South African economy, their ability to absorb our trade would be correspondingly diminished.

We must consider the effect upon other black African leaders of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's emphasis on the African National Congress. They have been left with the impression that the Western world wishes the ANC to emerge as the principal partner and no doubt the successor to the Pretoria Government, and in those circumstances they are reluctant even to begin serious negotiations with the South African president.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

To put the matter beyond doubt, the position not just of the Commonwealth but of the European Community has been that it is not for us to determine the ultimate shape of South African governmental arrangements but that whatever emerges must be built on the participation of leaders able to carry the consent of all the communities in South Africa. That is why both the Commonwealth and the European Community have said that it is necessary to free Nelson Mandela and other political leaders and to allow the ANC and other political parties to take part in the dialogue which is the way forward. The interesting and important thing is that, only if that process of liberation takes place will chief Buthelezi, for example, be prepared to take part in the necessary dialogue. I cannot determine the outcome of that dialogue and we certainly do not say that the ANC should be the only participant. We say that the many black African political parties and their leaders should be free to take part in the dialogue. From that process the future will emerge. I am not pronouncing a unique benediction on the ANC; I am simply saying that it is one of the organisations whose leaders should be free to take part in the process of discussion that is the necessary precursor to change.

Mr. Amery

I am most grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for that important intervention, which goes some way to correct the impression given that the ANC was his favourite son. It is true that Chief Buthelezi and others have made it a condition of negotiations that Mandela should be released, but it is important to consider the extent to which Chief Buthelezi and other African leaders have been under the impression that the Western world is backing the ANC. My right hon. and learned Friend's comments today should help to clear up that point. Many black leaders in South Africa thought that the likely outcome in Zimbabwe would be British recognition of the Muzorewa regime and were surprised to see the British Government create a situation in which the far more extreme Mugabe party came to the top; so they naturally wonder whether the same is likely to happen again.

It is important to bear in mind the ideological position of the ANC. During the summer I had the opportunity to visit some of the ASEAN countries of south east Asia. Twenty years ago those countries had strong Communist parties or parties allied to Communism at least as strong as the position of the ANC in South Africa now. Those parties were suppressed, many of their leaders were murdered and many others are still in detention, but I have never heard any British Government of either complexion protest about what happened there or seek to promote a dialogue between the Communist parties and the ruling parties in those countries. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East was instrumental in producing the counterrevolution in Indonesia in which so many Communists perished.

I do not ask my right hon. and learned Friend to intervene now, but when his colleague winds up for the Government perhaps he will say something about my right hon. and learned Friend's meeting with Oliver Tambo. Did he obtain anything like the matching commitment to non-violence that at one time he was seeking?

In considering the South African situation, we must appreciate that it is as much a social and economic confrontation as a racial confrontation. As we see in the townships, it is very much a matter of blacks killing blacks. African radicalism is a strong force, but so is African conservatism. We have seen the same in the Middle East. At one time it was thought that Arab radicalism of the Nasser type or the Iraqi type would sweep the board, but at the end of the day there are conservative Governments in all the Arab states except Aden, Syria and Libya. Looking at the situation in southern Africa rather than confining our consideration to the Republic of South Africa, we find that in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland there are what might be described as conservative Governments not merely prepared but anxious to cooperate and work with South Africa. The same is true further north in Malawi.

In the two most radical countries — Angola and Mozambique there is civil war. I do not know what the outcome will be, but I should have thought that we would do well to cultivate relations with Jonas Savimbi in Angola. The fact that we recognise the Government in Luanda should not stop us maintaining relations with Savimbi, just as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary wishes to cultivate relations with Oliver Tambo although we have proper diplomatic relations with the Republic of South Africa. Whether we could work in Angola and Mozambique for a reconciliation between Government and opposition parties in Angola and Mozambique, I do not know, but I think that with Portuguese and South African support we might achieve it.

I come hack to where I started. Regional issues are the key to arms control. Only if we solve regional issues will there be a return to detente. If Mr. Gorbachev is serious about seeking a return to detente, he should facilitate solutions which are acceptable to the West in Angola and in Mozambique. We must, however, be under no illusions about the dangers inherent there.

Moscow may have won the propaganda battle in Reykjavik, but I am not sure that it was not the loser on the substance. It may try to recoup its losses by new regional challenges. If such are presented, we must face up to them and deal with them. We must also conduct our relations with the Republic of South Africa in the knowledge that we may well need its help when facing up to such challenges.

11 am

Mr. Ted Garrett (Wallsend)

I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary is leaving, because, although the role of the Commonwealth is mentioned twice in the Queen's Speech, he made only a passing reference to it this morning. In September, a successful Commonwealth conference was held in the United Kingdom. The Government's commitment to the conference's success was strong. Indeed, one of the reasons for its success was Mr. Speaker, who assumed the presidency. He made a first-class contribution, attended assiduously and helped to keep the profile of the conference at a high level. It would be churlish of me to omit to say that the Foreign Secretary and his Minister of State, Baroness Young, kept a high profile during the conference's discussions.

The Prime Minister also played a role at the conference. She met Members of Parliament from other Commonwealth countries and presided at the farewell ceremony. All of that helped to contribute to the conference's success. Once it was over, however, the Government's relations with other Commonwealth countries seemed to cool.

The conference discussed some important issues, such as international terrorism and South Africa, calmly and rationally. There was some emotion, but there was much logic behind the high quality of the debates. The Government should pay more attention to matters that affect the Commonwealth, for the simple reason that the European Community is in deep trouble. It has deep structural problems and has lost its impetus for the reasons that I stated many years ago in Doncaster town hall, when I opposed Lord Barber in a debate on membership of the EEC. I said that it was structurally weak and would follow the Leninist theory, which has been a little fashionable today, in that it would destroy itself from within.

Our aspirations for the EEC have not been achieved and are not likely to be. I regret that. It is unfashionable to say so, but we should reconsider our role to bring about more Commonwealth co-operation in hard economic matters, as well as cultural ones. There would be advantages for Britain in that. We might extend our manufacturing base. That is sadly needed. We should then produce more goods requiring transportation, so we would require more ships, some of which would be built in British yards. That would be of some interest to my constituents in the north-east.

We can judge the importance of today's debate by the fact that three hon. Members present also represent the United Kingdom on the Council of Europe, which the Foreign Secretary did not even mention. We have the leader of the United Kingdom delegation, the right hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett). He is not a member of my party, but he does his best to keep the United Kingdom's profile high in that 21-nation democratic assembly.

As the EEC continues to disintegrate, we should consider what additional role the Council of Europe can play. It is regrettable that successive Governments have failed to fund it adequately. The Government should look upon it more favourably because it debates many issues democratically, reaches decisions and makes recommendations to Ministers which are often ratified, having gone through our legislative process. The organisation was formed in 1949. Surely we will not let it wither away as well. We must look to the Council of Europe as a means of co-ordinating activity in Europe and beyond.

The EEC's political structure prevents it from succeeding. Can anybody imagine French, German, Belgian or Dutch politicians with important agricultural interests giving away power? Of course not—they would be committing political suicide if they gave away any more. It is we who are regarded as the odd ones out in that respect.

This is only the third time in 23 years that I have spoken in a debate on foreign affairs. I normally leave it to the experts, some of whom are present today. I hope that what I have said will stimulate Ministers and the intelligent people who form the Foreign and Commonwealth Office administration to open their eyes a bit wider and to stop being besotted with the EEC. If a piece in the famous "Sixth Column" in the Daily Telegraph last week, is any indication of the thinking of Conservative Members and Europeans on this side of the House, it should be read. That somehow encapsulates the feeling in the United Kingdom that there must be a change. We cannot keep doggedly on the same route as in the past. I do not expect miracles overnight, but before I die I should like to see some change in our attitude to Europe. What I have been saying should provide the seed corn for some rethinking.

11.9 am

Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)

I had not intended to include any remarks about the Council of Europe and the Western European Union in my speech today but to concentrate on some other issues raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. However, in response to the speech of the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett), I must agree with every word he said about the lack of inadequate official support and endorsement for both those bodies which have proved instrumental in furthering British policies on some occasions in the past.

It is strange that it is only when expressions of support are needed because we are going through a difficult period that Governments make use of those bodies. I am particularly grateful for the hon. Gentleman's personal remarks. Although we sit on opposite sides of the House, in the Council of Europe we can often work together. I received some of the best co-operation during the Falklands from the late Tom Urwin when both parties working closely together achieved a near miracle. Before even the United Nations or any other international body, the 21 countries of the Council of Europe passed a near unanimous vote in Britain's favour. I think that there were only two Communist votes against the motion and three Spanish abstentions. We were extremely pleased with ourselves and I well remember that the then Foreign Secretary was pleased, that first difficult afternoon there, to be able to say that we had received international endorsement on a large scale for our actions. That is a typical example of how those bodies can be useful and play an important role.

Later I shall touch on WEU in relation to post-Reykjavik matters. If the hon. Member for Wallsend is to make more speeches such as he made today, I hope that it will not be long before he makes another entrance into our foreign affairs debates. He showed more common sense in 10 minutes than the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) showed throughout his speech. I hope that that remark does not do him any harm in his relationships.

I wish to deal with two matters arising directly from the Front Bench speeches. I was absolutely delighted to hear my right hon. and learned Friend speak strongly about how we could possibly have faith in Soviet peaceful intentions when the Soviet Union continues its aggression, genocide, slaughter and driving into exile in Afghanistan. Equally, I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman did not make one reference to Afghanistan, except in answer to one of my colleagues when, with his far-famed discourtesy when he is speaking on a weak brief, he said that the remark was fatuous. The point of the observation was that if Afghanistan had had nuclear weapons, did any hon. Member think that Russia would have invaded it? That was a perfectly legitimate point to make, and one beyond challenge.

Recently there has been much talk about bias and I soon shall produce a record of bias in the BBC on something that will not be able to be denied. The challenge will not be made by the Conservative party chairman, but by me and other colleagues and it will rest on facts. It concerns the amount of time which the BBC devotes to Afghanistan compared with South Africa. It is an interesting comparison and the ratio is about 20:1.

To come nearer home, during the Labour party conference, unless one did one's timing with a stopwatch, the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) devoted 12 minutes to an attack on American policy in Nicaragua and Central America [Interruption.] In under one minute — I hope that Labour Members laugh at that — he referred to the tragedy in Afghanistan, but he did not even have the courage to mention the occupying nation. He studiously left out the Soviet Union.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

The Foreign Secretary did not mention Nicaragua.

Sir Frederic Bennett

The Foreign Secretary is responsible for his own speeches. He was prepared to speak and in any case my hon. Friend the Minister of State will doubtless deal with any questions raised on Nicaragua. I should love to do so, but I have not time, if I am to keep my undertaking to remain reasonably brief.

It is becoming increasingly distasteful to all who believe that sanctions are not the right way forward constantly to be accused of being pro-apartheid. It is perfectly legitimate and honourable — I have no interests to declare — to believe that mandatory sanctions will not produce a desirable result. They may give us moral satisfaction. I loathe apartheid, but I still do not believe that mandatory sanctions are the right answer. My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) is right in saying that already the threat of sanctions is acting as a spur in South Africa. People under threat always react to a spur.

In my speech when sanctions were first being talked of, 1 forecast that the chief sufferers would be the blacks and that the chief sufferers among the blacks would be the populations and economies of the front-line states. That has already turned out to be right and is happening today. We have made our moral gesture, but who is suffering? It is not those whom we were told would be brought to heel.

My main theme relates to the WEU, of which I am a member. Indeed, I also have the honour to lead the British delegation there. I wish to recall the moments and days after the Reykjavik result was announced. For some hours and perhaps for even a couple of days, there was some criticism of the Americans. People said, "We were within an ace of reaching an agreement. If only the Americans had not produced SDI as an argument, we might have been home and dry on the removal of Pershing and cruise missiles back to the United States and of the SS20s behind the Urals into Asia." Then the sickening realisation dawned on all parties in the WEU that, if that package had been fulfilled, Europe would have been in a more dangerous position than it has ever been since the last war. The net result would have been the removal of the SS20s and Pershings and cruise. If the threat had developed again, it would not have been easy to bring Pershings and cruise back into Europe, but with a good lorry the SS20s could have been brought back to the west within seven days. That was the acute realisation of the dangers that we would have incurred.

Then there was the result for the military and strategic balance. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) attends these meetings with me, has great expertise and knows what the results would have been. I am sure that he will correct me if what I say is wrong. We would have lost any nuclear back-up for our forces, except the strategic missile threat from the United States of America and our deterrent. The rest of Europe would have been in an even worse position and gravely at risk because, with the exception of France, which has no intention of giving up its deterrent — Socialist or Communist though it may be—since the SS20s and their rivals, the Pershings and cruise, were installed, the Russians have been installing SS21s, SS22s, and SS23s into Czechoslovakia and East Germany. They call them short-range weapons, but they could reach and destroy centres of population even in the United Kingdom.

The west does not have similar weapons that could reach the Soviet Union and we could destroy only satellite countries with our tactical nuclear weapons. The ratio at the moment is 9:1 in favour of the Russians. The Shadow Foreign Secretary did not mention that when he was working out the strategic balance. Even if the SS21s, SS22s and SS23s were included in the deal, the Russians would still have a majority in smaller range tactical weapons of 7:1.

The House has been told that the balance against us in conventional weapons is not nearly as serious as it appears to he. That again is nonsense. We all know the tactics of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. He picks a single statistic, which in this case is manpower, and he uses that to make his case. He talked about ratios of one to 1.04 or 1.2 or 1.4, but he did not mention tanks, in which the Russians have a ratio in their favour of nearly 3:1. He did not talk about artillery, in which the Russians have a favourable ratio of between 2:1 or 3:1, or about mobile guns in which the ratio is nearly 3:1. Those statistics did not favour his arguments and were omitted from his speech.

Mr. Heffer

The right hon. Gentleman makes the case that the whole world and especially the EEC and the nations of western Europe are threatened by the Soviet Union. He says that the Soviet Union has overwhelming superiority in weapons. In that case, why did it not take us over a long time ago? I have never heard such nonsense.

Sir Frederic Bennett

I shall resist the temptation to be as offensive as Opposition Members always seem to think they have to be in order to be effective. That is a mistake, but it seems to be Opposition policy and they like to follow it. I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is no longer playing a substantial role in his party. The answer to his question is simple: because we have a nuclear deterrent.

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

The Prime Minister is in favour of the zero-zero option in relation to INF. The Foreign Secretary re-emphasised in this debate that he is also in favour of the zero-zero option, and so is the President of the United States. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is also in favour. Does the right hon. Gentleman not feel lonely? He is one of the few people attacking the zero-zero option.

Sir Frederic Bennett

So far, I have not mentioned the zero-zero option. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) mentions a lot of people who are in favour of it, but they are also in favour of the ending of sin. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is in favour of ending that. too, as I am. Obviously, he has not carefully read the Prime Minister's speeches. Of course, the zero-zero option is the ultimate aim, but it would have to apply to nuclear tactical weapons and medium-range weapons and there would have to be some kind of ban on chemical warfare. That would be a real zero-zero option. Of course, we are all in favour of no arms at all and I am also in favour of zero-zero for conventional arms.

The INF deal that was nearly reached in Reykjavik did not mention nuclear tactical weapons or the SS2Is, SS22s and SS23s. It did not make the removal of those two forms of missile conditional on some kind of agreement on chemical warfare. There is no point, in this context, of raising the issue of the zero-zero option and I do not feel lonely at all, because we are all in agreement in wishing that one day such a thing can be achieved. I am talking about the practicalities of 1986.

As I have said, the Soviets have a massive superiority of 9:1 in tactical nuclear weapons. The SS2ls, SS22s and SS23s all have a range which would enable them to reach England. The Soviets would have been left not just with a majority but with an overwhelming superiority in chemical warfare weapons and they have substantially larger conventional forces.

I shall now come to the Labour party policy on defence, and I do not wish to indulge in party politics as such The Opposition proposals go even further than Reykjavik because they want to get rid of our nuclear deterrent as well as the American bases, and they seek no reciprocal gestures from the Soviet Union about arms reductions. They have gone even further than Mr. Gorbachev has asked any of us to go. It is impossible for the Labour party to go into the next election reconciling its policy of closing US bases and getting rid of our nuclear deterrent with our membership of NATO.

Mr. Robert Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

How does Canada reconcile it?

Sir Frederic Bennett

Canada does not forbid American bases. It has them all around. These interruptions are not worth listening to. If the Labour party policy of getting rid of American bases and our nuclear deterrent is carried out by saying that we do not want to shelter any more under the nuclear umbrella, that will be the end of NATO. If Opposition Members think that that is not true, they should meet some of their social democratic colleagues in other countries, such as West Germany, who echo every word that I have said. In no case have any of the French parties a desire to follow the Opposition policy because they regard it as sheer madness. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that is correct.

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the Soviet Union and its massive arms superiority. Does he not think that the Russian leaders would be happy to use their wealth to make their people more affluent and get rid of weapons? What does he think the Soviet Union should do to further that desire?

Sir Frederic Bennett

I shall give a perfect example. The Russians should stop killing people in Afghanistan. That would be a good way to start showing to the rest of the world a peaceful image. The considerable amount of money that Russia devotes to that battle could be used to improve the lot of its own people. That would be a convincing way to persuade me that I might be wrong, but they have not done that and I prefer deeds to words.

Polls taken among young people who favour Labour party policy show that they believe that the policy means the end of our effective membership of NATO. There is one body for which, to put it mildly, I have no love and that is the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Many Opposition Members and Labour party candidates belong to that organisation. CND is at least honest because it has passed a resolution calling for an end to American bases, an end of our nuclear deterrent and a withdrawal from NATO. I can understand that sort of argument, but Labour Members who support their party and support CND are being less than honest with themselves, because on the one hand they belong to a body that recognises the truth of what I am saying and on the other they try to fudge the issue under the expert guidance of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East.

11.28 am
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

The Foreign Secretary rightly opened the debate by speaking of European co-operation and the steps that have been taken within the past five months since our previous debate on foreign affairs. He was right to do so, because it recognised implicitly that the scope for independent action by the United Kingdom in tackling many of the major international problems which face our world is extremely limited.

However, the Foreign Secretary, as is customary with him, exuded a sort of optimism which the events of the past five months cannot support. It is true that he has a somewhat plodding approach to the conduct of foreign affairs, but the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) was wrong to describe him as flaccid, either in his speech or in his actions. There is a certain kind of stolid belief in the inevitability of gradualness which hangs around the Foreign Secretary. I fear that that laid-back approach to the problems with which Britain and other democracies are faced does not display the urgency that is needed in tackling the problems.

The Foreign Secretary's report on the discussions and modest agreement in London earlier this week on terrorism was not entirely frank. At least two parts of that agreement — the supervision of embassies and the supervision of Syrian Arab Airlines—leaves much to be spelled out if we are to believe that it is to be in any sense effective. But even more serious was his admission of all mention of the extraordinary French negotiations with Syria. It is a form of cynicism, which does not speak well of European co-operation, that Mr. Chirac could have given the interview that he did with the Washington Star News describing his attitude.

It was also remarkable that the Foreign Secretary, although speaking of the agonies of resisting the blackmail of those terrorists who have taken hostages, did not speak more frankly about the American actions in Iran over recent months. That is a revelation of a course of behaviour which seems far removed from the protestations of the American Administration about the need for strength in the face of such terrorist activities. It is not the role of a candid friend simply to remain silent about such matters, as the Foreign Secretary did today.

On South Africa, the Foreign Secretary spoke of the positive and restrictive September measures which have been taken to bolster the European Community's attack on apartheid. His speech on the subject was remarkably weak and failed to recognise how rapidly events are moving, and not all in a comforting direction, in southern Africa. But his intervention in the speech of the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) was helpful in setting out the need for dialogue within South Africa and the need to seek to persuade the South African Government of the urgency of that dialogue between members of all communities.

The Foreign Secretary was right to mention the tragic death of President Machel, but I thought that he might have taken the opportunity to speak of the support which we in Britain and our partners in the European Community must give directly and financially to the front line states to strengthen their economies and communications against attack from the South Africans as the restrictive measures and measures being pursued more robustly by the United States begin to take effect.

In his remarks about the liberalisation of trade, the Foreign Secretary rather over-egged the pudding in trumpeting the success of the Punta del Este conference in moving towards some limitation of non-tariff barriers against the importation of whisky in Japan. Valuable though no doubt that is, it falls far sort of the steps which are needed if the competitive and conflicting economic policies being pursued at present by the leading industrial countries of the world are not to threaten the prosperity of the industrialised nations as well as of the developing countries.

The Plaza accords were trumpeted at the time as being designed to manage the devaluation of the dollar, but I regret that that has been replaced by competition and conflict in the world money markets. Britain is being rendered incapable of influencing that important debate by the Prime Minister's stubborn refusal to associate Britain with the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary ststem. We stand back and watch while the rest of the EC, not surprisingly, doubts our credentials in the presidency to speak of such matters.

The Foreign Secretary passed over the failure during the presidency to tackle even those matters to which the Government attach such importance as air fares and the intolerable lack of competition within the EC on that front. I welcome what he had to say about drug trafficking. I have no doubt that agreements to pool intelligence are an important part of the international fight against that appalling crime.

However, the Foreign Secretary is embarrassed in his presidency by the long record of Britain's Administration being out of step with the EC on central issues. In six months he cannot seek to repair the damage inflicted by the Prime Minister's hectoring diplomacy and obstinate pursuance of the narrowest objectives, even when they are plainly subordinate to the wider objective of Europe speaking with one voice.

Perhaps the most surprising omission from the Foreign Secretary's speech was any reference to the dispute in the south Atlantic over the Falklands and its future. Attention was drawn to that by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, but he offered no suggestion as to how to take the case further forward. I hope that, when the Minister of State replies, he will say something about the Falklands, but I put it to him—it is important that it should be said when the Prime Minister is meeting President Reagan, whose Administration is finding it increasingly difficult to keep in line with Britain's position in the south Atlantic—that the stasis which the Government have induced is not acceptable.

It is impossible to put that issue on ice. By their actions in declaring a 150-mile fisheries zone, the Government have shown that it is necessary to make a move and to protect fisheries for international as well as national reasons. But the Foreign Secretary cannot expect to take such action without it having any impact on the longstanding dispute between Argentina and us. It would be a foolish hon. Member who called for an immediate transfer of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. It is right that the views of the Falkland Islanders should be given the fullest consideration. However, I do not accept that they can be the paramount consideration.

It is essential to open discussions now with the Argentines so that we can achieve a stable settlement in the south Atlantic that allows us to abandon the heavy cost of maintaining the fortress Falklands policy. The Government should look at chapter 13 of the United Nations charter and at the provisions in article 83 in respect of the strategic trust territories. Those provisions may provide one way of helpfully internationalising the issue. If the sovereignty of the islands was pooled under the supervision of the Security Council, with Britain exercising a right of veto, it might prove a helpful move. Given the interests of the OAS, it might also be helpful to consider whether Britain and Argentina could not nominate other friendly countries that we would be prepared to involve in the administration of those islands. There are ways in which we can relieve ourselves of this crippling and continuing burden, and so break the diplomatic log jam that has gone on for too long, to the grave embarrassment not only of our Exchequer but of the struggling democracy in Argentina.

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman. Is he saying that it is his party's policy that the clear wish of the Falkland islanders might be disregarded for other considerations?

Mr. Maclennan

I did not say anything of the sort. I said that the wishes of the Falkland islanders should be given the fullest consideration. I rejected the Prime Minister's suggestion that they should be given paramount consideration. I was quite clear about that.

So far, the debate has rightly been dominated by the defence issues that have arisen following the meeting at Reykjavik. The Foreign Secretary chided the Labour party for being obscure about its view on the future of Britain's relationship with the EC in the unfortunate and unlikely event of the Labour party coming to office, but no one could say that there was anything obscure about the Labour party's view on defence. If anyone did have any doubts, they would have been cleared up in the past 24 hours by none other than the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, who helpfully attempted to clarify the leader of the Labour party's view on the issue of deterrence.

According to today's edition of The Independent, the right hon. Gentleman attended a press conference yesterday and said that his leader accepted the view that American nuclear weapons will act as a deterrent against Soviet nuclear attack. But that runs counter to the opinion expressed earlier in a television broadcast by the leader of the Labour party.

Not surprisingly, The Independent directly consulted the leader of the Labour party. It asked: 'Are you saying that if we were attacked with nuclear weapons, there is no reason why they'"— the United States— `should risk their necks when the exchange could he limited to Europe?' Mr. Kinnock said: 'I think that's what the sensible appraisal has always been.' It is clear that the leader of the Labour party is adopting a neutralist policy that entirely rejects the concept of deterrence.

The Social Democratic and Liberal parties have a firm agreement that Britain should retain a minimum nuclear deterrent. In our minds there has never been any question that it is not compatible with membership of NATO for any member state — regardless whether it possesses nuclear weapons—to opt out of the twin strategy of relying on conventional and nuclear deterrents.

Mr. George Robertson

The hon. Gentleman has chosen selectively to quote from an article in The Independent, which in turn selectively quotes a variety of views which do not add up to the headline for that story. The article says: Mr. Kinnock said last night it was long-standing Labour policy that there should he no NATO first strike nuclear response to conventional attack. I think that the SDP also believes that. There is nothing in the quotations given in full in that newspaper to suggest that there is any split, or inconsistency in the views that have been expressed.

Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Gentleman may have satisfied some that he can square a circle in squaring the apparent differences between the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. However, the view expressed in The Independent by the Leader of the Opposition is one that he has expressed before, and has made no secret of.

Mr. Renton

But is not the hon. Gentleman also trying to square a circle? I think that he just said that the Social Democratic and Liberal parties firmly stood behind the idea of an independent British nuclear deterrent. But is that not precisely the concept that the recent Liberal party conference at Eastbourne rejected? It is a great pity that no Liberal Members are in the Chamber. However, even if that is now the policy of the leader of the Liberal party, how can the hon. Gentleman be at all certain that it would be endorsed by a subsequent Liberal party conference?

Mr. Maclennan

In this debate, I am speaking on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends in both parties of the alliance. I could not expect a spokesman from the Conservative party, which pays scant regard to its conference's views and engineers results by a careful predetermination of the motions to be selected for debate, to understand the niceties of the constitutional arrangements, whereby the Liberal and Social Democratic parties arrive at their policy conclusions. However, I am grateful to the Minister for underlining the position. The two parties of the alliance are firmly agreed that there is a need to maintain a minimum deterrent. That view has been reached by the constitutional processes of both parties, and there is an identity of view on that point. I think that the hon. Gentleman will accept that I must not allow myself to be diverted.

Mr. Renton

I realise that the hon. Gentleman is in an extremely embarrassing position, there being no Liberal Member in his place, but does he really think that whether Britain has an independent nuclear deterrent or not is something that, in his words, should depend on the "niceties" of a Liberal party conference and Liberal party convention? Surely it is far too important a subject for the electorate to leave it to the niceties of Liberal party rules.

Mr. Maclennan

The niceties of the constitutions of our two parties are to be preferred to the unpredictabilities of having no constitutional restraints, which is the characteristic of the Conservative party. That unpredictability could produce a Prime Minister or leader who would dictate policy at the drop of a hat that was in direct contradiction to the policy of his or her predecessor.

Mr. Wilkinson

Why does not the hon. Gentleman give up and go home?

Mr. Maclennan

The Minister knows me well enough to know that I am not embarassed in the slightest by being the spokesman for the two parties which are in alliance. I am glad to have the opportunity to act as their spokesman.

The desirability of a bipartisan approach to defence matters should be emphasised. We have had a bipartisan approach in the past, and it does not serve the purpose of Conservative Members to seek to pretend that the alliance is other than firmly committed to the independent deterrent, which is the policy of Her Majesty's Government at present. Conservative Members would serve the interests of truth and bipartisanship by making that clear.

I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will be discussing the events of Reykjavik with the President at Camp David. There has been a most remarkable development in arms control and in the disarmament debate as a result of the Reykjavik conference. It is astonishing, certainly for many Americans, to find that the United States has come close to negotiating a basis for an agreement to eliminate all medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe and the western Soviet Union. Now that the Soviet Union has dropped its objection to Britain and France retaining and modernising their nuclear forces, the way is clear, I believe, for an early intermediate nuclear force agreement. I think that it would be appropriate for the Prime Minister to suggest to President Reagan that an INF agreement should be initialled even if the Soviet Union insists on delaying the final agreement until the Reykjavik package can be agreed that will cover strategic warheads and SDI.

Sir Frederic Bennett


Mr. Maclennan

No, I think that I had better not give way to allow the right hon. Gentleman to intervene. I have given way already on several occasions and there is still quite a good deal that I must say.

The major obstacle to progress is the linkage with the strategic defence initiative, and I hope that the Prime Minister will endeavour to make progress on that issue this weekend. I was somewhat reassured by what the Foreign Secretary had to say about it. As drafted, anti-ballistic missile treaty contains effective means of avoiding new competition in defensive arms. It need not be amended —the Prime Minister has said in the past that she thinks that it should not be amended—and it would be helpful if the Prime Minister made it clear that the treaty should not be broadened or narrowed when she goes to Camp David.

There is a clear disagreement between the Soviet Union and the United States over the treaty, but there is no disagreement that the continued development, testing and deployment of a single fixed ground system by each state is permitted by the treaty. The problem is to identify the demarcation between permitted research and prohibited testing and development of ABM systems and their components, especially those that would be deployed in space.

I think that it would be helpful if at this stage President Reagan were willing to describe the specific activities which the United States plans over the next 10 years. The Soviet Union could then say which of these activities it considered to fall foul of the ABM treaty. There could be a mirror image of this in the Soviet Union. It is clear that it has been carrying on considerable research and development in this area, to which much less attention has been paid than that given to the activities of the United States. That would allow us, too, to consider the activities of the Soviet Union.

Another feature of the Reykjavik discussions should exercise the Government, and no doubt the Prime Minister will wish to report on it when she returns. I refer to the apparent intention of the President, agreed with the chiefs of staff, to negotiate the elimination of ballistic missiles after the 50 per cent. reduction in strategic warheads. We shall wish to hear about this, especially because of its impact upon the Trident programme, which Britain is hellbent on pursuing under the present Administration and to which the alliance is entirely opposed.

The Minister must face the possibility that Britain could be put into the position which it faced in 1962, when the United States cancelled its Skybolt programme. We could face a decision early in the 1990s, by a new United States President, to stop selling us Trident missiles because of a ballistic missile agreement with the Soviet Union. I put it to the Government that the appropriate minimum deterrent—perhaps this is one of the more appropriate options to Trident which they should consider—is the Tomahawk cruise missile. There are a number of options for a minimum independent deterrent at about the present Polaris level. It is not the duty or business of an opposition party, however, which does not have access to all the relevant information, to describe exactly which is the preferred route. But let no one argue that, because we do not put forward one specific system or a preferred one, the alliance is not firm on the need to retain the minimum deterrent.

Mr. Wilkinson

As the alliance is very much in opposition it is perhaps not over-worried about these matters, but has the hon. Gentleman considered the clear professional advice that is reflected in Lord Lewin's speech in another place? If he reads that speech, he will find that it enumerates good technical arguments why a cruise missile would not be the best strategic deterrent for the United Kingdom.

Mr. Maclennan

I have read Lord Lewin's speech and considered his arguments. His point of view does not command universal support. There are other options to be considered, such as the French M4 and the land-based French system, the SX. There are even possibilities of building a British equivalent system if we can do so under licence from the United States. These are all matters that cannot be debated specifically when we are many months in anticipation of a general election and many months from the alliance becoming party to the information that it is necessary to have before we can make a direct contribution to a discussion on the choice of an option.

The one option that is not cost-effective and is a dangerous escalation of our deterrent is Trident. We must dispense with it as soon as possible. The Government may find that it is not even an option on which they will be able to rely if the American Administration's arms control objectives are realised.

The Government's relaxed attitude to the pursuance of detente and disarmament is not, in this case, keeping up with events—clearly, they are running behind both the United States and the Soviet Union — just as their relaxed attitude to the unfolding of events in southern Africa will do little to stem the bloodbath which will follow if we do not recognise the force of the arguments which have commended themselves to the United States Congress. The Government's relaxed attitude to the integration of the European market is damaging to our industrial development. Their relaxed attitude to the bringing together of our monetary system within Europe is damaging not only to our industrial and economic performance but to our capacity to influence the monetary stability of the world.

12 noon

Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)

The embarrassed contortions of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), speaking on behalf of the alliance, and his attempt to construct a foreign policy on quicksand, commanded a certain amount of sympathy. I shall utter a few mild criticisms of Government policy, but I must make it absolutely clear that I have the greatest possible admiration for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and his team of Ministers. I only wish that they would assert themselves a little more in the councils of Government. If that sounds like a criticism of the Prime Minister, let me add that it is her determination and her will that has transformed the whole nature of the debate on foreign affairs, as it has on domestic affairs, so that the Labour party no longer seriously questions Britain's continuing role in Europe. The Labour party critics have been reduced to raucous barracking.

Alas, if the Prime Minister's determination has transformed the whole nature of the debate on foreign policy, it has not transformed its nature on defence. The Labour party is committed not only to getting rid of our independent nuclear deterrent and United States nuclear bases, but to opting out of the NATO nuclear umbrella. The consequence of that commitment, if it were to be fulfilled—that seems even less likely today than it did a little while ago—would be to expose this country not to Soviet attack, either nuclear or conventional, but to a degree of political pressure backed by threats which, from our isolated position would be irresistable. It would be upon this country that the Soviet Union would concentrate all its efforts to destabilise the Atlantic alliance and thus move massively towards the achievment of the Soviet Union's historic objective of spreading its system throughout Europe, ironically, just as it is beginning to lose faith in that system.

I welcome the commitment in the Gracious Speech to an active role in the European Community as we come to the end of our six months' presidency. I make no secret of my disappointment that we have failed to achieve more by way of removing internal barriers, of reforming the common agricultural policy, and, above all, of using the huge potential of the European Community to develop more schemes of industrial co-operation. Such schemes would enable European industry, especially technologically advanced industry, to meet United States and Pacific competition and thus provide the people, of Europe with jobs and higher living standards.

Progress in removing internal barriers has been disappointing. We should not kid ourselves that the failure to make progress is entirely the fault of others. Despite Lord Cockfield's single-minded efforts in that direction, the Government and this Parliament are nowhere near ready to accept the changes in frontier controls, customs arrangements and harmonisation of indirect taxes which are indispensable if we are to reap the huge benefits of a truly common market of some 300 million consumers. The Single European Act marks a small advance in the right direction.

The Government are to be congratulated on having set aside their original objections to this proposal and getting this mouse of a measure through both Houses. It is nowhere near enough. It can hardly he said that the progress towards political co-operation has been much swifter than the progress towards economic co-operation. Here, too, the failure has been by no means entirely that of our partners. Of course, it was very easy to portray them as lily-livered or cynically self-interested over Syrian complicity in terrorism. The British press, and not only the gutter press, was unanimous in its condemnation. When the lives of hostages are at stake, precious few Governments will refuse to strike some kind of bargain. As we have just seen, the United States Government is by no means excluded.

I am bound to say that the sudden decision by Her Majesty's Government to cut off all diplomatic relations with Syria over this affair seemed to be at the time, and seems more strongly now, to be of dubious wisdom. Syria has a key role to play in resolving the highly dangerous conflict in the middle east. If we were prepared to ignore that role to give vent to a gust of popular indignation over the Hindawi affair, we could hardly expect our European partners to behave equally shortsightedly—nor did they. Would it not have been wiser to declare the Syrian ambassador persona non grata, recall our own ambassador for consultations and then seek to tie up our partners behind a more limited measure? With the usual regrettable exception of Greece, they have now agreed to that.

I am a good deal more worried about the decision to declare a protected fisheries zone around the Falklands. It is not so much that this will set back the chances of normalising our relationships with Argentina—although that is something that I regard as important—or that we shall find ourselves relying solely on Belize, the Solomon islands or Oman for support. There is a letter in today's edition of The Times from the distinguished historian, Mr. Alastair Horne, who is certainly no opponent of my party. He described the decision as an act of extraordinary and unnecessarily provacture folly". He said: we face alienating those countries in Latin America that ought to be our friends … We can no longer be assured of unqualified US support over the Falklands, and in two years our very good friend, Caspar Weinberger, will almost certainly have gone. He urged the Government seriously to reconsider their decision in this matter.

What will happen if one of our fisheries protection vessels finds itself face to face with a much more heavily armed Japanese, Spanish, or, quite probably, Russian fisheries protection vessel asserting the rights of one of their national trawlers to fish in these waters? Is this a scenario in which it is prudent to envisage a glorious conclusion for ourselves?

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

Every one of the countries in South America to which my hon. Friend referred enforces rights in respect of territorial waters 200 miles from the coast. They enforce their rights by naval and military means. Why should not we, being the territorial owners of the Falklands, apply the same principle to ourselves and against them?

Sir Anthony Meyer

I agree with my hon. Friend. If we could do so, we should, but I question whether we can. In taking this decision to assert what, undoubtedly, are our legal rights, we run a serious political risk. It would have been wiser to adopt a minimalist approach and seek to gain a little prize by negotiations rather than assert by diktat a fragile claim to a much larger prize, strong though our legal case may be. I believe that, in both those matters, the wiser counsels of the Foreign and Commonwealth office were overborne. I still feel that, if Foreign Office Ministers were to assert themselves a little more, we should have a more successful, if a less flamboyant, foreign policy.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a job to do —to protect and advance Britain's long-term interests. I stress the phrase "long-term". It has nothing to do with getting approving headlines in the Daily Express or The Sun. The Foreign Office and its Ministers know that Britain's interests are neither protected nor safeguarded when we find ourselves supported in international organisations only by Belize, Oman and the Solomon Islands. Splendid isolation is not a wise policy for this country. As the perils of short-term headline-grabbing diplomacy emerge ever more crudely, not only here but in France and the United States, it is time for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to refuse to be bullied, cajoled or persuaded into policies which he knows to be dangerously counter-productive. I urge him to stand up for what he knows to be right. I know that all hon. Members have the greatest confidence in his judgment.

12.11 pm
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

When I hear Conservative right hon. and hon. Members pontificate about Soviet military actions in Afghanistan, I cannot help but recall that their ancestors embarked upon military adventures throughout the world, including in Afghanistan, to create a British empire which exploited and oppressed millions of people. I cannot help but recall also that during the lifetime of most people who are now eligible to vote, including many young people, our nation was suppressing the liberation movements in Aden, Kenya, Malaysia and Cyprus. I recall a Conservative Prime Minister during the period when the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) was in government, saying that Cyprus would never get independence. The people had to fight for independence.

The Foreign Secretary talks about the Soviet military adventures in Hungary in 1956, but we should remind ourselves what his Government were doing at precisely the same time by oppressing the people of Egypt and trying to pretend to the British people that the nationalisation of the Suez canal meant that the canal would be no more. I remember the stories of Egyptian pilots who were not able to negotiate the canal. That is what the British people were told in 1956. The hyprocisy that we hear from the Government is amazing.

The Queen's Speech is pitted with well-worn phrases which contradict the reality of the Government's record. There is the hypocrisy to promise to maintain a substantial aid programme when this Administration has cut overseas aid to a mere 0.33 per cent. of GDP. It is stunning that, when the call came to provide assistance to the victims of famine in Ethiopia and the Sudan, the Government were not willing to enlarge their overseas aid budget but preferred instead to plunder assistance to some other poor countries so that they could claim that they were doing their share in combating the famine in sub-Saharan Africa.

The challenge of world poverty is the real factor which we must address in any discussion of international tension. It is not so much the danger of war arising because of invasion of the West by the East or vice versa. We must bear in mind that the Soviet Union's foreign policy is motivated by its memory of three attacks from the west this century. That is one of the factors that we have to remove. We have to remove it by creating areas of trust and international negotiation and co-operation in order to deal with the real underlying causes of international tension. Those causes are poverty and division, not between East and West but between north and south. The challenge of world poverty is one which the Government obviously fail to meet. It is a stupendous challenge. Only 0–33 per cent. of GDP is devoted to that challenge. It is a challenge of a world population which has doubled by 4.8 billion since 1945. The world population increases by over 1 million every five days. In 1984, James Grant, the director of UNICEF, stated that the number of children dying before their fifth birthday from malnutrition and preventable diseases was 15 million a year, 41,000 a day and 28 a minute. During this five-hour debate, 8,400 children will die of malnutrition. It can be put into another perspective by comparing it with the 2,500 who tragically died as a result of the Bhopal disaster in India. That is the measure of the problem. The Queen's Speech in no way meets that challenge.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Is not the real measure of the problem the fact that, while the hon. Gentleman has been speaking, more than 50,000 people have been horn on earth who have to be fed, housed, schooled and everything else? That is the real problem facing the world.

Mr. Wareing

That is true in any country. The hon. and learned Gentleman may have been a contributor to that at some time or another. If he has, I am sure that he would not deny the right of others throughout the world to have a family. The Prime Minister often speaks about the sanctity of the family. There can be no sanctity for a family suffering from malnutrition and preventable disease.

The Government low priority to aid. They prefer to bolster military expenditure on weapons, which, once used, would result not in our defence but in national suicide. Right hon. and hon. Conservative Members talk about using nuclear weapons to deter a conventional attack by Soviet tanks on western Europe. I do not believe for one moment that that is the desire of people in the Soviet Union. They desire to improve their standard of living in the same way as most people in this country would wish to do. The Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State need to tell us whether they would use nuclear weapons if there was a conventional attack by Russian tanks across the border of West and East Germany. Are they proposing to use the first strike of INF to start a nuclear war? Not only would that be national suicide; it would be a ridiculous position to find ourselves in. Certainly, as the next general election will prove, it will not have the support of the British people. The answer to 45,000 Soviet tanks is not national suicide but more tanks.

The Government choose the military expenditure option rather than overseas aid. Of course, the Government are not alone in that choice. Total world military expenditure in one day would finance two World Health Organisation programmes to combat malaria. The cost of one nuclear submarine would fund the education budget of 23 developing countries, catering for 160 million children.

Some people in this country and abroad would argue that there is no such thing as a class struggle. We are often told that the class struggle is dead, but class anatagonisms at home and in the world cannot be ignored. It is for selfish class interests in central America, not the defence of democracy, that the Reagan Administration, meekly encouraged by our Prime Minister, arm the thugs, rapists and murderers who make up the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua. Not one word was spoken by the Foreign Secretary about central America. There was not one word of condemnation of the terrorist activities of the Contras who are armed and supported by the CIA and the Reagan Administration, yet the Prime Minister has had the audacity, while answering questions in the House, to criticise the Sandinistas in Nicaragua for imposing oppression, as she sees it. But neither she nor previous Tory Prime Ministers have had anything to say for decades while vicious military and fascist dictators such as Somoza, Batista and Marcos have oppressed and exploited their people to allow great capitalist enterprises to enrich themselves. That is the crux of the problem of the poverty of the many and the wealth of the few who have stored billions in their coffers.

We never hear one word of outspoken criticism by the Government of some of the most evil and oppressive regimes in the world, because they are so often the hostages of imperialism, permitting full exploitation of their peoples by international capitalism. We even sell them arms. Countries with such appalling human rights records such as Chile, Indonesia and Pakistan —countries which, by no stretch of the imagination, can be regarded as democratic—receive our sustenance.

By refusing to criticise the Americans, we give succour and assistance to notorious dictators in Guatemala and Honduras. The Government blithely talk of combating terrorism, yet they are prepared to help to train Iranian military personnel in this country.

At a time when the American President has admitted to arming Iran over the past 18 months, I should like to draw the attention of the House to a parliamentary answer given to me by the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces on 27 October this year. I asked: how many members of (a) the Iranian and (b) the Iraqi military forces have received training in the United Kingdom in each of the years 1981 to 1986; and what was the nature of their training. The Minister's answer is well worth repeating: Some members of the Iraqi armed forces received training at Ministry of Defence establishments in the United Kingdom in each of the years 1981 to 1986. A small number of Iranian military personnel also received training at defence establishments in the United Kingdom from 1981 until the financial year 1983—84. It is not our policy to reveal the details of training".—[Official Report, 27 October 1986; Vol. 103, c. 74.] I understand that, but the Government should tell the House why, when they talk of wanting to see an end to the Gulf war, they are prepared to train both sides in that war. Perhaps they can admit now that they also have been sending arms to Iran during the past 18 months. I challenge the Minister of State to pass critical comment on what President Reagan is now doing.

If there is to be a real peace with justice, Britain and the super-powers must not only engage in genuine disarmament negotiations and take seriously the proposals coming from Mr. Gorbachev but must plan a real redistribution of the world's wealth. It cannot be right for less than one third of the world's population living in the northern hemisphere to control 80 per cent. of the world's income. Billions in the south suffer avoidable starvation and preventable disease. We need a new foreign policy based upon the prime issue of our time. We need to create prosperity and wealth for all the peoples of this planet. That can be done only through a policy that recognises that movements that attempt to liberate their peoples from the suppression that others have known in parts of central America, and which has been known even under the British flag all over the world, need our support. With that support, we can create a world of peace and plenty.

12.26 pm
Sir Ian Percival (Southport)

One should not be surprised at anything said in this House, but I confess that I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) defending the actions of the Russians in Afghanistan and their use of tanks against students in Hungary.

Mr. Wareing

I in no way defended that. I said that it was rather hypocritical to defend similar American actions and not say even one word of criticism about American aggression and American-inspired aggression in central America. It is hypocritical to criticise one super-power and leave the other free of such criticism.

Sir Ian Percival

The hon. Gentleman has not only repeated his speech, he has made my point. I gave him the opportunity to condemn those actions and he has not even done so now.

Mr. Wareing

Of course I condemn those actions.

Sir Ian Percival

That point apart, I hope that the hon. Member for West Derby will not think me discourteous if I do not follow him into the maze of his arguments.

In under three hours we have toured the world. Some speeches might have been described as wandering around the world. Important as all these subjects are, nothing comes out very clearly from such a debate if we are not careful. I hope that, whatever else comes out of this debate, two messages will go out to the country loud and clear: one is the Government's determination to stand firm against international gangs prepared to commit mass murder in pursuit of their objectives and the other is the Government's determination that not only will we not give up our nuclear deterrent without something in return, but that we will not give it up anyway.

On the first, the Hindawi case should bring all of us, and the whole country, face to face with the evil which grows so fast and threatens to engulf us. There are several new features about that case, not least the fact that it occurred nearer to our own doorstep than other such incidents. There is nothing like such a case coming closer to home to concentrate the mind.

I want to mention three aspects of the Hindawi case. First, the hideousness of the crime he tried to commit beggars description. He deliberately set out to do something that would have killed almost 400 people. There was no question of taking a chance of killing someone. If he had succeeded 400 people would necessarily have been killed. To achieve that purpose, he was prepared to use the person he professed to love and who was carrying the child she would bear by him. The hideousness of that beggars description. We have seen evil and vicious murder before, but this is a new degree of evil. We have to look it straight in the eye. It is there. We cannot believe it until it stares us in the face. Now we see it.

The second aspect is the international one. One is tempted to call it international warfare, but that would dignify it with a name that it does not deserve. War is filthy, anyway, but, at least there are some rules and some sort of dignity about some parts of it. This does not merit that description. It is international violence in which, as I say, those concerned are ready and willing, without any sort of qualms, to commit mass murder of innocent people —not people they are fighting as in a war, but innocent people who have taken no part in the struggle—for the purposes of achieving their objective.

The third new factor that we must face is that we now have in prison in Britain—for at least 30 years, even with full remission—a member of a gang which boasts that it does not allow its members to rot in other people's gaols. The first thing that Hindawi did was to write to one of his brothers suggesting the taking of hostages to get him out. We must hope that that does not happen, but we now have to face a situation which many others have faced before us and we must look this problem straight in the eye.

I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's statement that this country will stand firm against such people. There has been much criticism of what others have done in similar circumstances. We now have to stand firm, first, to protect ourselves from this evil and, secondly, to set an example. Rather than preaching to other people, as so many hon. Members have done, let us set an example and stick to it.

I believe that this House should consider very soon the punishment available to people who indulge in such evil and I have tabled a motion to that effect, but it is not my purpose to develop that subject today. My hope today is that the message will go out clear and strong from this debate that this country will stand firm in the face of such evil.

I hope, too, that the message will also go out loud and clear that we shall not give up our nuclear deterrent without anything in return and, indeed, that we shall not give it up at all. I shall be accused of oversimplifying and there are dangers in that, but there are also dangers in overcomplicating. If one person with a club in his hand faces 20 people all with clubs in their hands, he will not have much chance, but if each side has one machine gun the odds will be more balanced and an attack unlikely. It would clearly be folly for the one to give up his machine gun if the others did not give up theirs. Only the unilateralists seem unable to grasp that, and neither logic nor history seem able to persuade them, although I think that our people do appreciate the obvious folly of such action. The folly of the one person giving up his machine gun if the others do the same is slightly less obvious. On the face of it, it seems fair but in fact it is merely a return to square one—one person with one club against 20 with 20 clubs—and there is no logic whatever in that. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) spent some time trying to deal with this argument in advance. He said that the statistics showed a balance of conventional weapons.

Mr. Healey


Sir Ian Percival

I thought that he argued that the figures were 1.0 for the Russian side and 1.02 for the other side. Perhaps I have got it wrong.

Mr. Healey

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has indeed got it wrong. The figures that I gave related to defence manpower, not weapons, in the two alliances. The position as regards weapons varies from weapon to weapon.

Sir Ian Percival

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. In that case, 90 per cent. of the force of the point that I thought that he was making disappears immediately. Apparently, the right hon. Gentleman accepts that when it comes down to manpower and weaponry in terms of conventional forces there is still a very great imbalance.

Mr. Healey

Not very great.

Sir Ian Percival

I do not know what figures the right hon. Gentleman would like to suggest. It seems to most of us who are not too mesmerised by the statistics that one has only to consider Afghanistan to see what an imbalance there is in that part of the world. I accept that there is a danger of over-simplifying, but I repeat the danger of overcomplicating. In regard to our conventional forces, whether we consider the number of men or of weapons, there is no way in which we could hope to stand against the conventional forces of Russia and her satellites.

Mr. Healey


Sir Ian Percival

If the right hon. Gentleman is saying that there is some way in which our forces could, without the nuclear deterrent, stand for more than 24 hours against the conventional forces of the USSR, I would say that he is flying in the face of fact and reason. I hope that the message which goes out to our people is that we, at least, can see the light, and that there is no way in which we will give up the one weapon which has enabled us to protect our own country — and our own people against otherwise overwhelming forces.

12.36 pm
Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

The right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) said that the debate had been a tour of world affairs. I hardly think that that is true. Large areas of the world have been completely ignored. There has been no mention of China or the Pacific basin, for example, which are large areas that are of considerable importance to Britain.

It is inevitable that, in the wake of Reykjavik that there should have been what I might describe as overconcentration on Europe in the Foreign Secretary's speech and those of other hon. Members. Southern Africa has properly been mentioned, and I shall refer to it myself. Central America and the middle east have also been mentioned and Conservative Members have placed a strange overemphasis on Afghanistan.

The House has largely ignored an important point. People are attempting to address the problem of reducing tension and of creating a more peaceful world. As has been said, a conflict outside Europe might be the forerunner of a far larger conflict which could engulf many other countries. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) drew our attention to some of the major social and economic problems of the Third world.

There arc three parts of the world to which we should address ourselves more seriously and more intelligently than have the Foreign Secretary and Conservative Members — central America, southern Africa and the middle east. Each seems to he the type of danger point where conflict could spread to engulf a much larger part of the human race.

I do not pretend to be an expert on central America or the middle east, but I have tried to follow affairs in southern Africa, especially during the past year or so, as the area has appeared to become increasingly unstable.

Because of that process, I shared the sense of depression that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) expressed when he commented on the Prime Minister's behaviour at the heads of Government meeting of the Commonwealth and at the mini-summit at Marlborough house last August. I agree with my right hon. Friend that the Government cannot claim, as they claimed in the Queen's Speech that they are playing and will continue to play, a constructive role in the Commonwealth. Whatever else the Prime Minister did at the mini-summit. that was the last thing she did. I had the privilege and opportunity of speaking to some of the Heads of Government who visited London on that occasion. I can only repeat the descriptions that I heard of the obstructive behaviour in which she indulged during that summit. There is little chance of the Commonwealth working together unless each member country is prepared to sit down and compromise to reach a measure of agreement.

The decision of Congress that has overturned the hitherto held position of the President of the United States on sanctions against South Africa seems further to strengthen the importance of our Government changing their position on that issue. If the EEC, including Britain, and a united Commonwealth were to adopt sanctions together with the United States of America, which is adopting far more stringent sanctions than those which were proposed previously, it would further reduce both the period of suffering that is bound to take place in South Africa and the danger of instability that is likely to persist in southern Africa as a consequence of the South African Government's attitude. For that reason, the Government should take a much more constructive attitude in the European Community, the Commonwealth and the United Nations on the issue of sanctions against South Africa. If they did so, there is a real chance that we would gain a measure of unanimity throughout the world to bring that regime to an end.

The death of Samora Machel in what can only be described as suspicious circumstances is bound to increase instability in southern Africa. That is why last week I called for the establishment of an international brigade along the lines suggested by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth which would attempt to reduce the instability that is bound to develop in southern Africa, where the South African Government seem determined to use every means at their disposal to destabilise the African countries lying close to their borders. Because the border between South Africa and its neighbours—Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana—is so difficult for those front-line states to defend, it is vital to have an international brigade to keep the peace.

That presence is vital, because a measure of stability can return to that area if economic development becomes possible, but that will not happen so long as South Africa interferes in the affairs of Mozambique which are dangerous enough, and so long as the Beira corridor and other routes to the coast are closed for the safe transport of goods from the sea to countries inland. Therefore, if at the least such a brigade attempted to defend the southern border of Mozambique, it would be of prime importance. I say that not just for political reasons. There is no earthly reason why countries like Botswana and Zimbabwe should have to conduct such a large percentage of their trade through South Africa.

The route eastwards is for them much better, cheaper and shorter, and if it could be developed it would significantly contribute to their economic development. They have vulnerable economies and because of that the offer from the Government of £13 million over three years — I am quoting from memory and the Minister will correct me if I am wrong — does not seem to be anything like enough to meet the needs of the front-line countries. Those countries desperately need the kind of help that we should give them in view of South African economic sanctions against them, which are likely to continue.

In debates such as this it is important to recognise that one of the objectives of British foreign policy is the British interest. The Foreign Secretary implied that our future lies strongly with Europe. I cannot remember his precise words, but he gave the impression that he regarded our membership of the EEC as overwhelmingly important to British interests. That view flies in the face of history, in the face of the large amount of trade that we have with other parts of the world, of our links with the Commonwealth and the role that we can play in the Commonwealth in trying to reduce tension in other parts of the world and in working for a more peaceful world.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) drew attention to the appalling poverty and distress in Africa and elsewhere. He was right to point to that issue as a factor that can lead to serious instability and violence in other parts of the world. Even if we consult only our own interests, we have a responsibility that goes far beyond the borders of Europe, a responsibility that implies working with other like-minded countries towards reducing tension and making a more peaceful world.

12.47 pm
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook

After seven years of Conservative government, much progress has been made in establishing our economy on firm foundations, in keeping inflation down and in spreading wealth to all our people. For the first time for many years, we have a chance of sustained economic growth and long-term economic stability. However, the great scourges of mankind remain. At home, mass unemployment and increasing crime are diseases which debilitate society. Abroad, the threat posed by the possession of nuclear weapons in irresponsible hands and the inability of the super-powers to agree on arms control are like dark clouds hanging over us. Regrettably, so are the problems of world poverty.

The famine that has affected Africa and other parts of the world in recent years has caused starvation, resulting in death and misery for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people. I regret that the Gracious Speech made inadequate reference to this problem. The knowledge that the European Community has mountains of surplus food while parts of Africa suffer from famine should make all Europeans feel miserably guilty. A mere transfer of capital resources from one country to another provides no permanent solution to this problem. Indeed, it often exacerbates it. To that extent, the Government's policy on overseas aid is misguided and unwise.

But that is no excuse for doing nothing. Food surpluses in Europe and famine in Africa — twin problems of structural economic imbalance—should be the theme of a world food conference. In answer to a written question from me recently, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that these are separate problems and should be tackled separately. I regret to say that I disagree. They are related problems and we in Europe can do much more on a practical level to solve Africa's problems, even if we cannot solve our own.

In the context of a world food conference, it would be possible for the British contribution to be made strictly practical and in accordance with our considerable experience. We can provide the technical and professional training which the people of poor countries need if they are to help themselves.

We in Britain could institute, through a world campaign properly worked out with the recipient countries, a programme of rural water supplies to provide deep concrete-lined wells supplying pure water in every village in Sahelia if we tried. We did so in northern Nigeria during my own time and one does not hear of famine there, even on the borders of the Sahara. We could, in other words, with modern techniques, eliminate famine from Africa within a few years, just as we eliminated malaria.

I welcome what my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said about terrorism. What progress is being made on a joint European Community approach to extradition to give us, within the European Community, the advantage of the automatic surrender of alleged terrorists on the production merely of a valid warrant issued in the requesting country? That would necessarily include a denial of the right of political asylum for terrorists. It is well within the capacity of the European Community to agree to such a convention.

We must trust one another if we are to make any progress on the European scale, and, indeed, if our words in the European Community treaties that we have signed are sincere. That is why it is so disappointing that we have not yet achieved that type of mutual co-operation in combating terrorism which could be secured and improved by such arrangements.

It is also disappointing that certain members of the European Community do not appear to live up to their obligations. For example, it is disappointing that Spain should continue to make difficulties for aircraft of the Royal Air Force to use the Gibraltar airfield. That seems to be completely inconsistent with membership of the European Community, not to speak of NATO. One also learns that Spain is willing to challenge by force Britain's rights over the territorial waters of the Falkland Islands. She should be told firmly that that sort of force will be met with force.

I commend the Government's firm approach to international affairs. In particular, I commend their intention to remain a solid and progressive member of the European Community. The European Community continues to provide us with the greatest opportunity for economic expansion that we have had this century. The Government have a duty to take advantage of it, and to make its market available for the increasing prosperity of all our people.

12.54 pm
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Since becoming a Member of Parliament I have learnt that things are never simple. Indeed, they are often extremely complex, and hon. Members do not always slot in conveniently. For example, the hon. Member for Orpington (M r. Stanbrook) often makes my hair stand on end, but today I heard him speak about Nigeria. I know of his record as an officer in Nigeria, and what he said today was common sense. He spoke on something that he knew about, and his remarks were very sensible. That is why hon. Members should always listen to each other. Unfortunately, we do not always do so. Quite a lot of yah-booing goes on, with one hon. Member shouting out, "What about Nicaragua?", and another answering, "What about Afghanistan?" It is quite disgraceful.

I was one of the first to criticise and oppose the entry of Russian troops into Afghanistan. Opposition Members have never approved of that move by Russia. My record on such matters is clear. I did not approve of the Soviet Union going into Hungary or Czechoslovakia, and I do not agree with it interfering in the internal affairs of those countries that are part of the COMECON set-up, any more than I approve of America's actions in central America. Chile and so on.

Some people have double standards. We do not have to have them, but the problem is that people feel that they either have to accept what the Americans are doing, and back them, or back the Soviet Union. However, we do not have to accept what the Americans or the Russians do. We are an independent people with our own minds and position. It is about time that Britain once again adopted a clear and independent stance in relation to both of the two great powers. We do not have to be tied into either NATO or the Warsaw pact. We should be doing what the Labour party always argued for—we should be working for the ending of NATO and the Warsaw pact, and so rolling back the frontiers of war in Europe. We should be working to get foreign troops from both east and west out of Europe, and for a nuclear-free zone for the whole of Europe. That is what we should be arguing for.

We should not allow ourselves to be tied to one block or another. I am in favour of a non-aligned position. My party does not go along with me in that respect, or in relation to my attitude towards NATO. I agree with CND. It has been said that it is impossible to believe in Labour party policy while at the same time believing in NATO. But many people do. I believe that if a Labour Government began to negotiate the removal of American bases from Britain, there would be an immediate problem, because the Americans would not like what we were doing. They would not sit back happily and let it happen. I do not think that there would be a telephone message from the President saying that it is OK. I shall explain why I do not think that that would happen. It should be understood that the Americans have never acted in that way in other countries when American interests have been involved.

The same can be said of the Soviet Union. I have disapproved and opposed the entry of the Soviet Union into Afghanistan, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, but we must recognise that it has been concerned with its interests as a nation. It is not a matter of the Soviet Union spreading the Soviet system throughout the world. An understanding of the internal political concepts and ideologies of the Soviet Union make it clear that when Stalin said that it was possible to build socialism in only one country, the concept of spreading revolution throughout the world stopped dead. In the second world war, the Comintern was disbanded in the interests of the overal struggle against Hitler and Nazism. I ask hon. Members to read some of the historical background to the realities of the events that have taken place in other countries.

Why do the Americans act as they do'? We have the American attitude towards Cuba and their present attitude to Nicaragua, and I suggest that they are taking such a line because they believe that it is in their interest to do so, in the same way that the Russians believe that they are defending their economic system by following their policy. The Americans believe that private enterprise and capitalism is the greatest of all systems in the world, and they are defending their economic interests by acting as they do. I believe that they are behaving wrongly in Nicaragua and throughout central and Latin America as well as in other parts of the world.

It is believed by some that those who want to achieve independence and to get rid of poverty, for example, must invariably be siding with the Communists. I ask hon. Members to consider what is happening in Latin America. Some of the staunchest fighters for the independence of their countries, freedom and human rights are those who have nothing to with the Communist party. In fact, they are members of the Roman Catholic church and accept the concept of liberation theology. Hon. Members should read about this. They should understand what is happening. I believe in liberation theology. I believe that if anyone believes in the concept of creating God's kingdom on earth, he has to fight for the poor, which means that he will oppose the establishment. If we side with the poor in this country, we must fight the rich because they are oppressing the poor. Unfortunately, there are some hon. Members who think that in South Africa, for example, anyone who struggles for basic freedoms is a Communist. It is a stupid attitude and we should begin to learn what is really happening in the world.

I agree with those who say that one of the great problems facing us is the maintenance of civilisation, which means that we must get rid of nuclear weapons. If a nuclear war breaks out, it will be the end of civilisation in the northern hemisphere. Secondly, we must accept the responsibility of helping all those throughout the world who are living in poverty and misery. They should be given our full assistance and support as we try to raise the standard of their lives. We should accept that responsibility for every human being in the world. That is how I see these matters.

We have gone round the world in this debate, but we have not said very much about the middle east. I believe that the Israelis have a right to live in peace in secure borders. If we do not work towards enabling the Palestinians to have a state of their own, there will never be peace in the middle east. There will always be the possibility of continuing war and, ultimately, a wider war in that part of the world.

We have a responsibility to help, and certainly to keep the secure borders for the Israelis. However, we must work towards enabling the Palestinians to have a state of their own. It is argued that if they are given a stake of their own, they will put up their weapons of destruction to Israel. The funny thing about giving people responsibility is that, immediately they are given responsibility, they begin to worry about maintaining their position. People who were once great revolutionaries end up as reactionaries a few years later. I have seen it happen.

I have said to young people in Liverpool, "I hope that in 20 years' time you will still argue the same sorts of arguments, but if you are given great responsibility, I doubt that you will." I remember the debates that took place at the time of the upsurge of young students in 1968. When many young students shouted at me, I said to them, "In a few years' time you will be wearing bowler hats and carrying rolled umbrellas and you will go to the City of London to defend the capitalist system." Many of them have done so. I am still arguing for the basic things for which I have always argued. That is how things happen in this world. The point I am making is that we have a responsibility to let the Palestinians have the right to have a state of their own. It is part of the fight for world peace, and it is world peace about which we should be concerned.

Let us not be tied to either the NATO Alliance or a Soviet alliance. We must have an independent, nonaligned attitude. As a Socialist, I believe that we must have that, and we must fight for it. In doing that, I believe that we will make a great contribution to creating world peace and fighting for that world peace in a positive way.

Several Don. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. Front Bench Members hope to begin their speeches by half-past one or shortly after. I appeal to the three hon. Gentlemen who hope to speak to divide the time between them.

1.12 pm
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

It is always a big event in parliamentary terms when the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) speaks. I only wish that his enthusiasm and commitment to his personal causes were matched by a greater insight into international affairs. He suggested that our continent would be safer were there to be a nuclear-free zone. In this respect, he is as wrong-headed as the SPD in West Germany which has adopted the crazy notion of a nuclear-free 90-km strip either side of the inner German border. I do not know how that could ensure our security in the free part of Europe where we face a mammoth preponderance of Warsaw pact forces in place.

The distinction is not understood by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who equates the total manpower available on the part of the NATO allies and that available to Warsaw pact countries with a balance of forces in the theatre of Europe which is manifestly in favour of the Warsaw pact both in terms of manpower and, more importantly, of offensive armaments such as armour, artillery and aircraft.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to suggest that we should not be tied to any one bloc. I cannot understand why he should seek to disavow participation in the north Atlantic Alliance. It is an alliance of free democratic nations, which has preserved peace. Non-alignment, and the vulnerability of neutrality have been proved, in recent years, to be invitations to aggression. Vulnerability has manifestly been a poor policy, particularly for neutral countries that border the Soviet Union.

We must examine what happened to Finland. It lost one third of its territory to the Soviets. The Baltic states —Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia—were incorporated, by force of arms, into Soviet territory, through the infamous pact concluded by the late Mr. Molotov and Ribbentrop, the Nazi Foreign Minister. Half of Poland was incorporated, again by force of arms. In connection with Poland, it is worth bearing in mind the atrocities committed by the Soviets—the Katyn Wood massacre, when the flower of the Polish officer corps was eliminated. Of course, there was also the decision of the Soviet high command to halt the liberation of Warsaw. When the Polish patriotic partisans rose against their Nazi oppressors, the Soviets stood idly by and saw those partisans eliminated because they, the communists, wanted to see their men put in place after Poland was freed from the Nazis. Of course, last but not least, there is Afghanistan, a manifest human tragedy of horrendous proportions that almost beggars description. Neutrality did Afghanistan no good. All those countries, of course, neighbour the Soviet Union.

The hon. Member for Walton suggested that the United States would not permit a Socialist government, were one to be elected in this country, to dismantle United States nuclear bases in Britain. That is not my fear. My fear is the opposite. It is that it would permit such an eventuality. It did so, after all, when General de Gaulle insisted that United States bases be dismantled in France. It created no obstacle to that, even though it was a grave disadvantage to the total defence capability of the Western Alliance.

Of course, we are hardly reassured by the Leader of the Opposition. I shall quote the same extract referred to by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition said: If we're not prepared to use the weapon system ourselves"— the nuclear weapon— we certainly wouldn't be asking anyone else to jeopardise themselves by the use of that nuclear weapon. I think it would be immoral to do so. The strategic concept of the Labour party is this grand design of a nuclear-free Europe which would include our own country. Would the Americans be prepared for our country to be put at risk, even if we were to declare our country nuclear-free? Would the Americans be prepared for our country—a democracy of such crucial strategic significance—to fall in the event of Soviet aggression? Would that aggression be likely? My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) clearly explained why it would. We would he totally vulnerable to nuclear intimidation and blackmail. Nothing could replace a nuclear guarantee to ensure the security, sovereignty and integrity of our nation.

However, at this time, our own people are perhaps more concerned by the Reykjavik summit and its consequences. I reiterate the words of caution that I interjected during the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. It was a difficult exercise to ensure the deployment of Pershing 2 and ground-launched cruise missiles in this country, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and West Germany. We did not initiate the process of deployment for some five years after the first deployments of SS20s by the Soviets. Even when the deployment of our own INF is completed in 1988, there will be a substantial preponderance of INF on the part of the Warsaw pact, a preponderance which has been added to by the new deployments by the Soviets of short-range systems—the SS21s, SS22s and SS23s—not to mention the overwhelming Soviet superiority in chemical warfare.

If we put all these facts into the equation, we must recognise that, without clear collateral on the part of the Soviets, a zero-zero option would not be wise at present. It was mooted before we began to put our own INF in place in NATO. We must recognise also that NATO's INF —the ground-launched cruise missiles and Pershing II—provide the essential coupling which would ensure that, in the event of aggression against western Europe, the nuclear guarantee of the United States would be invoked on our behalf. Without that assurance, without the link between the tactical and the strategic levels of nuclear escalation, there would always be the fear that the United States might not risk the incineration of its homeland on our behalf and thereby the deterrent effect of the West's defences as a whole would be minimised.

I strongly urge greater caution on the Government. I urge them to persuade the United States Administration to see this issue in its totality. The Soviet General Secretary has said that he will not take the British and French nuclear deterrents even if modernised, into account. That helps. They could provide a trigger which would ensure that the United States nuclear guarantee could be invoked. Nevertheless, a more sure and effective coupling is provided by the United States INF in Europe, stationed here on our behalf. We would be foolhardy to negotiate those forces away without clear collateral by the other side.

1.16 pm
Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) began by saying that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) did not have enough insight into foreign policy. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to make precisely the same mistake he has made before when I have debated this issue with him. It was precisely the same mistake I have heard Government Member after Government Member make today and that I have heard the Prime Minister and the Government make outside the House when they talk about foreign policy and defence. The mistake is to make foreign policy the servant of defence.

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood, after talking about the lack of foreign policy insight of my hon. Friend the Member for Walton, went on to talk primarily about defence. The Tory party's constant belief is that, if one sets the lead by setting one's defence policy, the foreign policy will somehow come right. The harsh truth is that the Tory party, both in recent years and previously, has a very bad record of keeping the peace. It has done more to get this country into wars than almost any other political party, past or present.

The Government's misjudgments, whether on Suez or on the Falklands, show the danger of putting defence first and foreign policy second. The Government take that mistake to the extreme. The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood and especially the Prime Minister go on drawing analogies which, either implicitly or, once or twice, explicitly, liken the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walton said, there are many reasons for being critical of the Soviet Union. It is a closed, authoritarian society. It has done many things whih are utterly unacceptable, to do as Conservative Members do and assume that the fault is 100 per cent. on the Soviet side and lies nowhere else in the world is at best bizarre and at worst positively dangerous. Clearly, it takes two sides to maintain and continue a conflict. We need to look at our contribution to that as well as—not instead of—the Soviet Union's contribution. That is the failure of the approach of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood.

There are many things wrong with the Soviet Union, but it is not Nazi Germany in drag and never has been. It is not the authoritarian expansionist power of the type that Nazi Germany was in the inter-war period. To imply that is to hurt the Soviet people very much. I do not think that Conservative Members realise that the sacrifice of 20 million dead by the Soviet Union in the second world war means that comments by the Conservative party or by Mr. Reagan in the United States, implying in some way that the Soviet Union is like Nazi Germany, are deeply offensive to the Russian people.

The other thing that troubles me in relation to that is the perception of the Soviet Union by the Government. They assume that it is a closed, authoritarian, expansionist power. There is some evidence for that, but nowhere near as much as they would have us believe. From the position of a leader in the Kremlin, the world does not look a very safe place. Such a leader has an unstable east European empire, an area close to the middle east where the fastest growing percentage of the population is Moslem with close cultural, religious, political and social links across the borders with Iran, Turkey ad Afghanistan, a war resembling the Vietnam war in Afghanistan and one of the longest borders in the world, if not the longest, between the Soviet Union and China, along which two areas are in major dispute about geographical possession. If one then takes into account the rather unsteady or rickety state of the Soviet economy, the world does not look a safe place. Any Soviet leader who chose to take over 300 million people in western Europe who would undoubtedly resist effectively would be committing something close to political suicide.

When we look at the considerable argument we have from time to time about numbers and types of weapons, again the Government make the fatal mistake of trying to compare simple numbers. The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood, with his background in the air force, should know better than most that the quality of anti-tank and anti-helicopter weapons and a number of other parts of our technology are considerably in advance of the Soviet Union. If the Soviet Union were to have an effective chance of taking over and occupying western Europe, it would need a considerably bigger majority in conventional or other terms than at present. All it would open itself up to now is a long-drawn-out and bloody dispute which, possibly, neither side would win. The House should be much more concerned about that. There is a constant under-estimation of what is happening to the great powers. We should know better than most, given our own history.

We are often puzzled about the United States at present. I am always fascinated by the fact that, during the 1940s and 1950s, the most virulent anti-American voices in this country were Conservatives, because they could not stand the way in which the United States was taking over the British role as the dominant power in the world. Their aggression and hostility towards the United States was almost total. Now, suddenly, because they have accepted their more servile relationship to Mr. Reagan, they have become more pro-American than the Americans. We have the bizarre scene of the Prime Minister rushing to Washington saying, "Do not take advantage of the arms deal being offered by Mr. Gorbachev, because it might not be a good thing for western Europe." I was never as optimistic as others about a major breakthrough in Iceland. I doubted it at the time and I still doubt, sadly, whether there will be a breakthrough. I wish there had been a breakthrough, but I do not think that it will happen like that because the two sides are too heavily entrenched.

We need to recognise that the United States is in relative decline—I emphasise the word "relative". The figures for industrial production show that the United States is getting weaker relative to other powers. It is precisely the same sort of process that happened to us as a great power at the end of the last century, when Germany and other countries began to overtake us in steel production and so on. One cannot be exact, but I think that the time at which a great power declines is when it spends more on defence and on maintaining its position in the world than it gets in return. That is when the British empire became uneconomic to Britain and it is when the new American empire is becoming uneconomic to the United States.

I want to leave some time for the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn), so I shall conclude. The judgments we make about foreign policy are profoundly dangerous. We are living in an unstable world. The Labour party has rightly changed its policy because we recognise that nuclear weapons are no longer the war-deterring weapons they were in the 1950s; they are now seen as war-fighting weapons. The technology has changed, and unless we change with it we will be in serious trouble. The relationship between the great powers and other powers is changing. Unless we change with that, we will be in great difficulty. We must recognise that the arms burden on the world economy is having a disastrously destabilising effect. Wars are developing in the Third world because the amount of money we spend on arms is greater than the amount we spend on health, education and housing, which would lead to greater stability between those powers. If we allow that to continue, the only prediction that I can make with any certainty is that we shall have another major war before we have yet another of the realignments of the powers that have taken place throughout history.

1.25 pm
Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

I am obliged to you for calling me in this important debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), like the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), showed an extraordinary inability to distinguish between liberty and tyranny. I am not interested in belonging to a power bloc, but I am impressed by the fact that America is a free country, which came to our rescue when tyrannies threatened every country in Europe. [Interruption.] We are still a free country, but Russia is not a free country. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not exist. All the Balkan countries are occupied. Our beloved Poland, which was half taken away, is still occupied. We went to war to liberate it, not to see a tyranny occupy it. It is not a matter of blocs or of saying that America is blue, Russia is red and they are both just billiard balls. One is a tyranny and the other is a democracy. Surely from this House of freedom we must see that distinction.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) said that we should be on the side of the liberating movements in Africa and South America. What have the people been liberated to? Where is the liberation in Zimbabwe? Where is the liberation in Mozambique, which is prospectively the richest, most fertile and prosperous country on earth? Where is the liberation of any of the countries of which the hon. Gentleman speaks? Poland was not liberated. East Germany was not liberated. East Berlin is not liberated. That was done in the name of Left-wing liberation, but the result was tyranny.

If the hon. Member for Walton wants some reading material — he was telling us that we should read — let him get a book out of the House of Commons Library. "The Berlin Wall" is one of the most sophisticated historical records, essentially of President Kennedy's presidential term. The time until he was wrongfully, brutally and sadly assassinated, was spent in obsessional concern to prevent the Russians from taking Berlin because they believed that if they could get Berlin, they could get the Americans out of Europe. I invite the hon. Member for Hammersmith to read that book, and he will recall that the bear has not changed and will not change. If those in the Kremlin were as paranoid as he imagines, as frightened of the length of their border, and as anxious to be peaceful, why do they not withdraw their regimes from Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, East Germany, East Berlin, Afghanistan and all the other places, and they would have shorter borders and more forces? That would be the logical thing to do. They would be less threatened.

In my lifetime the British and American Governments — the free world — have signed the following treaties with the Soviet Union: they signed a treaty at Teheran, which was the most disastrous; a treaty at Potsdam, which was not quite so disastrous; a treaty at Yalta, which was as disastrous; a test ban treaty; SALTI; and Helsinki. We have kept them all. They have not kept one. There were not free elections in Poland or eastern Europe. They continued to test their weapons when we did not. If one wishes to talk of human rights, let us go before the great monument opened this August to the Yalta victims by Zoe Palanska-Palmer to see what human rights mean in the Soviet Union or those unfortunate satellite countries.

When we talk about the abolition of nuclear weapons in the shadow of the death of Molotov, let us consider, if we were to abolish Trident and spend the money on conventional weapons, what we could buy. As a good Socialist I would divide the money equally among the armed forces. The Navy could have one extra operational frigate. The Army could have one more armoured squadron—eight tanks. The Royal Air force could have one more flight of fighter bombers which, in practice, amounts to two operational aircraft. What difference would that make to the conventional forces of Europe?

What is good about conventional weapons? I was born in 1933, the year that Hitler came to power. Every day that I have lived, hundreds of people have died as a result of conventional weapons. That is 52 times 365 days. On only one or two days that I have lived has anyone died as a result of nuclear weapons. If the hon. Member for Walton thinks that 20:1, 8:1 and 3:1 are odds that one can overlook, I can understand why he spends so much money on the horses.

What brought the Russians to Reykjavik? I believe that they understood, at last, that the West was developing a system of defence that they could not afford to develop and that made it essential for them to realise that they either had to impoverish their peoples of their tyranny beyond the ghastly state of impoverishment in which they live, or they had to admit the abandonment of their worldwide doctrinal ambitions. We heard that doctrine expressed last week when the Russians stated that if it is necessary for nine tenths of the people of the earth to die for the triumph of Communism, so be it. Those words of Lenin were repeated at the great revolutionary parade.

I like freedom and I mind about it. I hate tyranny. I do not choose between blocs. I have American, Russian, Polish, Hungarian and Afghan friends, but I hate tyranny and I fear Communist aggression. I have many American friends, and there are many things about America that I would criticise. However, we are talking not about whether we prefer Americans to Russians, but about the liberty of Europe and of our children.

1.33 pm
Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

I can tell the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) that there is no detestation or dislike of liberty on the Opposition Benches. Our belief and conviction in liberty and our detestation of tyranny are as great as his. However, he will have to recognize—as he did in part of his speech— that tyrranies are not always of the Left and are not always characterised by the Soviet Union and the east European nations. There are tyrannies of the Right, and we must also protect our nation from those.

As is usual, this has been a wide-ranging debate touching on almost every aspect of international affairs, and that causes serious problems for those replying to the debate from either Front Bench. There are deep feelings on both sides of the House, not all of which are confined to the restricted number of subjects mentioned in the Queen's speech, but relate to many others as well.

The Foreign Secretary opened the debate with a difficult task ahead of him because with his boss on her way to Camp David, he must not be seen to wrong-foot her on her journey—although she is capable of doing that for herself. Just hours before this debate began, the world heard on television the truly remarkable confession of the United States President that he and his Administration had been covering up a new arms trade with the bloodstained regime in Teheran. It is not easy for anyone to preach Alliance solidarity in those circumstances, although the Foreign Secretary made his usual competent job of attempting, albeit unsuccessfully, to reduce the temperature of the debate and of the House to below blood level.

The Foreign Secretary began by referring to the European Community and the British presidency in this six-month period. Nothing displays the dissatisfaction with the Community's record more clearly than the gap between the Foreign Secretary's rhetoric and the reality of the period of British presidency. At the beginning of Britain's presidency, the right hon. and learned Gentleman made out that the great priority was the huge, obscene unemployment problem in this wealthy conglomeration of 12 nations, which was to be tackled by the concerted efforts of all those countries under his own strong and able leadership. The employment initiative proposed by his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has already run into the sand as a bogus series of gimmicks. Only recently, the European Confederation of Trade Unions made clear its dissatisfaction with that so-called initiative, which put all the emphasis on deregulation and none on the expansion of demand and stimulation of new investment contained in the European Commission's own co-operative growth strategy. In that area, too, the Government's Euro-Thatcherism has been shown up for what it is. I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer), who is usually among the beleaguered minority who come here to defend the European Community, today expressed disappointment with the record of his party's Government in that area.

Air fares were to be another great area of deregulation pioneered by the Government, but only this week the Government fell flat on their faces as other countries blocked such a movement.

The Community budget remains in the same paralysed condition as it was the last year, the year before and the year before that, with expenditure on the common agricultural policy still out of control and every other item being squeezed yet again in the face of ever larger grain mountains.

The Foreign Secretary's initiative on terrorism, which he would have been pursuing in Luxembourg today but for this debate, suffers from the fact that his genuine intention to get strong sanctions against Syria is permanently paralysed by his European colleagues' memory of the supine position taken by this country on action against South Africa earlier this year.

Even on the Single European Act—the pioneering legislation agreed at the Milan summit and rushed through the House with the aid of an unprecedented constitutional guillotine — is running into trouble, not just in areas where enthusiasm for the Community is limited but in countries such as France, Germany and Ireland where enthusiasm for greater European unity has been paraded before us as an example.

If the Foreign Secretary cares to listen to anything that I say, let him reflect on the fact that the precedent established by the Government in introducing a guillotine on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill at such an early stage will not be easily forgotten. Under the next Government, there will be constitutional methods of considerable force which may call upon precedents such as that to be used against the Conservative party.

We are drifting towards the end of our six months of European presidency with no successes on the record and a substantial list of failures for the Government to stand before. In Europe, the Government have become a busted flush. Crippled by the economic disaster that they have inflicted on their own country, they have no credibility left in Europe. The opportunities and the challenges that were before them to do something about the chronic condition of the European recession lie abandoned in the rhetoric that accompanied the beginning of their presidency.

The debate has rightly been dominated by the Reykjavik summit and arms control. Some hon. Members, not all of whom have stayed for the winding-up speeches, chose to divert themselves to the bywaters of history and defend present circumstances, but the world has been changed by Reykjavik, as it has been changing for the past 40 years. It is not sufficient for the Foreign Secretary or the Government continually to parade the rhetoric of Yalta to defend the present situation. Unless it is capable of changing, the Alliance that has contributed so much to the security of Europe during the past 40 years will not survive at all.

I should like to say something about one of the missions in front of the Prime Minister at Camp David tomorrow, which is of immediate and critical importance. It is possible that, within days, President Reagan will give the final order to arm the 131st B52 bomber with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, thus breaching the limits of the 1979 SALT 2 treaty. If that were to happen, arms control as a whole and our ability to impose sensible and necessary limits on the development of nuclear weapons would be put back for decades. All of America's allies, a majority of United States Congress and widespread world opinion have appealed to the President to keep to the limits that were agreed in 1979 and, although never ratified, have been kept.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, the Prime Minister is authoritatively reported as having sent a strong letter to her friend the President imploring him to respect this elementary framework, which is virtually the only one we have, of arms control. I doubt whether the President or his advisers appreciate the strength of feeling in the world, even among pretty conservative opinion and opinion-makers, concerning the sheer wrecklessness, insensitivity and plain carelessness involved in throwing out this baby with the Soviet non-compliance bathwater.

Even if the Soviet breaches of SALT 2 were actual—that is still open to debate — and even if they were serious, it is still not right to break the accepted law which has stood us in good stead since 1979, simply to prove the Soviet Union wrong. Breaking through SALT 2 this or any other week would be regarded as a savage and wanton blow against Atlantic Alliance opinion, and it would damage unity in NATO and among America's friends almost irreparably. It must not happen.

We must hope that the Prime Minister—I say this in the most helpful and conciliatory way—will make it clear to President Reagan that the opinion of the House, the country and of America's friends and allies urges her to implore him not to take that all too probably fatal step over the SALT 2 precipice. That important message must be got across and I hope that it will be given strongly at Camp David tomorrow.

Time and again hon. Members came back to what happened at Reykjavik and the implications of that for the United Kingdom. The right hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett), in a remarkably dated speech, found himself adrift from practically every strand of western opinion — the Prime Minister's, the Foreign Secretary and NATO's. Even the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who usually speaks with some authority on these matters, cast himself adrift from the central view expressed by the Foreign Secretary on the question of the zero-zero option in regard to IMF in Europe, and I say that with some degree of welcome.

After a long debate with substantial opening speeches we are still no clearer what the Government position is on some crucial areas and what precisely the Prime Minister will tell President Reagan tomorrow about them. Are we, as has already been put on record, in favour of a 50 per cent. cut over five years in ballistic missiles? To repeat the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East and other hon. Members, if we are, what are the implications of that for the Trident missile system which will come on stream at the precise point when both world leaders say that they will do away with the type of missile system that we are about to buy at great expense?

What will the Prime Minister say about the zero-zero option? Will she privately veer towards the view of the right hon. Member for Torbay? After all, he leads our delegation to both the Council of Europe and the Western European Union. Or, will she stick with the public statements made by her Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary today? The twin-track decision of 1979 was endorsed by the allies and put forward as a deliberate method for getting the Soviet Union to withdraw the missiles from its side of the European continent. For the consistency and leadership that the Foreign Secretary mentioned it is extremely important that that view continues to be held by the British Government.

The zero-zero option was put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East and the then leader of the Opposition, and it was adopted by NATO and the President of the United States. It would be utterly wrong for the West as a whole and for western public opinion in general, if we were to be seen to abandon it simply because the Soviet Union has come to see the sense of the alternative put forward at that time. When the Minister replies, and he is the Minister with responsibility for disarmament and arms control matters, perhaps he will enlighten the House what the script will be at Camp David when the President meets the Prime Minister.

What will the Prime Minister say about a test-ban treaty? What is the Government's position now that the Reykjavik summit has undermined their figleaf of the problem of verification? The Government said that their only objection to a comprehensive test-ban treaty lay in the difficulties of verification, but the President and general-secretary of Reykjavik seem to have swept aside those problems. Modern technology has produced perfectly good systems of verification and they are available for all countries to use.

Will the Prime Minister suggest that the United States' Senate might ratify the partial test-ban treaty as a gesture of good will, given the Reykjavik summit? Will she suggest that the low yield test-ban treaty is a possibility with levels of even one kilotonne being possible in the near future for working towards the comprehensive test-ban treaty that the two leaders at Reykjavik said was possible in the long term?

What will the Prime Minister say about the SDI? Will she be as firm as the Foreign Secretary was today on the narrow definition of the anti-ballistic missile treaty and the debate that is going on in the United States of America with lawyer after lawyer being paraded to illustrate the fact that the Americans can deploy practically everything in space and still remain within compliance? Will she stick with her ally Chancellor Kohl and with her supposed ally, the Foreign Secretary, and say that only the strict interpretation of the ABM treaty is suitable? Some 540 British scientists signed a declaration only two weeks ago saying that they would have nothing to do with the strategic defence initiative. Those scientists have given the Government a lead and give to the Government's posture the shame that it deserves.

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

Before my hon. Friend leaves the topic of the strategic defence initiative, can he say whether, in his capacity as the Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, he will take up the matter of SDI with the Supreme Commander, East Atlantic, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) to find out what he thinks about SDI?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend must have inside information in order to ask that question. I wish that he had supplied me with the answer as well as the question, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood knows that the widespread scepticism of military figures in NATO about this so-called strategic defence initiative is almost universal. It seems that there is now only one person wedded to the idea of this invulnerable dome over the world. That person is the President of the United States.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is it not the case that nearly every respected military figure believes that defence against offensive systems is worthwhile, even if that defence is imperfect—as any defence is bound to be?

Mr. Robertson

The strategic defence initiative is neither feasible nor possible; it is simply a diversion from the real defence needs of the West. The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood did not deal with that at all. The problem of terrorism constantly confronts us in our newspapers. As hon. Members have made clear, it is not just a problem highlighted by the remarkable disclosures over the past few days by the United States, but it is a problem that genuinely worries our people and people in every other country.

The performance last night by the President of the United States left a lot to be desired. All the film scripts and all the magic that he can summon will simply not sell this used car to the American public or to anyone else. The disclosures are a direct hit on Washington's allies in the middle east, who have fought a courageous and sometimes painful war against the Ayatollah and the campaign of Islamic fundamentalism that is being cockpitted from Teheran. Those allies of the United States now find themselves undermined by their own side.

The disclosures are a massive destructive hit against dealing with terrorists, a topic that the President talked about with such vigour when he used British airfields to launch the attack on Libya and about which we have heard recently from the Foreign Secretary. It makes a mockery of America's own laws about preventing arms sales to Iran and of the American system of justice which only this year sentenced two people, one of them a British citizen, to long terms of imprisonment in the United States for doing precisely what the American Government now say is being done officially by them to foster a spirit of fraternity with elements in the Ayatollah's regime that are favourable to the West.

In opening the debate, the Foreign Secretary said that the characteristics of the Government were consistency and leadership. Here is an ideal opportunity for the Government to tell the President of the United States that his inconsistency is the sort of thing that damages considerably the reputation of the senior partner in the Alliance and does enormous harm to the idea of Alliance solidarity. I am sure that the whole House would like the Minister to deal with the matter of Mr. Vanunu, whose disappearence from these shores and whose sudden reappearance like a rabbit out of a magician's hat back in Israel and back in a prison cell mystifies us and demands answers. The Financial Times today, a paper not given to tabloid sensationalism, claimed that British intelligence told Israeli intelligence Mr. Vanunu's exact location in Britain and, by implication, expedited his transfer from Britain by whatever means to the state of Israel.

The Government have an obligation to tell the House of Commons and the country the truth about that bizarre mystery and to explain why Mr. Vanunu disappeared from Britain and reappeared in a state that will now try him in conditions of considerable secrecy. We know that the Government are uncomfortable, but that discomfort will continue until the British people know the precise truth.

Two years ago the Queen's Speech spoke of seeking a settlement in Namibia. Last year the speech said nothing about Namibia. This year the Queen's Speech talks of supporting independence for Namibia. What is the significance of that change in the phraseology over the years? We know that every word that goes into the Gracious Speech is precisely measured in order that its significance is not missed by anybody at home or abroad.

Hon. Members have mentioned South Africa today in considerable speeches. The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) gave the standard apologia for the South African regime and the standard argument against sanctions. But if the argument for sanctions is unquestionable in the case of South Africa, it is overwhelming in the case of Namibia. South Africa is in illegal occupation of Namibia, so why should they not be taken on, especially as South Africa is using that country as a base to mount military incursions against fellow Commonwealth nations?

The American Crocker initiative has now failed and its time has run out. Linkage with Angola has also failed as a tactic. Talking has not brought Namibian independence, which is apparently the Government's objective as enunciated in the Queen's Speech, any closer. What precisely are the Government doing on Namibia and when will they turn the financial and trade screws to obtain what they say they want to achieve on Namibia's behalf?

In the few minutes left to me, let me touch briefly on two other subjects. One was touched on only briefly in the debate, but it is of some importance today—Cyprus. There is great concern in Britain at the quiet appearance on the world scene of the unrecognised and technically illegal so-called Turkish republic of north Cyprus. Mr. Denktas, the leader of that so-called nation, will be in London next week. Although the Government have nothing to do with that, there will be a reception in the Queen Elizabeth conference centre, giving some quasi-respectability to the visit.

It would be disgraceful if that occupied zone were to he seen in Britain as receiving some de facto and highly publicised recognition. It is impossible for any settlement in Cyprus if that non-state is allowed to become, by accident or by negligence, in any way respectable and anything other than the occupied territory that it i3. The way forward—there is general agreement on both sides of the House here—is to support the initiatives of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to seek an earnest assurance from both parties that they will cooperate with him in what he is doing there.

Hon. Members on both sides mentioned the Argentine fisheries limits and the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West made a substantial point about that. It is worth underlining what my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East said about the meeting of the Organisation of American States earlier this week when 31 nations voted against us and in favour of Argentina. That is not in itself significant because the majority is more overwhelming in the United Nations. What is remarkable is that among those 31 nations who voted against us and for Argentina was the United States and that the person who cast the vote for the United States was the Secretary of State himself, George Shultz. Does it not make the Government's position utterly untenable, when our closest ally, which has been paraded before us so proudly this afternoon, stands aside and suggests that the Government or the Prime Minister may be wrong on this issue, and that something should be done about seeking an accommodation with Argentina, which alone will ensure the security of the people on those islands?

The global political scheme has been changed, perhaps permanently by the still unfolding discussions that took place in the Hofti house in Reykjavik. We now live in a world with new opporutnities to break through the suffocating wall of words which, for the past 40 years, has meant that not a single weapon or weapons system has been abandoned by either side. But the sad fact is that this Government, under this Prime Minister, do not have the vision, imagination or the simple competence to grab these opportunities to secure our nation's and, indeed, Europe's future security. It is time that they were replaced.

2.2 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Timothy Renton)

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) gave us his usual concise and comprehensive summing-up speech. But it is a pity that he always sounds happiest when he is attacking the Americans and unhappiest when he is attacking the European Community. I congratulate him on his reselection, but may I suggest that he can now be a little more relaxed about the European Community?

In his opening remarks, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said with truth that much had changed since the last foreign affairs debate five months ago. It is, therefore, a particular pity that the Labour party decided to hold this foreign affairs debate on a quiet Friday when, as it doubtless knew, many of its Back Benchers would be out celebrating the fact that they have managed to hold on to one of the safest Labour seats in the country—albeit with a much reduced majority. I can only assume that that is the reason for holding the debate today.

It was noticeable that only two Labour Back Benchers were present for the first hour of the debate. No Liberal spokesman or Back Benchers have been present at all. Presumably, those Opposition Members who have not attended are prepared to accept the suggestion made yesterday by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that pay should be docked for non-attendance. They presumably consider that a small price to pay for not having to explain to the House the extraordinary one-sided nuclear disarmament policy that is now official Labour party policy and which was also adopted by the Liberal party conference at Eastbourne. However, I shall return to that later.

The House will agree that there are challenging months ahead of us—arguably the most challenging for a great many years, particularly over arms control. After the success in Stockholm of the conference on disarmament in Europe, which produced the first agreement relating to conventional weapons since the end of the second world war, the challenge is now to make progress in all the other conferences: the banning of chemical weapons at the conference on disarmament in Geneva, where Britain has tabled an important new initiative on challenge and inspection; the mutual and balanced force reductions talks in Vienna on force reductions in central Europe, and the conference on security and co-operation in Europe which has just started in Vienna, where my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke last week on behalf of the Community and where there is, as hon. Members will know, a review of progress under all aspects of the Helsinki Final Act. I refer to security, economic cooperation and human rights.

There are also the super-power talks in Geneva about nuclear weapons and space defence, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be talking to President Reagan about that and other matters tomorrow. I think that there is a general feeling in the House that we want to build on the foundations which have already been laid in many of these areas. I am reminded of Alexander Pope's gloomy prophecy: Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never Is, but always To be blest. Our aim in arms control must be to turn the future into the present in the months ahead.

Before dealing further with arms control and nuclear disarmament, I shall address myself to the middle east, a subject raised by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. The right hon. Gentleman asked first about the international conference on the Arab-Israel peace process. Yes, we are ready to participate in that, and we have said so on a number of occasions, provided that arrangements can be agreed between the different parties on such matters as the agenda, the relationship between the conference and bilateral talks between the various countries involved, and whether Security Council permanent members should be present as participants or observers.

There has to be some lapse of time following the change of Prime Ministers in Israel, but we hope very much that early in the new year there will be a move forward in that direction. We shall be prepared to play any part that we can. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East mentioned President Mitterrand's backing for preparatory talks. We have no objections to such talks, but when I was in the middle east three weeks ago I was fortunate to have the opportunity of talking to President Mubarak and King Hussein, and I found that the suggestion that there should be preparatory talks was received with rather less enthusiasm than earlier. A number of the protagonists in the middle east said, "Why have preparatory talks? Why cannot all those who will attend the conference get down straight away to discussing the agenda and the various other matters which will have to be dealt with initially?"

In the Arab-Israeli area, we take comfort from the rather greater momentum to development that is now apparent in the occupied territories. We are pleased that the European Community has now agreed on a separate aid line for the occupied territories and on preferential access to European Community markets for most agricultural and all industrial products from the occupied territories. We can claim considerable credit for ensuring that this initiative has gone through the Community. It is satisfactory also that there are now four Arab mayors in the occupied territories and that a branch of the Cairo-Amman Bank has recently been opened in the West bank. A senior Overseas Development Administration official attended the conference in Amman which ended a few days ago on Jordanian development plans for both East and West hank.

The Iran-Iraq conflict is a subject—

Mr. Healey

Will the Minister be dealing with Mr. Vanunu?

Mr. Renton

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am coming to Mr. Vanunu. I have not forgotten his interest and that of the hon. Member for Hamilton in Vanunu. I shall deal first with Iran and Iraq, which were referred to by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). I can assure the House that our policy on Iran and Iraq remains unchanged. Our policy on the Iran-Iraq conflict is well known; we are scrupulously impartial. Our policy on arms supplies has been tightened progressively and it will remain that we refuse to sell defence equipment to Iran or Iraq that will enhance significantly either country's capability to prolong or exacerbate the conflict.

I am one of the Ministers across whose desk export licence applications pass, and I know that in the months that I have been doing my job at the Foreign Office we have had to turn down many such applications. This has cost potential British exporters hundreds of millions of pounds worth of business. None the less, it has been our decision to take that course, in accordance with the guidelines that I have mentioned.

Mr. Wareing

Will the Minister address himself to the point I made arising from the answer I obtained from his ministerial colleague on the training of Iranian and Iraqi personnel in this country? If we believe that the Gulf war is wrong, and if we want to see peace in that part of the world, is it not utterly immoral that we should give military training to both sides in that war?

Mr. Renton

I remember the hon. Gentleman raising the point. The military training that we give is limited. If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to do so, I shall pursue the question with the Under-Secretary of State for Defence. I shall see that either he or I write to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Heffer

When the Prime Minister meets President Reagan, what does she intend to say on behalf of the British Government about the Americans selling arms? The Minister has just said that we have been carrying out certain things which have been to our detriment, and that is quite right. What does the Prime Minister intend to say to President Reagan?

Mr. Renton

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not expect me to tell the House this afternoon precisely the course of the conversation that is about to take place between the President and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I have no doubt that she will make a full statement to the House—I am sure that that will be her wish — soon after her return from Washington and Camp David. That will give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to ask the question.

We are deeply concerned about the Iran-Iraq war, and the use of chemical weapons in that war. We regularly urge both sides to engage in negotiations under the umbrella of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to bring the conflict to an early and peaceful end. I am especially concerned about the mounting attacks on merchant ships in the Gulf. Recently, I had discussions with both representatives of the unions and the General Council of British Shipping to see whether there is any information that we can pass on to them, in co-operation with the Ministry of Defence, even more quickly and fully, so we can give them our most up to date perception of the position. Those conversations and discussions will continue.

I turn to the case of Mr. Vanunu, which was raised by both the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and the hon. Member for Hamilton. Mr. Vanunu was last reported to have been seen on 30 September when he checked out of his London hotel. On 8 October, he was listed as a missing person, and police inquiries began. On 21 October, an Israeli police spokesman denied press reports that Mr. Vanunu was in Israel and had been remanded in custody after appearing before a court in Jerusalem the day before. On 9 November, following informal inquiries which we made through the Israeli ambassador, the Israeli Government admitted that Mr. Vanunu was under detention in Israel and denied that he was kidnapped on British soil. On 10 November, our ambassador in Tel Aviv, Mr. Squire, was instructed to seek clarification as to how Mr. Vanunu came to be in Israel. On 13 November, the Israeli Government replied to Mr. Squire's representation with this formal statement: Mr. Vanunu left Britain of his own volition and through normal departure procedures. His departure from Britain involved no violation of British law. The Home Secretary has received a report from the Metropolitan police giving details of their inquiries. That report has not revealed any evidence that any criminal offence has been committed in Britain. I should also make it clear that allegations that there were contacts between the British and Israeli Governments about Mr. Vanunu before he disappeared are completely without foundation.

Mr. Healey

I am grateful to the Minister for giving us that information. He said that the Israeli Government informed us this week that Mr. Vanunu left of his own volition, under normal procedures. That requires everybody to wonder why on earth the Israeli Government did not make that clear when the issue first arose. If the Metropolitan police made inquiries and Mr. Vanunu did leave under normal procedures, presumably, as in the case of all other passengers from Britain, his departure would have been noted by the British authorities either at the airport or at the port from which he left. Is any information available on that matter?

Mr. Renton

The right hon. Gentleman is not correct. The authorities do not keep a full passenger check of everyone who leaves the country. No such records are available.

Mr. Heffer

Did they inquire?

Mr. Renton

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I repeat precisely what I have said. The Home Secretary has received a report from the Metropolitan police giving details of their inquiries. That report does not reveal any evidence that any offence was committed in Britain.

Mr. Healey

Will the hon. Gentleman give way'?

Mr. Renton

No, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I have many other points to make, including many points raised by him.

I wish to say a more general word—it is appropriate at this stage—about terrorism. I shall answer the points made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and the hon. Members for Hamilton and for Caithness and Sutherland. Of course it is true that every state seeks to serve its national interest. There are genuine predicaments for states, in pursuit of their national interest, in determining where the borderline lies between principle and expediency.

Successive Governments in this country have firmly taken the line—this has been repeated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on many occasions—that at a time of growth in terrorism it is not in our national interest, but rather smacks of expediency, to let terrorists believe that they can swap British hostages for arms, money or convicted criminals in British gaols. We will, of course, through dialogue, seek every opportunity to secure the release of our hostages. We have every sympathy with them and with the agony that they and their families are going through. We admire the patience and perseverance of Terry Waite.

Apart from the principle involved, we think that doing deals with terrorists only gives a further turn to the ratchet. The spiral of terrorism is increased by encouraging the belief that the taking of hostages is a worthwhile business because they can be bargained for or exchanged at substantial reward. We do not believe that that is sensible territory for any civilised country to enter—hence the stern calls for collective action against international terrorism, the new curse of our times, at successive summits in European capitals and in Tokyo and hence the clear need for collective action of a sensible kind against Syria, which was the action the action that the Community agreed last month. The important point is that, after they had had time to consider the evidence and the options that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary put forward, the Community Ministers arrived at an agreed position. In this area, the choice is between collective action and cowardice leading to disaster.

I now refer to the Falklands, and particularly to the new fishing agreement, about which I was asked by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland. We have been faced with a major conservation problem around the Falklands. In two years, the fishing effort trebled. In 1984, there were 200 boats. In 1986, there are 600. Clearly, measures to conserve the fish stocks were essential, not just for the Falkland Islands but for the whole region for—all the countries with a littoral on the south Atlantic.

For 18 months, we pressed for a multilateral solution. Progress was painfully slow and Argentine actions in signing bilateral agreements with the Soviet Union and Bulgaria only undermined the multilateral approach. Therefore, urgent and effective action was required before the next fishing season started. It is obvious that the protection of fish stocks can best be achieved through regional co-operation. That is why we worked for a Food and Agricultural Organisation solution. Until a multilateral solution was achieved, it was imperative, in our view, to take prompt action to protect stocks in those waters for which we have responsibility under international law.

By establishing the interim conservation zone around the Falkland Islands, we will ensure that fish stocks are preserved, that the ecological balance is maintained and that the Falkland islanders are able to benefit from this most valuable resource. Our measures are interim, but let me again make one point crystal clear. A multilateral arrangement has been our preferred solution from the outset, and it still is. But, so far, it has not been possible to achieve it, principally because of Argentina's actions. Because we remain committed to trying to achieve that, we have been in touch with the Brazillians about exploring the prospects on a regional basis. We have already shown our commitment to reducing tensions in the south Atlantic by supporting a recent United Nations General Assembly resolution for a south Atlantic zone of peace—and, of course, we remain ready to set up more normal relations with Argentina once the Argentine Government are ready to proceed on that basis.

The subject of the European Community was raised by some hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett), my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland. I regret that some hon. Members tried to belittle the achievements of the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Community. I do not think that that is justified. We have done a great deal — for example, with political cooperation on terrorism and drugs; in the new GATT round which has been agreed in Uruguay; and, most particularly, in respect of the internal market.

The Government are not as in faint-hearted as the Opposition. When we are baulked the first time, we try again, until we get results. We will not let up on liberalising air services until we are satisfied that the consumer is getting the fair deal to which he is entitled. We have had success in other internal market areas—for example agreements which involve exports and jobs for this country. To quote just two, the tractor and the telecommunications terminals markets have been opened up. Both are of real significance for exporters here. I am certain that when our presidency ends at the end of December we shall look back on it with pride as a time when we helped substantially to move the Community forward, especially in relation to the internal market.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) raised the matter of discussions with the ANC. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary pressed hard and repeatedly for an assurance that the ANC renounced violence, but without success. He made clear his own views that the armed struggle delays change rather than advances it.

The hon. Member for Hamilton asked whether there was any significance in the minor change in terminology about Namibia in the Queen's Speech. I assure him that there is no change whatsoever. We remain fully committed to the implementation of Security Council resolution 435.

On South Africa, we remain committed to the elimination of the unjust and totally repugnant system of apartheid and its replacement by a non-racial representative system of government with proper safeguards for minorities. But the problem will be with us longer than any of us would wish. We have no doubt that peaceful change must start from within but, in the meantime, there is no alternative but to persist with patient diplomacy. We are doing what we can to promote the internal forces for change through our programme of positive measures to assist the victims of apartheid as well as encouraging British interests to apply the European code of conduct.

I return to the matter of arms control and nuclear defence policy. I was interested in the intevention of the hon. Member for Hamilton about the first use of nuclear weapons by NATO. I remind him that NATO policy is that no NATO weapons will ever be used except in response to attack. But there is in this policy no distinction between conventional and nuclear. To preserve the right to use nuclear weapons, if faced with overwhelming conventional attack, has always been part of NATO policy. All NATO allies fully support the policy of flexible response and of the United States nuclear umbrella.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East referred to Reykjavik as a real breakthrough. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), in a perceptive speech, spoke about some of his doubts on short-range intermediate nuclear weapons. I would go a long way with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and say that Reykjavik was a watershed. I hope that it will still be seen as such in five years. A watershed implies turbulence and a stirring up of currents. [Interruption.] I have never been over a watershed that was not turbulent, I can assure hon. Gentlemen of that.

It is important now for there to be time and patience to allow the waters to settle down and to allow some of the important ideas put on the table at Reykjavik—for example, a 50 per cent. reduction in strategic ballistic missiles and the virtual elimination of long-range intermediate nuclear weapons — to develop. One does not achieve a massive reduction in nuclear arms overnight. SALT I, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East will know, took two and a half years to negotiate. SALT II took six and half years. Along with the reductions that we seek to obtain, we have to consider how to achieve full verification and how, in parallel, to obtain a ban on chemical weapons and reduce the massive superiority of the Soviets in manpower and conventional weapons.

It is against that background and the overall approval given to Reykjavik by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East that I find the attitude of the Labour party extraordinary. It is wedded to the concept of giving up our nuclear weapons one-sidedly, totally and without accepting or demanding comparable reductions from the Soviets. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang), chairman of the Labour party's defence committee, who unfortunately was not with us today, wrote in Tribune this year that fundamental to Labour party policy is the rejection of the view that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter a Soviet nuclear attack. We said that the Labour party not only wants American nuclear weapons removed from these islands, but does not want them used on our behalf.

Along with that is the statement by the Leader of the Opposition on the BBC in September. He said that it would be immoral for Britain to continue to enjoy the protection of the United States nuclear umbrella. What an extraordinary statement. I remember Mark Twain describing a banker as someone who lends an umbrella when it is sunny and takes it away when it starts to rain. The Leader of the Opposition's position is much simpler. He does not want the British deterrent and he does not want the United States nuclear umbrella either in peace, when it is sunny, or in war when there may be a hurricane blowing. I say to the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East that one-sided, unbalanced nuclear disarmament will haunt the Leader of the Opposition all the way to the next election and ring in his ears as the British electorate, no fools they, vote for the straightforward proposition: as long as they have got one, we want one. To whom would the Labour party and the Liberal party abandon their nuclear weapons.

Mr. Maclennan


Mr. Renton

The hon. Gentleman had a good crack earlier in the debate. At the Liberal conference, the Liberal party, if not the Liberal leader himself, agreed to get rid of nuclear weapons.

The Soviets to whom they would abandon their nuclear weapons are the same Soviets whom they berate, rightly, for their abuse of human rights, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion said and as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) made clear in his passionate intervention. Why does the Labour party trust the Soviets to behave with nuclear weapons when it does not trust them to give exit visas to Sakharov and his wife in confinement in Gorki or to the hundreds of thousands of Jews about whom the right hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Mason) spoke so well in an Adjournment debate last night?

Confidence in a nation cannot be divided into neat little packages. One cannot tell the Soviets that we trust them about nuclear weapons but not about human rights. Surely it is only when the Soviets have shown their concern for the refuseniks, the Jews and the othodox Christians within their land that we will have the right and reason to trust them to stand by nuclear arms control agreements.

Let me end by quoting a few lines from a poem by Irina Ratushinskaya: But no one's voice has yet Touched freedom with a wing Nor brought about freedom, Svoboda, Even though it's a Russian word. Surely it would be worth while, in the House and throughout the country, trying, in the months ahead, to get a bit more freedom for all the Ratushinskayas of the world, and let that be our task—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed on Monday next.

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