HL Deb 30 March 1981 vol 419 cc1-3
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 whether they will report on progress made at the Madrid Conference on European Security and Co-operation to extend human rights, expand economic co-operation and ensure a European Disarmament Conference.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the Madrid Review Meeting is in its final stages. It is too early to forecast the outcome, but I hope it will be possible to reach agreement on a number of substantive measures in the fields of European security, human rights, freedom of movement, information and family reunification.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that optimistic estimate. Is it not the case that this conference has been meeting for six months, with failure up to the present time? Has that not largely been due to recriminations between the two power blocs? Was it not saved by the non-aligned nations, when there was controversy over the dissidents of the Soviet Union—a legitimate protest—and will the Government do their utmost now to secure at least acceptance of the French proposal for a European disarmament conference to extend the confidence- building measures, in view of the fact that President Brezhnev has said that he is prepared to expand supervision over the whole of Soviet Europe extending 1,600 miles, instead of the 160 miles that now obtains?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I would not accept the noble Lord's description of the non-aligned countries as the saviours of this conference. It has, indeed, been a long and difficult one, but one of the reasons for that was initial Russian reluctance to discuss the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act in the period since the last review conference. As for the French proposal, it is true that the Soviets have accepted at least one part of that proposal—indeed, only one part of that proposal. However, the proposal itself consists of at least four elements, all of which are necessary to form a credible whole, and it remains to be seen whether the Soviets will accept the whole of that proposal.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

My Lords, may I put two queries to the Minister? First, will he consider issuing, when the conference is over, a statement including verbatim reports of the speeches made by the leading delegates and identical to or similar to the statements in the White Paper which we issued in 1978 after the Belgrade conference? I leave that query for the noble Lord to go into. Secondly, on the question of disarmament and the French proposal, is the noble Lord aware that there is a very firmly-held opinion—and it is, I think, a bipartisan opinion—that any advance on the French proposal, while welcome in itself, should not prejudice whatever success awaits us in Vienna and Geneva, and certainly not in the SALT talks, which everybody hopes will be resumed as soon as possible?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I most certainly agree that the negotiations to which the noble Lord refers, and which are being held in Geneva and Vienna, as well as the SALT process itself, are separate from the Helsinki review conference which is now reaching its final stages. But I think that the French proposal, as a whole, is likely to be the most important outcome of this Madrid conference.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, is there now some reason to suppose that the Soviet Government will agree to the international supervision of manoeuvres right up to the Urals?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that remains to be seen. But I have to confess that, going on past performance, the prospects are not good.

Lord Segal

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether Poland is represented at the Madrid Conference on European Security and by whom?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, Poland is represented, but I do not know the name of its representative.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, is not verification the difficulty about the French proposal? Is it not the case that the Soviet Union has fulfilled its obligations under the present agreement to inform the West of its manoeuvres? Will the Government do everything they can to encourage the non-aligned nations, which are now seeking to save the conference, as—despite what the Minister said—they saved it before?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the French proposal envisages, initially, the negotiation of what are called militarily significant, verifiable and binding confidence-building measures applying to the whole of Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals. It is this last point, of the geographical extent of these measures, that the Soviets appear to have initially accepted, but the other three aspects of the proposal are apparently still being considered by them.

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