HL Deb 06 November 1980 vol 414 cc1047-9

2.50 p.m.


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 whether they will make a statement after the visit of the Foreign Secretary to Hungary and to Poland, and of the Minister of State to the German Democratic Republic, and what conclusions they have drawn in respect of the United Kingdom's and the EEC's political and commercial relations with these countries.


My Lords, I had useful talks with the Hungarian and Polish Foreign Ministers and with the top leaders in both countries. Mr. Blaker's visit to the German Democratic Republic concludes today. I hope these discussions will strengthen our political and commercial relations with these countries.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. While being the first to agree that interference in the domestic affairs of the formerly independent countries of Eastern and Central Europe is to be deplored, is it not, none the less, a mistake to underestimate the influence of the democracies in trying to bring forward the happy day when a greater measure of national independence can be enjoyed, with which one hopes more personal freedom and more democratic institutions would march?

Secondly, and rather more importantly, may I ask my noble friend whether I am entirely correct in saying that we and our allies have every right and reason to use our influence to these ends, and that we are not inhibited from doing so by any treaty arrangements or other agreements, secret or public?


My Lords, I think it very important that we should not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. If any of us start to do so, it may be that some others will. The sort of visit which I paid to Hungary and Poland and that my honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs is paying to Germany, in itself has an effect in influencing, creating and developing understanding between countries of different political philosophies. There is certainly no treaty which prevents that.


Is it not a fact, my Lords, that the timely visit of the Secretary of State was warmly welcomed by the Governments concerned?


My Lords, it was not only warmly welcomed; I was invited there. I do not think that I should have been invited if I had not been welcome.


My Lords, may I ask the Foreign Secretary, now that he has happily and safely returned to the United Kingdom, since the question not only refers to commercial relations but to political relations, whether he can indicate whether those political relations have been improved, and in what direction? Can he also give us an assurance, if he does not mind my asking this further question, that he has not been indoctrinated?


My Lords, having sat in this House now for a great number of years with the noble Lord and not having yet been indoctrinated by him, I can assure him that it will take more than four days in Hungary and Poland to change my views about certain matters. The political issues which were discussed between Poland and ourselves and Hungary and ourselves were of course the obvious matters of East-West relations, détente and disarmament, which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, mentioned earlier today. Though it would be perhaps an exaggeration to say that we were agreed about these matters—although there were some points of agreement—there is no doubt that the very fact that one talks frankly about these things leads to a greater understanding of other people's positions. I do not think that one ought to underestimate the usefulness which visits of this kind have.


My Lords, could the Foreign Secretary indicate to us whether he is able, through these visits, also to help our allies to get a certain amount of information—or is this question too indiscreet to be answered?


My Lords, if the noble Lord is asking me whether I let our allies know what happened, indeed I did. Yesterday I was in Luxembourg, at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Ten, because the Greeks were also there. I told them, of course, what went on.