HL Deb 17 October 1984 vol 455 cc977-9
Lord Chelwood

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have noted President Reagan's view that the 1945 Yalta agreement does not suggest consent for the division of Europe into spheres of influence and by implication that the 1975 Helsinki Accord does not alter this, and whether this is also the view of Her Majesty's Government and of our partners in the European Community.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, we have never endorsed the division of Europe. We have sought peacefully and in a long-term perspective to build on the common traditions and history which are shared by the countries of Eastern and Western Europe; an aim which is wholly compatible with the political commitments recorded in the Yalta Protocols and the Helsinki Final Act. We are confident that none of our partners in the Ten would accept that either the Yalta Protocols or the Helsinki Final Act endorsed the division of Europe into spheres of influence.

Lord Chelwood

My Lords, I am indeed grateful for that reply. May I ask my noble friend whether he does not feel that the export of the Marxist-Leninist system to the formerly independent countries of East and Central Europe has had the dual effect, first, of denying them the self-determination to which they are entitled and which they were promised at Yalta; secondly, and equally important, of failing to give the Soviet Union the security on their western frontier which they naturally seek and to which they are entitled? Does this not really mean that the free, NATO countries should be rethinking their strategy in the hope that the day will come when the Soviet Union will realise that unless peace is based on carrying out their Yalta promises, there is very little prospect of it?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I agree that there is some disappointment that the Soviet authorities have not carried out certain of their commitments with regard to the countries of Eastern Europe. Indeed, that has been the position of successive British Governments and has been made publicly known on many occasions. However, I do not think that that would be a reason for throwing the Yalta Protocol overboard; on the contrary, I think it means that we should try harder.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, while agreeing, of course, that there was no question at Yalta of dividing Europe into "spheres of influence", would the Government not agree that, even given that the conclusions of that conference were not actually binding on anybody, the existing frontiers in Eastern Europe were at least de facto recognised at Helsinki by the West, if not in any way legally?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I believe that the position as described by the noble Lord is the correct one—but there have been a good few discussions since the Yalta Protocols at the end of the last war. The noble Lord is quite right to say that the Yalta Protocols were not a formal international agreement.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, should we not now he going beyond these particular points, interesting though they are? Is the Minister aware that we welcome the fact that the Foreign Secretary has invited Mr. Gromyko to this country and that he will be visiting Britain next year? Is he aware also that we welcome the initiatives taken by our Western allies in an effort to improve relations between East and West? While we now have to await the result of the American presidential election, will Her Majesty's Government continue to urge the present and future American administration to work towards détente?

Lord Trefgarne

No, my Lords, I do not think that American administration needs any urging from us to move in that direction, but they will of course enjoy any support that we can give.

Lord Saint Oswald

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend the Minister for his reply, may I ask him to carry a little further forward his response to my noble friend's original Question? Can he give an assurance that the view of Her Majesty's Government, in the knowledge of the appalling results of the Yalta agreement, is that no British Government could conceive of setting the seal of the British people to such an agreement in the future?

Lord Trefgarne

No, my Lords, I do not think that I could agree with my noble friend in that. Indeed, many of the aspirations which emerged from the Yalta Protocol were confirmed and underlined in the Helsinki Final Act of at least 20 years after the Yalta Protocol was arrived at. We are trying very hard to ensure that the Soviet Union live up to the undertakings they gave at Helsinki at that time—not least at the Madrid review conference of a couple of years ago.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, how do the Government feel about the renewed emphasis by the Kohl Government in Germany on the possibility of German re-unification as a long-term aim?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, our view is that real and permanent stability in Europe will be difficult to achieve so long as the German nation remains divided against its will.

Lord Chelwood

My Lords, so that it will be on the record—and I shall be very brief—may I ask my noble friend whether he is aware that on 17th August President Reagan committed his Government to pressing for full compliance with the Yalta agreement; and specifically its stipulation on free elections? Is it not a fact also that President Mitterrand has positively committed his Government to follow similar policies? Do both those positions reflect the position of Her Majesty's Government?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, as for the French position—particularly flowing from the Yalta Protocol—I believe it is true to say that President de Gaulle was not at that time involved in the Yalta Conference and always took a distinctive view, which has continued to be reflected in French policy. But President Mitterrand has emphasised the need to move carefully and with full preparation, in lowering barriers between Eastern and Western Europe.

As for President Reagan's remarks of some months ago, they were part of a long speech referring in particular to the Polish situation, and the Government are broadly in accord with what the president said.

Back to