§ 2.45 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the reaction of the British representatives at the meeting last week of the Council of Ministers of NATO Governments, to the proposal by Denmark to consider the eligibility of the Greek Government for membership on the grounds of its repudiation of the NATO Charter.]993
My Lords, proceedings at meetings of the NATO Council of Ministers are confidential. It is our firm policy, however, that the security of the Western Alliance, in which Greece plays a very important part, should not be jeopardised. The Greek Government have not repudiated the North Atlantic Treaty.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for that reply, may I ask whether it is not the case that both Denmark and Norway have repeatedly raised this question at the Council of Ministers, and have been brushed aside? Is it not the case that the North Atlantic Assembly has expressed great concern about this issue? In view of the fact that the preamble to the Treaty of the Charter is dedicated to democracy and individual freedom, and that Article 2 makes the commitment to strengthening free institutions, is it not a mockery that Greece, with its present record, should be a member of NATO?
My Lords, I do not think I can add to what I said with regard to the meetings of the Council of Ministers; namely, that they are confidential. Of course Her Majesty's Government would like to see democratic Governments in all countries; and the Greek Government know that we look forward to the restoration of democracy in their country. But it is not for us to tell them how to manage their internal affairs.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, is it not the case that there has been martial law in Greece now for four and a half years, and that the only advance towards democracy is the present election of an Advisory Committee by 0.24 per cent. of the population? Is not there evidence of the torture of political prisoners, as indicated by the record of Lady Fleming?
My Lords, the points which the noble Lord has brought forward may or may not be true, but in the belief of Her Majesty's Government this would not alter the fact that NATO has a very important part to play, and that Greece has an important part to play in NATO.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, is it not true that the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance exists for the defence of 994 democracy? Is it not true, also, that the Parliamentarians at the North Atlantic Assembly have not been prepared to allow Greece to attend a North Atlantic Assembly for the last three years?
My Lords, I think it would be true to say that the NATO Alliance is there for the military protection of the West. The fact that the North Atlantic Assembly has met and passed various resolutions is, of course, a indication of the feelings of those people who are members of the North Atlantic Assembly. But they do not bind any government.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, while taking the point that Greece is an important member of the North Atlantic Alliance, and of course that the collapse of that Alliance might lead to losses of freedom even worse than that which is taking place in Greece at the moment—although that is bad enough—can the noble Earl give the House an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will not lag behind other members of NATO in attempting to bring pressure on the régime in Greece to return to a democratic form of government?
My Lords, the Greek Government know full well what our position is, which is that we look forward to an early return to a more democratic Government. Further than that, I could not go.
§ LORD ST. HELENS
My Lords, would not my noble friend agree that NATO is primarily a military alliance and that all the senior military advisers and commanders arc wholehearted in their demand that Greece should remain the linchpin in the Eastern frontier?
My Lords, I entirely agree with what my noble friend has said, that Greece forms a very important part of the NATO Alliance.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, does not this rather isolated small island need as many allies as possible in the world, without particular regard to their local politics?
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, what kind of an ally and what kind of a partner in NATO? In a repressed country, with very great disruption, and where the armed forces have been very largely purged during the last few years, what asset does the noble Lord really think the armed forces represent to the NATO alliance?
My Lords, Greece has a very important part to play in NATO as one of the countries that form the Alliance, and if Greece were removed from this, it would have a deleterious effect on the security of the West.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he will reconsider either now or at some later stage —but preferably now—an answer in which he appeared to give support to a suggestion that this country should find its allies anywhere and that it might find them without regard to their internal political arrangements?
My Lords, if I gave wholehearted support to that suggestion, I would certainly withdraw it. The inference that I had intended should be drawn was that Her Maejsty's Government wished to have allies, and has allies, including the Greek people. But it is not up to Her Majesty's Government to interfere with the internal political workings of another country.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, would not the Minister agree that the claimed basis of NATO is to defend democracy and freedom? Is not the inclusion of such a Government as Greece one of the reasons why there is disllusionment and scepticism felt by the youth of this country in politicians and in politics?
My Lords, I do not think that that is so. People may be disillusioned by politicians for a variety of reasons, but we have to carry out our commitments in the best way we can, and this country has great friendships with the Greek people. We wish to keep those friendships.