§ Motion made and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Lightbown.]4.41 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has just given the House an account of this week's Hanover European Council, and the House has heard that we are likely, before long, to be debating the legislative consequences of the spring Brussels Council. So today I intend to say very little about Europe. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, will, of course, be ready to answer particular points at the end of the debate. I want, instead, to look at the wider picture and to begin by making two observations.
In the period since our debate last year, the foreign policy climate has taken an undoubted turn for the better. The two successful super-power summits—in Washington and in Moscow—the agreement on intermediate range nuclear forces and the beginning of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan have put East-West relations on a better footing than for many years. Those are important matters.
Through the events which affect our foreign policy, a constructive British voice has been heard loud and clear, from Moscow to Madrid, from Tokyo to Toronto, either posing the right questions or pressing the right solutions.
Still the most important challenge that we face is that of managing the East-West relationship. We have to protect Britain's interests and Britain's security while minimising any risk of unpredictable tension and conflict. To do that, we need a stable framework of contact and dialogue where the problems that do arise can be tackled calmly.
I believe that we are making real progress in that direction. The Moscow summit was the most obvious sign. It was a summit where the absence of new breakthroughs did not mean failure but rather that relations between the super-powers have reached a new maturity.
That is the measure of the success of the foreign policies of President Reagan and his tenacious Secretary of State, George Shultz. They have taken great pains to proceed, so far as possible, on the basis of bipartisan support. So whether the next United States Administration is headed by President Bush or by President Dukakis, we shall find it easy to work alongside them.
That will be important, because relations between our own country and the Soviet Union have played a key part in the recent East-West dialogue. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow last year broke new ground with her talks with Mr. Gorbachev and the impact that she made on the Soviet people. Mr. Gorbachev's visit: to Brize Norton underlined the improvement in our relations.
I was in Moscow again in February for talks with the Soviet leadership. In the last three years I have met my Soviet opposite number, Mr. Shevardnadze, 10 times. Exchanges between our countries at all levels are growing. We all look forward to welcoming Mr. Gorbachev to Britain again before long.
Are we then in a new East-West era? A great deal obviously depends on the fate of Mr. Gorbachev's attempts to reform the Soviet Union. This week a drama of major potential significance is being played out in Moscow. Thanks to glasnost and the television camera, we 549 are able to follow the proceedings of the first party conference since 1941 with a good deal more insight into party workings than usual. We cannot yet know the outcome, but the spectacle of at least the beginnings of a genuine debate is immensely encouraging, and once again we must admire the courage and determination of General Secretary Gorbachev to tackle the fundamental failings of his society and political system. We should not believe that we are witnessing a transition to anything like our own society or genuine democracy—this is still the beginning of the beginning—but Mr. Gorbachev is manifestly pushing in the right direction, and we wish him well.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that if the truth were fully publicised to the Soviet people about the Stalin era in particular and, to a lesser extent, the crimes and abuses which occurred under Brezhnev, including the speech that Khrushchev made at the 20th party congress in March 1956, that would be one way in which such abuses would be prevented from recurring?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The hon. Gentleman will be able to develop that point in his speech. It is very much in line with the sentiments that Mr. Gorbachev expressed in the course of his speech, when he said:We are learning democracy in glasnost, learning to argue and conduct debate, to tell one another the truth.That is very much in line with the point that the hon. Gentleman has just made.
But our watchword must continue to be vigilance, because—as Mr. Gorbachev knows better than anyone—reforms of the Soviet system have still a long way to go, in face of well-entrenched opposition. As yet, they are very far from being irreversible.
We need vigilance, too, for our own security in face of the continuing strength of the Soviet military machine. The guarantor of that security is the North Atlantic Alliance, and in recent years NATO has served us very well. We owe a considerable debt to the retiring Secretary-General, my distinguished predecessor, Peter Carrington.
Who would have believed, four years ago, when East-West relations were in the deep-freeze and the Russian seat at Geneva was empty, that the INF treaty would have been ratified; that we would have begun to bring transparency and predictability to conventional force movements; that strategic arms negotiations would now be well under way; that considerable progress would have been made in the highly complex chemical weapons negotiations; and that we would not have the prospect of early talks on conventional stability in Europe?
The Alliance has been able to secure those major achievements because its policies have been sound and its members united.
As I told the third United Nations special session on disarmament earlier this month—and we regret the fact that, despite all our efforts, it was unable to reach an agreed conclusion—arms control is very far from being an easy option. It takes hard work. We need hard-headed, verifiable proposals which are compatible with the security needs of the countries involved.
Let me say a word about negotiations where the United Kingdom itself is specifically engaged.
550 The huge imbalance in conventional forces is at the heart of the security problem in Europe. For that reason, we are working closely with our allies to elaborate specific conventional arms cuts proposals.
Fifteen years' experience in the mutual and balanced force reduction talks convinces us that the negotiations ahead will not be easy, but there are encouraging signs. Mr. Gorbachev said at the Moscow summit that he accepts the need to eliminate the disparities in conventional forces which do exist—to Russia's enormous advantage—before further cutting of troop levels begins. He also accepts the need for proper verification. Mr. Shevardnadze has echoed those points in the United Nations, and that is good. These are important moves towards the long-standing Western position.
Britain's other long-standing goal has been a global ban on chemical weapons. So last month, at our invitation, a Soviet delegation visited the United Kindom's chemical defence establishment at Porton Down, and yesterday a British delegation left for a visit to the Soviet Union's own military chemical facility at Shikhany. These are important practical steps that we are taking along that path.
We have reached this point because the West has thought through its position. We have negotiated firmly but with imagination from a secure base. We have not had to resort to unprincipled manoeuvres or unwarranted contortions. We have been consistent and steadfast of purpose.
Those words must have a very novel ring for Opposition Members. I imagine that they must listen to the radio, watch television and scan the newspapers from day to day in the hope of finding out what their own defence policy is—sometimes, indeed, who their own defence spokesman is. They must count themselves extremely lucky if their own leader is found to have been coherent, let alone consistent, for as long as 48 hours at a time.
Last week The Independent reported what must have been a fascinating lunch under the stimulating, although very misleading headline:Labour's defence policy: Neil Kinnock explains.Like just about every other reader, I guess, I rushed to get a copy of the paper with some excitement. I looked in vain for any explanation. So. too, I see from an article in The Independent this morning, did the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). The House may not yet have had a chance of seeing what he had to say about the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman said:First, I do not see how it is possible now to convince the electorate of a defence policy after Mr. Kinnock's remarks. Second, the lack of realism of Mr. Kinnock's thinking on nuclear issues has become painfully apparent.The right hon. Gentleman described the defence policy of the leader of his own party as follows:It is about as relevant and convincing as Lambeth Council declaring itself 'a nuclear-free zone'.'
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
In just one moment.
There may be another explanation. Perhaps another lunch at The Independent will change everything again. We owe a great deal to these lunches at The Independent. We do not know what The Independent serves for lunch, but lobster might be appropriate: 551Will he, won't he, will he, won't he, will he join the dance?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
In just one second. I have made it plain that I will give way.
I think that many people will join me in wondering whether to laugh or cry at the spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition steering an uncertain course between the Scylla of Ron Todd and the Charybdis of Peter Shore. He dare not move the rudder either way lest he be wrecked and sunk with all hands on the rocks to the left or right. It grieves me to talk about a fellow countryman like this, but he must—
§ Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)
I would like to know when the Foreign Secretary is going to talk about foreign affairs—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Haynes
Yes, I know; there is so much rabble on that flipping Front Bench.
I want to know when the Foreign Secretary is going to talk about foreign affairs and stop attacking individual members of the Labour party.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
It is not usually regarded as remarkable if, in the course of a debate on foreign policy, one has a word or two to say about the foreign and defence policy of the Opposition.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
One must conclude that the Leader of the Opposition is destined to linger in the middle as a kind of flying Welshman condemned for ever to sail unelected on a chartless sea.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The Foreign Secretary has been reading The Independent, but so have some of the rest of us. What we got out of The Independent last week was that Ministers and the Prime Minister had beenplaying fast and loose with the truthabout Westland. Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as a skilled lawyer, draft the Prime Minister's speech of 27 January which was less than candid with the House of Commons? Why did he give his right hon. Friend——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We are not debating a motion for the Adjournment. I do not think that these matters are relevant to the issue before the House.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I might have known that any intervention by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was likely to be directed to one or other of his King Charles's heads. He reacts, apparently, like some kind of slot machine. As one presses the word "Independent" into it, so there bounces out an observation prompted by his latest reading of that distinguished organ.
In the real world, we have to make progress, and in the real world relations with the Soviet Union are not fixed for ever in a cold-war mode. We have to have an open mind, but Soviet history cannot be rewritten. We have to be cautious, without allowing caution to close our minds to 552 change. The burden of proof of change lies heavily on their side. If it is truly the case that in political, economic and philosophical terms the Russians really are drawing nearer to the West, we are more than ready and willing to encourage them.
Certainly, around the world issues that have lived for many years under the label "hands off" are being looked at again. Some of the deep-frozen problems are coming in from the cold. At my last meeting with Mr. Shevardnadze earlier this month in New York, it was striking how many topics we were able to discuss in a serious, unpolemical way.
The Soviet decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan has helped to convince many that "new thinking" is more than just a phrase. Of course, the Soviet leaders are righting a terrible wrong. We want to see all Soviet troops out by the end of this year. The Afghan people must be left freely to decide their own future. Those who have fought for the freedom of their country for almost 10 years will not be denied victory; and the 5 million Afghan refugees must he allowed to return to their country in safety and with honour. We have already announced the doubling of our aid to Afghan refugees to £10 million this year.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
Will the Foreign Secretary tell us what efforts he is making to ensure that the Government of Pakistan fully comply with the Geneva accords and do not continue arms supplies into Afghanistan, which can only prolong a conflict that it is to be hoped will come to an end in the near future?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
We are in continuous contact with the United Nations Secretary-General. Last week I met the special appointee to consider the provision of refugee aid to Afghanistan, and I have noted with interest the extent to which a large part of Afghanistan is already under the effective control of the Mujahideen. We hope that this will open the way very shortly to the return of the refugees and to the commencement of the refugee aid programme.
The question that many in the House will ask is whether we can draw a wider lesson from the Soviet withdrawal. The Russians themselves have described Afghanistan as a pattern for settlement of other regional conflicts in which they or their clients are involved. Where such conflicts exist, we now look for a positive contribution to their resolution.
One other area in which there are now some signs of movement is Cambodia. Vietnam has announced a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops. I met my Vietnamese counterpart, Mr. Co Thach, earlier this month in New York and welcomed this. But we do not want to see the return to power of the dreadful Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge. We support Prince Sihanouk's efforts to bring peace to his country. We vote with the overwhelming majority of the world at the United Nations year after year for the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia. We look forward now to the development of effective prospects as a result of Prince Sihanouk's efforts to bring peace to his country.
Britain also has a special interest in peace there, and in the possibility of less self-destructive economic policies in Vietnam. Recently, thousands of boat people have been leaving Vietnam and heading for Hong Kong. In those circumstances, as the House knows, we have recently announced a change of policy: only those who can show 553 that they are genuine refugees will be given access to resettlement in the West. As for the rest—the economic migrants—their future must eventually be found back in Vietnam, their native land. The House, I know, looks forward to an early debate on Hong Kong.
In other parts of south-east Asia and the Pacific region, Britain is looking for progress of a different kind. With Japan, as with the People's Republic of China—two very different societies—we are building strong relations and creating new broad partnerships with those growing centres of power on the far side of the globe. As an economy that is also growing, we are keen to expand our links, as I have been able to do in the course of three visits to that part of the world since the start of this year.
Some other regional problems are showing movement. There are welcome signs of a return by South Africa and Mozambique to the spirit of the Nkomati accord. We have also been lending our full support to the United States-led negotiations between South Africa, Angola and Cuba on how to remove foreign forces from Angola and bring Namibia to independence. In May the parties met face to face for the first time, in London. The process was carried forward in Cairo last week. The prize is great but the difficulties remain formidable, and they have been exacerbated by the latest military clashes near the Namibian border.
§ Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)
My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware of the sudden and rather dangerous tip in the balance of air power on the Angolan frontier. He will know that the Russians are using the Cubans to supply the latest air superiority fighters for their forces in Angola, and that the South African Mirages will undoubtedly be outclassed. In his view, is it in the interests of the West that South Africa should not be able to defend its frontiers?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The answer must partly depend on where we draw South Africa's frontiers. But South Africa has accepted resolution 435, for the independence of Namibia, which must be taken into account.
Of course, an escalation of armed conflict in the region is not desirable. I put that very point to Mr. Shevardnadze when urging him to encourage Cuba and Angola to engage seriously in the negotiations to which I have just referred. That is happening, and we wish the negotiations to succeed.
I wish that I could point to progress towards more fundamental change in South Africa. The immediate agenda on which we are working contains three items: the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners; the preservation of foreign aid programmes from South African Government interference; and clemency for the Sharpeville Six.
In the longer term, as the House knows, we remain firmly of the view that only by making full use of our contacts with South Africa to press the case for change can we expect to influence developments and bring apartheid to an end. We are convinced—I have no doubt whatever about this—that punitive economic sanctions would hinder, not help, the chances of progress towards the non-racial democratic society that we all want to see.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
In his wide-ranging speech, my right hon. and learned Friend has mentioned Angola. Is that not an example of change that is taking place in a similar way to the changes in Russia?
I know that my right hon. and learned Friend would like to look at other parts of the world where the same change is taking place—for instance, Nicaragua, whose vice-president is coming to the country at the beginning of July. Will my right hon. and learned Friend meet him to discuss the changes in Nicaragua, as well as the sensible changes in other parts of the world?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
We had offered to see the vice-president of Nicaragua, but he is not now coming to this country in July; nor is he being seen by a number of other Heads of Government and other representatives in Europe. But that does not mean that we are not interested in seeing progress towards plural democracy in Nicaragua.
Another area in which a hardening of attitudes and the ensuing deadlock has not helped is in the long-running Arab-Israel conflict. To break that deadlock, Israeli opinion must be brought to accept the inevitability of trading territory for peace—of allowing Palestinians the same right of self-determination as they have secured for themselves. Arab opinion must turn away from violence and unite in recognising Israel's right to a secure existence. Both sides must be ready to break away from the sterility of the status quo.
I must now deal with the suggestion—renewed in recent days—that there has been any change in our policy towards Iran. Let me make it plain that there is no truth whatever in that. Our policy has been clear and consistent, and it has not changed. I note that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) expected me to say more about the middle east, but the fact is that it is not possible to deal with every subject at comparable length. I am dealing now, at some length—and he will be interested in what I have to say—with the Iran-Iraq war.
In the past decade, Iran has undergone a revolution that has shaken the country to its foundations. It is not the first such revolution in the history of the world, and certainly it will not be the last. As in other cases, events in Iran have created an extremely severe strain in relations between that country and her neighbours—and, indeed, with the rest of the world. Of course, it was not our wish that there should be such strain in our relations. Iran is an important country, and one with which in the long run we must continue to do business. Where we can sensibly do that, we do. Hence the most recent round in the long-running talks on compensation on embassy premises.
Like other revolutionary regimes in the past, however, the Iranians must come to accept that there are certain necessary standards of international behaviour which must be observed if they are to have a normal relationship with the rest of the world. In recent years, Iran has flouted obligations under international diplomatic and consular agreements; harassed and assassinated opponents of the regime and fomented instability abroad; supported groups committed to sabotage and terrorism, including the holding of hostages; defied the authority of the United Nations; and attacked international shipping, including vessels under our own flag. From all that, it must be clear that there can be no fundamental improvement in our overall relationship in the absence of substantial and sustained changes in Iranian behaviour.
555 I mentioned hostages. Hostage-taking is a particularly awful crime, whoever commits it and wherever it is done. We utterly condemn it. We expect, as a matter of normal civilised behaviour, that anyone with influence over hostage-takers should use that influence to help secure their release, and without seeking to extract a price. We ourselves do all that we can to discover the circumstances of British subjects held hostage, and to bring pressure to bear on their captors, both through our contacts with other Governments and through our own representatives abroad.
Despite being exposed to considerable personal danger, our embassy in Beirut plays a crucial role in this, and the whole House will wish to pay tribute to it. We are prepared to talk to anyone who we think might be able to help, but there is no compromise in our determination not to make concessions to secure the release of hostages. To do so would offer a reward to the hostage-takers, and put other British subjects at risk.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
Is the Secretary of State in a position to tell the House that Terry Waite and the other British hostages are still alive?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I cannot give any certain and comprehensive information about that, but there is certainly some evidence that they are alive. There are so many reports in the newspapers almost daily that it must be immensely harrowing, particularly for the hostages' families, to be confronted with the constant stream
I hear the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) muttering on the Opposition Front Bench, and I entirely understand his concern. Of course we have other sources, and we are constantly seeking material and evidence. I am merely saying that the media, in their natural curiosity and to feed our curiosity, provide stories that lead—and mislead—people in all sorts of different directions. I understand their curiosity. There is no certainty that we can report to the House on these matters, but we seek evidence all the time.
Meanwhile, we have been playing a leading role in efforts to negotiate a settlement to the Iran-Iraq conflict. With the other permanent members of the Security Council we are looking at ways to enforce compliance with last year's United Nations cease-fire resolution. We have made proposals about a possible arms embargo. We have condemned, and continue to condemn, the use of chemical weapons by Iraq.
The House will know that the report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on the Iran-Iraq conflict was published this morning. I wish to express our appreciation of its work in producing an excellent report. I commend it to the House—and with all the more confidence, because it represents a powerful all-party endorsement of our policy towards Iran and the Gulf conflict.
§ Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East)
I wholly understand the reasons for the policy on our relationship with Iran and endorse what my right hon. and learned Friend has said about deals and hostages, but does he agree that if, after nine years or so, an important Government wish to come to a better relationship with us, we should respond in whatever way we think appropriate? Surely that is the only way to achieve some form of the long-term objective that we all seek in that part of the world.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I understand my hon. Friend's serious and well-informed interest in this matter and I respect the way in which he and his colleagues conducted their recent visit to Iran. I invite him to read carefully what I have already said about this matter. We recognise the importance of Iran and our ability in the long run to establish effective relations with a country of that size. We have not severed diplomatic relations; they have been reduced to a thin thread.
On the topic of compensation for damage to embassy premises—a subject that has been running for seven years—we have been prepared to resume that contact and to bring it effectively to a conclusion. We have no diplomatic representative in Iran because of the way in which the previous people there were treated and because of the lack, as yet, of confidence and assurance that things will be different in future. I entirely accept my hon. Friend's point that this matter must be judged in the light of all the aspects. That is why I invite him to read carefully what I said earlier in my speech.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
Is it not a fact that if the regime in Teheran wanted to improve relations with this country. it could use its undoubted influence with the captors of the hostages in Beirut to secure their release speedily? If it did that, there would be a great prospect of improvement in relations between Britain and Iran.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. If he reads the Select Committee report he will see that it identifies several other matters in respect of which the Iranian Government could take action quickly to demonstrate the seriousness of their wish to move towards more normal relations. I have identified some of them. I am grateful for his support for maintaining the firmness and coherence of our position.
We live within the framework of rules of international order which have been established for many years. Other nations, whatever their revolutionary past—they are entitled to that—must come to terms with those rules and conventions. We certainly wish to move towards better relations within those rules, but it is on those terms and in that way that the matter must rest.
Meanwhile, we shall continue through our naval presence in the Gulf to uphold the principle of freedom of navigation in international waters and to protect vital Western economic interests. The whole House knows that the Royal Navy continues to play a major and constructive part in that respect. The effectiveness of our European partnership has been helped by the willingness of Belgium and the Netherlands to place their ships under Royal Navy operational control with effect from tomorrow, which is the first day of the British presidency of the Western European Union.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already dealt with European Community matters earlier today. As I have explained, I do not plan to add significantly to what she has already said. Our membership of the European Community is at the centre of our foreign policy. Within that Community, Britain has done a great deal to set the agenda for action and the terms of debate. That is important for the future of Europe and it is important for the future of Britain. We have worked, most recently, for 557 three objectives: sensible financing, a containment of farm spending and priority to the single internal market. That British agenda has now become the European agenda.
In the world beyond the European Community, the same is happening. As in Britain, the pattern of debate is swinging away from old thinking, old philosophies and old assumptions. That was clearly evident at the Toronto summit. British input is vital in the new debate about how to manage East-West relations, reduce tension and tackle potential regional crises.
At the same time, our economic status is higher in the world than for many a long year. British foreign policy is no longer simply a reaction to events beyond our control. Now we have an important influence on those events. Around the world, from the quest for a single market in Europe to the improvement in super-power relations, Britain's voice is heard and Britain's advice respected. The people of this country can once again be proud of Britain's role in the world. Our policies have their support, and I commend them to the House.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
A year is far too long a time to allow to go by without what Mr. Speaker earlier today called a "rare, full-scale" foreign affairs debate in this House, particularly a year which has been so eventful and, in many parts of the world, so historic.
The Foreign Secretary rightly referred to the revolutionary changes in the Soviet Union. They are almost as revolutionary as those which took place just over 70 years ago. The changes have helped to lead to the heartening progress on disarmament and have already brought about Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
There have been crisis-ridden areas where developments have not yet led to solutions of profoundly serious problems. Turkish troops still remain in occupation of northern Cyprus. I hope that the Prime Minister will take advantage of the Turkish President's visit here to seek beneficial movement on that issue. The long agony of Kampuchea continues, and hon. Members who have been there can report to the House on that themselves. The Government should play a more positive and constructive role in that part of the world.
As the Foreign Secretary pointed out, the Gulf war continues lethally and apparently interminably, with Iran as inflexible as ever and United Nations resolution 598 a historic document rather than a recipe for peace. There is no sign of follow-up action by the United Nations nearly a year after that resolution was passed unanimously by the Security Council.
Elsewhere, even where solutions are not yet available, the pace of events has often been headlong. If we had waited much longer, headlong change might have meant this debate being introduced by a new Foreign Secretary. We have already read in our newspapers those ill-omened outpourings of the Bernard Ingham Cabinet assassination machine which almost invariably point to an abrupt dismissal, subject to the briefings. In the Foreign Secretary's case those venemous briefings have been augmented by cruel remarks from the Prime Minister.
I understand that what really narked the Foreign Secretary and led even that soporific worm to turn was the 558 off-the-record conversation conducted by the Prime Minister after an on-the-record interview which she gave to a subservient journalist, in which she said of the Foreign Secretary:He used to be a comfortable slipper, now he's just a worn-out old shoe.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he carries on like this he will never aspire, or deserve to aspire, to being anything other than ambassador to Disneyland?
§ Mr. Kaufman
The hon. Gentleman has a capacity for sanctimonious pomposity which he has been able to demonstrate to the House on numerous occasions. I suggest that he confines it to his interesting books on the history of the House of Commons.
It seems that the Prime Minister's likening of the Foreign Secretary to an item of footwear galvanised him into activity, some of it just plain nonsensical, such as his rather pathetic boast of being the pioneer of Thatcherism—a claim which he made rather incongruously at the Waterman's Arms on the Isle of Dogs. The Independent said:the Foreign Secretary cast aside his more natural low-profile image as one of the unheralded backroom work horses of the Conservative Party and explained his central role in the creation of the 'enterprise culture'.Enterprise and the Foreign Secretary are two concepts which it is difficult to associate closely.
Then there was the Foreign Secretary's clash with the Prime Minister about the European monetary system and his rather undiplomatic comments on the current United States election campaign. He tried to put that right a bit further this afternoon when he said that whether the next US Administration is headed by President Bush or President Dukakis we shall find it easy to work alongside him. We recall that, on 8 June, he was assisted by the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) who put a question to the Foreign Secretary, possibly inspired—but he can tell us if it was not—in which he asked:will my right hon. and learned Friend make it quite clear that, contrary to some newspaper reports, he holds no preference between one American presidential candidate and another in the forthcoming presidential election, that that is a matter for the American people to decide, and that either would do quite nicely?The Foreign Secretary replied:I am grateful to my right hon. Friend.As indeed he was.As I said on the David Frost programme on Sunday—that important organ of public opinion—it is part of the democratic process that one works with the leader who emerges at the end of the day. I and Her Majesty's Government look forward to continuing close and friendly co-operation with whatever Administration emerges."— [Official Report, 8 June 1988; Vol. 134 c. 829–30]What was it that the Foreign Secretary said to David Frost?I think one's always got to be very cautious about expressing opinions on elections in other countries because it's part of the democratic process that one works with the leader who emerges at the end of the day. But obviously it would be less than human if we didn't recognise the value of working with George Bush with whom we've worked for a long time. And he is, if there's anything in the kind of over-simplified right-left divisions in politics, he is on the right of American politics, and so are we in this country.That was the impartiality in the US elections which the Foreign Secretary expressed. It has to be said that if there is a President Dukakis in November, I cannot imagine him exactly rolling out the red carpet for the author of those 559 remarks, should the Foreign Secretary manage to survive in his Department until next January's inauguration. No wonder David Frost said after that enlightened interlude:There's so much more to talk about, we'll take a break and then we'll carry on.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)
Could the right hon. Gentleman confirm a rumour that I heard the other day—that he will shortly be leaving the United Kingdom for the United States to attend the Democratic convention?
§ Mr. Kaufman
I have no doubt about who I want to win. I have no doubts at all on that subject, but the Foreign Secretary had to plant a question with the right hon. Member for Guildford to ensure that the Government's relations were acceptable. It is interesting that, on a matter which relates personally to the Foreign Secretary, he had to put his right hon. Friend the Minister of State up to think of a question to put to me. He could have got up himself.
There are some areas of activity where the Foreign Secretary gives little sign of carrying on or, indeed, doing anything at all. One is central America. After a welcome for last August's Guatemala accord which was scarcely discernible, the Government have not lifted a finger to help with the implementation of one of the most significant initiatives for peace in central America in decades.
The Foreign Secretary has failed to recognise that, among the four countries where fighting is going on in central America and which are parties to the accord, the only one which has taken any noticeable action to implement the accord is Nicaragua. The Under-Secretary of State seems to be having a slight seizure. Perhaps he can tell us why the Government are not assisting with implementation of the Guatemala accord when the Nicaraguan Government have moved further and faster to fulfil that accord's conditions than its enemies can have expected and than even its friends could have hoped for.
The Nicaraguan Government have reopened La Prensa, they have reopened Radio Cattolica, they have lifted the state of emergency, they have conducted talks with the Contras on remarkably generous terms and the ceasefire agreement has taken place. All of that has not induced one word of approval, let alone help, from Britain. Indeed, last year, as the Minister for Overseas Development admitted a few days ago, not one penny of bilateral assistance was provided by Britain for war-torn and impoverished Nicaragua.
I suppose that that kind of silence is better than the feverish activity of the American Administration and President Reagan's obsessive, though happily unsuccessful, attempts to fund the murderous Contras, and now Mr. Shultz's tour of central America. His 53-hour tour, codenamed "If it is Thursday it must be Tegucigalpa", misses out Nicaragua altogether. As Mr. Shultz is at any rate going to El Salvador, I hope that he will take the opportunity there to demand the firmest possible guarantees of the safety of the leaders of the freedom movement, including Mr. Ungo, who has now courageously returned to El Salvador, where he is risking murder at the hands of that country's murderous death squads.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is a matter of great hypocrisy on the part of the British and United States Governments that all we hear from 560 them is criticism of and attacks on the Nicaraguan Government in their attempt to get peace in their country, and that we rarely hear a word about the death squads in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Colombia? One could give a list of countries in that part of the world which have been supported by the British and American Governments, who have merely attacked the Nicaraguan people who are looking for peace within their borders.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I agree with my hon. Friend. Earlier, the Foreign Secretary was interrupted by the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) who went to Nicaragua as an observer of the elections there. He came back praising the conduct of those elections. It is a bit thick of the Foreign Secretary to say that he wants there to be a pluralistic democracy in Nicaragua when, of the five countries which are party to the accord, apart from Costa Rica, Nicaragua is the only one with a semblance of pluralistic democracy.
§ Mr. Ashby
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that although I praised the election—the fact that it was the first election and therefore a very necessary part of the democratic process in Nicaragua—and although I said that the election was secret and well conducted, I felt that to talk of it as a pluralistic election as rather like saying that the elections in Poland were pluralistic, free and fair? I was misquoted in respect of that election.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. No one is pretending that in a country that is labouring under a state of emergency the kind of pluralistic democracy to which we aspire in this part of the world can be attained. However, there is no doubt that the only country in the whole of central America, apart from Costa Rica, that has any genuine pluralistic political system is Nicaragua, and it is about time that the Government recognised that.
There is one area where the Foreign Secretary has acted and where we share his approach. It is the middle east. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not find time to deal with it at greater length. Apart from the issues of South Africa and of East-West relations, it is probably the most important problem in the world and one more fraught with danger to world peace than any other. The past seven months have seen the start and the remarkable continuance of the Intifada—the uprising by the Palestinians in the territories that the Israelis occupied 21 years ago this month.
Opposition Members have long taken the view that the only formula for a settlement in the middle east is on the basis of the United Nations resolution calling for peace in exchange for territory—for Israel to withdraw from lands that she occupied in 1967 as part of a firm agreement that will guarantee Israel's security. Opposition Members believe—I think that the Government share this view— that such an agreement can be brought about only under the umbrella of an international conference sponsored by the five permanent members of the security council of the United Nations. All the Arab nations support such a conference. They made that clear at this month's Arab League summit in Algiers, on which I had the advantage of a first-hand report from the Foreign Minister of Algeria, with whom I had talks in Algiers two weeks ago.
In recent months, I have had talks with King Hussein of Jordan, President Mubarak of Egypt, Mr. Chedli Klibi, the secretary-general of the Arab League, and Mr. Farouk 561 Khadonmi, the foreign affairs spokesman of the PLO, as well as talks with Arab leaders in Baghdad, Tunis and elsewhere. In quest of further information I shall shortly be visiting another indispensable participant in any settlement when I go for talks in Damascus that I have arranged with the Syrian Government. [Interruption.] Is the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Ryder) saying that I shall not get information when I go to Syria? Is he saying that there is no chance of a settlement? If he is saying neither of those things but is calling out some other nonsense, I advise him, as a Whip, to keep his peace. This is a very serious matter on which the Foreign Secretary and I are working together. The Opposition are trying to assist the Government in doing something about this extremely dangerous situation. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman, who is capable of a degree of mental agility, will do that too, instead of sitting there and snarling.
An international conference with territory exchanged for peace is vital, and it is admirable that this policy is also the wise and courageous policy of Mr. Peres, the Foreign Minister of Israel and leader of the Israeli Labour party. It is tragic that such a policy, which is supported in so many quarters, is being obstructed by the folly and intransigence of Mr. Shamir, the Prime Minister of Israel. He poses as the defender of Israel's security. In fact, the policy of a greater Israel which he is pursuing is the greatest enemy of Israel's security. The security of Israel does not depend only on the possession of land. Surely, in this, Israel's 40th anniversary year, the people of Israel must know that the armed possession of the whole of mandatory Palestine for more than half the period of their country's statehood has not brought them peace. Instead, it has brought war upon war and death upon death, with too many of Israel's citizens buried in military and civilian cemeteries instead of living hopeful and fruitful lives.
If the Israelis had not learned that lesson a year ago, they surely know it now. The Intifada, the uprising, has permanently changed the history of the middle east. There will never again be peace in the occupied territories. There will be peace in those territories only when they cease to be occupied. More than 200 Palestinians have died to explain that simple fact. Thousands more have been injured and thousands more imprisoned. It is clear that thousands more Palestinians are willing to risk or give up their lives despite the force of the Israeli response.
Already, hundreds of thousands of decent, sensible Israelis are campaigning against the policies inflicted upon them by the bizarre pantomime camel of a Government in their country. They know that it is not only in the interests of Palestine but even more in the interests of a peaceful and secure Israel that a negotiated solution should be achieved. I hope that hundreds of thousands more Israelis will show their good sense in this autumn's election by voting for justice for their neighbours and peace for themselves. The alternative is a Government with a Likud majority. If they went ahead with a transfer of population—a synonym for the mass deportation of Arabs which some of the Likud leaders are now discussing—it would make Israel the loneliest country in the world instead of the pillar of democracy that Israel's best citizens rightly wish her to be.
§ Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the Palestinians to whom he spoke, who was a representative of Palestinians in the 562 occupied territories, was arrested for talking to him? That was discovered by the all-party group of Members of Parliament who went to the occupied territories after his visit.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Such reports have been made to me and I have made inquiries of the Israeli embassy on a number of occasions about that individual. To date, the Israeli embassy has denied the information given to me, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that if I receive more information I shall put it to the Israeli Government again. I would regard it as absolutely intolerable that somebody should be arrested and imprisoned because he had spoken to me while I was on a visit to a refugee camp in the occupied territories.
§ Mr. Winnick
I agree with what my right hon. Friend has just said. The Palestinians undoubtedly made major errors, to say the least, which led to the situation in 1948 when they refused to accept the United Nations resolution and in 1967 when they provoked the war. I believe that Israel was absolutely right in 1967. However, is not the Israeli leadership making a similar mistake at the very time when the Palestinians have come round to recognising that there should be an Israeli state? The leadership of Israel—unfortunately, a large number of people agree with the leadership—refuses to recognise what must be recognised, which is that the Palestinian people have as much right to justice and a state of their own as the people of Israel.
§ Mr. Kaufman
At this stage of the crisis it is an error on both sides to look back and seek justifications and arguments from the past. We are where we are: 1,300,000 Palestinians have been denied civil and human rights for 21 years by an occupying power. Israel is not living in peace partly because of that situation. It is essential that we look forward. The Government and the Opposition are united on that, even though we have serious differences on many other issues, with which I must now deal.
If the Foreign Secretary has been precise and uncontroversial in many of his pronouncements on the middle east, he has been far less precise and much more controversial in what he has said, and failed to say, about what took place in Gibraltar on 6 March this year.
This House is united against IRA terrorism, of which we have witnessed so many foul examples during the past few months. The House breathed a sigh of relief when the plot to commit an abominable atrocity in Gibraltar was detected and prevented. The House took the Foreign Secretary's word next day when he gave, in total good faith, his account of the events leading to the killing of the three IRA terrorists in Gibraltar. But it was The Daily Telegraph, in a leading article on 8 March, which summed up the worries that have arisen:The Government must tell why it gave a succession of contradictory accounts to the world about Sunday's events. Unless it wishes Britain's enemies to enjoy a propaganda bonanza, it should explain why it was necessary to shoot dead all three terrorists on the street, rather than apprehend them with the considerable force of police and SAS which appears to have been deployed in the locality … it might be deemed politically prudent to give ill-wishers no further grounds to suggest that the authorities operate a "shoot to kill" policy against terrorists.When the Foreign Secretary spoke to the House, not in a statement that he volunteered, but in response to a private notice question from the Opposition, the state of our knowledge, all of it derived from Government sources, was as follows. Two men and one woman in charge of a car 563 parked 500 yards from where a changing of the guard ceremony was due to take place had been shot dead by security forces after having planted in their car a 500 lb bomb which members of the East Anglian Regiment swiftly defused. Next day, when it must have been known that parts of this account were untrue, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces was still telling listeners to the BBC "Today" programme:A car bomb was found and defused.The Foreign Secretary—I am sure inadvertently—added to that disinformation by telling the House that afternoon:Their"—that is, the three terrorists'—presence and actions near the parked Renault car gave rise to strong suspicion that it contained a bomb, which appeared to be corroborated by a rapid technical examination of the car."—[Official Report, 7 March 1988; Vol. 129, c. 21.]But we now know that such a rapid technical examination could not have revealed what the Foreign Secretary said and must have revealed the reverse, because the car could not, in the condition in which it was seen, have contained a device of 500 lb of explosives or the device of 140 lb of explosives that was found somewhat later 40 miles away in a parked car in Marbella. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary admitted fairly:It has now been established thatthe cardid not contain an explosive device."—[Official Report. 7 March 1988; Vol. 129, c. 21.]Again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted openly and without equivocation in a letter to me:I can say that it was not until the morning of 7 March that full confirmation was finally received in London that the parked Renault car contained no explosive device, and I only learnt of it personally after lunch that day, when I returned to my office from a morning engagement outside the FCO.Describing what he then believed to have taken place, the Foreign Secretary went on to say in his statement to the House:On their way towards the border, they"—the terrorists—were challenged by the security forces. When challenged, they made movements which led the military personnel operating in support of the Gibraltar police to concude that their own lives and the lives of others were under threat."—[Official Report, 7 March 1988; Vol. 129, c. 21.]But the question is: were they challenged? The Foreign Secretary has been asked again and again by others and by me about whether they were challenged. He has persistently declined to respond to such questions—
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I must confess that many would join me in a sense of dismay that the right hon. Gentleman chooses to embark on a piece of investigative journalism of this sort. He has been kind enough to acknowledge that, in my statement to the House that day, I spoke in complete good faith—as was the case—as the House would have expected me to tell it all I knew at that time.
The matter is now for investigation in the court hearing that is to follow in due course. It really cannot help to try to pursue this matter as though the right hon. Gentleman were back in his old profession as an investigative journalist.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I distinctly heard the word "traitor" used by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) about my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). [Interruption.] I am now assured that it was the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). Conservative Members know who it was, in any case. If there is any honour left among them, which I doubt, that comment should be withdrawn.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I did not hear the word. I was concentrating carefully on what the Foreign Secretary was saying. But if the word was used, it must be withdrawn.
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I assure you that I said nothing at all.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I heard the remark—it was made by the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who is sitting grinning at the back of the Chamber. In view of recent remarks made about his activities in the House I think that he should have the honour to withdraw his remark.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Perhaps I should ask the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) whether he used the word. If he did, I am sure that on reflection he would want to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am afraid that that is no more acceptable. The hon. Gentleman must give an unqualified withdrawal.
§ Mr. Carlisle
In deference to you, Sir, and the House I withdraw the word "traitor" in that context
§ Mr. Carlisle
In deference to the House and to you, Sir, I withdraw the words "traitor" and "Quisling".
§ Mr. Kaufman
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I would never dream of describing him as a traitor to the apartheid principles of South Africa, and he can rest assured that I shall make no such accusation against him inside or outside Parliament.
As for what the Foreign Secretary said, I do not question for a moment the complete sincerity and integrity of his remarks and whole approach to this matter when he made his statement to the House. I never implied that I did. Whether he regards it as appropriate for a speech in a foreign affairs debate to deal with an issue that has seriously affected relations between this country and the Republic of Ireland is for him to decide. He said that these matters should be pursued in other ways, but it was he who volunteered, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) on 7 March, the remark.The matter, of course, will be subject to further amplification as further evidence becomes available".—[Official Report, 7 March 1988; Vol. 129, c. 23.]We are waiting for that further amplification, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not put into the context of an impending inquest, although he knew as a 565 lawyer, if anyone did, that an inquest was sure to follow. Nevertheless, he offered the House further evidence, about which I am seeking to question him. I insist on doing that.
It is crucial to know whether these people were challenged, and efforts have been made in the House and elsewhere to obtain the truth about that. Efforts have been made to discover under what rules the security forces—that is what the Government call them, although everyone knows that they were the SAS—were operating. That they were operating under rules has been made clear by the Minister of State, who gave a reply to the House on 24 May:All military operations and activities in this country or by our armed forces are ultimately under political control. I should emphasise that our soldiers are highly trained to operate within the law and according to strictrules."— [Official Report, 24 May 1988; Vol. 134, c.185.]We want to know—we have the right to know—whether they were operating under strict rules and what those rules were. We know of the yellow card rules that are laid down for Northern Ireland. Were the same rules operative in Gibraltar on 6 March? Were they observed? Was there a decision not to observe them? If so, it was not made on the spot but by the political control under which the Minister of State made it clear that they were operating. The Government refuse to provide a morsel of information, claiming that to utter a word would prejudice the forthcoming inquest in Gibraltar. However, as I pointed out, the Foreign Secretary offered no such proviso when the matter was discussed in the House on 7 March.
We also want to know when the inquest will take place. That is another mystery. First, it was said to be scheduled for last month, then it was definitely fixed for 27 June. It was then postponed indefinitely. News of the postponement did not come from the coroner in Gibraltar, Mr. Pizzarello, but from the Prime Minister's Press Secretary in London, Mr. Ingham, who, in his non-attributable Lobby briefing at 11 am on 23 May, told journalists that the inquest would be postponed from 27 June.
Three hours after Mr. Ingham told journalists that the inquest would be postponed, Mr. Pizzarello denied that he had postponed it. Two hours later, he postponed it. It has still not been explained why Mr. Ingham knew for a fact what was denied three hours later, which was then confirmed two hours after that on the grounds of the need not to distract police attention from a music and dance festival in Gibraltar—[Interruption.] These are matters of profound concern to the press of this country and to The Daily Telegraph among other newspapers. Attempts by Conservative Members to prevent questions being put will not succeed.
The festival due to which the inquest was postponed took place this week. We now know what kind of festival it was which placed such demands on the police that it made it impossible for the inquest to be held. The festival events that were thought to need a massive police presence, included a painting exhibition, a rowing race, flower arranging and a performance by a group of artists known as the Dollydots—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Trivial."] What happened in Gibraltar was not trivial. If the Foreign Secretary regards that as so trivial, why did he ask me not to proceed?
The festival organiser said: 566We are being blamed for having the inquest postponed. That's nonsense. We just did not have that power. We are just amateurs trying to bring a little culture to Gibraltar.The Dollydots did not have the power to postpone the inquest: someone else did, but we still do not know who.
That conundrum, together with other unexplained events, has caused great damage to Anglo-Irish relations. The Foreign Secretary admitted that when, following the incident, he said:I do not underestimate the hurt felt by the Irish in recent months … Let me make it clear that for our part any hurt is not intentional. It is not calculated. There is no conspiracy.The problem was that, while the Foreign Secretary was trying to reassure the Irish Government, the Prime Minister was almost simultaneously insulting the Irish Government and accusing the Prime Minister of the Republic of backing away from responsibilities under the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The problem for the Foreign Secretary is that again and again when he has tried to maintain a sensible policy, he has been sabotaged by the Prime Minister, acting as an unguided missile, which, unfortunately, will not be done away with under the INF agreement.
When the Foreign Secretary and his Department were negotiating the agreement on Hong Kong with China, which was a great diplomatic achievement for the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Department, the Prime Minister nearly wrecked it by her crass and ignorant intervention. When the Foreign Secretary is still trying to repair the damage done by the Prime Minister's tendentious briefing against Canada at last autumn's Commonwealth conference, last week in Ottawa, the Prime Minister caused fury in the Canadian Parliament by taking sides in an internal Canadian political controversy and, as one Canadian parliamentarian put it "meddling in Canadian affairs".
The Foreign Secretary has to stand by and watch the Prime Minister trying to sabotage the most helpful development in world affairs in the past 40 years—the disarmament process that is now taking place between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the Communist party congress taking place in Moscow this week. It must be peculiarly galling for the Prime Minister to see the admirable and remarkable efforts by Mr. Gorbachev to create more democratically elected institutions in the Soviet Union, when she is busy abolishing democratically elected institutions in the United Kingdom. It must be infuriating for the Prime Minister to see the Soviet leader earnestly seeking to create a more open and freely spoken society through glasnost while she pursues her objectives of creating a closed society in this country through her vendettas against the broadcasting organisations.
Worst of all is the Prime Minister's failure to respond to the magnitude of developments which could rid the world of the menace of war. At a time when our Select Committee on Defence provides figures on Britain's naval strength which are different from and fewer than those botched together by the Secretary of State for Defence, the Government have turned down Mr. Shevardnadze's excellent proposal for a formal exchange of official data on conventional forces. At least if we took up that offer, the British Government and the Ministry of Defence might have a chance of finding out exactly how many ships there are in the Royal Navy, which they do not seem to know at the moment.
567 The Prime Minister is not only at loggerheads with the Foreign Secretary; she is also at loggerheads with Chancellor Kohl of West Germany. He wants to reduce battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe, while she wants to modernise NATO's nuclear capability. Happily, he managed to defeat her at the NATO summit on that issue in March.
The Prime Minister is even at odds with President Reagan. In her notorious interview with Der Spiegel last autumn, she said that disarmamentought not to go much further, at least until we have achieved a ban on chemical weapons and an approximate equilibrium in conventional weapons".In his walkabout in Red square during the Moscow summit, President Reagan made it clear that he wants the world's nuclear arsenals to be fully eliminated during the next 12 years. Even the Foreign Secretary has pointed out today that strategic arms negotiations are under way, which is against the wishes of the Prime Minister who did not want strategic arms reductions to take place until after there had been progress in conventional disarmament and chemical warfare—[HON. MEMBERS: "Quite right."] Hon. Members may say, "Quite right," but they disagree with President Reagan who is pursuing a START negotiation which he hopes to conclude with Mr. Gorbachev before he leaves office at the end of this year.
The most repulsive stand taken by the Prime Minister and carried out reluctantly or otherwise by the Home Secretary is on South Africa. The whole record of this Government on apartheid is shoddy, as at this moment is their record on the plight of the Sharpeville Six in the light of the international discussions in which they have been involved in the past few weeks. The Sharpeville Six are once again under threat of potential imminent execution.
The line that Ministers are being required to take was revealed by the Prime Minister in a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) on Monday. She stated:It would be premature to consider intervening again with the South African Government before the legal processes are exhausted."—[Official Report, 27 June 1988; Vol. 136, c. 1.]In recent weeks, on that legalistic pretext, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been zealous in obstructing, frustrating and sabotaging the efforts of the leading nations to obtain a reprieve for the Sharpeville Six.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The right hon. Gentleman continues to live in a world of fantasy, so I shall put him right. The right hon. Gentleman was not here this afternoon when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister dealt with this matter. As a result of three meetings that I have attended—first, with the European Foreign Affairs council in Luxembourg, secondly at the Toronto Summit a fortnight ago and, thirdly, this week in Hanover—we have joined in making clear representations to the South African Government calling for clemency to be exercised and for the use of all available legal remedies to that end. We wish clemency to be exercised. The Prime Minister made it plain this afternoon that she had made representations already.
When the judicial processes have been exhausted—the stay of execution has been extended until 19 July—yet again we shall intervene and ask for clemency to be exercised. We choose these methods because it is our firm and clear judgment that they are most likely to have the impact that the right hon. Gentleman and the House wish. That is the only reason why we choose to proceed in this 568 fashion. If the right hon. Gentleman believes that the ultimate judgment of state President Botha will he more influenced in the right direction by coupling representations with threats, he has completely misjudged the target of his representations.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I was present this afternoon when the Prime Minister responded to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on this issue. What she said did not accord with reports in the press. I shall quote from The Daily Telegraph of Friday 24 June.
§ Mr. Kaufman
The right hon. and learned Gentleman can get up and say that it is not true when I have read it out, but he should allow me to read it. The article says:Last week, Herr Hans-Dietrich Genscher, West German Foreign Minister, was reported to be enraged when Sir Geoffrey Howe, Foreign Secretary, tried to block a joint declaration by the Twelve on the fate of the Sharpeville Six … The statement was issued, after Herr Genscher insisted that the EEC's credibility was at stake, though Britain succeeded in watering it down.The article says that the declaration to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referredurged that 'all legal options available in South Africa should be used to prevent the death penalty being carried out'. However, it did not call on President Botha to exercise clemency, as some member states had urged.I have an article from The Independent, on which the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to place great credence, headed;Britain halts EEC move for Sharpeville Six reprieve.Yes, statements were made in Luxembourg, Toronto and Hanover, but in almost every case they were not the statements that the majority of those taking part wanted because the right hon. and learned Gentleman, acting on the Prime Minister's instructions, sabotaged them.
Chancellor Kohl has spoken about withdrawing his ambassador and about diplomatic sanctions. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has prevented such measures being taken, and I am sorry that he continues to take a position that thwarts the wishes of the Twelve and those of the major economic powers that met in Toronto, to give a full-blooded condemnation of the execution of the Sharpeville Six. We all know that, every newspaper knows it and the Foreign Secretary carefully chose his words and denied that he and the Prime Minister had prevented action being taken by Chancellor Kohl, President Mitterrand, the Dutch and all the others who care about this matter.
I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Minister of State hold different views on this matter to the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister calls the tune. Even at this late stage, we call on the Government not simply to use this legalistically phrased terminology but to do what everybody has asked them to do. The Prime Minister should get on the telephone to President Botha and make it clear—using the much-vaunted influence that she claims to have with Pretoria—that she wishes the South African Government to abandon this appalling campaign against those innocent people.
The problem that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has with the Sharpeville Six, as in many other matters, is that he is not allowed by the Prime Minister to follow his own sensible and creditable instincts. On so many issues, he makes it clear to the House that he is a decent and 569 humane man, but his decent and humane instincts are constrained by the Prime Minister's cheap and ugly prejudices.
Crucial events are happening throughout the world. Britain should be active in hastening and supporting what is good and seeking to change what is wrong. The Foreign Secretary, from time to time, does his best, and I wish him well in his efforts. Meanwhile, the House must watch and seek to correct what goes wrong. That is what debates such as this are about and I hope that we will have more of them more speedily in the future.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Between 35 and 40 right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I am sure that short speeches will be appreciated.
§ 6.6 pm
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary rightly concentrated on the agreement signed in Moscow by the two super-powers. It might perhaps have been more helpful to the House if the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) had followed that example. It is true that some of the points that the right hon. Gentleman made can be included in foreign policy, but to take up so much of the House's time was unjustifiable. All the matters could have been expressed very much more shortly. We all recognise the importance of trying to deal with the South Africans and we are all aware of the difficulties with Gibraltar, but they need not take up a large part of the debate.
I want to concentrate on the same subject as my right hon. and learned Friend. In so far as the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend were responsible for the success of the meeting between the super-powers—I know that my right hon. and learned Friend did an enormous amount of work behind the scenes—they are owed our gratitude and congratulations. It was a remarkable achievement, but I should like to put it in the context of the past 45 years. The Foreign Secretary emphasised the fact that we should look to the future and the impact that the agreement will have on it. There are, however, some lessons to be learnt from the past 45 years.
It seems to me that we have moved in cycles. After the iron curtain fell we had a period of tension, which almost broke out into warfare. After the death of Stalin in 1953, Mr. Churchill stood at the Dispatch Box and said that Stalin was dead and that the three powers that won the second world war—the United States, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—could once more come together. That took 10 years, and in 1963 we signed the first test-ban treaty. That was the beginning of a cycle that continued until 1979. It was a period of continued reduction of tension, and achievements were made in security. It reduced much of the testing of nuclear weapons, which were controlled under SALT 1 and SALT 2.
We then had another period of tension of six or seven years, in which both sides of the Atlantic abused the Soviet Union, for no point whatever. Perhaps we have now come to the end of that cycle and, the treaty having been signed in Moscow, are starting once again on a period in which 570 we can move to a further series of treaties, with a reduction of tension and the benefits that flow from that. I have said before, when asked what the benefits of that reduction in tension were, that by 1979, 55,000 Jews were leaving the Soviet Union each year, but by 1985 only 500 were leaving. That is one of the consequences of reducing tension and getting workable arrangements with the Soviet Union.
Who can tell what will come out of the internal political reorganisation of the Soviet Union? That is not our affair, and I hope that we can stop lecturing the Soviets on what they should be doing. Least of all should we be telling them to copy the Westminster system. There is a lot in the Westminster system that does not appeal to anybody at the moment, and the last thing that we should do is to tell Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Gromyko that this is what they must do. On the other hand, the consequences of that in Soviet foreign, economic and defence policy are matters of concern because of how we react to them. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary that here there is more room for hope than in many years past.
What are the implications of the changes that are being made? I was glad that my right hon. and learned Friend put so much emphasis on chemical weapons. I see no reason why there should not be a rapid agreement about the abolition of chemical weapons, under supervision, which the Soviet Union is prepared to accept. I am not clear where the obstacle lies, unless it is with the United States, which does not want to move quickly for fear of being accused of being reckless and not taking full note of the Soviet Union's power.
The same applies to the strategic defence initiative. The Soviet Union is prepared to give undertakings, and have them verified continuously, about research into SDI, and the quicker that both super-powers get away from that, the better it will be for their economies, budgets and trade and for the rest of us. I hope that those two objectives can be pursued speedily, as well as the rather longer discussions that my right hon. and learned Friend has said will have to take place. That will probably be a task for the next President of the United States. It is unlikely that the present one will abandon his dream fantasy of SDI and the abolition of all other weapons.
It is obvious that Soviet economic development will now move apace. It has been largely inspired by what is happening in the People's Republic of China, in exactly the same way as the People's Republic followed the example of Yugoslavia in changing its agricultural practices. Now the Soviet Union will follow the practices of the People's Republic and develop its agriculture as well as its industry. This will create a problem for the West, because the Soviet Union will no longer require to import vast quantities of grain, and that will greatly affect the middle-west farmers in the United States. This must be foreseen and the necessary adjustments to cope with it must be made.
Perhaps the biggest point is that the Soviet Union will want large supplies of new technology, technological equipment and capital investment, just as the People's Republic of China has been requiring them over the past 10 years. This can cause friction between Europe and the United States. This happened in the 1960s—and some of us had to handle it—when the United States was bitterly opposed to any increase in trade with the Soviet Union, even though we were in a period of diminishing tension. So often the United States objects until it is prepared to seize the market, and then it goes in and changes the rules.
571 The European Community and Britain should be unequivocal about this. We should supply equipment to and go for capital investment in the Soviet Union and increase our trade with the Soviet Union. That would be for the benefit of both of us. There are those who already say that if the Soviet people become better clothed, better housed and better fed, they will become even more dangerous. This is not a philosophy to which I can subscribe. I believe that if they are more satisfied and are prepared to accept their Government, in whichever form they emerge, then the Government are less likely to want exterior activities to remove attention from internal difficulties. We should be clear about this and firm in our attitude towards it.
What about the relationship of the Soviet Union with the People's Republic of China? This is already changing, and it has changed over the two years since Mr. Gorbachev has been in power. Trade between the Soviet Union and China has been increased, the border crossings have been reopened and the crossings have been considerable. Two of the three conditions laid down by Deng Xiaoping for an improvement in relations are being met. The first was withdrawal from Afghanistan, and that is under way. The second was withdrawal of the Vietnamese from Kampuchea, and that is under way. The third test is the reduction of Soviet forces along Chinese boundaries. The People's Republic has already reduced its forces by 1 million on the ground over the past two years. Therefore, it is in a position to negotiate with the Soviet Union, and this will reduce the burden on the Soviet Union's budget and economy as a whole.
Therefore, we must expect fresh relations to be built up between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic. I do not fear this, because I do not believe that there is any hope of relations between them going back to what they were before 1958—after the revolution in China and before Stalin withdrew support from China. This is a further development which we must expect and of which we must not be afraid.
The next implication is for Africa, and in particular Angola, which has already been mentioned today. I believe that the Soviet Union wants to disengage from Angola and its general position in relation to countries outside the Soviet union. Certainly, President Castro wants to withdraw his forces from Angola. These negotiations have been going on, and I know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has given them every help that he can. It has so worked out that the Cuban forces have achieved considerable successes since the negotiations began. This may bring it home to the South Africans that they will not be able to overwhelm Angola, that the best arrangement is for them to get out of Namibia, as they ought to have done decades ago, and to recognise that they cannot destabilise the African countries along their borders.
All this can be achieved if—but only if—the American President is prepared to put pressure on South Africa to do it. Some will say that it is unlikely that this will happen during an election year. That may be so, although Congress as a whole would like it done, and it may be that, if a Democrat President were to follow, all the pressure would be put on South Africa. Once that happens, the Cuban forces can be progressively withdrawn from Angola. It needs a firm undertaking that the South Africans will not be able to go back easily to renewing the work of destabilising Angola.
572 That is another consequence of the changes in the Soviet Union's position. A further one, dealt with by the right hon. Member for Gorton, is Israel. I am certain that no solution can be found for the Israeli-Arab problem unless the Soviet Union is involved, because of its allies along the border. There can be no solution unless the American President is prepared to tell Israel that there must be a solution, and the nature of it.
The Soviet Union is prepared to try to solve the middle eastern problem because it regards this as the most dangerously explosive point in the world. I was told this frequently when I was in Moscow two weeks ago. Again, we have the question of the presidential election. President Eisenhower was the only President who was strong enough to stand up to the Israelis, and to do so a week before the presidential election. President Reagan has not been able to do that in his full term of office. We need to bring about a conference that does not necessarily include the Security Council, but involves all the countries in the area and the two super-powers. It must be at a time when the American President is prepared to say that there must be a solution that is acceptable both to the Soviet Union and to the United States.
In all these matters, the European Community can have considerable influence. For example, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, during his term as President of the Community, reached agreement inside the Community, after a visit to central America, on a possible solution to problems in the Caribbean. It was a very far-sighted arrangement and did not discriminate between Nicaragua and the rest. That was certainly a basis for negotiation and a solution to the problems.
What is now required, especially if we can solve the Angolan difficulty, is a fresh approach to Cuba. That is something in which European influence must be brought to bear on Washington. Washington is perpetuating a row of more than 30 years, in which a ruthless authoritarian regime was put down by revolution. We must ask ourselves about Cuba's future. In many ways, it has become successful, certainly in agriculture, largely helped by the Canadians, and now in industry, largely helped by East Germany. But what has President Castro got left? He has been President for 30 years. He does not want to be dominated by the Soviets. He knows that he cannot capture south or central America. Only two things are left to him: to get on terms with the European Community and with the United States. Those are the two things that remain to him in what years of his presidency are left, and they may be considerable. Here again, after the presidential election, the European Community can have a considerable influence.
I want to conclude with a few words about the Community. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made her statement this afternoon about the Hanover conference. The Government are right to campaign in as big a way as possible for 1992. Alas, I am afraid that British business and industry have been slow to react to that—much slower than the French and Germans—but now, perhaps, we can get them on the move and ready to take the necessary steps to take advantage of it.
The reason why business has been slow to react is that, over the past decade, the Government have done so little to boost the European Community as a whole. What we have heard has been how we have managed to bash the 573 other countries, win them over or outwit them, not the fact that we are a Community as a whole in which all our interests are involved.
I listened this afternoon to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) ask about the common agricultural policy, but I must say that British farmers have done extremely well out of the common agricultural policy. It is a question of telling those people across the Channel not that they must put their affairs in order, but that we are a part of them. What will happen to our farmers when we are lecturing the rest of them what they should be doing? That is where we have failed to treat the Community as our Community and as one whole.
It will not be easy to bring about 1992. An immense amount of willpower is required by the leaders and ourselves. The Prime Minister, in her statement today, said that the regulations that have so far been passed are of great interest and benefit to us. I hope that that does not mean that we shall try to obstruct the later ones. This is a Community and others must have their benefits as well as us. To have the idea that we get what we can and then obstruct is absolutely intolerable and cannot be accepted as the way to behave inside the Community. It is a question of compromise. Every community lives on compromise, and that is what is required in the European Community.
I am delighted that the present President of the Commission has been reappointed. He is excellent and has worked extremely hard. What worries me are the continuing reports—no doubt through the Bernard Ingham service— that Lord Cockfield is to be sacked. If that happens, it will be disgraceful. He has been an excellent Commissioner. He has earned the respect of everybody else in the Commission and in the European Community; and his intellectual work has been brilliant and is the basis of 1992.
I am sorry if my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been upset by any suggestion that he has made about VAT, but that is something to be negotiated. Certainly it is not justifiable to sack our own Commissioner. Commissioners, once appointed, are not the tools of Governments. They have a responsibility to the Community as a whole, and Lord Cockfield has discharged that duty admirably. I sincerely hope that the Foreign Secretary will assure his reappointment, because it is desirable.
§ Mr. Nicholas Baker (Dorset, North)
I am interested to hear my right hon. Friend's comments. Does he welcome the news this week that, whereas 15 per cent. of business men in this country were aware of 1992 four or five months ago, this week the figure has reached 75 per cent.?
§ Mr. Heath
I welcome that increase. I was in the United States recently when a public opinion poll was published, saying that only 2 per cent. of the American people knew of the existence of the European Community or where Europe was. They have a much greater problem than we have.
I want to come to the question of European defence because, quite apart from Europe 1992, there is the development of the defence issue with the French and Germans. Of course I do not agree with what the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was shouting out, 574 during the Prime Minister's statement, about what happened in the war. Perhaps those of us who fought through the war have rather better judgment of those matters than he has. After Reykjavik, the French and the Germans quickly concluded that they must work for the defence of Europe. It is our failure if we remain outside that. That goes back to 1950. We failed then to take any part in the initial stages of the first Community—the European Coal and Steel Community—and look what we lost. It took us until 1972–22 years—before we did anything.
Once again, we are standing on the sidelines with the French and Germans working for military defence in Europe, saying, "Let's wait and see if anything happens," or, "Well, it's not quite nice to have military defence in Europe." We must act on that.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
In view of the fact that the United Kingdom is to assume the presidency of the Western European Union from tomorrow, 1 July, does my right hon. Friend hope that the Spanish and Portuguese will be allowed to join the WEU, as they wish to do?
§ Mr. Heath
That is a rather old argument. I am perfectly happy for the Spanish and Portuguese to join the WEU, but it has always seemed to me that the WEU was created for one central purpose—to bring the Germans back into the European family from the point of view of defence. We have succeeded in that. I do not believe—it may be a wrong judgment—that the way to look after European defence in the future is apart from the Community and in a separate WEU. It is essential that we keep Heads of Government and Ministers concerned with the European Community, but I am perfectly prepared to accept the immediate point.
§ Mr. Cohen
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the European defence force that Britain should join, along with France and Germany. Will he kindly tell the House against whom he thinks those weapons and forces should be targeted? Is he saying that they should be targeted against the Soviet Union? If so, that is just another arm of the cold war.
§ Mr. Heath
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Soviet Union accepts that we have forces, in the same way that it has forces. It does not take exception to that. It is trying to reduce the scale of its forces and our forces for the mutual benefit of both of us. That is perfectly justifiable.
I wish to turn to one or two other aspects of the Community before I finish. We shall not be able to stop at 1992. We must move on to a monetary union. Two things are vital. The first is that Britain should become a full member of the European monetary system. The Treasury wants it, the Bank of England wants it, the Confederation of British Industry wants it, the chambers of commerce want it and the business world wants it because it will stabilise our currency. The Prime Minister does not want it.
My view is quite clear. The Prime Minister should accept that we should become a full member of the European monetary system. It is said that that will take 575 away some little grasp of power that we still have. That is irrelevant. Look at black Monday and what followed from it. How can any country stop these things happening by confining itself to its own small system? Of course it is not possible to do that. The stock exchange followed Wall street and then the Hong Kong market had to be closed. Tokyo and Singapore were affected. With its communications, the modern world is different from the one which preceded it.
I believe that we should go into the EMS for stabilisation. If we had gone into it in 1979, we would never have had sterling rising to $2.20, as it did in 1980. We lost 20 per cent. of our industry because of the value of sterling. If we had been a member of the EMS, sterling would not have declined to $1.05, as it did in 1985–86. We are all aware of the calamities that that brought about. We want stabilisation.
There are those who say this is impossible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was trying informally to stabilise on the deutschmark without formalising membership of the EMS. He was succeeding up to a point. The Prime Minister then said, "You cannot buck the market." The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "I am stabilising." What does the market do? It is in complete confusion. It asks itself, "What are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to stabilise or are we expected to speculate and move up as far as we can?" With membership of the EMS we would gain stability, which would be of benefit to our industry and exports.
Monetary union was agreed in 1973, and it has been worked out ever since then. Much has been done to formulate how we shall achieve monetary union and a common currency. It is perfectly possible to achieve these things, but before that we can have a European central bank. I was astonished by the response of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) asked her a question about a European independent central bank. My right hon. Friend said that thatwould only come about with the dissolution of this House".—[Official Report, 23 June 1988; Vol. 135, c. 1255.]We can have a European bank only if Parliament is abolished. That is an intellectual fallacy of such enormity that I find it impossible to see how it can be removed, except by a complete process of re-education. All the structures of the European Community are based on having institutions that serve all the member countries but do not involve the abolition of parliaments. To say that to have a central bank in Europe must mean the abolition of the House is fantasy of a scale hitherto unknown in public. I hope that my right hon. Friend will feel able to change her view. Let us develop a central bank. It will be to our benefit to do so. Let us proceed to monetary union. Before that, let us join the EMS.
My final remarks relate to Europe and the international order generally. Many of us were greatly concerned when the Government withdrew from UNESCO. At least, we said to ourselves, "They are not satisfied with its conduct." I have always believed, however, that if someone is not satisfied with an organisation or institution, he or she should stay within it and try to put it right. Instead, the Government withdrew. The present Secretary-General of UNESCO is trying to put things right. What is the Government's attitude towards that? We shall be in a much stronger position if we help him to put the organisation right. I hope that the Government will forgo 576 their distaste for cultural and intellectual pursuits, return to UNESCO and try to persuade the Americans to return as well.
The implications, which I have outlined, of the Soviet changes are considerable and I hope that we can pursue them. Europe can have an immense influence in handling the changes. To do that, we must play a full part as a member of the Community. We cannot expect the others to take any notice of what we say if we are not a full member of the EMS. They will say, "You are trying to get all the benefits and squeeze as much as you can out of us without taking any of the responsibilities." That is no way to influence others in the international order. There is enormous scope for us in Europe if we act as a full member of the Community. I hope that we can take advantage of it to follow up the implications of the changes that are now taking place in the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
First, I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on surviving two gruelling periods of intimate contact with the Prime Minister in foreign parts. He has weathered the right hon. Lady's disapproval and he is actually fighting back. We wish him well in the fight, but I assure him that we shall do so discreetly. I am not sure that vociferous support would do him any more good than the support of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) will do for Lord Cockfield. We shall see.
I shall confine my remarks to what I think is the central issue that is now facing us and the world, which is how we in the West react to the enormous changes that are taking place in the Soviet Union. I have had the advantage of 12 hours' personal discussion with Mr. Gorbachev over the past few years, and I believe that that is exactly the same number of hours that the Prime Minister has spent with him. I hope that I may have learnt a little more than the right hon. Lady because I allowed him to get in a word occasionally.
When the new phenomenon arrived in Moscow, the Establishment throughout the Western world was inclined to brush off what he was saying and doing. It was said, initially, that it was a cosmetic propaganda exercise that was intended to put the West off its guard. It was admitted rather grudgingly about a year ago that he might be sincere in what he says he wants, but as he is not prepared to change the system there is not much chance of hire succeeding.
It is clear this week that Mr. Gorbachev intends to change the political system in the Soviet Union, as well as the economic system, and commit himself even to a broad-ranging rewriting of the Soviet constitution. As the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup rightly said, that does not mean that all the changes that Mr. Gorbachev wants are ones of which we would approve. He will not necessarily follow our model. There is no doubt, however, that he has embarked on an enterprise which, if he succeeds, will be even more far-reaching than the effect of the reformation on the Christian Church, because there will be no old Church left if Mr. Gorbachev's reformation succeeds.
It requires enormous confidence to feel that he will succeed in making some of the changes that he proposes. He faces the opposition of a corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy in both the state and the party machines. He 577 faces also a large degree of cynicism among the Soviet people, which under glasnost is now reflected in opinion polls that are being published in Soviet newspapers. However, he is clearly determined to succeed. No Soviet leader since Lenin has consolidated his power in the main organs of the Soviet system as rapidly as Gorbachev has over the past three years.
The most exciting feature of the events of this week, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has said, is that Gorbachev seems determined to mobilise support among the public through new elected institutions that will be a second source of influence along with the party and the state machines. As my right hon. Friend said, there is an extraordinary contrast between the centralisation of power in Britain, with our Prime Minister's determination to destroy every institution that is capable of standing up to her diktat, and the course that is being adopted by Mr. Gorbachev.
Members of the Prime Minister's Private Office have far more influence on Government policy than any members of her Cabinet. Parliament is rejected and takes a secondary place. Local government is being abolished. Even the Foreign Office sits quivering in the Box, knowing that it is regarded as a hostile element. The Treasury is almost beyond the pale. If the right hon. Lady continues for much longer, I do not think that there will be any of our institutions left except MI5 and the SAS.
§ Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I admire the right hon. Gentleman very much. Like him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), I fought in the last war. However, the right hon. Gentleman must be slightly mistaken about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. If she is as bad as he says, why are the Conservatives leading by 12 points in the opinion polls?
§ Mr. Healey
There are many answers to that, which I shall not explore.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup made a very important point. We cannot guess whether Gorbachev will succeed in his domestic objectives. However, there is much more reason to be confident that he will succeed in his external objectives. Foreign policy in the Soviet Union, as in most countries, is made by a handful of people. In the Soviet Union that takes place in the Foreign Office and in the international secretariat of the Central Committee. All those people have been changed since Gorbachev came in. The old guard has been replaced with men of extreme intelligence and wide experience. The old guard has no political clout, unlike the people being removed from some of the big state enterprises and the domestic departments.
Moreover, even if Gorbachev were to disappear from the scene, I believe that the objective factors which have produced the change in Soviet policy will maintain the change. Above all, the Soviet Government—and the American Government—have recognised that nuclear winter and Chernobyl have rammed home the fact that there cannot and must not be a nuclear war and that there must also never be a large-scale conventional war, at any rate between the super-powers. Gorbachev has made that point many times.
578 The other great fact that will continue to determine Soviet foreign policy is that unless the Soviet Government can take resources out of defence spending and put them into investment and raising living standards, by the end of the century the Soviet Union will be Upper Volta with rockets. Soviet spokesmen have not used that particular phrase, but they have used similar ones and the concept is the literal truth. Gorbachev has been ramming that point home in speech after speech, not least in the speech that he made in Moscow a couple of days ago.
It is not sufficiently recognised that some of the compulsions are exerting themselves on the other great super-power. The United States is beginning to recognise that it does not have the economic capacity to dominate the world and that it will have to find some means of reducing its expenditure on defence. Whether Mr. Bush or Mr. Dukakis becomes the next American President, it is certain that the President will continue to cut defence spending as the United States Administration and Congress have been doing over the past two or three years.
Our great hope for the future is that the two super-powers are sufficiently conscious of the slow but inevitable decline in their relative influence on world affairs that they realise they have an enormous common interest in trying to create a framework of stability in which the world can live with the nuclear weapon and the new technologies, even when the duopoly, as we have come to regard it between the Soviet Union and the United States, is disappearing.
I would have thought, and I believe that the Foreign Secretary thinks, that Britain has an enormous interest in encouraging those new developments in the Soviet Union, in the United States and between the two. However, I am bound to say that some of the British Government's actions cast doubt on whether that is recognised everywhere. For example, this week, Jane's Defence Weekly gives a detailed report of the British Government's readiness to accept up to 60 F111 bombers armed with two to four cruise missiles capable, according to the American general's comments in Jane's Defence Weekly, of striking targets deep in the Soviet Union from their new bases in the United Kingdom.
I put it to the Minister of State that that is circumvention of the INF treaty. To replace land-based cruise missiles with air-based cruise missiles on aircraft based in the United Kingdom flies directly in the face of everything agreed between the United States and the Soviet Union over intermediate nuclear forces, which was endorsed by the British Government in NATO when NATO considered it. I hope that the Minister will comment on that. As I have said, there is a lengthy report on the matter in the current issue of Jane's Defence Weekly.
§ Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the INF agreement related to ground-launched missiles, not air-launched missiles? Is it not also true that the Russians already possess air-launched weapons?
§ Mr. Healey
Of course the treaty refers only to ground-launched cruise and Pershing missiles. However, the question of circumvention was much discussed in the negotiations. The two sides agreed not to circumvent. No one can deny that to replace land-based cruise missiles with air-based missiles which, because they are carried on aircraft, naturally have a longer range and can reach 579 further into the Soviet Union than land-based missiles, is circumvention of the most dangerous kind. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will agree with that. I only hope that he keeps tabs on what the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary are doing at the same time.
I was disappointed that more progress was not made on the strategic arms talks in Moscow. There is no doubt that greater progress was not made primarily because the American negotiators had not cleared their own position. There is still great disagreement inside Washington as to whether the new agreement should cover mobile missiles. The Americans have already announced that they are beginning a programme to deploy their own mobile missiles. There is also great disagreement on how to deal with cruise missiles.
I noticed that Mr. Nitze, the supervising guru of the American team, who has immense experience dating back to the middle of the last world war, is reported by the Herald Tribune as saying that he would like the United States to go for the abolition of all naval nuclear weapons except submarine-based missiles. That would remove sea-based cruise missiles entirely. I fear that unless the Americans move in that direction, they will make as dangerous a mistake as they now admit making when they did not go for a ban on multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles in the SALT I treaty. Any advantage that the Americans may have momentarily in cruise missiles will certainly be removed in a year or two as it was in the case of MIRVS. The Russians could carry more MIRVS in a single missile because their missiles were more powerful.
In the same way, sea-based cruise missiles are much more a threat to the United States than to the Soviet Union because half the population of the United States lives on the coasts of the Pacific or Atlantic oceans. I hope that the British Government are trying to play a role in this area. I hope that they are not being inhibited by the extraordinary view of the Prime Minister referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton, that it would be a great mistake to press on with strategic arms limitations until we have a ban on chemical weapons and an agreement on conventional forces in Europe.
I now want to consider Europe and conventional weapons. The irony of the INF talks and START is that neither side will derive very much economic benefit by eliminating intermediate nuclear forces or by removing half the strategic forces. It may cost more to get rid of the weapons than it costs to maintain them. The only way to save money is by stopping modernisation and cutting the size of forces. Modernisation can only be stopped if we go—as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup did when he was in power—for a comprehensive test ban treaty. There is no technical reason why that should not be achieved. There would have to be a ban also on the testing of new delivery vehicles. With the new technology that is available, verification would be easy. Every single test launch carried out either by the United States or by the Soviet Union is monitored by the other.
The key, and the most important issue for us in Britain, is conventional arms cuts in Europe. I was deeply disappointed that the Soviet proposal at the recent talks, which has been repeated several times since by General Chervov for example, was dismissed without comment by the United States. The Soviet proposals seemed highly sensible. They suggested that the Warsaw pact and NATO should exchange information about the number of troops 580 and weapons they have and where they are deployed, and that those figures should be verified. They proposed that either side then found to enjoy superiority in one particular area—as the Russians admit that they have in tanks—should get rid of it. The West would have to give up its superiority in attack aircraft. One would then get down to cutting the equal forces on both sides and moving towards what I regard as being the most important single element in the Soviet proposal, which is restructuring the forces and changing the strategy towards a defence rather than an attack priority. I understand that Mr. Carlucci and General Yasov, the new Soviet Defence Minister, started discussions on that aspect when they met in Geneva recently.
In the course of all that, one must of course get rid of dual capability weapons. If the West insists on retaining a lot of artillery and aircraft, which are useful for conventional war, on the ground that they can also carry nuclear weapons, one will get into a ridiculous tangle. The sensible move—as the German Government are arguing—is to get rid of those weapons entirely, so that they carry neither conventional nor nuclear armaments. I am very sorry that the British Government seem to he supporting the American Government in opposing that particular element in a deal.
§ Mr. David Howell
Does the right hon. Gentleman have any evidence from his considerable knowledge of Russian strategy of any sign of a Soviet move towards defensive rather than offensive deployment of their superior Warsaw pact forces? Is there any sign either that they are modifying their future procurement, to support a defensive rather than an offensive deployment of forces in eastern Europe?
§ Mr. Healey
There is very little sign of that at the moment, and what there is is ambiguous. General Aktomeyer is the extremely capable new Soviet chief of staff, whose hobby is modern American novels, right up to Tom Pynchon, who is far beyond any novelist whose work you may have read. I do not mean you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the right hon. Gentleman who just intervened. General Aktomeyer has said that they are beginning to restructure their forces and procurement. I myself know, as a former Defence Secretary, that it takes a hell of a long time to get that done, and working out the detail is very difficult. One must work it out to some extent in conjunction with the other side. That is what the Russians have offered and began discussing bilaterally with the Americans when Yasov and Carlucci met.
The West is set on a course of unilateral conventional disarmament in western Europe. The British Government have already committed themselves to cutting our forces as a whole by 5 per cent. over the next three years unilaterally, without getting anything in return from the Russians, and without consulting any of our allies. Germany will find that there will be a big cut in her conventional forces in the coming years, because somehow the sex drive of young Germans collapsed 20 years ago and the number of young men in the Federal Republic of Germany who are of military age is now set on course to dwindle over the next 10 years or so. That may have been due to the sudden appearance in Germany of rather ugly women, but whatever the reason, the birth rate fell and the number of young Germans of military age fell with it.
I recently spent a month in the United States and no one I met believed that the next American Administration 581 —be it Republican or Democrat—will fail to cut military spending. It may well cut its forces in western Europe, whether or not we like it. We have an urgent interest in getting on with the process of making the unilateral cuts, to which the Prime Minister, the American President and Chancellor Kohl are all committed, bilateral. In view of some arguments which appear to be taking place far away from my own personal knowledge these days, I would have thought that some Members of the Conservative party agree that it is better to have bilateral disarmament rather than unilateral disarmament, to which the Government are currently committed, at least so far as Britain's forces are concerned.
I conclude on a point to which we must give far more attention than we have in the past. One of the threats to reforming the Soviet Union, and to the Soviet system, is the growing unwillingness of the peoples of eastern Europe and of many of the republics of the Soviet Union—the Baltic states, Georgia and central Asia—to remain subject to the kind of centralised Communist control through Moscow that most of those countries have suffered since 1945. I believe that we shall see explosions, which worries the Russians very much. Recently there was one in Armenia, and there is always the possibility of another in Poland. At present, there is the extraordinary phenomenon that the most likely war in Europe will be between Hungary and Romania over Transylvania—which tension would, in any other circumstances, have certainly have produced a war.
It is important that the West makes it clear that we want political change in those countries, although we do not seek to dictate its nature, and that we have no intention of trying to take any military advantage of such changes that do take place.
Recently, I have been re-examining, as no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has, the events of 1956. Our ambassador in Moscow at that time, Sir William Hayter, was convinced that the Russians wanted to do a deal with the people who had taken power in Budapest and with Mr. Nagy. They withdrew their troops, but the removal of those Soviet troops occurred on 30 October 1956, which was the same day on which the British and French Prime Ministers issued their ultimatum to Colonel Nasser. It remains an open question, and one that certainly torments Sir William, who wrote about the matter in his book, whether the Russians would have sent back their troops if they had not been given cover by the Suez adventure. It is possible that they would have done so in any case, the moment that Mr. Nagy said he wanted to take Budapest out of the Warsaw pact.
We ought to start moving towards a Western position in which we make it clear that we shall not take military advantage of desirable political changes inside the Soviet bloc. If we follow the line that the Russians propose, of having defensive-oriented strategies, it will be very difficult for us to do so.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
I was in Budapest at the time, and while the treaty was being signed between the Russians and the Hungarians, Russian troops were advancing—we saw them.
§ Mr. Healey
With respect, that was on 31 October and at the beginning of November. I remember asking Sir 582 Anthony Eden, as he then was, whether he had exchanged congratulations with Marshall Rokossovsky because Budapest fell exactly the same day as Suez. That was a shame on the British people, the scars of which I hope are still worn not too lightly on the Conservative Benches.
What we are seeing in the Soviet Union, if it succeeds, and it is too early to be sure, may prove to be not just a watershed in the cold war, or, as has been said, the beginning of another cycle—we saw one under Malenkov and Krushchev—but a turning point in world history. We must face the fact that nuclear weapons and modern technologies are making war far too risky an enterprise for developed countries, and it is far too risky for the developed countries to allow the undeveloped countries to kill one another's peoples at will, as they are doing at the moment.
If Mr. Gorbachev succeeds, we shall be embarking on a new phase in the history of the human race. We are trying to develop a new international framework for stability between peoples which will have to involve not just the super-powers and their allies but all the other nuclear powers—Israel, India, China—all the other potential nuclear powers, and, ultimately, all countries in the world.
That is an enterprise that may take centuries to complete, but to my mind it is the most worthwhile enterprise that humanity has ever faced and I only hope that the British Government play a constructive role in it.
§ 7.1 pm
§ Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)
As has been said, it is rare for us to have an opportunity to debate foreign affairs. I hope that the House will understand if today I seek to say a word or two about the role of the British group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
I am delighted to follow the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), because I should like to take up one or two themes on which he touched and, indeed, to refer to some of the parts that he has played in our affairs.
It goes without saying that I do not need to rehearse the value of parliamentary diplomacy. I recognise on both sides of the House many who have played an active part in that work and will continue to do so. Therefore, in the spirit of today's debate, I want to concentrate on some practical examples of our work which highlight and illustrate the general thrust of the debate so far.
Let me deal, first, with our relationship with the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. The right hon. Gentleman was right to emphasise that we cannot reflect on the major changes in the Soviet Union without considering their impact on the satellite countries.
It is fair to argue that it was after the visit in 1984 of Mr. Gorbachev—then leader of the Russian parliamentary delegation, before he became Head of State—that we began to see the glasnost-perestroika summitry dialogue beginning its logical progression.
It is also fair to suggest that the return visit to Russia, through the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of the delegation led by Lord Whitelaw and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East was an opportunity to carry forward an understanding with the Soviet Union and, in particular, with Mr. Gorbachev, which has been of great significance.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman has said in a light-hearted moment that he saw himself as a gentleman's gentleman to Lord Whitelaw, but the fact of the matter is 583 that it was a significant delegation. The substantive talks covered matters of great importance. We have in our IPU room something in which we take pride—a letter from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reflecting on the value of that Gorbachev link. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East has taken other opportunities, fairly, to say that he sees that IPU activity in relation to the Soviet Union as being of wider significance.
The process continues. We shall be sending a delegation to the Soviet Union in due course and we look forward to the delegation that is due to arrive here in November this year. Much interest will turn on the leadership of that delegation. I do not want to say too much about that today, but it is clear that, after the Gorbachev interest, consideration has been given to bringing over others with a new-found interest in Britain.
On a more practical day-to-day basis, one of the key discussions at the IPU biannual conference concerns drug trafficking and terrorism—areas where parliamentarians can seek opportunities to find common ground. It will not have escaped the notice of the House that conversations in Britain, in which Members of both Houses of Parliament were involved, with the Russian ambassador have, within the last few weeks, been reflected in some successes in tackling drug trafficking in which the Soviet Union's co-operation played an important part.
Let me deal now with some of the satellite countries of eastern Europe. This afternoon the Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister was in the IPU room leading a parliamentary delegation. Bulgaria is one of over 40 countries represented every year which come to see the IPU. The conversation today pointed ahead to our visit to Bulgaria in the autumn for the next IPU conference and the opportunity to consider the Bulgarian-British relationship. It was clear from our discussions today and from those of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Sir A. Buck), who was recently in Sofia with a Labour Member for disarmament talks, that the Bulgarians are looking to reappraise their relationship with Britain. That is an obvious example of the interest and differing approaches of a number of east European countries in the light of events in the Soviet Union.
§ Sir Antony Buck (Colchester, North)
As my hon. Friend has been kind enough to mention Bulgaria, may I say that I agree with every word that he has said so far? I suspect that I shall go on to agree with everything he has to say. I and a Labour Member made a particularly valuable visit to Bulgaria. It is far better to have jaw-jaw than war-war. It is important to form contacts and friendships across political barriers, and that is largely made possible by the work of organisations such as the IPU, which my hon. Friend distinguishes.
§ Mr. Marshall
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that intervention. I pay tribute to the work that he has done, together with the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), who also played a notable part.
By contrast with Bulgaria, recent contact with Romania emphasises the difficulties that must still be overcome. It is undoubtedly accepted by Foreign Office Ministers and hon. Members on both sides that there is a cool relationship with Romania, partly stemming from cases of personal tragedy affecting those who seek to inter-marry. There are several other issues. I shall not labour the point, but simply go on to say that next year we 584 shall be engaged in the biennial process of meeting to discuss security and disarmament within Europe. That gathering will be in Romania, and I hope that we shall take the opportunity to explore what makes so sharp a difference between the relationships that we enjoy with that country and some others in eastern Europe.
By contrast, I come to Hungary, where we shall be going next year for the spring conference of the IPU. It is interesting that the Hungarians have told us consistently over several conferences that they have been in the business of glasnost and perestroika for years. They would argue—I think with some force—that they maintained a dialogue with the West at a time when the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union was going through one of its most difficult periods.
We look forward to finding opportunities to co-operate with our Hungarian friends in sharing what will essentially be a year-long celebration of the centenary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union next year. They will have their conference in the spring. We, as co-founders with France, will have the main conference in the autumn. But in finding ways in which we can share the load—indeed, the opportunity—I believe that we can help to strengthen that relationship, too.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves this general theme of parliamentary diplomacy, will he recall that the IPU, like some beers, can reach places that the Government cannot; that the IPU has played a very significant part in, for example, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Guatemala; and that it is able to meet our Argentine parliamentary colleagues in a way that is denied to the Government?
§ Mr. Marshall
The hon. Gentleman, and perhaps the House, will be delighted to learn that he has just removed paragraphs five and six from my speech. I entirely accept what he says.
Turning briefly to the non-aligned countries, our relationships there are well illustrated by our recent talks with the Tunisians. When they came to this country, their delegation was led by a former Prime Minister. Recent studies show that about 30 parliamentarians active in the IPU internationally are Speakers or former Heads of State. That is a very clear indication of how seriously other countries are taking the IPU. That is why I feel entitled today to remind the House of some of the progress that is being made within our own Parliament.
The visit of the Tunisian delegation led to a first demarche in which we combined to press for acceleration of the process towards a middle east peace conference. That matter is receiving study by a committee set up within the IPU internationally. We must pick up that theme again when we go to Sofia in the autumn.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) is a good example of an hon. Member who, despite his many responsibilities on the Opposition Front Bench, is helping us in our work, as he showed in his comments about the Argentines. It is true that at many conferences in recent years we have been able to maintain the process of continuity of understanding and looking at practical issues with Argentine parliamentarians—a process which at present is effectively denied to Her Majesty's Government; and, as the hon. Gentleman also implied, when we met in Guatemala last spring, it was after 23 years in which there were no diplomatic relations between Guatemala and the 585 United Kingdom. During that time the only effective link had been through parliamentarian contacts within the IPU. Foreign Office Ministers have been good enough to make the point that this process was undoubtedly instrumental in bringing back diplomatic relations between our two countries.
The last category of countries to which I wish to refer can be broadly described as our allies within the IPU. Working within the European Community and with other countries, such as the United States, Canada and Australia, there are certain like-minded Parliaments which over the years, have come together in what, perhaps thanks to a British invention, is known as the 12-plus. I say a British invention because, in a splendidly illogical way the 12-plus involves relationships with some 23 countries. It has, like many other institutions, grown over the years.
Within that grouping we can look back, for example, to the recent talks with a Spanish delegation, at which we immediately focused on the key and difficult issue of Gibraltar. Again, we found that we were able to clear a lot of the basic misunderstandings. I must commend the way in which, on this as on many other occasions, it has been possible for parliamentarians on both sides of both our Houses, without in any way checking freedom of expression, to achieve a line that has a certain unanimity in discussing problems with other countries.
We shall have a delegation from Italy coming here in two weeks' time. I am reminded that when I went to my first IPU conference in Rome it was to speak against a motion condemning Britain for what was described as the invasion of the Malvinas on 5 May 1982—a fairly short, sharp, crash course on international relations within the IPU. That reminds me now that Italy, too, has a key role to play in relationships with Latin America, particularly Argentina, for reasons which are well known to the House.
I come finally to our bilateral discussions with Ireland. With Ireland the relationship is one that I would regard as family in one sense, but of the greatest significance in the wider international context. We have, not only in our conferences but in other informal and to some extent formal talks in recent years, kept up a high rate of exchange visits. We have long recognised that these contacts are, perhaps by their very nature, not enough to tackle some of the deep-seated problems, particularly the problems of perception and understanding and, above all, the need to widen the scope by bringing parties of all persuasions in our two countries into the dialogue.
It would be premature to say much more about the process, but I want to take the opportunity—and I hope that they will not be embarrassed—to pay a particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris), who led the delegation to Dublin with such distinction, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell), to whom I had a chance to talk earlier today and who I know is particularly involved and concerned, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay). They are now working actively together as a working party which liaises with three Irish parliamentarians in an attempt to find a more permanent structure upon which the dialogue can be sustained. I very much welcome that development and, with regard to the practical problems, questions of finance, 586 and so on, I want to assure them that we shall do all that we can to help to sustain the process until, in due time, it has a life of its own.
As I have emphasised, in all the work of the IPU we rely on Members of both Houses and of all parties. We also rely on Mr. Speaker and the Lord Chancellor, our honorary Presidents, and on you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are all involved in a process by which we seek not only to put our point of view, but to encourage parliamentarians throughout the world to reflect on the way in which our system works. We believe that we still have things within our system which, although they may not be ideally suited to every system, others admire.
As we move towards our centenary next year we shall continue to draw, as we have in the past, on the kind of willingness and dedication that many Members of this House and of the other place are prepared to put into something which they see as worth while. We are all used to the kind of loose criticism that it is easy to throw at this place and the partial view of life that is reflected in the noise at Question Time, and during Prime Minister's Question Time twice a week. In the solid, continuing endeavours of institutions such as the British group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union I believe there is a genuine example of parliamentarians at work trying to find common cause and, above all, doing what the IPU was established to do a century ago—seeking to resolve international conflict.
§ Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)
I will not attempt to cover any area other than the middle east, in particular the Arab-Israeli problem, in my contribution to tonight's debate. I shall certainly try to keep within Mr. Speaker's requested limit of 10 minutes for Back Benchers so that other hon. Members may have a chance to speak.
We are rather fortunate today in that we are speaking about an area of the middle east where for the first time, certainly in the nine years that I have been a Member of the House, there is agreement on both sides of the House on how we should proceed. I suggest to the Government that the last remaining stumbling block over which neither they nor the United States can jump but which clearly has to be surmounted is the question of the international peace conference and the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
On 14 June, Faisel Awiedah, the representative of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Britain, spoke to the Back-Bench foreign affairs committee of the parliamentary Labour party. On 29 June, Abba Eban, the chairman of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Committee, likewise addressed that committee. What was remarkable was the clear unanimity of those two personalities in their determination to try not to look back, but to see how they could point the way forward. There was unanimity of purpose, although they were talking on different nights in the same place. There was a determination not to cast yet more stones but to look for ways of resolving the problem.
What made those statements remarkable was that some people said that it was the first time that they had heard certain things said by either speaker. It is also remarkable that, although those same representations and organisations have been making those same comments, neither we in the House nor others in Europe and the United States 587 have been listening—or, more important, have insisted that they make those statements in the same room, at the same conference table and at the same time.
I do not wish to refer to last night's comments as though last night was somehow an aberration. Let me simply quote one or two comments to show that this is nothing new for either of those two organisations. In an article published in the Jerusalem Post, Abba Eban said:There exist none of the minimal affinities that would make it in any degree normal for 1.5 million Palestinians to live under Israeli rule. A principle that was fervently applauded when it is applied to 600,000 Jews cannot become obsolete when it is applied to 1,500,000 Palestinian Arabs, unless we take refuge with Kahane and Gush and Emunim in a doctrine of racist superiority.In an article published in the Jewish Frontier in November—December 1987, he said:The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza cannot vote or be elected to anything, have no juridical control over the government that rules their lives, have no appeal against the judgments of military courts, are not free to leave their land with assurance of the right to return, are not immune, as are their Jewish neighbours, from such penalties as expulsion or the blowing up of homes or administrative detention, have no flag to revere, and do not possess the same economic and social conditions as their immediate Jewish neighbors.In his book "If Only My People", the Chief Rabbi has written:Neither religious discipline nor national sovereignty can be permanently imposed by force on hostile majorities. Such force must in time disaffect the ruled and brutalise the rulers.He argues for a return to Jewish morals and standards, saying:Such a return to Jewish values would give Israel democratic strength … external respectability as a model society; and an eventual accommodation with the Arabs through moral sensitivity for Palestinian sufferings and aspirations compatible with Israel security.There have been comments from the PLO apart from what Faisal Awiedah said on 14 June. A recent statement by Bassam Abu Sherif, adviser to PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, has raised expectations that something has been said by the PLO that had not been said before:The means by which the Israelis want to achieve lasting peace and security is direct talks, with no attempt by any outside party to impose or veto a settlement. The Palestinians agree. We see no way for any dispute to be settled without direct talks between the parties to that dispute".The Palestinians feel that it is unacceptable to one or both of the belligerents that a settlement be imposed by an outside power. Such a settlement would not stand the test of time. The key to a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, they say, lies in talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
The PLO, however, accepts UN resolutions 242 and 338. What prevents the PLO from accepting the resolutions unconditionally is not what is in them, but what is not in them:neither resolution says anything about the national rights of the Palestinian people, including their democratic right to self-expression and their national right to self-determination. For that reason and that reason alone, we have repeatedly said that we accept Resolutions 242 and 338 in the context of the other UN resolutions which do recognise the national rights of the Palestinian people.There has been considerable press speculation about the statement. Is it a statement of fact? Can it backed up? Will it be changed? The way in which to determine the accuracy or otherwise of such a statement is, I suggest, through only one appropriate channel. It can be achieved if Mr. Shultz adds Tunis to his itinerary and, when he is there, asks Yasser Arafat to confirm or deny that such statements reflect PLO policy.
588 What is certain is that, no matter what is said by the media, the Government or the United States, the Palestinians will act not through more articles in the press but through direct dialogue. The Opposition have recommended that to the American and British Governments. If we are to overcome the years of mistrust that have grown up between the Palestinians and the Israelis, we must find some way of bringing the two together, and everyone is now agreed that that should be done through an international conference.
That is not something new. Since the second world war there have been 40 such conferences—for example, the tripartite conference after the war, the conference on Trieste, the conference that led to the Austrian state treaty, the Geneva conference that promoted peace in North Africa, the Paris conference that brought peace in Vietnam and, more recently, the conference on peace and security in Helsinki, which sought to establish a new international order.
It will be necessary for the super-powers to be involved in such a conference. We must involve states from outside the region. First, all the potential parties to an agreement rely to some extent on financial or military support from outside the immediate region. Secondly, either of the super-powers could, if it wished, use its influence to frustrate agreement by bolstering its 'clients' in an intransigent stance. Thirdly, the super-powers and other members of the United Nations could provide security guarantees as part of a peace settlement as well as economic inducements.
More important, as one of the key protagonists—the Palestinian people—does not enjoy the attributes of state power, the organisations that represent it being scattered throughout the world, it cannot rely on the disinterested support of the Arab states neighbouring Israel. The involvement of the super-powers would give them some confidence that such a settlement could provide lasting peace in the area. Speaking to the parliamentary Labour party last night, Abba Eban suggested the Benelux experience as an example of how the peoples could live together. That, however, could come only after an international conference.
I ask the Minister to take that last vital step and to talk to the Palestinian people. If I must give one final reason, it is the current events in the West Bank and Gaza. Since December 1987, more than 220 Palestinians, whose ages range from four or five to 70, have been harassed, detained, beaten and shot dead by the Israeli defence forces. As Abba Eban freely admitted last night, no time in history provides an example of a people who—once their consciousness has been awakened as it has been in Gaza and the West Bank—have been able to be beaten into submission, or have given up their aspirations and determination to achieve the rights for which they have struggled.
On behalf of those people in Gaza and the West Bank, and those in Israel, I ask the Government to encourage Europe and the United States to take that one last step. As early as March this year, during Foreign Affairs Questions, I told the Secretary of State that it was no good for Mr. Shultz to go to the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, Jordan and Egypt unless he spoke to the Palestinians. Unless and until this Government and the interlocutor for the Israeli people speak to the Palestinians, that peace process cannot be started. I hope that when the Minister 589 replies she will say that the British Government will talk to the Palestinians and will take a meaningful step towards peace in the middle east.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
The House listened with great interest to the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), the former Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, and possibly with more interest than to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the present Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, who in his 50-minute polemic seemed to have difficulty in achieving any balance in his handling of foreign affairs.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East is wrong in his analogy of perestroika with the Reformation. Although the Reformation may have underpinned the liberties and independence of this island, it unleashed on the continent of Europe a series of the most ferocious and bloody wars for years. If I have a worry about the right hon. Gentleman's analysis of Soviet affairs, it is that he may be giving too little weight to the centrifugal tendencies that could develop in the Soviet empire as it attempts to rethink its position, and to the enormous consequences, dangers and opportunities that flow from that. It was a fascinating speech, and we were glad to hear it.
It was the ubiquitous Dr. Kissinger who observed the other day that there never was a time when economics was having a more decisive and weighty influence on foreign policy than today. That is a fair point. Since the House last debated foreign affairs we have seen definite signs that the United States faces economic difficulties. It has huge deficits and the dollar is weaker and has been removed from the centre of the world trading system as the key currency, which it has been on and off for the past 40 years. That is beginning to drive and modify its entire foreign policy stance. In a sense that is inevitable. We are moving from the post-war order and it is now perfectly clear that, no matter who gets into the White House, American foreign policy will be largely driven by the economic considerations that that huge nation faces in adjusting its world policy to its economic performance and circumstances.
Meanwhile, we have seen the ever-continuing rise of Japan. Sometimes we forget that Japan's gross national product is greater than that of the Soviet Union and that in terms of income per head on the present exchange rates the Japanese are the richest in the world. Japan now finances the third biggest defence budget after America and the Soviet Union. That is a wholly new factor which cannot be ignored in assessing the new landscape of international relations.
Black Monday, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) referred, is further confirmation of that. It was not merely an economic or financiers' phenomenon. It was as though a sheet of lightning on a dark night revealed in glaring light the new facts of international relations—that the Americans were no longer strong enough to support their currency and decided to let it go, and the Japanese emerged as the world's major banker, investor and lender. They are the decisive influence on the economic affairs of the entire planet. That is the second way in which the 590 landscape has changed radically. To re-establish our nation's foreign policy priorities without understanding that would lead to difficulties.
In talking about perestroika and the reforming and restructuring of the Soviet Union, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East may have underestimated the fragmenting tendencies that that could create and the difficulties in the Soviet empire. That will not necessarily reduce tension because, as we know, a wounded bear can be a dangerous animal. There are many danger points ahead, even if the right hon. Gentleman is right to be optimistic, as I think he is, that the underlying technological and economic forces make it impossible for the Soviet Union to go back to its old highly centralised, secretive and insulated state.
I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his too easy assumptions about what will happen to Soviet defence policy. There was a shade of naivety in his views about the Soviet approach to conventional armaments. If it is intent on conventional armament negotiations and on moving away from its colossal superiority in that regard, let us see some signs that the message of perestroika has reached the Soviet general staff and the military establishment. There appears to be little sign of that, not only in present deployment but in the pattern of procurement and weapons orders that are now being formulated and which will be delivered as weapons in up to four years' time. We have a long wait before we can be sure that the vigilance, on which my right hon. and learned Friend rightly insisted, can be relaxed in the slightest way.
With the relative weakening of the United States and its removal from overall unchallenged predominance in the West, with the colossal economic power of Japan which is trying to relate that to a global political policy, and with the unfolding of the Russian scene in a fragmented and explosive way, we have seen a re-drawing of the map of the post-war world. The settlement of Yalta has now begun to be transformed. We are seeing a pattern in which there emerge new regional interests which do not necessarily match any more with that simple and, to some people, comfortable world of two super-powers, the bi-polar line-up, the Western and Eastern camps and the ideological divide. That is now being replaced by a whole set of new, complicated and sometimes dangerous regional patterns which require a rather different approach to the one which has been adopted for the post-war, Yalta-determined world.
There can be no better illustration of the new complexities and cross-currents than the issue which my right hon. and learned Friend raised—the Iran-Iraq conflict in the Gulf. He was kind enough to refer to the second report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on that conflict which has appeared today to coincide with this debate. I am grateful to him for his remarks about it and to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Committee for their enormous amount of work on it. It provides a fascinating illumination of the point that things are not as they were and the world is no longer automatically to be analysed simply in terms of a Washington-Moscow axis and two super-powers.
The first message that we tried to put across in the report is perhaps rather obvious, but it needs restating to some people. It is that Iran and Iraq are not, in Chamberlain's chilling words,faraway countries of which we know nothing".but countries whose mutual warfare—their horrific engagement in one of the grimmest, most ghastly wars, 591 with a killing total that exceeds almost anything in any other continuing world crisis and begins to put it in the grim league of world wars—interests, future and influence on their neighbours are of extreme, intimate and immediate interest to this island and our immediate allies.
We urge in our report that this is a matter not of any one country trying to solve the problem—it cannot—but of international collective action. We say that it is not necessarily a pattern which will be resolved by the United States and the Soviet Union establishing some deal or arrangement without the support of other countries. On the contrary, the message which came over to our Committee again and again, particularly when we travelled to Washington, was that it is essential for the European allies to mobilise support in the Gulf operation and that, without it, it would be very difficult for the United States to move on from the world policeman role which it told us at the National Security Council it did not really want to play.
We are a little censorious in the report that, if that is the United States' position, it was a pity that when it decided to enlarge the United States navy's role and to extend protection to all neutral shipping, it did not consult the British Government formally. It wants the support of western Europe for the Gulf operation and it values enormously the support of the Royal Navy. It is glad of the lead role that the Royal Navy is taking in co-ordinating other western European minesweeping operations. In stumbling or moving forward, however, the United States somehow failed to make the obvious counterpart step of careful consultation with those allies before changing the terms of engagement of its fleet.
The Select Committee report also mentions the fact that Japan has a key role in all of this. We are not used to thinking of this huge power, which has the third biggest defence budget in the world after the Soviet Union and United States, having a direct role. There are problems about Japan having a military role in the Gulf area, and I do not think that anybody outside or within Japan is suggesting that that should be the case. Nevertheless, Japan draws a great deal of its oil from the Gulf. It is a centrally interested party in stability in the Gulf and it is vital that it should play a substantial—possibly a more substantial—part.
§ Mr. Madden
Did the Select Committee consider the difficulty presented to the British Government and their credibility when trying to bring about a resolution of the Iran-Iraq war by the fact that we supply arms to both Iran and Iraq, directly or indirectly?
§ Mr. Howell
I do not know what detailed evidence the hon. Gentleman has for saying that. It is the British Government's declared policy not to supply lethal weapons to the belligerent countries, and I understand that they do not do so. If the hon. Gentleman has detailed evidence, no doubt he will have an opportunity to present it later in the debate.
§ Mr. Howell
I should like to continue as I am conscious of taking too much time and I am anxious to share with the House the conclusions of our Select Committee on this issue.
The Committee stresses that the British initiative in the United Nations has by no means been a wasted effort. We 592 think that it has been immensely valuable. There is a point of view which exists in my party—I have even shared in the past—that the United Nations had reduced itself to an absurd reflection of the world's alignments and ideologies—the aligned or non-aligned North and South, East and West—but was achieving nothing constructive. But now the process of the new regional grouping is being reflected in the United Nations and the opportunities are growing for it to play a more effective part than it has during the past few years.
That is well illustrated in the case of the Gulf. All five Security Council members—the Soviet Union, China, America, Britain and France—have agreed a mandatory resolution. That is a remarkable sight and it shows that something is afoot. We would be unwise to go on writing off the United Nations, as many people do both here and in America, as the old, useless and "fixed" talking shop that it was.
The report emphasises the need to ensure the right of shipping to navigate freely on sea lanes,. Shipping should be protected, and we welcome the efforts of the Americans, supported by our own Armilla patrol, to ensure that. If the war escalates, it is difficult to see how neutral shipping, let alone our own flagged shipping, is to be protected. So far, however, the Armilla patrol seems to be highly successful in the limited area it patrols.
Our report identifies the acute and massive British interests in trade, commerce and security, which rely on our keeping and developing close relations with the nations of that stormy region. The Government are apparently considering renewed relations with Iran. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the report underwrites, underpins and confirms what I understand to be the Government's view—that in expanding again our diplomatic relations with Iran, which effectively means putting an ambassador back into Tehran, there should be no question of that process being linked with any deals on hostages.
Hostage release should rely on pressure for humanitarian, legal and justice reasons to ensure that everything be done by those who can do something to get Hezbollah, or whoever holds our hostages, to release them. The opening of diplomatic relations is a quite different issue. It should proceed cautiously, not in a hurry, and not until there have been certain guarantees that our diplomats' safety will be secure and that they will be treated properly under the Vienna convention.
We have also to consider the release of British nationals held without trial in Tehran. There is also the matter of a few bills to be paid and compensation to be settled both ways. They involve considerable sums, but they must be settled before we have a diplomatically staffed embassy in Tehran again. That is the direction in which the Select Committee points and it is the one in which we should go cautiously.
I hope that that illustration of the broader point about the changed international landscape has interested the House. Considerations are no longer totally dominated by the two super-powers. I hope that nothing I have said weakens what I understand to be the very good bedrock of this island's foreign policy—that we must have a sound economy, which gives us power and influence. I am not the first to say that. We can all remember Ernie Bevin asking for another 10 million tons of coal so that he could have a foreign policy. We have today a modern expression of 593 the same doctrine. Given the strength and dynamism of this economy, we are able to pursue a constructive foreign policy role.
Nothing detracts from the responsibility of every country to go for sound national policies and to develop independent views. That is all the more important in this less simple, less bipolar and more complex world.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup made some interesting comments about the European Community. I sometimes feel that the message he put over needs to be shouted a little louder in the House. We hear a good deal about the need to keep our independence. That is vital, but to keep it we must appreciate the interdependence of policy. We must appreciate the role that we must now play in the new organisation and the new groupings which have emerged and are beginning to replace the super-power pattern.
Our policy is making progress in the European Community, but it is not as strong as I should like it to be. We are moving towards a single market, but we have to understand the political underpinnings of that drive and not just dismiss it as a trade association with common rules, which is how I heard one Minister describe it.
We have to play a decisive part in the group of seven Finance Ministers. G7 will become G3 in due course. I do not mean Japan, Germany and America but Japan, Europe and America. Those will be the three decisive currency blocs. We must decide our relationship with the other European continental currencies soon. I am in favour of full membership of the exchange rate mechanism.
In the unfolding world of armaments negotiations, which will be very tricky for western Europe and unsettling to the western European NATO allies, we must fight for, and build with great vigour, the European pillar of cohesive defence in the NATO Alliance. That should be carried on with rather more gusto.
There is much talk in the House and elsewhere of draining influence, declining sovereignty and increasing difficulties in making our voice heard in the world. That talk is becoming old-fashioned and defeatist. The reality is completely different. Britain has not had so much influence in almost all the councils of the world and all the emerging regional groupings for the past 40 years. That influence is available for Britain to use wisely. We have to learn how to deploy that influence and how to exploit our new advantages in the new landscape.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary is a good and wise guide for this new map and this new world. But we need great understanding, great caution and great wisdom in reacting to what has happened on this planet during the past few years.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
It was encouraging to hear the Foreign Secretary speaking of the frequent contact that the British Government now have with the Government of the Soviet Union and of the many meetings that he has held with the Soviet Foreign Minister. We are all clutching optimistically at glasnost in the hope that it will turn out to be a pillar and not merely a straw. 594 I hope that after glasnost in the Soviet Union we shall see the same process developing outwards into the world at large.
I have a particular interest in the Soviet satellite countries. In the past two or three years, through the good offices of the Great Britain-East Europe centre, I have had the privilege of leading two small delegations of British lawyers at meetings with Hungarian lawyers—one in Budapest, and one in the United Kingdom. At those meetings, and at others, I found that we had many common interests. The Hungarians are a very remarkable people. They realised that glasnost existed long before the word was invented. Through their determination, they were able to achieve some significant economic changes, which have given them a much closer relationship with the West. They find it rather offensive to be described as a country of the East and prefer to be regarded as part of central Europe.
I regard nearby Poland with some despair. Unfortunately, the same processes have a long way to go there. Whatever version, if any, of glasnost has reached Poland has been deep frozen and heavily insulated. It has yet to be taken out of the freezer cabinet. I hope that when the Prime Minister goes to Poland in a few months' time she will take with her a copy of Mr. Gorbachev's speech this week, and ensure that it is read by General Jaruzelski. The process that Mr. Gorbachev has begun in the Soviet Union has not seeped through in spirit to Poland.
There are, unfortunately, still political prisoners in Poland who have been arrested without being charged and, because they have not been charged, they are not put on trial. I have evidence of what has happened to one family. After the mother was arrested for her political beliefs, her children were then harassed. Her eight-year-old daughter was subjected to interrogations after being taken from her school, and she eventually suffered a nervous breakdown.
I have corresponded with the Prime Minister about these issues. She sent me a helpful reply, and I hope and trust that when she goes to Poland, she will make it clear to the Polish Government that, although it is not our role to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, the development of economic co-operation with other countries depends very much on our perception of how they operate outwith and also within their own institutions.
That is essential both for the process that Mr. Gorbachev has started and for the more direct relationship between the United Kingdom and countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria. We hope that they will become countries that apply the same civilised standards to freedom of thought and speech that we at least aspire to. It is far easier to co-operate economically with a country that has a reasonable degree of plurality than with a country that is authoritarian. Such countries give greater confidence to those who sell their goods there. I share the hope that was expressed earlier that there will be a much freer exchange of technology with the countries of eastern Europe and that we shall be able to set up a genuine market in goods, which has been difficult to establish in the past.
There are, of course, exceptions. One example is the success of Wellcome International Trading Ltd. in Hungary. There are other less happy examples, such as the conduct of ICL in Poland. I hope that the Government will give some attention to that matter.
595 I propose to speak only very briefly about South Africa because I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, and some of the earlier contributions were on the long side. I do not question for one moment the bona fides of the Foreign Secretary in his wish to see change in South Africa. Unlike some Opposition Members, I accept that the Government find apartheid abhorrent, that the Foreign Secretary wishes to make a genuine attempt to secure the release of Nelson Mandela, and that real efforts are being made to ensure that the Sharpeville Six are not executed.
As a lawyer, I shall highlight one particular point about the Sharpeville Six. They have been convicted of complicity in murder and they are to be hanged for murder, not for affray or for being involved in a riot. They have been convicted of deliberate homicide—the intention to kill or cause serious injury to a specific person. They were convicted under a system of law that shares much with our system of common law. I say without fear of contradiction by any reasonable common lawyer or jurisprudential expert that in any properly applied common law system the Sharpeville Six could never have been convicted of participation in murder. Their conviction was scandalous; their execution would be an outrage. It would bring upon the South African Government greater condemnation even than the continued and unjustifiable detention of Nelson Mandela.
Although I accept the bona fides of the British Government and their intentions in the matter, I believe that the British Government's method of dealing with South Africa has failed. The South African Government do not appear to believe that the subtle negotiations, the occasional conversations and the gentle nudgings of the British Government will help them to make changes. They are stiffening in their resolve because they believe—probably wrongly—that the British Government support the way they are governing South Africa. Early this afternoon the Prime Minister spoke about the economic summit. That summit produced an example of the intransigence of the British Government and their failure to see that their policy on South Africa has failed.
I hope that the British Government will recognise more starkly the barbarity of many aspects of the South African regime. I cite, for example, the introduction of the Orderly Internal Politics Bill. That sort of barbarity will continue unless sanctions that have a meaningful effect on South Africa are introduced. I hope that the Government will be courageous enough to admit that they have tried one approach that has not worked, and that they will now embrace more direct economic action against South Africa, for only that will be the way in which to bring about real change without widespread bloodshed.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)
As always, it is a great privilege to follow the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). Although we do not agree on everything, he will recall that I was one of the founder members of the Anglo-Hungarian round table, so we share an interest in that as well as in South Africa.
I want to focus on one point in what has inevitably been a wide-ranging debate. It relates to Namibia in particular and southern African in general, and it has already been mentioned by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for 596 Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and other hon. Members. It might seem strange that so much concern should be felt in the House about a vast, faraway country, more than twice the size of France, with a small population, and with which we have little historical connection and few colonial links, but there is something about Namibia and its people that stirs other hon. Members and me.
When I visited Namibia and went to the war zone on the Angolan border with the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), what I saw was a deeply shocking and moving experience for me. It was shocking, first, because of the economic situation. As the House knows. I was born and brought up in India, and I have been exposed to poverty. I have seen the ravages of war arid poverty in India and Africa; one does not become cynical but one is perhaps occasionally hardened. Nevertheless, what I saw in Namibia shocked me.
It is not amusing to visit a black hospital in which there are no drugs or even bandages and then to go to a white one that is equipped as well as Addenbrooke's, Cambridge. It is not amusing to see the contrast between white and black education; or to see the South African defence force in operation; or the massive deployment of that defence force, or the suppression of the people. What makes this even sadder is the warmth, kindness and good will of the Namibian people and the realisation that the country has the potential to be economically viable and happy, while maintaining the interests of the South African people.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East and I went to a little village called No Hope town—yet there was hope there. We were welcomed with warmth and encouragement. I give the House the following warning, which I also endeavoured to give to the South African Government and others who are interested in the area. Sarajevo was further away from this country in 1914 than southern Africa is today. Who can say, if a conflagration were to explode there involving the super-powers, that it could be contained?
September will be the 10th anniversary of the passing by the Security Council of resolution 435 on independence for Namibia. That resolution is strongly supported by the Government, the Opposition and, with one or two exceptions, by virtually all hon. Members. Perhaps, in view of the 10 years that have elapsed, certain aspects of resolution 435 will have to be revived; but it is an establishment of principle. It gives the people of Namibia real hope. It also gives the people there who do not believe in violence real hope that constitutional reform and freedom may come about without war. The British role in the contact group is important in itself. There are hopeful signs. There were discussions in London with SWAPO. There were hopeful signs in the Moscow communiqué.
I want briefly to put to the House my thoughts on this matter. Given my views about the President of Austria, it may seem slightly strange to say this, but perhaps the Austrian solution is the answer—the freedom, neutrality and independence of Namibia might be guaranteed by the great powers. That would meet the legitimate concerns of the South African Government and people and give the Namibian people their freedom. We, as one of the guarantors, would have to accept that the new, free Namibia would require aid and assistance, not only with drugs and agriculture, but for many other things. The: 597 financial cost would not be very great, but the reward, in terms of the prospects for peace and happiness, would be immense.
I have one political ambition—one day to stand in a free and independent Windhoek.
§ 8.6 pm
§ Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)
It is tempting, in one of the rare opportunities that we have to speak in foreign affairs debates, to mention all the countries and issues in which we are interested, but that is not possible especially if we are to comply with Mr. Speaker's kind request that we confine ourselves to 10 or 15 minutes.
I should have liked to say something about Cyprus, which is gradually receding into the background. Although we are forgetting it, we have a special responsibility to Cyprus. I know that we have tried to take initiatives from time to time and I am hopeful, the recent presidential elections having been completed with the possible chance now of a new start, that we shall again take up our initiatives in that country with renewed vigour.
I want to discuss disarmament and development, which are two sides of the same coin. I listened carefully to what the Foreign Secretary said today. I noticed that he said that we are asking the right questions and making constructive proposals. To ask questions is comparatively easy, and we have certainly been asking them. To make constructive proposals is more difficult.
Let us examine our policy in this respect. I am thinking particularly of the third special session of the United Nations on disarmament, which concluded about a week ago. I had the opportunity to be present at it as a representative of one of the more than 200 nongovernmental organisations that sent representatives to keep the official delegates aware of the widespread interest in what they were doing.
I heard the Foreign Secretary speak and I was disappointed. Some of his comments, such as that disarmament is for us all, were correct. He meant that every country has something to gain from disarmament, which, of course, is true. That has been said again this afternoon. But he spoke rather in the old cold-war spirit, not making constructive suggestions but demanding certain demonstrations of sincerity from the Soviet Union, among other countries. He felt that we could not make progress unless certain conditions were met by others. However, I have read his speech carefully, trying to pick out even one constructive proposal for concessions that we were prepared to make in order to make progress.
The Foreign Secretary mentioned towards the end of his speech that the United Nations special session on disarmament IIfrankly contributed to the difficult climate of 1982.That was the session prior to this year's. That is correct—it was unsuccessful and a great disappointment. He then continued:Today the climate is much more hopeful. UNSSOD III can add to that hope by sending out a clear message.The message is this: while we recognise our differences—and there are many—we can all identify our common interest in disarmament. Each state can and must make its own distinctive contribution to the common goal of peace, peace with justice and with security.598 The result of that special session was even more disappointing than the second special session. The Foreign Secretary must have been bitterly disappointed by the outcome. I refer to a report in The Guardian. It is difficult to obtain information about what happened at that special session, important though it was. This information was provided by the Associated Press in New York and reported in The Guardian. The article was headedUN arms cut debate ends in disarray".It stated:The General Assembly's special session on disarmament ended yesterday after bitterly divided delegates were unable to reach agreement on a document calling for arms reductions.The whole world would be disappointed—that is, if it knew what was happening—because the United Nations forum is the only way forward for many underdeveloped countries. The United Nations special session ended disastrously, despite all the money spent there. Our country could have done much more to try to make it a success.
§ Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one reason for the failure of the United Nations special session on disarmament in regard to conventional weapons is the reluctance of many non-aligned Third-world developing countries to reach an agreement? Therefore, to seek to pin the blame on this country is singularly ill advised.
§ Mr. Lamond
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. I hope that I was not implying that the blame lay entirely on the shoulders of this country and the Foreign Secretary. However, we could have played a more practical part in resolving some of the difficulties. All that I am saying is that I do not think that we were as positive as the Foreign Secretary would have us believe from his remarks.
Halfway through his speech the right hon. and learned Gentleman said:We must also tackle the Warsaw Pact conventional superiority in Europe: the MBFR negotiations have failed to redress this imbalance over the last fifteen years…We remain committed to stability and security at lower levels of forces. We are working with our Alliance partners to launch a new round of conventional negotiations in Vienna."I think that the Foreign Secretary was referring to the efforts made at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in Vienna to reach a mandate which could be carried from the conference which, I hope, is approaching its end, along with proposals about the other baskets being discussed. I have been in Vienna this week to meet some of the official delegations who are negotiating there, including our own, to ask about our circumstances and the problems that we see. Mr. O'Keefe, who is the leader of the delegation, was extremely helpful in explaining what is happening. I also met the Soviet, Polish, Austrian, and Finnish delegations and that from the Federal Republic of Germany to find out what the problems were.
I made a special request to meet the Romanian delegation which has been attacked on all sides for employing delaying tactics especially over human rights, which might mean that it would be difficult to obtain agreement, even at the end of this conference. Human rights are important. I should like to see a great advance made on what happened in Madrid. I do not support the Romanian suggestion that Madrid went far enough and that there is no need to go further. However, Romania is 599 entitled, as are all the other 34 members, to put what it claims are amendments to the draft documents presented by the neutral and non-aligned nations.
The aspect that particularly interests me is the mandate for negotiation—the conference itself does not engage in disarmament negotiations, but it can set a mandate for negotiations to go ahead later this year. I hope that the Foreign Office, which has the guiding hand on our delegation, will let Romania know that we are concerned. We do not want any obstacles to be placed in the way of obtaining the mandate. I hope that an agreement can be reached by 31 July because if it is not, if there is a break and if we begin to try to negotiate again, perhaps in the middle of September, by that time the elections in the United States will be well under way. I doubt whether it will be possible to make any progress until those elections are completed. It will he impossible to begin the negotiations on the mandate during that time.
We should always remember that there are outside pressures demanding that we reach an agreement as early as possible. We should not delay any more than is absolutely essential. We should remember that concessions have to be made on all sides if progress is to be made. It is not enough to say, "Those are the concessions which must be made by the Warsaw pact countries or by the neutral and non-aligned countries"; we should say, "Those are the concessions that we have made in the hope of making progress." There is, for instance, considerable discussion about whether only the 23 NATO and Warsaw pact countries should be involved in the negotiations on conventional weapons. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, those negotiations are important. The more expensive weapons are the conventional weapons.
The other 12 countries involved in the CSCE negotiations can be placed at a little distance from the negotiations, but they should be kept informed and should be consulted from time to time. All the negotiations should be carried out within the framework of the CSCE and of the Helsinki Final Act. We should not allow any last-minute amendments such as those from Romania to the basket concerned with human rights to prevent progress from being made on the mandate section.
If we can, we should allow the inclusion in those negotiations of naval and air forces as well as land forces. It seems sensible that if one is discussing conventional arms, one discusses all conventional arms and does not try to exclude those in which one may have an overwhelming majority on one's side. If we are entering into negotiations with a determination that we shall not move an inch from the position that we held before the negotiations began, we will not make many deals, because a negotiation, deal or agreement must have something in it for both sides.
Those points should be kept in mind by our negotiators. I hope that their hard work—I appreciate that it is not easy—is on this occasion crowned with the success that it deserves and that there is not the disastrous outcome of the United Nations special session on disarmament.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I am sure that those who heard the speeches of the shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and of the right hon. Member for Leeds, 600 East (Mr. Healey) will agree that we on this side of the House are lucky that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East is not on the Opposition Front Bench. That is the only party point that I shall make tonight.
Like the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, I salute the speech made by Mr. Gorbachev. I have read the fullest account that I can find. It is brave and frank, inasmuch as any man in that position can afford to be. It amounts, however, to a declaration of bankruptcy. He is saying that politically, economically, socially and morally, the Soviet experiment, which thrilled the imagination of millions of people throughout the world, has failed. For obvious tactical reasons he has sought to put the blame on individual leaders. When we look at the whole picture we must say that what Lenin hoped to do in the four or five years in which he was in charge and what Krushchev tried to do but failed is a small portion of Soviet history. Soviet history is that of Stalin, Brezhnev, Chernenko and Andropov, until the present leader came to power.
Gorbachev talks much of reconstruction, and I wish him well in that immensely difficult enterprise. A story was retailed to me a couple of days ago by somebody who was in a queue in Moscow. According to a joke that was being told, Brezhnev met Kruschev in the Soviet paradise arid said to him, "Nikita, did you build much in your time'?" Kruschev said, "No, did you?" Brezhnev said, "No. Which is why I cannot understand all this talk about restructuring. We never built anything, so what is there to restructure?"
That joke is misplaced because there is much to restructure. It will be a Herculean task because the best brains in Soviet industry are employed in the defence sector and because it will require a reduction—Gorbachev has made this plain—in the interference of the party in the day-to-day running of industry. It will require the cutting back of expenditure on defence, and, unless I am very much mistaken, securing access to Western technology and credit. Above all, it will require glasnost—freedom. The dilemma facing Mr. Gorbachev is that if he wants to make progress, he will have to extend freedom. If he extends freedom, the power of the regime will be threatened. If the regime has to choose, I fear that it will play safe and limit freedom in the interest of holding power.
That suggests that there will be a compromise. If there is, the regime will not be able to deliver the goods to the Soviet people. I shall illustrate my point with another anecdote that reached me from Moscow this week. A Soviet dog and a British dog met. The British dog said to the Soviet dog, "What is all this glasnost about?" The Soviet dog said, "It is quite easy. I am still on a leash, but it is a much longer one. On the other hand, my food bowl is even further away than it used to be. I am allowed to bark, but not too loud."
Events such as those have taken place before. In 1789., Louis XVI's expert, Mr. Necker, a banker, produced a reconstruction plan. The Estates General had a huge conference in Versailles, but while they were meeting the harvest failed and the French Revolution began.
In the old days it was often the policy to externalise internal problems by going to war—by conquest. I do not believe that that option is open any More. As long as we keep up our guard and maintain our forces, major war is made almost impossible by the existence of nuclear 601 weapons. The provision of the Stinger ground-to-air missile has also made it almost impossible to win a regional war against the wishes of the people.
The outposts of the Soviet empire have been crumbling. Afghanistan is the most dramatic example, because the Red army was directly involved but had to withdraw. In Angola, Ethiopia and Cambodia the same has been happening. There is disarray throughout eastern Europe. We must bear in mind that none of those problems confronting Gorbachev would have occurred were it not for the failure of the Soviet system and the determination of the Western allies to maintain a credible and determined resistance against any possibility of aggression abroad.
Economically, ideologically and socially, the credibility of the Soviet system is at a low ebb. That can plainly be seen in eastern Europe. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) mentioned Poland. Poland is no longer a Socialist country, but a sort of South American military junta with a few academics. A distinguished Polish academic, Deputy Prime Minister Sadowski, visited Britain the other day.
Czechoslovakia remains hard-line, but there is almost a war between quasi-liberal Hungary and hard-line Romania. Chaos is developing in eastern Europe. The might of the Red army remains, but its prestige and authority have been weakened. Afghanistan was comparable to what the Red army suffered in Finland in 1940. The tanks could roll into Budapest and Prague again, but would they? Not while the regime is trying to get credit from the West.
We must always remember that the Soviet Union has reached its present position only because of the failure of its system and the firm resistance with which it has been confronted abroad. We must maintain our resistance, be ready to assist with economic help and credit, but on conditions. The conditions will have to be such as to prevent the money being used against us.
On the other side of the world, there is no American crisis, but the weary Titan is becoming tired of carrying much of the burden on its shoulders. It has great interests in the Pacific and there have been anxieties in its Latin-American back yard. That has produced a demand for burden sharing. We must expect the Americans to keep a lower profile in Europe, just as the Soviets will in eastern Europe. That will not happen overnight. There will not be a sudden vacuum, but there is a gap that will need filling. How is that to be done? The main responsibility rests on the European Community. We are making good progress in that direction. Of course, we must strive to achieve the single market.
The financial and economic arguments about the European monetary system are fairly equal. I concede the point of not wanting to go in until we see the effect of France and Italy lifting all exchange controls. But I hope that the Government will not be too shy about joining in the studies into monetary union, and even a central bank. Frankfurt may have the strongest currency, the deutschmark, but we are the experts on monetary union. We often forget it, but from 1931 to 1960 we operated the most successful monetary union that the world had seen until that day—the sterling area. When we went off the gold standard, all the experts thought that the heavens would fall in. They did not, thanks to the sterling area. We 602 and the other countries of the area, the old Commonwealth countries, the colonies and various other countries such as Iraq and Egypt, came out of the depression quicker than anyone else.
The system was simple. There was no central bank, but the individual national banks banked their reserves with the Bank of England. They kept full sovereign control over them, but they consulted the Bank of England and the Chancellor of the Exchequer about how to move. They often had parities at a quite different level from each other, particularly Australia and New Zealand. The system proved an immense success in the 1930s. Even more, it got us through world war two and went on into the even more difficult aftermath. We can give some lessons to the continental banks about how to run a monetary union.
It is urgent to press on because there is another, more dangerous and sinister alternative if we do not. The lower profile of the Americans and the Soviets in Europe is reawakening the dream of German unity. West Germany already has remarkably close links with the German Democratic Republic. Austria may be applying for membership of the European Community. It has not yet taken the decision, but I think that it probably will, and that will not be a bad thing. The Pope held a mass in Austria the other day at which the majority of the congregation were Yugoslays and Hungarians. Mittel Europa is rising up again, and there would be a strong temptation for the Germans to adopt a neutralist policy if this made it easier for them to secure it. If they did, and if the French went with them, we would face an economic Dunkirk. We must be careful about this.
In 1955, when the Soviets withdrew from Austria, and the need for German rearmament became paramount, we had a great argument as to how Britain should contribute. It is always boring to talk about oneself, but I wrote a memorandum, which was circulated under another name, to the Cabinet, in which I said that NATO was a box to keep the Russians out and that we needed a box to keep the Germans in. It is perhaps not diplomatic to say it now, but we must have that in our minds.
We have to play our part, a full part, in the reconstruction of Europe, and that will mean in the financial as well as the marketing arrangements. From an east European and even a Soviet point of view, it would be much better if it were done on the basis of the European Community, with ourselves and the French as the anchor men, than if we let the Germans go off on a neutralist course. Much will depend on the efforts that we are prepared to make.
§ Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead)
It is a privilege to follow such a legend in these debates. I hope that the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments.
Like other speakers, I am disappointed that it has taken us more than a year to have this foreign affairs debate, and because we have waited so long for it I was the more disappointed in the speech made by the Foreign Secretary. I had expected it to be a tour de force of the important issues, but he demeaned the office that he holds by his childish knockabout involving the difficulties of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. He spent more time quoting The Independent than he did on the middle east. I hope that the issue of the middle east, on which I 603 shall concentrate, will occupy rather more of the wind-up speech to be made by the Minister of State, because this is a matter of the most vital importance. As other hon. Members have said, it is an issue full of danger not only for the immediate neighbours and participants in the conflicts but for the world community as a whole. I have acknowledged before and I acknowledge again the fine words that the Government have spoken about the middle east and the Palestine-Israel conflict in particular. The Minister of State used some fine and brave words when he visited the occupied territories, which were justifiably celebrated. However, the Government are longer on words than they are on action, and I press them to do rather less jaw-jawing and rather more acting in trying to get the peace process, as it is sometimes ironically described, back on the move.
Our predisposition to words rather than action has earned us the consternation of our friends and allies in the area. Many of them are politically conservative states with whom the Government maintain warm relations. I recently visited one of them, Saudi Arabia, with a parliamentary delegation ably led by Lord Pym. At meeting after meeting with all the important people in Saudi Arabia, from the Crown Prince through to the Foreign Minister to other leaders, everyone lost no opportunity to say that while they were grateful for some of the Government's words, they rather hoped for action to back up those words.
Our predisposition has earned us the despair of the Palestinians. Those of us who have been involved in the issue for some time know that it is impossible to meet a Palestinian anywhere, especially an older Palestinian, without being reminded of our personal involvement. To some extent, we compounded the problem of the Palestinian people, so historically we bear responsibility for the tragedy and their plight. However, we seem less than enthusiastic to do something about it.
If our predisposition has earned us the consternation of our friends and the despair of the Palestinians, it is evident that it has earned us the contempt of the Government of Israel. As recent events here have shown, with the activities of the Israeli secret service over many issues and many years, the Government of Israel, whom we treat with as a friendly Government, do not appear always to be behave towards us in an entirely friendly manner.
The chutzpah, some might say the arrogance, of the Government of Israel is well known and charted, from the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Baghdad in 1981 through to the bombing of the city of Tunis in 1985, to the gunning down in a Commonwealth country, Cyprus, earlier this year of important leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and to the most recent and, I believe, one of the most serious examples, the assassination, with hundreds of rounds of ammunition in front of his young wife and daughter, of the Palestinian leader Abu Jihad.
That is not to mention the contempt for international opinion that Israeli security policies in the occupied territories involved. Other hon. Members have dealt with events there, so I shall not dwell on them, but having recently been there, I know that there is a virtual reign of terror there, with tens of thousands of heavily armed soldiers putting down unrest among an entirely unarmed civilian population. The shootings, beatings and gassings mentioned this evening and many other times are ample testimony to the contempt with which the Israelis treat 604 international opinion, including the opinion of Governments such as ours, who are essentially well disposed towards them.
That begs the question, "What will Britain do?", rather than "What will Britain say?" There is little evidence that Britain will do anything. I tabled an early-day motion, supported by three distinguished Conservative Members and three Labour Members, which attracted the further support of hon. Members of all parties, on the issue of limited, selective economic sanctions to try to put some pressure on Israel. After all, the Government are in favour of limited, selective economic sanctions against South Africa, but the answer was that it would not be helpful to the peace process in the middle east to introduce sanctions.
On the issue of the EEC protocols, which will come up for agreement in the next few days in the European Parliament, the Government have sent no message to Conservative Members of the European Parliament to say that they would prefer to see, as a kind of economic leverage, the continued refusal of the Parliament to agree to the protocols with Israel. It is no mean issue when Israel exports to the Community billions of dollars' worth of food, vegetables and other goods every year. The recall of Her Majesty's ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations has been requested in this House as a means of doing something, but on this, as on other issues, those calls have fallen on deaf ears.
So much for the British Government's action against Israel. Is there any sign of British Government action towards the Palestinians? My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) has dealt with that issue, so I shall not dwell on it, but it is clear that there is little prospect of the Government acting. This evening, as we speak, a meeting is going on under the chairmanship of Lord Mayhew at the Royal. Institute of International Affairs, involving Mr. Farouk Kadoumi, who is effectively the Foreign Minister for the Palestinian people. He is an important actor in the Palestinian arena, but has any Minister met him? Will any Minister meet and talk to him? I am afraid that the answer is no.
The chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, and, as the Minister knows, a leader of the mainstream and moderate part of the Palestinian camp, has been continually snubbed by the Government. I hope that the Minister of State, when she winds up, will address this point. What is the difference between Yasser Arafat, as the chairman of the PLO, and Oliver Tambo, the president of the African National Congress? Why was it possible for her to meet Oliver Tambo, yet impossible for her or any other Minister to meet Yasser Arafat? There is a huge inconsistency in British Government attitudes and I hope that they will address the matter this evening or before very long.
Why do not the Government respond positively to the important statement, to which other hon. Members have referred, by the principal adviser to Yasser Arafat, Mr. Bassam Abu Sharrif, which, as the Minister must know, has caused some problems to the moderate leadership of the PLO? It would be doing a service to the peace process to respond positively to that statement and to use it as a watershed, which they appear to be seeking, to justify a meeting with the Palestinian leadership.
In short, we need to begin as a Government and as a country to try to match our words with some action. The Venice declaration in 1980 contained some fine words. That declaration ran into the sand when Lord Carrington became the President because, no doubt acting under 605 instructions from the Prime Minister, he was unable to continue the process of meetings and dialogue between the European Community and the Palestinians, as the Prime Minister would not allow Lord Carrington to meet Mr. Arafat and to continue the dialogue started by the Community.
We need a new Venice declaration backed up by action because we now have a small window for a very short time. Having recently been there, I see no evidence that, unless something changes—that must mean international pressure—a Government will emerge in Israel after I November who will seriously take forward the peace process. That must mean more leverage, more action and fewer words from the international community to try to force some progress and some concessions in Israeli policy in the area.
§ Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway). He will forgive me if I do not go down the Arab-Israeli path because there are many things to talk about and all too little time, but he and I would find ourselves broadly in the same camp so far as our attitude to that is concerned. I particularly appreciated his remarks about the situation on the West Bank.
I want to deal with some specifics and to deal with them as succinctly as possible, to the relief of my hon. Friends who wish to contribute to the debate. The principal specific is our relations with Iran. I have followed that subject in some detail, but, in recent years, I have not overburdened the House with it. However, it is important at the moment, not least because of the general political situation there and our relation to it here, but also because this very morning, under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), who has already contributed wise words to the debate, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs released a report on that subject. It was a good and balanced document, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has been kind enough to say. It reflects the need for good relations between our two countries and, on an all-party basis, it says that there should be no deals whatsoever with terrorism and that we must look elsewhere to secure the release of our hostages.
I agree that Iran—this an important message that should go out at the present time—must, if it seeks better relations, as it appears to be persuading us is the case, demonstrate its sincerity. There is no better way for it to do that than to take one very easy step—the release of Roger Cooper, a British business man and Iranian commentator, who has been languishing in the Evin prison in Tehran for two years, without trial and without any decent charge to boot. We know perfectly well that Iran could help with the hostages as well and it would be much easier for Ministers to address that question of our diplomatic relations if we had some healthy, decent and contributive response from Iran on that matter.
I want to go slightly beyond that and to discuss briefly the background because our relations with Iran go way beyond the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Mullahs, any other Ayatollah or anybody else. They are as historic as, if not more historic than, our relations on the Arab side of the 606 Gulf. It was noticeable when the Select Committee went down the Arab side of the Gulf, but all too easy to forget, the historic relations on the Iranian side and the historic role that Britain has played in the development of that country. Therefore, our relations are very much with both sides of the Gulf.
We must not forget the geopolitical situation of Iran when we decide what sort of relations we should have with that country. It has hardly been in recent years an easy country with which to deal in any respect, but it constitutes 50 million people. They have dominated the region and one only has to look at the map to see the situation with the Arab Gulf on the one side and the Indian sub-continent on the other to realise that it is all-important that that country does not go any more extreme than it is already and reassumes an albeit neutral, but sensible role and relationship with the West. We have, and we have had, our traditional links with the countries of the Arab Gulf, which are smaller and perhaps more vulnerable than Iran. It is fair to say that they are vulnerable to other things than just Iran. It is all too easy to forget that there are wider issues at stake.
Our relations with Iran go far beyond the hostages. All too often the media response, the questions that we are asked and the attention that is given to Iran concentrate on the hostages. That comes to the fore, and perhaps rightly so. We are dealing, however, with the relationship between two important countries. No one will benefit more deservedly and more quickly, I hope, than the hostages if the relationship is improved. That demonstrates the importance of moving forward, and it might not be as difficult as some would argue.
Iran, through its own actions, has put itself in a peculiarly friendless position. It follows from that that it is grateful for a remarkably small degree of support that might be shown to it from Britain or any other country. There are many things that we can do, and the need to do them is made all the more necessary because of the nature of American-Iranian relations. It must be recognised that the ordinary American—this underlines an aspect of the policy of the United States Government—feels a bitter hostility towards Iran, and he does so with a certain cause. I am pleased to say, however, that this feeling is slightly better this year than last.
The Americans feel let down by the revolution. They were the principal supporter and external sponsor, as it were, of many things to do with Iran until 1979. They suffered the storming of their embassy, the taking of hostages, the abortive rescue mission and the tragedy of the events that took place at the United States marine corps headquarters in Beirut. It may therefore surprise us that the Americans, having blasted one third of the Iranian fleet out of the water—and perhaps they deserved it—are now talking to the Iranians. They are doing so nominally through intermediaries. A series of informed reports and other pieces of information suggests that the talks are active.
Why is this happening? The answer is that the Americans are aware of the importance of Iran. They believe that there is a future for that country beyond the Ayatollah Khomeini. The Iranians understand that America is such a powerful country that it has to be talked to. Britain has a more limited area of manoeuvre in which to play its maximum role in the recovery and development 607 of Iran. I am sure that all agree that it will need some recovery and development. It is by actions now that its future friends will be judged.
There is an important need to press on and to act now. There is an active internal power struggle taking place within Iran and delay could make things worse. The war with Iraq is deeply unpopular in Iran and it is a country with a severely ailing leader. I dare say that it will not be long before times of change are upon us. I much approve of the talks that are taking place on embassy reparations between our Government and that of Iran. It was none too soon when the talks started. We are taking the road to better relations behind the French, and I do not condone any deals that may have been done with that country. Nevertheless, relations between France and Iran have already been restored. The Germans, the Italians and the Japanese also have relations with Iran. Britain is the only European Community country that does not have diplomatic relations with Tehran.
In bringing about relations with Iran we should at least consider a slightly more independent policy and attitude. We are seen to be very much part of the alliance with the United States, and most of us in this place back that alliance. There is ample scope, however, for some independence, and especially within the United Nations. We played a formidable role when it came to resolution 598, but there has been precious little follow-through from that. We have done little to extract the maximum Iranian response to it. Indeed, we continued to be a party to even more action against Iran by way of an arms embargo until it proved politically impossible to take that line any further. That is dead, in part because Iraq has felt free to escalate the war in various aspects, some of them extremely unpleasant.
I shall refer briefly to South Africa. My hon. Friends will be relieved to hear that I am not going round the sanctions course. I am concerned, however, that the British position on sanctions, present or future, will lead to Britain becoming isolated internationally. It was evident at the time of the 1986 differences—it has been evident ever since—that we stand alone to some extent.
We are approaching an American election, and until this moment we have been reinforced in our attitude towards sanctions and towards South Africa generally by the United States Administration. If the Democrats form the next Administration, there will be a change of policy towards South Africa—deed, there could be change whatever the new Administration. That poses a danger for us. If we are to be isolated on anything, it should not be on our policy towards South Africa.
The BBC external services have long been one of my hobby horses. It is an issue that I shall not go into in detail this evening. I have a personal interest and I have spoken before about it. The result of the Government rejecting what I humbly urged is that the BBC is going to the private sector for finance for satellite television news services. It seems that there will be a City initiative, and there is every likelihood that it will be successful. That is good and commendable. I hope that the initiative will be successful, but private capital needs a return.
It is a difficult market, as the ITN Superchannel experience shows. There is a danger that a major strength of BBC external services, which is directed towards the Third world and to giving the right message to the countries within it, will be separated from the developing market of television. I urge the Government to keep the 608 issue under constant review. When they assess the BBC's external services budget, I urge them to bear in mind the Third-world countries at a time of increasing consumption of television. There could well be a case for certain specific subsidies to be given and for certain additional moneys to be provided.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. The winding-up speeches are expected to begin at 9.20 pm. If we could have four-minute or five-minute speeches, hon. Members would win golden opinions from the Chair.
§ Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)
I want to address one small aspect of British foreign policy which is very topical and important. I want to refer to the support of Her Majesty's Government for the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. In the vote at the United Nations each year we vote for a regime that has no territory and controls no population except people in refugee camps and we supply a small amount of food to the United Nations border relief operation which feeds the Khmer Rouge.
We are only a small partner in this matter. The real villains are China which supplies the guns, Thailand through which the guns travel to the Khmer Rouge, and America which provides the bulk of the food—along with other Western countries—and organises diplomatically to ensure that the fraudulent coalition, which is a thinly disguised front for the Khmer Rouge, is recognised at the United Nations each year.
That is a cynical and wicked state of affairs. With the possible exception of the Minister, everyone knows what is happening. Oxfam has done a great deal of good work in the area for the Kampuchean people. It is desperately worried that, with the withdrawal of the Vietnamese from Kampuchea, the return of the Khmer Rouge is becoming inevitable. I know that that concern is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and more than 230 Members of all parties have signed early-day motion 463.
If the situation is not understood in the Foreign Office, it is well understood in the world at large. Jane Corbin a "Panorama" reporter, was in Kampuchea a few weeks ago. She wrote in the Radio Times:The Khmer Rouge are still out there in the jungle—Pol Pot still controls their military strategy and the West supports them and their allies as the legitimate government.In January this year The Nation in Bangkok wrote:Both Thailand and China are staunch supporters of the Khmer Rouge. They consistently insist that the communist group be included in any future settlement to the Kampuchean conflict.The record of the Khmer Rouge regime, when it was in power between 1974 and 1979, is well known and I will not dwell upon it. The Vietnamese invaded at the end of 1978 in the face of severe provocation, with massive attacks on their western provinces, and huge numbers of refugees were driven into Vietnam. Similar attacks were also made on Thailand. The invasion by Vietnam which removed the Pol Pot regime provided the excuse for the West to continue a trade and aid boycott of Vietnam. I say "continue" because Vietnam's main offence was not to invade Kampuchea but to defeat the United States in 1975. Much of what has happened since then is motivated by revenge.
I have visited Vietnam many times over the past 12 years. My wife is Vietnamese and her family live in Ho Chi 609 Minh city. I was in Kampuchea in 1973 and saw American B52s burning the country down. I was in Kampuchea again in 1980 shortly after Pol Pot and his friends left the town. I have some idea of what is involved.
It is my conclusion and that of many who have studied the problem that the object of supporting the Khmer Rouge in Kampuchea is to bleed Vietnam. The object is not to get the Vietnamese out of Kampuchea; the object is to keep them there. I believe that the Vietnamese are desperate to get out of Kampuchea. In fact, they are now so desperate that they are about to call the bluff of those who have been supporting the Khmer Rouge all these years.
The Vietnamese are going and there is no strong evidence that the Heng Samrin regime, which the Vietnamese will leave behind, has the capacity to survive on its own. It is widely acknowledged, as any reader of our newspapers over the past few days, and in particular of The Sunday Times last weekend, will know, that there is now a serious danger that the Khmer Rouge will return to power.
Those who continue to support the Khmer Rouge will have to bear responsibility for what happens. I hope that the Minister will refer to this in the reply. However, I hope that the Minister will not pretend, as happened when my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) raised the subject in an Adjournment debate some months ago, that none of this is happening.
One of the problems in raising the issue, as I and others have tried to do in the House, is that it is difficult to have a rational dialogue because the Minister directly responsible is Lord Glenarthur who is in another place. The Minister who deals with the matter here specialises in South America and has not, to my knowledge, been a frequent visitor to south-east Asia. I understand that the Foreign Secretary has taken a personal interest in the position in Kampuchea. I hope that one of the Ministers will find time to address the matter and not sit around awaiting instructions from Washington as to what we should do next.
We need to stop voting each September at the United Nations for the Khmer Rouge, and to urge our allies to do likewise. An international force will have to be raised swiftly to fill the awful vacuum that will be left when the Vietnamese leave. We must try to persuade the Chinese— and many people seem nervous about offending them—to cease supplying the Khmer Rouge with guns, and our main western allies, including the United States, to halt the food supply. We must also tell Washington and China that we are no longer prepared to be party to a cynical fraud. Otherwise, we must all take a share of the responsibility for the renewed calamity that faces the people of Kampuchea.
§ 9.6 pm
§ Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)
I believe that I am known in the House as a man of considerable patience but, having sat here for a long time, to be asked to make a proper contribution to this debate in just five minutes is really disgusting. Thirty-five hon. Members wish to contribute their comments on these critical matters, and we are jumbled into a gabbling five minutes at the end of the debate
610 The three situations that I wish to mention result from the winds of change—one might call them the gales of change—now proceeding from Moscow. For the first time, we can begin solving regional conflicts, which have been so very serious since 1946. The total of 17 million war dead and 25 current wars is not a record of which the world community can be proud, and neither is the increasing number of refugees across borders and within countries. As was said by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), we now have a new opportunity to solve those problems.
The first area I wish to mention is Ethiopia, of which I have considerable knowledge, having visited it every year since 1984. Dramatic international action must be taken to crack the war there. There is no way, despite humanitarian aid and other efforts, that we shall save that country from decline unless we halt the conflict there. In 1960, it was the poorest country in the world, and in 1985 it was still the poorest country in the world. I urge my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench to do all that they possibly can, in consultation with the Soviet Union, to bring the warring parties in Ethiopia together. If nothing is done, there is no question but that it will decline into another Palestine.
The latest proposals from the Addis Ababa Government give an opportunity to recognise the genuine aspirations of the Eritrean and Tigrean peoples and to establish autonomous states within an overall situation. The problem is now desperately urgent, and those of us who were in Ethiopia in February could see the consequences of the drought, the war and the degradation. There will be ever-increasing famines, affecting ever-increasing millions of people. All that will continue unless we take direct action.
The second subject that I wish to mention is southern Sudan and the suffering of the Dinke people, who are caught in traditional tribal conflicts. There are now people armed with Kalashnikov rifles who can kill hundreds, whereas before, armed with swords and spears, they could kill only a few. The people there are caught in the trap of a civil war and are fleeing in huge numbers into Ethiopia, where there are now a quarter of a million of them in camps. They are also fleeing in great numbers to the outskirts of Khartoum. Those of us who have witnessed the situation have seen them surviving on rubbish tips and being given the least possible help from the Government of Sudan, who are concerned that, if they offer help, more refugees will follow. No requests have been made to the international community. The problems there are of major importance and should be among our highest priorities.
I welcome the agreement with the International Red Cross, whereby it can operate in areas of conflict in relieving the breakdown of all normal conditions. However, we know that access to the area is still not secure and the International Red Cross has been unable to undertake any surveys of need there. When it does, the results will be devastating. We need to be ready to respond urgently to the terrible conditions of the Dinke people in southern Sudan.
I hope that my final point may be the most helpful, because it was raised by the Foreign Secretary himself. It concerns Cambodia, which I visited at the end of last year, together with the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd). A reappraisal by the Soviet Union and the Vietnamese has led to a substantial reduction in forces. The fact that the Vietnamese troops have moved away from the Thai border has lessened the tension between 611 those countries and the prospects during July for discussions of all elements directly involved are welcome. I hope that the incredible work done by Dr. Mochtar of Indonesia will bear fruit. The role of Prince Sihanouk could be essential as a catalyst for bringing together all Cambodians of good will to end the nightmare of recent years of those people within the country—not least, those in the camps that many of us have seen on the Thai border.
Active diplomacy by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary is needed. I am grateful that he mentioned this matter in his speech and I hope that it means, first, that he will ensure China's involvement in reducing support for the Khmer Rouge in line with the Vietnamese withdrawal, and, secondly, that he will be prepared to convene or reconvene an international conference as co-chairman, as we did in 1954 on the Geneva accord.
When the time is right, and is judged to be right, we shall have a role to play, most urgently to ensure that the disturbing reports of movements of arms from the camps in Thailand and of personnel being selectively sent back into villages within Cambodia cannot be used to see the return of the Khmer Rouge by force of arms. There are many reports now in the international press of the real concern about that prospect.
The prospect of a United Nations peace-keeping force would appear to be bleak. The prospect of Vietnamese withdrawal by 1990 or before seems likely. Therefore, it behoves the international community, particularly Britain and America, to be sure to take active diplomatic action to ensure that there is no prospect of a return of the Khmer Rouge in any other form.
We cannot continue to blame the Vietnamese as they start to make positive moves. I recommend my right hon. Friends in the Foreign Office to change their word processor so that it does not keep churning out the same message. Bearing in mind the economic problems of that country, the desire to end the debilitating exodus of refugees and their problems throughout the world, especially in Hong Kong, the European Community should make common cause in anticipating the circumstances of changes in the policy of aid to both Kampuchea and Vietnam and in ensuring that the conditions that we have set are fulfilled. We must discuss in advance the internal response to evolving events as recommended by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.
I have great respect for my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I know from contacts that I have had since 1982 that our role in diplomatic channels is out of all proportion to our economic power. However, in the issues that I have tried to deal with in such a short time we have an important role to play. If we start to obtain settlements in those areas, they may be the bricks with which we can start to build the international community that the right hon. member for Leeds, East mentioned in his peroration.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
As the representative of the largest Pakistani community in Britain, I wish to refer briefly to two early-day motions that I tabled recently. The first, early-day motion 1239, headed "Democracy in Pakistan", called for free, fair and impartial elections to be held in Pakistan and for those elections to be conducted on a party-political basis. It also 612 urged the immediate release of all political prisoners held in Pakistan. In response to that motion, the Pakistan ambassador in London wrote to me saying:As regards the release of political prisoners, to the best of my knowledge there is not a single political prisoner in Pakistan. There are however some politicians who are serving prison sentences because of the criminal acts for which they were convicted by courts of law.The campaign for democratic rights in Pakistan has produced a list of the names of 823 political prisoners who are now held in Pakistan. I hope that the Minister of State will agree to pass that list to the Pakistan ambassador in London so that he can forward it to his Government. Certainly I hope that the British Government will also continue to support representations being made to the Government of Pakistan about the denial of human rights and the other matters set out in my early-day motion.
The second early-day motion is 1246, headed "Diplomatic Service", which calls for the Consular Fees (Amendment) Order 1988 to be revoked. That may seem a strange thing to do, but the order increases visa settlement fees for those wishing to enter this country from £50 to £60 and, more important, imposes that charge for every applicant, whereas previously it was a charge in respect of each passport. It means, therefore, that in future a mother with three or four children will have to pay £60 per person, whereas previously that was not the case.
That situation must be recalled when the Prime Minister stands at the Dispatch Box and expresses concern about divided Jewish families and those Jews who are anxiously awaiting visas to leave Russia. Yet it is the policy of her Government to prevent. Asian women and children from being united with their husbands and fathers in this country. We have from the Prime Minister and this Goverment compassion for Jews and indifference to Asians wanting to come into this country.
Many people, of all political parties and of no political party, are deeply angry that our Government are now spending less of this country's total wealth on aid and development. Instead of playing around with identity cards to curb young hooligans, many of whom reflect the naked and nasty nationalism that is the badge of Thatcherism, why do we not try to give our young people some new sense of purpose, some new perspectives on foreign countries and the people who live in those countries, by providing more opportunities for voluntary service overseas?
A great many British people are ashamed and angry that the British Government are one of the biggest arms salesmen in today's conflict-torn world. It is wrong that Britain should be supplying weapons to both sides in the seven-year-long slaughter which is called the Iran-Iraq war. It is wrong that Britain should be supplying arms to all countries on the Indian sub-continent, including Bangladesh, probably the poorest country in the world; to Pakistan and India, both of which have a nuclear capability in a critical region of the world. It is wrong that the desperate desire to cement the special relationship between Britain and America should compel Britain to pursue policies in direct or indirect support for dictatorial regimes that suppress their peoples by force and deny human rights, or forces seeking to overthrow democratically elected Governments.
The British people want Britain's foreign policy to be genuinely independent. They want the people of all countries, including South Africa, to have the right to 613 determine their own destiny. They want to see an end to all military pacts. They want international co-operation, not international conflict. They want the Government and all who serve the Government to observe the rule of law and to tell the truth. We face great difficulties in this regard so long as our backyard, Northern Ireland, is so torn by conflict of every sort. That is why I welcome today's launch of the "time to go" charter, which seeks to bring peace, reconciliation and a genuine political solution to the troubles of Northern Ireland.
No one in his right mind in Britain today thinks that Russia poses a threat to this country. That has been echoed by a number of hon. Members who have spoken in this debate. I should like to join forces with all those who have urged that we should have a regular opportunity to debate foreign affairs in this House, and certainly that such opportunity should be on a more regular basis than has been the case in recent years.
The vast majority of British people, welcoming the efforts of Mr. Gorbachev to lessen the threat of nuclear war, think it mad for us to spend billions of pounds on Trident submarines. Trident should be scrapped now. The money saved should be diverted to building new homes, rebuilding the National Health Service and increasing this country's manufacturing base, which so badly needs help.
Our people want peace, jobs and freedom for themselves and for their brothers and sisters around the world. That should be the purpose of Britain's foreign policy, and I hope very much that that type of foreign policy will be pursued in the not-too-distant future.
§ Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)
I think that all of us hoped that the debate would be longer, so that more hon. Members on both sides of the House could speak. All too frequently so many hon. Members wish to give their views on many important issues. But I shall try to be brief.
I am conscious of time. Last week I attended a conference in the capital of the German Democratic Republic. In a session chaired by the vice-chairman of the Dutch Labour party, Mr. Klaas de Vries, we had the delicious sight of the No. 2 in the Romanian Politburo being ordered to leave the rostrum because he had overtaken a time limit that even the East Germaans thought reasonable for him. That is not a common sight, and I think that we all learned a lesson from it.
It is customary for those who make winding-up speeches to remark that the debate has ranged over a wide area. That is no exaggeration today. It is impossible for me—and, I am sure, for the Minister—to encompass all the issues that have been raised. Many of those issues are very serious. I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) about the inadequate amount of time that the Foreign Secretary spent on the crucial issue of the middle east. I know that he is pressed for time and must put as much as he can into his speech, but it seems remarkable that he should give that subject such an inadequate response—two or three sentences—at a time when the area is in ferment and is so critical a part of world events.
As my hon. Friends the Members for Hillhead and for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) pointed out, there have been important developments recently on which we might have 614 expected a Government view. One of the most important is the statement by Mr. Sharrif on behalf of the PLO, showing a number of crucial movements in the organisation's position on the occupied territories. Considerable dissension has been caused within the ranks of the PLO, but the peace process may have been brought somewhat closer by the clear move towards a position that has been established in the world community and should naturally identify itself at least with progressive elements in Israel. It is sad that the Foreign Secretary did not deal with that.
The European Community has been mentioned by a number of speakers—fleetingly by the Foreign Secretary, because his mistress has spoken before him——
§ Mr. Robertson
The right hon. Lady may confess or accuse in any words that she chooses. The fact is that the Foreign Secretary's real mistress spoke on behalf of the Government, although she did not speak in much detail about the issues on which the questions were put. The Foreign Secretary did not speak about any of them either.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked, clearly and without ambiguity, whether this country would use its veto in the European Council against any imposition of VAT on all the items that are now zero-rated. The lack of an answer yet again shows what the British people can expect when the matter comes before the majority-voting European Council in the future.
We heard little or nothing, either in the statement on the Hanover summit or in the Foreign Secretary's speech, about the impact of the single European market on the bulk of British industry. We are left yet again, after expensive advertising campaigns, with the impression that big Europe will be for big business. That is sad news for those who are involved in small and medium-sized business, as well as for those employed by them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and others mentioned Iraq. It is worth putting on record the sense of outrage at the unspeakable use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in northern Iraq. The world community has undoubtedly been revolted by the scenes, fleetingly brought to our television screens, of the bodies affected by these noxious indefensible gases.
Naturally the Iran-Iraq war has been a subject of considerable anxiety, and the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) and others raised it. It is important to underline the fact that if Iran wants to return to acceptability in the civilised world, there are easy options open to it to show its bona fides. There would be no greater sign to this country of its willingness to rejoin the international community than by doing something about the hostages in Beirut or Mr. Roger Cooper, whom it incarcerated directly in its gaols. Those of us who believe that Iran could again play a major role on the world stage look carefully for signs that it will take giant steps forward.
The right hon. Members for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and for Guildford (Mr. Howell) mentioned the role of the United States of America. Although we tend to get carried away with the developments in the Soviet Union, we should not be diverted from the issues being raised in the American presidential elections. Whoever wins—those of us on this side of the House do not show 615 partisanship, although the Foreign Secretary may squirm and turn, trying to preserve some impartiality—whether President Bush or President Dukakis, he will face massive problems which cannot be dealt with unilaterally. We, together with America's allies elsewhere, are obliged to ensure that multilateral decisions are dealt with properly and adequately.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) dealt with South Africa in some depth. A distinct sense of shame should attach to the British Government after this week's Hanover summit. They may say that sanctions were never raised and that their voice was strong, but we know from the foreign and British press and from everything that has come from the summit that the British Government sought to dilute the strong message that could have gone to Pretoria on the subject of the Sharpeville Six. Any dilution of that message is wholly reprehensible. A bogus system of law is about to be translated into the execution of people who would not even face sentence if they were tried under a decent system of law.
Afghanistan was mentioned and the question about the Pakistan Government's failure to adhere to the Geneva agreement on supplying arms to the Mujahideen. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who has a deep interest in the matter, asked about Kampuchea, and we look forward to the Minister telling the House the glad tidings that, in the light of the exodus of Vietnamese troops from Kampuchea in September, the British Government will for the first time refuse to vote in the credentials committee of the United Nations for the coalition that includes the barbarous and murderous regime of Pol Pot. That would be a symbol of the Government's intention to act independently of the super-power politics that keeps that small country in oblivion.
The debate has inevitably been dominated by today's events in Moscow. The changes in the Soviet Union and their impact on the rest of the world have been profound. There is no doubt that the East-West relationship affects all parts of the globe, whether it be the middle east, eastern Europe, the Gulf, South Africa or even Ethiopia about which the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) spoke so authoritatively. They are all touched by the ideological and military confrontation between East and West, so any movement will ease many of the problems.
The hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) mentioned the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the development of relations between the Soviet Union and Britain. Those of us who have watched the Soviet Union, sometimes there and sometimes through meetings with people here, have witnessed dramatic changes in the attitudes of people there. Their conduct has been moderated and revolutionised. In Moscow this week we are seeing something which has almost totally transformed the situation yet again.
In February 1986, I went to the 27th congress of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. That was radical enough. Being one of the first non-Communist observers sitting in on a Communist party congress was peculiar, new and unique. I said on British television that it reminded me of the Conservative party conference, except that in Moscow they have done away with the cult of the personality. Those of us who sat through the congress can 616 watch the television pictures coming from Moscow this week and see something that is different, radical and original, and yet still full of risks.
Like the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, I do not believe that we should be patronising or that we should attempt to lecture the Soviet Union. We should encourage the process of openness and restructuring which, as it revitalises the Soviet Union, will reduce tension in the world. We hope that things will develop.
The most direct consequence of the easing of tension in the world and of changes in the Soviet Union is in arms control. Lord Carrington, who I notice lost his peerage in the Foreign Secretary's opening speech—that probably indicates that the Foreign Secretary knows something that we do not—retires as Secretary-General of NATO this evening. In an interview in The Times today, he says:It takes much too long to get the NATO act together. We have been slow, slow, too slow. Somehow or other we have let it be thought that arms proposals which were all our idea were Gorbachev's initiatives. In fact, everything that has been achieved was first suggested by the West. That is a failure on our part.Those words carry substance. authority and the ring of truth.
There is nothing in the NATO act today that suggests that it is getting it together. What on earth is going on in the NATO posture in so many areas of arms control today? The modernisation of weapons is a concept which was dreamt up at Montebello in Canada, and it is now being interpreted, reinterpreted and battled over in the North Atlantic Alliance.
Mr. Carlucci, the American Defence Secretary, in a rare moment of candour, which the British Government do not usually share, is reported as saying at the end of April:The meeting"—the NATO meeting—had also endorsed the development of a new air-launched missile and a successor to the Lance battlefield missile in West Germany.My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) spoke with considerable authority about this matter. There are 88 Lance missiles—short-range battlefield weapons—in allied control. The Soviet Union with its Frog and Scud missiles has a 14:1 advantage over NATO forces in such weapons, but an offer by the Soviet Union in a third zero completely to eliminate all such short-range battlefield nuclear weapons was rejected out of hand by the West and more emphatically by the Prime Minister of this country. That has created tremors within the Alliance, as Germany has every interest in these weapons being thrown out and is aggravated by the Prime Minister's stance. Not only do we give the Soviet Union a propaganda advantage, because it has said that it will eliminate the weapons systems, but we lose the opportunity to get rid of a weapons system that everybody knows is much too dangerous.
The news contained in this week's Jane's Defence Weekly was cited by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East. General Kirk, chief of the United States air force in Europe, said that 51 FB111 bombers will be reconfigured as F111G bombers carrying air-launched cruise missiles capable of striking all the targets in the Soviet Union—and more—that were covered by the cruise and Pershing missiles eliminated by the valuable INF treaty of which the Government are so proud.
On the conventional side, the offer made in Moscow, which the Foreign Secretary mentioned in his opening 617 speech, has gained only limited approval in the West, despite the fact that its component parts—the exchange of data, followed by unilateral reductions in asymmetry and imbalances in forces, followed by negotiated and equal reductions in those forces, followed by a restructuring and reposturing of forces on the central front—are precisely the ideas put forward so often and so regularly by the West in practically every one of the forums to which we had access.
At a conference that I attended in East Berlin last week, I spoke to Mr. Georgy Arbatov, of the Institute of US and Canadian Studies and a close confidant of Mr. Gorbachev. When I asked him about the offer, he said, "It is genuine. Just test us." The Foreign Secretary should take note of that message, and it is the message that should go out from the House.
Our relationships with the super-powers extend beyond that. Even with our allies, we must be concerned about what is going on. Extra-territoriality is not a word that trips easily off the lips, yet the extra-territoriality of American laws, which extends throughout the world, gives due cause for concern, even to the friends of the United States. The COCOM system is one that people increasingly believe is not being used to starve the Soviet Union of strategic goods that could assist its defence effort but rather as a form of techno-nationalism on the part of the United States. That is worrying, and there must be no collusion in it by the British Government.
Also worrying are some of the attitudes adopted by the Americans in pursuing people who fall foul of their commercial export law. Mr. Brian Butcher and Mr. Clifford Chandwick were arrested last month at Rome airport. Both those British citizens were arrested by United States agents and are now incarcerated in Italian gaols. Their case must send shivers down the spines of many business men involved in activities in which American law is radically different from the laws operating in this country.
We should not take it lying down; we should react when British citizens are being arrested in friendly European Community countries. I do not believe that it is right to be sanguine when agents of a foreign power—albeit a friendly foreign power—stand around on street corners enticing British citizens and British business men into acting in such a way that they can be arrested and subjected to laws with which we do not agree and that we would not tolerate in this country.
I shall ask the Minister some brief questions about that case. Have the Italians offered to repatriate the two business men and subject them to British law? Secondly, did this near-kidnapping violate any agreement between Britain and America to declare the targeting of citizens who are suspected of breaking particular laws? Have the Americans ever applied for the extradition of Mr. Butcher or Mr. Clifford Chandwick? If not, we must and will draw the obvious conclusions.
This has been a long debate covering a wide range of issues. Such debates are rare events these days in this Parliament; they should be held more often. Inevitably, we have to cover too wide a range of diverse issues in a short space of time. Foreign affairs should be given much more time.
618 What do we discover about Britain's foreign policy from the Ministers who address us in these debates? Sadly, very little. We hear a lot of bluster and glowing notions of an exaggerated British influence in a world in which Britain, through this Government, all too often refuses to play a constructive role. But there is a role for us in the institutions in which we still have a voice. We can be a force for reason, balance and enlightenment in the United Nations, the European Community, NATO and the Commonwealth. Britain needs to speak out in these organisations—it rarely does—to ensure that the new era in world relations is consolidated and strengthened. The sooner it does so, the better for all of us.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)
As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said, we have had an interesting debate. As always, the value of almost every contribution has been high and the range of subjects broad. The conduct of foreign affairs frequently stimulates advice from every quarter. We may not always agree with what colleagues say in the House, but we always listen.
The debate has ranged from the middle east to Cambodia, from the Soviet Union to southern Africa. May I say at the beginning how much I welcomed the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) about the work of the IPU. The work done by hon. Members through the IPU is an excellent foundation for building up the necessary relationships on which greater understanding is based and which can often help us through some of the more difficult misunderstandings that Government to Government relationships sometimes cause.
§ Mr. Michael Marshall
As my right hon. Friend is aware, I had to cut short my remarks and could not touch on the relationship between the British group of the IPU and the Government. The interest that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and his ministerial team and officials take is a key part of the way in which the organisation can work.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I thank my hon. Friend for saying so. We derive great value from doing that.
Because the complex changes in the world happen all too slowly, we should be cautious about rushing to conclusions. Nevertheless, by any standards, there have been some momentous developments since our foreign affairs debate last year. In addition to the notable first visits between Moscow and Washington, the most momentous happening has undoubtedly been the signature and ratification of the INF treaty which, for the first time, will abolish an entire category of nuclear weapons.
We have also made considerable progress on the strategic arms reductions, as well as gaining signs of movement on conventional arms control, which, as my right hon. and learned Friend said earlier, is at the heart of western European security. At long last we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union's eight-year occupation of Afghanistan.
In large measure these positive signs are the fruit of policies pursued consistently by Britain and the West. We have not tacked, nor have we been steered by the prevailing wind, nor have we rewritten our policies every 619 time we met an obstacle. For us, the security of western Europe is paramount, yet we have succeeded at once in maintaining that security, in building up good relations with the Soviet Union and in cutting back on arms levels. The Opposition, by contrast, would sacrifice the unity of the western Alliance for the unity of their party, which I find sad. They would sooner dismantle our own defences than upset the trade unions. That is a strange way to run a foreign policy.
I shall not speak at length about the European Community. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reported on the Hanover summit earlier this afternoon. We have worked, and shall continue to work, for the prosperity of Britain and Europe. During the past six months, enormous progress has been made towards realising our objective of creating a single market by the end of 1992. We gained agreement on mutual recognition of qualifications that will open up new job opportunities throughout the Community. We have an agreement at last to abolish lorry quotas that have been a block on trade for years. We have an agreement to allow the free movement of capital throughout the Community. I hope that Opposition Members will note that the rest of Europe, of whatever political persuasion, has willingly followed the lead set by this Government in liberalising capital movements in our first term.
We have set an agenda for European work next year. Again, it is a practical realisable agenda seeking progress on issues such as the further opening-up of financial services, the further liberalisation of transport and greater openness of public purchasing. Those measures will benefit not just our companies but our people by creating further growth and new jobs.
At the beginning of the debate, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) made an unusual speech, to say the least. I said that I was always ready to listen, but today the right hon. Gentleman tested my patience and probably the patience of many other hon. Members. I will not follow his line of argument because I shall cover the points that he made with others on similar subjects. However, he did raise one matter about which I should like to put a direct answer on the record. He spoke in quite exceptionable terms about the events in Gibraltar in March. I shall say no more than a single paragraph about this.
The preliminary hearing in respect of the inquest into the deaths on 6 March of the three IRA terrorists will open text Monday, 4 July, in Gibraltar. It will be held between the coroner and counsel, without a jury, and will address procedural matters only. We expect it, and it alone, to set the date for the main inquest. We hope that that will be held as soon as possible. Until the inquest is completed, it remains inappropriate to comment further on the events surrounding the deaths of the three terrorists.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I understand that the hon. Gentleman was not able to speak in the debate. However, my time is very short, so perhaps he will allow me to get on to other matters.
By contrast, the House really enjoyed the contribution of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). How much he is missed from the Opposition Front Bench. We were delighted to see him back in our debates today. 620 In giving him that warm welcome back, I should say that it was great to have the most interesting speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). Both spoke with wisdom and sincerity about the dramatic changes taking place in the Soviet Union.
It is clear that the Soviet party conference is a real landmark in the Gorbachev reform process. We are watching the progress of that conference with great interest and welcome the thrust of the attempts to move the Soviet Union in a more liberal, efficient and humane direction. However, the task of bringing about such political and economic change in the Soviet Union remains enormous and the time scale for noticeable results will be long. We have noted Mr. Gorbachev's bold proposals For constitutional reform. We want to see whether the conference will endorse them.
It is not for us to interfere in Soviet internal affairs, but any measures which tend towards greater freedom and prosperity for the Soviet people and which reduce the total grip of the Communist party on Soviet life are naturally to be welcomed. At the same time, let us be in no doubt that what Mr. Gorbachev seems to have in mind is not democracy as we know it, or anything like it. He wants to reduce the party's abuse of power but retain it as the sole effective political force. There can be no popular choice in such a system. The House must remember, above all, that Mr. Gorbachev is not a social democrat. His inspiration is Lenin, not Limehouse.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) mentioned human rights in the Soviet Union. Although progress has been made, much more needs to be done. We must continue pushing for an end to human rights abuses in the Soviet Union and for people to be allowed to leave. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman was concerned about that matter.
Many hon. Members have commented on the INF treaty. It is a good agreement, a triumph for Alliance solidarity and for the strategy of negotiating from strength. There will be assymmetrical reductions because it involves a set pattern for similar reductions that will be needed in other arms control negotiations. Stringent verification provisions are a good precedent for future negotiations. It is the first agreement to result in a reduction of nuclear weapons.
I noted what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said about his reading of Jane's Defence Weekly. The hon. Member for Hamilton repeated those remarks. There is no question of circumventing the INF agreement, and nor will there be. I shall look again at what the right hon. Gentleman said and at Jane's Defence Weekly.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Lady is presumably in touch with the Secretary of State for Defence. The statement made by the general commanding American forces in Britain was quite unequivocal. He will receive over 50 F111 aircraft modified to take between two and four cruise missiles, which would mean that there would be many more air-carried cruise missiles based in Britain than there were to have been land-based cruise missiles before the INF agreement. Circumvention may mean anything to somebody briefed by a Foreign Office official. We want to know whether the Government have agreed to receive those aircraft, as stated by the American general.
§ Mrs. Chalker
That is why I said that I would look into what was written in Jane's Defence Weekly and come back to the right hon. Gentleman. There is no question of us circumventing the INF agreement.
We are not and never have been in the business of building up nuclear weapons. Our determination, through NATO, is to maintain minimum nuclear stockpiles such as are necessary for credible and effective deterrence. Beyond that we shall not go. NATO has agreed that the measures necessary to ensure effective deterrence will be taken on a step-by-step basis. No decisions about modernisation measures as they affect United Kingdom forces have yet been taken. At the same time, we note that, as the hon. Member for Hamilton rightly said, Soviet modernisation continues at speed. He gave the figures for Frog and the SS1 replacements for Frog.
We must never forget that our gravest concern is the conventional imbalance in Europe. The Warsaw pact is ahead of us in manpower—4 million men compared with our 3 million. It is ahead of us in tanks by a ratio of 3:1. It has a 3:1 advantage in artillery and a 2:1 advantage in aircraft. As long as that remains, we must ensure that we carry through all treaties in the interests of the defence of this nation and the West.
We often hear about the INF treaty being based on the acceptance of our zero option. Yes, it is a breakthrough in weapons reduction, but I find the Opposition version of zero option quaint. We would have the zero, but the Russians would have the option. They would take the missiles and we would have to take to the hills. That is about as good as the Opposition zero option.
We want, and are working for, a comprehensive, verifiable and worldwide ban on chemical weapons, and that is a priority both for us and for NATO. We know that, by working actively in the negotiations in Geneva, we shall eventually succeed, but we have always realised that, sadly, early agreement is unlikely.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup asked me about UNESCO. We are following with close attention the work under the new Director-General Mr. Mayor. His attempts to achieve the necessary reforms have to be reviewed before we can reconsider our membership of UNESCO. I assure my right hon. Friend that we are following most closely and with great interest the steps that are being taken.
The right hon. Member for Gorton made a valuable analysis of the middle east, with hardly a word of which I would have disagreed. The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) also spoke about the middle east, with considerable understanding, as did many hon. Members. It is important that the parties face up to the political reality. That means giving up outdated maximalist claims and recognising the need for mutal compromise—words that the hon. Member for Dundee, East used. We need an end to violence and to repression in the occupied territories. Israel needs to recognise that security will come not from the barrel of a gun but from peace with her neighbours. Time is on no one's side and as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has often said, we shall not give up working towards the peace process. We shall explore all avenues of progress on what is clearly recognised as the best basis: "land for peace", an international conference and pursuing the United States initiative.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East asked a specific question about the PLO and its role in the peace process, 622 and the hon. Member for Hamilton asked me about Mr. Sharrif's statement. I understand that the PLO has not yet endorsed that statement, but we shall be waiting to see what happens. As we watch the PLO policies and actions closely, we are encouraged by its recent moderate-sounding paper. We look for this to be confirmed not just in words but in deeds. Until then, the House will not expect Ministers to meet the PLO, and the PLO cannot expect to play a constructive role in the peace talks. We have to take every opportunity to bring about peace.
I shall now say a few words about the vexed subject of South Africa. The hon. Member for Hamilton was wrong about the discussions that we have had about the Sharpeville Six—I was present at the ones in Luxembourg. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said this afternoon that if the legal processes do not work in overturning the death sentences, an appeal for clemency will be made. We shall take every pragmatic and realistic step to try not only to bring about the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners but to find a way to get the necessary dialogue, without the violence, that can bring about a non-racial, representative system of government.
I will have to reply to other points in the debate by letter. For example, the hon. Member for Hamilton raised a point about Mr. Butcher and I know that he saw my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary this morning.
Debates such as this show us, every time that we are lucky enough to have one, that the world is a complicated place. Our foreign policy has to advance British interests against a shifting pattern of events. It is no good hoping, as many seem to, that things will change to our advantage. They will not. We have to do our best to ensure that changes will go in a positive direction. That means sticking to the principles, forging the alliances, building up, year in and year out, a solid framework of relationships and creating a secure western Europe from which we can view with confidence any development in the EC, the middle east, southern Africa, between East and West, wherever we are working.
As the Toronto economic summit showed, the economic policies that we have espoused have become acknowledged as the right way forward in the world, and this decade of hard work has transformed the country and others' perceptions of us. For many years, the values that we upheld have also been on the defensive around the world. That is no longer the case. We have used our strength in Europe and the Western Alliance and we now need to use our strength to help the developing countries, to bring peace and reconciliation, the chances of freedom and justice and real democracy in other parts of the world which today, sadly, still lack it.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is not a complaint against anyone present, but it will have been noticed by the Chair that there were a number of Conservative Members who were not called and a number of others who, very unselfishly, truncated their speeches. I speak for a number of my hon. Friends who had wished to speak.
This is not a matter of complaint against anyone who participated, but perhaps the House will bear in mind some figures. For one of these rare debates, we had 319 623 minutes. Of those, 125 minutes went to the Front Benches, 90 minutes to four Privy Councillors and 103 minutes to 10 rather unselfish Back Benchers.
This is the point of order. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, draw to the attention of the Leader of the House and of Mr. Speaker and your colleagues the fact that these foreign affairs debates are far too rare and that they are sui generic in the sense that they are not normally on the party political agenda as such? Surely, for the honour of Parliament, they should be a little more frequent. I hope that those figures will be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will realise that certainly the latter part of his remarks were addressed more to the Leader of the House than to the Chair, but his earlier point gives me the opportunity to say that I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House who were not called in the debate—many of whom sat through most of it—will echo the hon. Gentleman's remarks. At present, the Chair has no power to limit the length of speeches. The remedy is in the hands of the House, if it wishes to exercise that remedy. There is, of course, a motion on the Order Paper in that regard at present.