Those who have attended many foreign affairs debates in this House will know how difficult it is to prevent a general review of foreign affairs from becoming a kind of Cook's tour. I will try to avoid that in favour of making this debate an opportunity to look at the world scene as a whole and to examine the strategy of British foreign policy as it is conducted from the Foreign Office on behalf of our country and in the partnerships and alliances of which we are a part.
In recent years, there have been some profound changes in the pattern of postwar international relations. The monolithic Communist bloc has definitely split; a series of treaties which go to make up the West German Government's Ostpolitik have been signed and the two Germanies will soon be independent countries and members of the United Nations; the United States has signed an agreement with the Soviet Union for a ceiling on the number of anti-ballistic missiles, which could be the first sign of a turndown in the escalating graph of money spent on nuclear arms; the European Economic Community has been expanded and has not only an ambitious economic programme but is also seeking among the members concerned the maximum consensus in European foreign policy; China has taken her seat at the United Nations and emerged from isolation and, although essentially what I might call a do it yourself society, is ready to make some significant com- mercial deals with other countries, including Britain, for the first time; all the countries of Europe, Albania excepted, with the United States and Canada are preparing for a conference on security and co-operation in Europe, which could be held in the middle of next year; and for the first time—an event in itself—members of the Warsaw Pact and the NATO Alliance will be joined on the platform by the neutrals and nonaligned of the European continent.
At the same time, we and a number of other allied Governments have issued invitations to the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries to join us in exploratory discussions on the question of mutual and balanced force reductions. These discussions could begin at the end of January, and negotiations could follow later in the year.
Certainly, the international situation is more fluid than it has been for many a day, and if the political will is there on either side of the frontiers which have so far divided east from west, and where there has so long been a confrontation of fear between one part of Europe and the other, perhaps the situation could be changed into something more hopeful for our successors than the world most of us have known.
It must be said at the start of any analysis of the possibilities that declarations of an intention to live at peace do not bring détente. Some feel that it is enough to talk and all will be well. Certainly, talk and dialogue are the right approach. But it would be easy and dangerous at the same time to be too sanguine about the prospects for genuine détente opened up by preparations for a conference on security and co-operation in Europe and the possibility of talks on force reductions. It is right to remind the House of the scale of the problems involved in the relaxing of tension in Europe between the two alliances. I wanted to give a few sobering facts and figures about the military situation in Central Europe.
Defence expenditure among the Warsaw Pact countries continues to increase. For example, Soviet defence expenditure has risen by 5 per cent. annually over the past five years. Defence expenditure in the West has been virtually static since 1968. The Warsaw Pact forces continue to increase in size and capability, and there has been no slackening at all over the past year. It is worth remembering that the Russians' resources are such that they have been able to reinforce their troops on the Chinese border to a considerable extent, as I shall show, without any diminution of the level of their forces in Eastern Europe.
In terms of men and equipment, the following figures may be of interest and significance. On the central front, the Warsaw Pact has at present twice as many divisions as NATO, and they are all either armoured or highly mechanised. This point should not be obscured by the fact that Warsaw Pact divisions are smaller than NATO ones. The Warsaw Pact has roughly two and a half times as many battle tanks as NATO—some 13,000 as opposed to about 5,000. The Warsaw Pact has roughly twice as much artillery as NATO—some 4,000 weapons as opposed to about 2,000.
Nor need we delude ourselves about possible shortcomings in the technical performance of Warsaw Pact equipment or ability of the troops. Their equipment is new and plentiful. It is of interest in this context to note, for example, that whereas about two-thirds of British expenditure on our forces is on pay and conditions and one-third is on equipment, the ratio for the Russian forces is exactly the other way around. The Warsaw Pact troops are also well trained. We must remember that, in addition to their superiority in numbers, the Warsaw Pact front line forces can be reinforced speedily over short land routes from the Soviet Union, whereas American reinforcements must cross 3,000 miles of the Atlantic.
The Warsaw Pact, therefore, has an enormous advantage in the speed with which its forces can be built up from peacetime levels. This only serves to increase the disparities to which I have already referred. I do not give these figures to the House to suggest that we should not try to reach a decision on mutual and balanced force reductions. It would be an enormous advantage to everybody if we possibly could. I quote them to show how difficult it will be to find a mutual balance in terms of reduced forces and their equipment which does not put the West at a serious disadvantage.
I think that at this time, when we are going into these two conferences, it is as well to have these facts, and it is necessary, therefore, to go into this matter in the greatest depth in the hope of finding an answer which will lead to mutual reduction but observing the principle of undiminished security.
The conference on security and cooperation in Europe may reveal more promising avenues for co-operation. The conference would, of course, be useless if it became simply an exercise in propaganda. If the end product were simply vague declarations of intent to co-exist, that would not be enough. As we approach it, therefore, we must strive for several things. We must strive for an agenda where all the questions which the West would like to ask, and all the questions the Soviet Union and her allies would like to ask, can be properly raised at the conference and none vetoed.
The next thing we shall have to do when the preparation and the agenda are complete, and we come to the meeting of Foreign Ministers, will be to identify from the speeches of the 34 Foreign Ministers who will be present at the opening meeting areas of policy which it could be profitable to explore and exploit in the interests of both West and East. It is important that these should subsequently be processed by officials, working under no pressure from time or public opinion, in committees and subcommittees set up to deal with items of common interest.
One item—an increased flow of people, ideas and information—would be a valuable step forward; a step towards better relationships and understanding.
Without false hope, but with determination, we intend to do all we can to end this pointless and debilitating confrontation between East and West. These two conferences are at least an opportunity to start.
I spoke just now of the division of the Communist world which from my observation is partly but marginally doctrinal. The Chinese ask why there are 1 million Soviet troops on their frontier divided between 300,000 on the Mongolian frontier and 700,000 on the frontier with China, together with tactical nuclear weapons. That fear is reciprocated on the Russian side by reason of China's numbers. This is not a situation in which anybody can take any joy at all. I can, however, record our real satisfaction that China has voluntarily ended her self-imposed exile in favour of international contact and co-operation. Lately in Peking I was able to discuss without reserve the Chinese and British attitude to the problems of the modern world. On some we agree and on some we differ, as for example on our policies towards India and Bangladesh which the Chinese thought were wrong. I could not convince them that we were right. But the chances of misunderstanding, as a result of those conversations, are undoubtedly much reduced. The visit gave a proof that two countries with totally different philosophies and with different political systems can find substantial areas of common ground and agreement.
We have started with some promising action in the field of trade. We must not be too ambitious. At present, China is essentially a do-it-yourself society. They do not believe in credit. They have limited foreign exchange to spare. What we have achieved in a short time, and some of the ideas we have in prospect, are already well worth while.
This development of our relations with Peking is not, I would like to make clear at once, aimed at any other power and certainly not at the Soviet Union.
Is the Foreign Secretary proposing that there should be a trade agreement between this country and China?
That should come later, but we are beginning now with individual contracts for various things which the Chinese want. That is the best way to begin, rather modestly, and then work to a trade agreement. I have no objection to this, but I do not think the Chinese want a trade agreement at this moment. This may come.
I read this morning that the Germans were in Peking in order to sign a trade agreement for 1st January 1973 when the Commission in Brussels will take over responsibility for all trade agreements. Is it not, therefore, the case that after 1st January 1973 we shall not be in a position to conclude a separate trade agreement but that the Commission will do it for us?
I was saying that the development of our relations with Peking is not aimed at any other power, and certainly not at the Soviet Union. We should like nothing better than to see a similar improvement there.
We shall operate to get the trade agreement through the machinery of the Community.
Our desire is to live with the Soviet Union, not in the sterile sense of negative co-existence as they define it but in the spirit of mutual tolerance and respect which the modern world requires. I hope that this thought may find a ready ear in Moscow.
On the strategic level of foreign policy and Europe, friendship with the United States and partnership with the United States in NATO is of cardinal importance to our approach on foreign policy and security affairs. So is partnership in Europe. But they are not incompatible. The American President has often welcomed the concept of the expanded Community. At the summit meeting a few weeks ago, prominence was given to the intention and the need in the words of the communique:
to maintain a constructive dialogue with the United States, Japan, Canada and other industrialised trade partners in a forthcoming spirit, using the most appropriate methods".
I must emphasise that as being an enormously important exercise which will have to be carried out for the rest of this year and in 1973. These methods will clearly he of supreme importance to all because the enlarged Community, together with these three countries, commands some 60 per cent. of the world's trade.
Britain enters the European partnership on 1st January. I will not rehearse the arguments which have crossed and recrossed the Floor of this House for so many months past. The expanded Community should result in greatly increased economic strength for all the partners over the years, but, as I have told the House quite often before, the strongest attraction for me in the partnership has been in the main political. Twice in my lifetime wars have originated in so-called civilised Western Europe. A partnership is the best insurance that that cannot happen again. I believe, too, that it presents the most likely scenario in which to create a new pattern of relations with Eastern Europe and Soviet Union.
There are confrontations in the world so stubborn that nobody has yet been able to find a solution. I am glad to say that I need not now put the dispute between Pakistan and India over the frontiers between the two countries into that category. With the recent agreement on the line of control in Kashmir, the future of Indo-Pakistani relations looks more hopeful. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite will realise how important this agreement is in the context of the whole Simla agreement. The way is now open for the fulfilment of other parts of the Simla agreement. The time must surely come when Pakistan and Bangladesh recognise each other. It would certainly be to the advantage of both countries that this should happen. We have told each that we will put our good offices at their disposal, if that will help the establishment of normal relations.
Would the right hon. Gentleman consider, if he has not done so already, using all the good offices of Her Majesty's Government to make approaches to the Indian Government and an appeal to them on humanitarian grounds to release the remaining Pakistan prisoners of war whom they have in prison, remembering that Pakistan has now released all her Indian prisoners?
I believe it is better to leave the two countries to settle their own affairs. They succeeded with the frontier. I hope they will succeed with the prisoners, which is a more emotional subject.
I was turning for a moment to the continent of Africa. Here the choice is clear. It is reconciliation or confrontation; evolution or revolution. The choice must be made by those who live there. Our policy, in so far as we have influence, will be directed towards evolutionary change and towards reconciliation—national, racial, tribal and social. I am particularly pleased that our relations with Nigeria are on a happier basis and I am looking forward greatly to visiting that country early next year.
Yes, that is so, and it applied to the relationship between the then Conservative Opposition and the Government of Nigeria. We strongly supported the Nigerian Government when they were in great difficulties in their civil war. What I mean to say was that relations seemed to be getting better all the time, which is what we desire.
The situation in the Middle East continues to give grave concern to us all. We believe that it is necessary to bring to an end, if possible with international help, the dangerous cycle of violence and reprisal which has characterised the Middle East dispute, particularly in recent months. Nobody has thought of any better way than to implement the Security Council Resolution 242, with all its faults. We believe we shall never get anything like unanimity on anything else. It provides a framework within which contacts can be made at any time with third parties who are anxious to assist towards reconciliation.
The stubborn repetition of entrenched positions does not allow of optimism, but there have been some changes. The Egyptians have introduced a new element into the situation by dispensing with their Soviet military advisers. This presents an opportunity, which we hope will not he lost, for a fresh look at the possibilities of a solution. This is surely something of which Israel should take account.
The American presidential elections are now over and President Nixon has said that he attaches high priority to the need for a settlement of the Middle East problem.
Finally, I have been encouraged by the way in which the members of the European Economic Community have found it possible not only to work together in their consultations but to vote together during the debate in New York. I welcome the evidence of an increasingly close co-ordination of European policy in this difficult area.
I should like to deal with one other Mediterranean problem in a short paragraph or two. Britain's attitude to a settlement of Spain's claim to sovereignty over Gibraltar is explicitly stated in the preamble to the Gibraltar Constitution Order in Council which governs our relations with Gibraltar. We have said in that preamble that we will not concede sovereignty against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar. That pledge stands. There is no question of abandoning or diluting such an assurance.
There should not be a quarrel between Spain and Gibraltar or between Spain and Britain. A glance at the map is enough to show that in due time Spain should be part of the increasingly integrated European system, when the necessary conditions for partnership are fulfilled in Spain. Therefore, contact and dialogue must be right. However hard the problem may be, we must continue to discuss and work together to try to find the basis for an agreement on Gibraltar acceptable to all concerned. The programme of continuing talks on this matter was supported by the previous Gibraltar Government and is supported by the present Gibraltar Government.
We have in this century seen a changing pattern of political relationships with others which has been profound. At the start of the century we were the greatest power in the world in command of an Empire. By the 1920s we had begun the process of decolonisation which led to the Ottawa Declaration of a Commonwealth of independent nations. Inevitably, as it expanded to include African and Asian countries, it became a looser association, though the modern Commonwealth is a more ambitious concept than the old Commonwealth.
Can the Commonwealth survive or will the differing points of view of the world's problems weaken it so seriously that it will fall apart? I believe that it will meetings of Commonwealth officials or of finance and trade ministers there is al-of interest which can hold us together and give depth and meaning to the association.
I have noticed over the years that at break if any of us choose to yield to the temptation to interfere in the internal affairs of another country. But given that tolerance, there are common bonds ways much common ground and the Commonwealth representatives go away with a sense of achievement and the satisfaction of knowing that they have a wide identity of views which can make an impact on the wider international scene.
The secret of holding the partnership together is to concentrate on those things which we can agree and to leave aside those things which seem to divide us. If we take this positive practical approach we shall find much ground on which to work together. Nobody can say as yet whether we shall succeed, but if we can continue to talk and to act in many ways across the barriers of race, colour and religion—matters which raise the emotions so high—we shall have set an example in smooth transition from the old world to the new. The former will have to adjust many values. The latter will have to accept that colonialism is finished. I hope that this bogey can be got out of their system. We are willing to persevere as a leading member of the Commonwealth to make the modern association a success.
On the question of Commonwealth bonds, the Foreign Secretary will know that this afternoon at Question Time the Prime Minister revealed that it was wrong to believe that the Australians and New Zealanders were going to withdraw troops from the Five-Power agreement in the Far East. Many of us found this a surprising statement in view of the undertakings which had been given, particularly by Mr. Gough Whitlam. It is the first that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation knew of any going back on what we believed to be a commitment by the incoming government of Australia. Will the Foreign Secretary clear up this matter and tell the House the facts?
The facts or the prospects for the future can be cleared up only by the respective Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand. I do not think Mr. Whitlam has said in public that he will withdraw. Therefore, we had better wait to see what interpretation he puts in action afterwards on the words he used before the election.
I have done my best to give a broad review of the main themes of strategic foreign policy, some examples of how in 1973 we shall act on them and an idea of what might come out of some of the conferences in which we participate. The European alliance co-ordinated with friendship with the United States is not in the least incompatible. On the contrary, we can build on these alliances in helping towards a more peaceful world.
Will the Foreign Secretary put one point on record? When he said that the frontier between India and Pakistan was not in dispute, will he bear in mind that Indian forces occupy 5,000 square miles of Pakistani territory and on the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir the Simla Agreement said that the cease-fire of 17th December 1971 would be recognised by both sides, without prejudice to the recognised position of either side? In other words, it remains at least to one party to this question an issue of international dispute which is still before the United Nations.
My hon. Friend rightly records the point of view of one party to this dispute, but the fact remains that in the last week or so the two parties have decided to act on one particular difficulty on the frontier line which was facing them only a few weeks ago and which then looked insoluble. This must be a satisfactory advance.
There are not many of us who now remember 1914. I remember it vividly and remember Sir Edward Grey saying:
The lamps are going out all over Europe, We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.
That proved to be horribly true. I believe that they are now beginning to light and turn up again. Perhaps Europe, twice in a generation the cause of untold misery on a world scale, may now redeem itself by its example, so that we, among others, will be intent on peace which will lead the world to happier ways.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary rose to speak at 4.21 p.m., and he has been very generous in giving way to the interruptions of hon. Members. Having been brought up under the Attlee regime, since we are in a reminiscent mood, I do not believe that longer speeches are necessarily the best. Nevertheless, I think that the right hon. Gentleman could have trespassed on our time a little more without our feeling weary of his presence.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of important topics. In a debate of this sort I accept the difficulty of choosing what to discuss. When I look at the list of possibilities and try to focus on two or three of them, I realise that it is far too long since we had our last foreign affairs debate. It is in fact 13 months. When we consider the attitude of the country at large or, if it is not unfair to judge, the attendance in the House today, perhaps that is a fair representation of the comparative disinterest there is in foreign affairs. But it is unfortunate, if it is so, that we should be as inward looking as we seem to be in so many matters today. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, there are such events happening in the world around us with which our fortunes are bound up that this House ought to give a lead—and the lead can come from here—in drawing the attention of the people in the country at large to what is taking place and what responsibilities we have.
As it is 13 months since our last debate, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that we should not allow such a long time to elapse before the next one. I believe that we should aim to have at least two foreign affairs debates during a Session. We might have one next Easter, in the late spring or the early summer. I say that because I am in some difficulty in selecting points to discuss. There are many issues which ought to be covered. But certainly they will not be covered by me, otherwise I shall be guilty of trespassing on the time of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman began by speaking about Europe and the EEC. I do not intend to weary the House with another long discussion on that subject. We have had many of them, and I dare say that we shall have many more.
The right hon. Gentleman said that to him the strongest attraction of the Community was the political one. Without wishing to be insulting, I wonder whether he really thought that through before saying it. If he did, why did not he take us into his confidence about what he meant by this political link and by the new attraction that the Community has? Those who consider these matters are very concerned about what it means. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has missed a chance to tell us what he thinks that it means.
Let us be clear about our commitment. After the decision of the European Community Summit on 19th to 21st October, we are committed to "a European union". Those were the words used in the final paragraph of the communiqué. What does that mean, and what do the Government think that it means? Whatever may be thought at the nature of the bargain that the Government struck with the EEC over agricultural commodities, the export of capital, or that kind of economic and important issue, it is time that the Government started to take us into their confidence about the kind of Europe that they expect to see arising out of a European union.
The Government have already subscribed to a monetary and an economic union. They have said that they have put their hand to the conclusion of such a union by 1980. A monetary and economic union is the end of national sovereignty unless we are to have a vast bureaucracy, irresponsible and unaccountable to anyone. I do not think that there is any dispute about that on either side of the House. Therefore it is logical for the Heads of Government meeting together and for the pro-Europeans, having secured the objective of an economic and a monetary union, to drive on and to say, "Now we must have a political union. Now we must strengthen the European Parliament so that it controls the European Government"—whatever form that may take.
That is the inevitable logic, but it is not a logic to which I subscribe although apparently the Government do. If they do not, I do not know what the term "European union" means in the context of the Community and, as we have not debated the matter since the Heads of Government met, it would have been helpful if the right hon. Gentleman had taken a little longer to explain exactly what is in the Government's mind.
I want to say to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary as strongly as I can that he may be in favour of a European union with a European Parliament having all power deriving from that European monetary and economic union in which we shall have deliberately given up the power to control economic decisions and our monetary affairs. He and the Government may be in favour of that. But I promise him that the people are not. What is more—and this is where the Government will come up against this issue time after time—I think that, when they bring Regulations to Parliament from the European Commission, they will find that they stub their toes against difficult Members on both sides of the House. They have found that twice recently, once on immigration rules and once in the debate that we had about heavy lorries.
What are the Government proposing to do about this? It is not good enough for them to allow matters to drift along in the way that they are without thrashing out what the Government mean. If they are ready to subordinate the country's national sovereignty, they should say so quite clearly and they should tell the people so. I believe that it would be a profound mistake. Instinctively I feel it to be wrong. I believe strongly that the creation of a new super State in Europe which will subtract from the authority of this Parliament will be deeply and bitterly resented by the people.
I understand the continental Socialists and members of other parties in some of the continental countries being willing to surrender the powers of their parliaments to a European Parliament. I say without disrespect that some of their parliaments do not have very long histories or very deep traditions. They were not born out of struggle and civil war as this Parliament was. They do not have the traditions, or the links with the people, or the roots deep in the heart of their countries. Some of the parliaments are very new. I understand why Members of Parliament and the people in those countries have such regard for these relatively new institutions. But this Parliament is different. I notice the Patronage Secretary smiling. However this is a most serious argument. He has to get his supporters into the Division Lobby from time to time. He will find it increasingly difficult to do so if it is felt that decisions are being taken over the head of this Parliament.
I believe that a great divide will come over the next few years if the Government pursue this course between those who prefer to see powers surrendered to a European Parliament with a European Government—a European union, as it is called—and those who prefer to see a Europe which develops not as a super State but as a very important and significant meeting of sovereign nations discussing their mutual problems and from time to time surrendering such part of their sovereignty as they are willing freely to concede, but reserving their right at all times to say, "No".
I say to all the pro-Marketeers, on whichever side of the House that they sit, that if they follow that line there is a prospect for Europe. If they follow the line of a European union and try to carry the people headlong, pell mell into an economic and monetary union they will set back the course of political unity.
I believe that it would have been more valuable if the Foreign Secretary had spent some time spelling out to us what the Government think is the proper development, if indeed they know. I sometimes wonder whether in these matters the Government are just drifting along hoping against hope that the issues will not become too pointed before they have to make up thier minds about some of them. We shall face this issue. All hon. Members know that what I am saying is true.
I turn to the EEC's relations with the United States. All of us must be concerned about the dangerous tendencies that are at work. There is no doubt that the attempts to build a unified monetary and economic policy in Europe will lead to dangerous tensions with the United States. Already bitterness is growing. Already the United States feel—they have a right to feel this way considering the attitude of the French Government, for example, over the last decade—that any combination of monetary policy by European nations will be directed against their own currency, the dollar. I believe that this will cause damage to relations between the EEC and the United States. Tension between these two groups will be bad for the future prospects of peace. I do not believe that it is possible to be fighting a trading or monetary war with the United States and to have them as allies in other spheres. I beg the Foreign Secretary to try to insist that the EEC, in its relations with the United States, endeavours to understand some of the problems that that country has carried certainly since the war.
I recognise, as hon. Members will clearly have seen, the existence of the EEC. I cannot do anything else. It is there. January 1st will be a very historic day.
Historic days can be sad and sad days can be historic.
I think that the bargain the Government struck was very poor. They should have fought much harder. However, I do not wish to go over all that again. We have had debates on this matter time after time, and no doubt we shall have more. I do not want to take up the whole of this debate rediscussing that matter. It would be a weariness of the flesh to do so. We all have our opinions about it.
January 1st will be an historic day which will begin to transform our relations with Europe in many ways, including one to which I shall return and about which I asked the Foreign Secretary during the course of his speech—namely, the quite extraordinary developments which have not yet been fully understood here.
Turning to our relations with the USSR, I had the good fortune to visit that country during the summer months. I was fortunate to meet a number of Soviet Ministers and senior members of the Communist Party Secretariat while I was there. I must report to the House that I came back with the impression that our relations were extremely frosty. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) said that he had been to Russia about a year ago and found that relations were quite good. Of course, he did not meet people in official circles; he met private persons. In fact, relations between the British and Russian Governments are distinctly frosty and need to be improved. They arise from the expulsion of Soviet diplomats or spies a year ago and from a lack of interest on our part in trading relations and the types of trading that the USSR prefers.
A year ago the Foreign Secretary told us that he had expelled the Soviet diplomats or spies to improve USSR relations. His expulsion has had no such effect. Relations between this country and the USSR are still bad.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said in the debate a year ago—I am not here to hold inquests on everything, but to look ahead—we should have handled this matter in the way in which the United States, who had a far bigger quota of so-called diplomats than we had, handled the matter, or, indeed, as the French handled the matter. That was the view that he expressed and I repeat it. I am going on to say what has been the consequence and to point out certain unwelcome developments of which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen had better take note.
First, there has been a lack of interest on the part not only of a number of our trading firms but of the Government in developing trading relations with the USSR. It is high time that the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office put more thrust behind this matter than they have done so far.
Our trade has been stagnant for the last three years. Exports have been stationary; imports have also been pretty stationary. Whereas we were the Soviet Union's No. 1 trading partner in the West, we are now No. 3 behind Germany and Japan. There is a great gap to be filled.
The Russians told me that although they recognised that there were obstacles to the development of good relations because of the differences in social systems and ideology, their experience with other countries demonstrated that this was not necessarily an obstacle to either good political or trading relations and they felt that we had failed to take advantage of the opportunities that were offered.
Under an agreement made between the Labour Government and the Soviet Union there were supposed to be meetings on technological developments. Those meetings have lapsed, to our misfortune.
However, France is pressing ahead. At the time when we were expelling the diplomats or spies, France was entering into a new 10-year trading agreement with the USSR. In October 1971 a 10-year programme was entered into for the joint use of raw materials, equipment and machinery. Agreements have been made between the French and the Russians which are now being carried out in advanced spheres of industry and technology, nuclear power and engineering, the exploration of outer space, the exploitation of oil resources, computer techniques and telecommunications. France has good and developing trading relations with the USSR at a time when we are falling away and when our balance of payments situation is rapidly slipping into deficit.
It is not only France. The United States agreement with the USSR, concluded last May between President Nixon and Soviet representatives, must be fresh in everyone's mind. There have since been two sessions of the trading mission, a shipping agreement has been concluded, and customs tariffs and most favoured nation agreements have also been made between the USSR and the USA. There is an agreement between those two great countries to treble their trade in the next three years. There is Soviet-American co-operation in building industrial projects. A joint group has been set up to co-operate on the working of natural gas deposits in the Soviet Union.
There has been a most important political agreement between Germany and the USSR, preceded by substantial interchange between German businessmen, technicians and engineers and those on the Soviet side, and there is an extremely rapidly developing trade between the two countries.
Before coming to the question of China, I should like to add another point. The French agreement provided for regular decisions on trade matters by a mixed inter-governmental commission which takes them beyond 1980, the date when, according to Her Majesty's Government and other Governments, we are to have a full economic and monetary union in Europe.
I must be forgiven if I do not take all this very seriously. I think that the Foreign Secretary owes it to the House to explain some of the discrepancies and the various divergences that exist in European policies. From 1st January 1973 the Commission will take over responsibility for all trade negotiations with Communist countries. The Foreign Secretary went to China, they talked about aircraft, and they played the Eton boating song ad nauseam, but did he raise the question of trade agreements with China.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am not jealous of his having had the Eton boating song played for him.—[Interruption.]
I did not think that it was not in order to refer to the playing of the Eton boating song.
I pass over that lapse in the right hon. Gentleman's education and come to the central point. He was in China in October. Why did he not raise the question of a trading agreement? The Germans are there today. This is most important, and extremely
significant, because the relevant Commission document says:
…the Six agreed that all non-Member countries desiring to negotiate a trade agreement with the Community must deal with the Commission rather than with the Six member states individually. Until the end of 1972, however, a member state will be allowed to conclude bilateral trade agreements …
There are 17 days left in which to do that. The document goes on to say:
After January 1, 1973, all trade negotiations with non-Community countries will have to be conducted by the Commission.
What has the Foreign Secretary been doing? Why did he not raise the matter? Why is it that a mission has not been sent there hot-foot? Or does the right hon. Gentleman think that the Germans do not know their business, or that it is not worth their while going? Does he think that they have made a grave mistake? Or is it that the Foreign Office has shown a complete lack of interest in these matters because it is so intent on negotiating our entry into the EEC on disadvantageous terms? This is true in many fields. We have allowed many opportunities to slip through our grasp because of the Government's singled-eye vision of the EEC project.
This is a most important matter. I think that there was a little ellipsis in what the right hon. Gentleman said. He did not say anything inaccurate, but I do not think that he fully brought out the point and I should like him to correct me if I state it inaccurately. As I understand it after 1st January 1973 the British Government will not be able to conclude a trade agreement with China. After 1st January 1973 it will be for the Commission to conduct negotiations on our behalf with China for a trade agreement. That is such an important statement that if it is inaccurate it ought to be corrected. The right hon. Gentleman does not appear to want to intervene. The Government have until 9.30 p.m. to see what excuse they can come up with. This is a terrible lapse on the part of the Foreign Secretary. He went there but he failed to raise this matter or to get any undertakings at all about what should be done. It is a failure of which the Germans and the French have not failed to take advantage.
When I returned from the USSR I was able to bring back information about the kind of trade agreements that had been made with the Japanese. I brought back details of the timber agreement with the USSR to exploit their forestry products in Siberia. There is an agreement with the West Germans to establish a high pressure polyethelyene plant—a project first offered to ICI who turned it down. There might have been a good reason for doing so but, ICI having turned it down, the West Germans found it valuable. A cellulose pulp plant is being constructed by the French. I brought back an outline of projects being considered in the USSR in which they told me British firms might be interested. These include a fertiliser plant, the exploitation of nickel deposits, the exploitation of rich copper deposits in the Chita region of Siberia, and the supply of machine tools and a truck plant on the Kamaz River.
As soon as I returned I passed all that information to the Department of Trade and Industry. I received a polite acknowledgment, but I have heard nothing since. What has happened? What is the Foreign Office doing about these matters? What is the Department of Trade and Industry doing? It is not as though we are floating comfortably on a balance of payments surplus of £1,000 million. During the next couple of years we are going to be very much put to it to maintain a satisfactory position. We shall talk not about a floating £ but about a sinking £, and it will go on sinking.
I know that there are certain cold-war warriors on the benches opposite who, for political reason say that we cannot take advantages of opportunities for developing trade with Russia. If they are as blind as that I assure them that the cold-war warriors in the United States, in West Germany, in France or anywhere else will not have the slightest hesitation in stepping into their shoes. It is about time that we woke up on some of these matters and started to get our trading relations with the USSR into some kind of shape again.
The Labour Government did their best to encourage good trade relations, but things have been allowed to slide. One thing for which both Governments must accept responsibility is the inadequacy of our political relationships with the USSR on the parliamentary side. I hope to go to the Foreign Secretary with cer- tain proposals which we can discuss on an all-party basis to see whether some improvement can be made. If the will exists these things can be done while, at the same time, maintaining our stance which is fully understood in the USSR. They understand it because they have to deal with other countries on a similar basis.
I intervene because the right hon. Gentleman looked at me when he referred to cold-war warriors. I cannot understand why. Is it not a strange commentary on the predicament of the Labour Party that within 17 days of our entering the Community its official spokesman can do nothing but get up at the Dispatch Box and castigate the Community while inviting the House to conclude a palsy-walsy agreement with the USSR?
Yes. Like the Germans, the Americans and the French have done. I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is extremely shortsighted about this. He ought to try to avoid allowing his prejudices to stand in the way of Britain's real interests. What I am doing is castigating the Government for allowing a number of opportunities to slip through their hands. The situation arose out of the expulsion of the spies, but there has been no real attempt to try to repair the breaches that existed at that time. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite must be feeling uncomfortable at this recital of facts. There is no difference between the Soviet Union's attitude towards this country and her attitude towards Germany, France, the United States or any other member of NATO, and I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite to get that into their thick heads.
The SALT agreement is worth a few minutes attention from the House. There is now agreement on the limitation on anti-ballistic missiles and therefore on defensive weapons for an unlimited period. New anti-ballistic missiles are confined to two sites, one around the capital city in each country—Moscow and Washington—and the other around one inter-continental ballistic missile site. This is a significant agreement. It ratifies the concept of mutual deterrence through the ability of either side to inflict unacceptable damage on the other, but civilian populations are, if anything, put at greater risk than they were before.
Indeed, the day after the agreement was announced the Secretary of State for Defence in the United States indicated that they were not now intending to proceed with the construction of a further ABM protected site in the United States at a particular area. Both countries therefore remain highly vulnerable to the other, and the risks to the civilian population are increased. On the positive side, it must be a gain if no further land based ICBM's are to be constructed, although to offset that submarine-launched missiles can be increased in number.
Basically, therefore, it is fair to sum up an extremely complicated and technical argument by saying that emphasis may shift from quantitative competition to qualitative competition. Anyone who has had to sit in on some of these discussions knows that the qualitative consequences can be just as serious as, if not more so than, the quantitative competition. Now, the accent will shift to accuracy, size and penetration. I welcome the partial stabilisation of numbers, although each country is still left with a capacity for massive overkill, but of course the agreement has by no means slowed down research.
This is worth the attention of the House for a moment. What next in the second round of SALT? Have we a part to play? I suggest that we have, either in that field or in the field of the discussions of MBFRs. The next round could be directly relevant to Europe in general and Britain in particular. In the last round, as I read it, it seems that the Soviet Union was ready to raise the question of forward-based systems, especially aircraft, capable of delivering nuclear weapons from forward positions—they were thinking particularly of the Mediterranean—on to Soviet soil.
They took the view that a strategic weapon was any weapon capable of landing on Soviet soil, even though it came from a relatively short distance. We know also that Soviet intermediate- and medium-range ballistic missiles are targetted on Western Europe. Is there a negotiation to be done here? If the Soviet Union is interested in this, are we? We ought to be. I am sure that we must be. We must be concerned with every means of lessening the tension in this field, but of course we are not in the SALT negotiations at present.
I should like some indication from the Government of how they think our interests in this matter will be looked at. I mean our interests from the point of view of increasing the security of this country and of Western Europe by lessening the area in which missiles are either deployed or can be launched.
A number of years ago, we used to talk about the creation of a nuclear-free zone in Europe. Is this possible to negotiate in round two of SALT? If the Russians are concerned about short-based missiles landing on their soil, and therefore wish to clear them from the Mediterranean or wherever else they may come from, is it possible that some negotions which will no doubt extend over a considerable period, can be effected to try to ensure the reverse also, in which Soviet medium-range and intermediate-range missiles are not targeted on Western Europe?
This seems to be exactly where our interest is involved, and I should like to know the Government's attitude. Do they accept that there is a prospect of discussion in order to try to get further nuclear disarmament in this area? If they do, do they envisage it being conducted in the second round of SALT? If there, surely not by the United States and the USSR alone; surely we ourselves would need a place at the conference table. Or if not there, do they envisage it as being a par! of the discussions which will undoubtedly arise when we get down to talking about mutual balanced force reductions?
But, one way or the other, it should come. In the meantime, in connection with the French position—they would obviously be involved here—I would urge them, as strongly as I can, to listen to the voices of the new Governments in Australia and New Zealand and to postpone or to abandon the nuclear tests that they propose to hold in the Pacific.
There is a number of other issues which can be thrashed out in the second round of SALT, but I will not dwell on them at this stage. I merely comment on the particular interest that Britain could have and the particular advantage that it might be possible to negotiate, as the USSR and the USA have negotiated advantages in the first round of the talks.
On the security conference, more generally, we welcome the fact that the initial difficulties have been overcome. I listened to the wild enthusiasm with which the Foreign Secretary referred to this conference, pouring cold water with a lot of sobering facts. I am always in favour of sobering facts, but if I go into a negotiation, I prefer to do so expecting to get something out of it, and not with the same degree of cordiality that Mr. George Best must feel when invited to appear before the board of Manchester United.
The Foreign Secretary did not give me any impression that he was looking forward to these talks as a means of lessening tension in Europe. I regret this—
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is misinterpreting, no doubt by mistake, what I said. I was relating the facts and figures, rightly I think, in the Warsaw Pact to the MBFR talks, not to the talks on European security and co-operation. This is a distinction which should be made. The title, Conference on European Security and Co-operation, is a misnomer, because the only security matters which might be raised are those which would create confidence, like inspection and movement of troops and so on.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I have never been able to understand the logic of having separate talks—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Russians want them"] I still cannot understand the logic, even if the Russians do want them. But I understand that a number of countries would be involved in the European security conference talks who would not have the same degree of practical interest in the talks on the reduction of weapons, because they are not in either NATO or the Warsaw Pact. I can understand that point, but it has never seemed realistic to me. There are two separate conferences, but the right hon. Gentleman cannot destroy my opinion about the tone in which he spoke of these things. I only wish that he could get some enthusiasm into his voice when approaching this conference.
There are, of course, the cynics and the defeatists, and perhaps the realists or the pessimists, who believe that the purpose of the USSR in approaching these talks is to break up NATO while leaving the Warsaw Pact intact and undisturbed. I do not believe that that calculation would ever come to pass, and if anyone were going into the talks on that basis—if the USSR were—there is no doubt that they would be doomed to disappointment.
The USSR will have hard decisions to take on these matters—on whether, for example, they are willing to withdraw troops from the Warsaw Pact countries and on the consequences which would flow if they did. It will be a matter of very long negotiation, and there must be the growth of much more trust on both sides before there could be a withdrawal of this sort, either of the Russian troops from Warsaw Pact countries or certainly of United States troops from the countries of Western Europe. But we should be ready to negotiate about these things, and we are right to negotiate about them, and I hope that we are entering into this in a realistic spirit.
It would undoubtedly be a tremendous gain to mankind if we could make some advances in this matter. We are looking a very long way ahead now, to the possible dissolution of either the Warsaw Pact or NATO, and I do not think that one will ever precede the other. But it is not too bad to look ahead at the possible consequences of that.
I would hope that, if that ever did happen, we would then be able to consider Europe on a rather broader basis than the Nine are considering it at present. This would all be worth our while and is worth keeping in our minds for the future, but at the moment we had better stick to the reality of NATO as our safeguard while we embark on the negotiations.
The only condition that I would lay down about the talks, and the only test that I would apply, is that we all should feel as safe at the end as we do at the beginning. That may not be saying much, but at least it is saying something. I would feel far less safe if we negotiated ourselves into a position in which there was a completely symmetrical reduction of forces. The emphasis must be on "mutual" and on "balanced". We cannot evade that if we are to do a good job for our own people as well as for the peace of the world.
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the negotiations, would he agree that the security conference could also provide an opportunity for speaking about wider issues, like freedom of movement between East and West, freedom of information and the establishment of machinery for future consultations?
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend about the security conference. There is no doubt that the major moves will be not on what I have been discussing but on the political issues—the giving of guarantees about armed intervention, the trade and economic relations and whether it is possible to link with the USSR's five-year plan. That may well be done on a "Commission to USSR" basis. That is a possibility.
On cultural relations there are certain simple issues, such as the movement of people on a much freer basis than in the past; perhaps, too, the setting up of some permanent machinery in order to try to achieve this, machinery which would carry on once the conference is over.
On that very interesting point, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether that is an issue on which he envisages, as a pre-condition to any meaningful agreement, the denial by the Soviet bloc of the Brezhnev doctrine, which provides for direct armed intervention, if necessary, in the affairs of another Communist state in Eastern Europe?
When I stated the basis on which I thought that this ought to be judged, that is one of the things exactly that I had in mind. I have never believed in unilaterally giving one's position away before negotiating. But I am in favour of negotiating wisely in order to try to obtain mutual advantages which will lessen the tension in what the Foreign Secretary correctly called a much more fluid situation than we have had for many years, and I am glad that this should be so.
I do not find much cordiality in our relations with the Commonwealth at present. The Prime Minister's experience at Singapore soured him about the Commonwealth. There has been little thrust behind our relations with the Commonwealth countries to keep on good terms with them. This is partly a matter of neglect because of our preoccupation with the European Economic Community. We now have an opportunity to begin again. Neither Gough Whitlam nor Norman Kirk are expatriate Englishmen. I have had the good fortune to have known Gough Whitlam—I know him better than Norman Kirk—for about 20 years. He is Australian, first and last, and he will look at all his problems through Australian eyes. But he is instinctively and undoubtedly committed to the maintenance and development of good relations with Britain, and it will be for us to build on those relationships. I believe that we can, knowing the man as I do and knowing the attitude of the Australian Labour Party. But it will not be the old Empire relationship, that of the expatriate Englishman with a nostalgic sentiment for London or the Crown Jewels. It will be that of an up-to-date, broad minded, forward looking, Pacific-oriented Australian. That is the basis on which we can get a good understanding with Australia and New Zealand on these particular matters.
As for Vietnam, hopes have been disappointed. I had read so often that we should be on the verge of an agreement; indeed, last time we were told there would be agreement today. But the bombing continues. It is time that it stopped.
I have one point to make about Vietnam. Amnesty International has brought to our notice the fact that, quite apart from the military prisoners, who are provided for under the 1949 Geneva Convention, at least 200,000 civilians are in prison. Amnesty International has proposed a protocol, which I bring especially to the notice of the Foreign Secretary in case he is unaware of it. It has proposed a protocol to any agreement reached that will provide proper procedures for ensuring that these civilian prisoners are either released or brought to trial in some way, so that they will not be forgotten when the peace is finally concluded and allowed to rot in jails without any charge and with the world having forgotten them.
Vietnam has a tremendous task in front of it. It has lived through terrible times. All of us have a share in the responsibility. I hope that when the peace comes, as I fervently trust that it will, we shall all be willing to help with technical and material aid and financial resources.
I hope that it will not be thought insulting if I pass over the problems of the Middle East, because I have nothing new to say about them. I look forward to a new initiative being taken in the near future.
About the Commonwealth Conference I say only that I believe that, with good preparatory work, if it takes place in seven or eight months' time, it will be the best place in which to discuss the issue of nationality and citizenship among the Prime Ministers who are there assembled—not the issue of immigration, which is our affair. The issue of nationality and citizenship would be a very useful and important subject for them.
On Spain, we told the Foreign Secretary what we thought about his remarks the other day. What he had to say about Gibraltar this afternoon was satisfactory. But we do not believe—nor, apparently does the Prime Minister—that Spain or Portugal should be allowed entry to the EEC so long as their dictatorships continue. If I judge the Prime Minister's answer this afternoon rightly, it was in contradiction to the impression the Foreign Secretary was giving last month.
In Rhodesia, the growth of the apartheid legislation has set back undoubtedly the possibility of an agreement between our two countries. I hope that we shall continue to work for that, but it will be absolutely necessary to bring in the Africans if we are to succeed.
Finally, the United Kingdom and the United Nations. There is general disillusionment. The United Nations was set up to promote peace. It failed to do so. It passes resolutions that are then ignored and, indeed, not taken seriously because 90 countries controlling about 10 per cent. of the world's population pass resolutions that concern the 10 other countries which control 90 per cent. of the population. There is a great wave of disillusionment about the United Nations. But this is not the end. I recommend to the House the study of a new Fabian pamphlet by Evan Luard, who will be remembered by a number of hon. Members, "The United Nations in a New Era." He points out a number of important subjects on which, under real international agreement and attention, we could use the United Nations, not for the purposes for which it was originally established—although obviously I want to see those grow—but to develop its effectiveness and build up its authority. I merely cite examples of narcotics control, an international agency to control the sea bed, a disaster relief organisation, population activities and control, a survey of the world's natural resources—especially materials and fuels—the pollution of seas and oceans, the IDA and the World Bank.
Let me add that one useful thing the United Nations could do on a small scale, but which could be important, especially in view of Northern Ireland and other areas, would be to establish a register of arms sales throughout the world, so that every Government which made an arms sale would be required to register with the United Nations where its arms had gone.
These are not the basic matters which in the 1940s were in the minds of those of us who were talking about the United Nations with great hope. But they are all valuable and important issues for the United Nations to take up. I should like to see a new thrust by the Government to improve our effort on this kind of issue in order to re-establish the United Nations once more as the embryo of a world organisation. This is the answer to those who have always said that unless one supports the EEC lock, stock and barrel, one can only be a narrow nationalist. That is not so. True internationalism lies as much in this direction as in arrangements in Europe.
It is on the basis of the points I have raised that I should like to see the Government proceeding during the next few months.
Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, I am sure that the House will forgive me if I point out that an enormous number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. If we are to avoid many disappointments, I hope that speeches will be short.
—the length of the speech, not that it was too long but that it was too short. This was a most unusual complaint to be made in the House and not one that we can direct against the right hon. Gentleman, in any event.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary referred to his speech as being possibly something in the form of a Cook's tour. In the years I have been a Member of the House, since 1964, I have missed very few foreign affairs debates. I know how extremely difficult it is to cover the world scene without appearing to some extent to make a Cook's tour. May I say to my right hon. Friend that he presented to us a commendably concise brochure which showed that the conduct of British foreign policy is now in wise and firm hands, as we know very well.
I do not intend to pursue the remarks of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. I am sorry that he was so negative about the Common Market. If he genuinely wants to see Europe develop in the way he was suggesting, I should have thought the best way to achieve that would be by participating actively and making sure that the point of view he represents is put forward in Europe.
I intend to confine my speech to an area of the world which I know, the Middle East, and to take up two specific issues. In one, concerning the Gulf, I believe we have a success story to tell and in the other, the conflict between Arabs and Israelis, the situation remains continually unsatisfactory. The Government deserve the highest congratulations for the skill with which they have disengaged from the Gulf and the good relations which have been created with the new States. Anyone familiar with the area knows the difficulties of smoothing some of the problems existing between Saudi Arabia, Iran and some of the smaller Emirates. Here we should remember the great contribution made by Sir William Luce, who was a brilliant negotiator, and I would pay a warm tribute to his efforts and success.
Will the hon. Member agree that perhaps the Government's most remarkable achievement in this matter has been to sound the retreat when they appeared to be giving the order to charge?
In view of what was done and said in the Gulf by the then Minister of Defence and the somersaults of the Labour Government, it is remarkable that the hon. Member should get up and complain about the way the Government handled the situation and the result they have achieved. I hope that Her Majesty's Government can help in solving the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
We cannot record the same satisfaction about the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis. As 1972 draws to a close there is no sign of a settlement being any nearer. No sensible person would question that a settlement is not only in the best interests of all the countries directly involved but is immensely important to the West because it would avoid the ever-present danger of the conflict escalating and posing a serious threat of war with direct confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.
It is particularly to be regretted that there has been no progress because in 1971 and 1972 the most important Arab country involved, Egypt, has frequently shown its willingness and anxiety to reach a settlement. I welcome warmly the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in this regard.
If Egypt has shown such willingness to arrive at a peaceful settlement, will the hon. Member explain why it has not got together with Israel around a conference table, as the whole world would have expected it to do in the circumstances, and arrive at what one would have hoped would have been a reasonable settlement? Certainly—and I am sure that the hon. Member can hardly contradict this—the Israeli Government has not adopted an intransigent attitude towards the possibility of a settlement in the Middle East, which is something the Israeli Government desires beyond all else.
If the hon. Member will bear with me I shall show that the Israeli Government has demonstrated an extremely intransigent attitude, so intransigent that only last week it finally provoked a United Nations resolution, which was approved by 86 votes to seven, sharply criticising Israel for its policies and for its acts in the territories occupied as a result of the six-day war. Among the seven countries to vote against the resolution were Uraguay, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The hon. Member could hardly sustain that these countries add up to a moral consensus or invalidate my contention that Israel's policy of creating faits accomplis in the occupied territories has been generally condemned by the world. It was surprising that the Israeli Government comment, the only one that was made, was that the resolution was a spurious document. That was an arrogant and insensitive comment and does not alter the widespread depth of feeling throughout the world which was genuinely manifest in that resolution.
The most revealing indication of the difference in attitude between Egypt and Israel, to which the hon. Member wanted me to refer, was in the response made to the questionnaire sent in February 1971 by Ambassador Jarring to both countries. It was intended to clarify certain essential points as a step towards peace. He requested from Egypt a commitment to enter into a peace agreement with Israel and to make explicit on a reciprocal basis various undertakings and acknowledgments arising directly or indirectly from the Security Council resolution No. 242 which as the Foreign Secretary rightly said, remains the basis of any settlement in the Middle East.
Egypt complied with the request and on 15th February it notified Ambassador Jarring that it accepted the specific commitments requested from it, as well as other commitments arising directly or indirectly from the Security Council's resolution. Egypt declared its readiness to enter into a peace agreement with Israel and in particular to give commitments concerning the termination of all claims or states of belligerency; respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both parties; respect for and acknowledgment of the right of each of the two parties to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries; the responsibility of each party to do everything within its power to ensure that no act of belligerency or hostility could be committed from its territory which would be directed against the population, the citizens or the property of the other; non-interference in the internal affairs of the other party; liberty of navigation in the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran; acceptance of the stationing of a United Nations peace force at Sharm-el-Sheikh; and demilitarisation of certain areas.
The hon. Member is getting over-excited. I shall come to the question of the Munich murderers. If the hon. Member means the appalling act by the Black September Palestinian group in Munich, that is totally irrelevant to my argument about the Egyptian response to the Jarring questionnaire and it shows that Zionist spokesmen are so emotional on this subject that they are totally incapable of following an argument which is presented logically and calmly. The Israeli response to the Jarring questionnaire did not embody any of the commitments sought. It ignored them completely and on the crucial question of withdrawal from the occupied territories the reply stated bluntly that Israel would not withdraw to the pre-1967 lines.
The questions put by Ambassador Jarring were vital. They were all answered favourably by the Egyptians. The Israelis evaded the questionnaire, they dismissed the questions and they thereby torpedoed the most important and significant initiative to take place in the Middle East since 1967. The difference in reaction reveals very clearly who holds the key to a settlement. Israel holds the key but will not use it unless it is forced to do so. The United States has the power to make Israel use it but is not prepared to exercise that power.
Almost immediately after Mrs. Meir's crude rejection of the Jarring questionnaire the United States announced its intention to supply 12 additional Phantoms to Israel, by any standards a remarkable decision. It is also extraordinary that in July this year the United States failed to make any positive response to President Sadat's dramatic decision to expel the Soviet military advisers from Egypt. It is an incredible fact that the foreign policy of the most powerful nation in the West in a crucial strategic area should be paralysed because of internal political pressures and considerations.
The most recent United Nations resolution, passed only last week, is particularly welcome not only for its substance but also as evidence of a consensus emerging between Britain and other members of the EEC about policy in that area. Britain, France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg all voted for the resolution. I believe that it is good for Europe and important for British interests and for the prospects of peace that the European countries should be seen to be acting together and independently of the United States.
Eventually the United States Government may be compelled, in their own self-interest, to make a radical change of policy. Fairly recently the Director of the State Department's Energy Division predicted that by 1980 at least one-third of the United States' fuel needs will have to be met from the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa. If consumption grew above present forecasts, the proportion could be nearer one-half. He pointed out that the shortfall could not be made good from other sources and that it would be dangerous to rely on the argument that the Arab producing countries had to find an outlet for their oil and therefore could not afford to interrupt or restrict the supply to the United States for political ends. Libya, for example, could already close down production altogether and live on its currency reserves for up to four years. The Director forecast that in the foreseeable future the Arab countries of the Middle East will receive 25 billion dollars a year for their oil and those of North Africa about 7 billion dollars. The immensity of the market for imported goods which those figures foreshadow is obvious. The opportunities for us are therefore immense, as are the potential dangers if we do not grasp them.
A change in the direction of United States policy could come about. It could even come about abruptly. After all, five years ago it would have been difficult to predict the dramatic change of American policy over China. The idea of an American Republican President exchanging toasts with Chou En-lai in Peking would have seemed, to say the last, very bizarre. But that is what has happened, and a similar thing could eventually happen in the Middle East. But until it occurs, Britain and Western Europe must take a lead.
What can be done that will be effective, bearing in mind that the main obstacle to a settlement lies in Israel's retention of Arab territory, and that America alone possesses the means to exert pressure on Israel but will not use it? One step which I hope it may become possible to take is for Her Majesty's Government in association with other European countries to warn Israel that those countries do not and will not accept that the facts which Israel is creating in the occupied territories, including Jerusalm, are irreversible.
Secondly, it should be indicated that we are willing to supply equipment to Arab countries in sufficient quantities and importance for the Soviet Union not to be the only source on which the Arabs can rely.
Thirdly, I hope we shall follow up firmly, again in concert with our European partners, the point so effectively made by Sir Colin Crowe, our representative at the United Nations, in the debate last week, on the return of the new refugees to the West Bank—that is, of the Palestinians displaced in the 1967 war. He said:
I cannot help wondering therefore whether a first step toward a solution to the problem of the Palestine refugees might be an agreement by the Israeli Government to allow back to the West Bank of the Jordan the persons displaced in 1967. As well as being an important humanitarian gesture, such an agreement could prove a vital first step in providing the refugees with a stake in the future, thus reducing the despair which breeds hatred and violence".
and the kind of crazy acts that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) was complaining about.
I believe that those three steps, limited as they are, could encourage the Israeli moderates who wish to see a settlement reached. Mr. Sapir, for instance, could be listed among those. They would show the Arab countries that the Soviet Union is not the only alternative to continuing humiliation, and also would maintain pressure on Israel until the day arrives when the United States is ready to behave responsibly and sensibly in the Middle East. All of that is well worth striving for.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) will forgive me if I do not take up his remarks about the Israeli-Egyptian conflict. But I am sure that the House appreciated his earlier comments about British defence policy in the Middle East, when he congratulated the present Government on their achievement in carrying out the policies of the Labour Government.
One of the difficulties in a foreign affairs debate is the wide range of subjects with which we could deal. I am sure that until my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) questioned the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary earlier, the House was not fully aware that this country would not be able to negotiate or carry out an independent trade agreement with other countries outside the EEC after 1st January.
Wherever we go in Europe we meet politicians of every party who are concerned about the present régime in Greece. I wish that I had time to develop the argument, and I hope that someone else will. It is very important for those who are suffering in Greece that we should not be seen by any of our deeds to bring comfort and aid to a totalitarian régime. I hope that we shall hear something of the Government's attitude in the reply of the Minister winding up the debate.
That was said in passing. The subject with which I want to deal is the British rôle in the Far East. In the middle of October I revisited Singapore and visited Hong Kong. My first reason for going to Singapore was to examine for myself the changes that have taken place there since my last visit, when I took part in the work of the rundown as Minister of Defence for Equipment. I wanted to see the effect of the changes and how they had been implemented. I was also deeply conscious of the prophecies made on all sides that there was a high likelihood of changes of Government in Australia and New Zealand. If these changes came about, it was said, they must undeniably have a major effect on British policy.
I wanted to see what the position was, to re-examine the timing of events and to ask myself how long we were likely to remain. The prophecies that had been made came to pass. There has been a change of Government in both Australia and New Zealand. During my visit to Singapore I was pleased to be able to scrutinise the success of the Labour Government's withdrawal. On my last visit there were 61,000 British troops deployed there. In 1972 the figure was down to a little under 9,000.
The Conservative Party and its supporters had expected a massive declaration of our policies. When the Prime Minister was asked, before the election, whether the budgeting costs of his Far East defence policy were less than £100 million, his reply was, "Well, I am not going to tie myself down to ten-plus or minus £100 million." In the event the planned British withdrawal substantially proceeded. The basic difference today is that a British battalion group, including an air platoon and an artillery battery, remain in Singapore. There is also a rotating detachment of Nimrod aircraft for maritime reconnaisance.
The budgetary cost is nearer £10 million than the £100 million expectations of the Conservative Party. If it is more than £10 million it is probably not more than £15 million. The net extra cost is in the region of £5 million to £10 million. I suppose that this was the military version Mark I of the Prime Minister's now characteristic U-turn.
Why are our remaining forces there? They are in Malaysia and Singapore as part of the Five Power defence arrangements negotiated by the Government. The odd thing is that while the contributions of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are integrated in what is called ANZUK, under the command of a genial Australian admiral, there is little if any evidence of integration between ANZUK forces and the host nations whom they are there to protect. We operate as part of ANZUK but I could not find any real evidence of integration between ANZUK and Malaysia and Singapore. I leave on one side the possibility of integration of the air defence system which I was not able to examine in the time available.
When we were being criticised for our withdrawal policy people spoke about the effect that this would have on Malaysia and Singapore. These two nations are the strangest bedfellows we could expect to see. Singapore has no room to train her growing ground forces yet she is not allowed to use the facilities of her other partner under the Five-Power arrangement. She is not allowed to enter Malaysia. The Malaysians have resisted any attempt to get them to take part in joint exercises with the ANZUK forces. There may be some strength in their argument that they are occupied with anti-terrorist activities but it is strange that they should have refused any invitation to take part in a joint exercise.
Our overflying areas are becoming more and more limited and have to be repeatedly renegotiated. Many years ago I visited the Jungle Warfare School which played such a significant rôle in the training of our forces. We could have expected to have had this facility available for all of the five Powers but it is now the exclusive preserve of Malaysia and we have to exercise mainly in other parts, particularly in the State of Jahore.
Why is this? If we were to withdraw tomorrow from Malaysia there would be very few tears. This is because the Malaysians prefer increased neutrality rather than appearing as an overt pawn of powerful members of an era that has passed. It goes along with the Five-Power arrangements but does not do much more. It prefers a neutral stance.
I concede that the position in Singapore is different. It has a large interest in the continuation of ANZUK. It is watchful of both Malaysia and Singapore. One thing which it has done recently, which will not bring comfort to its friends, is to embark upon the purchase of 48 new and essentially offensive aircraft from America. I am sure that the British Foreign Office when it heard about this must have felt concerned. This escalation will certainly cause anxiety to Singapore's neighbours. The aircraft are due to be delivered in the near future.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman should be emphasising that Singapore has had very good relations with the United Kingdom, not least in the purchase of defence equipment, particularly with regard to the Hunter purchases and the BAC-167 order, both of which were satisfactory. The point is that Singapore could hardly refuse obsolescent American equipment at knock-down prices.
I am not disputing the manner or method of purchase. As one who has striven hard to obtain refurbished Hunters for Singapore, I am conscious of its interest. I wonder whether this will be in the interests of peace in the region. I am confident that this purchase will cause some anxiety to Singapore's neighbours as it will to the Foreign Office.
How long are we likely to remain there? What will happen to the Five-Power defence arrangement negotiated as recently as April 1971? Before the election the Australian Labour Party was pledged to end conscription which it claimed could be done by an administrative minute, without the need for legislation—at a stroke, if I may coin a phrase. That means that the strength of the Australian Army will be reduced from 41,000 to 29,000. The 150 Australian troops in Vietnam will go immediately. Obviously the Australian Government will implement that pledge. When it completes its plan to end conscription its difficulties in maintaining a battalion group in Malaysia and Singapore will be greater.
The Prime Minister in his answers this afternoon seemed to be oblivious of the realities of the situation there. Anyone who has studied the utterances of Mr. Gough Whitlam or Mr. Lance Barnard in the months before the election will be aware of the likelihood of a radical change in Australia's policies. One suspects that will also be so in New Zealand. If there is a radical change of policy in Australia, it is hardly conceivable that New Zealand will not sooner or later follow suit.
Before the election the Australians distinguished between the rôle of the Air Force, with its training rôle in Malaysia, and the rôle of the Army. They have said that it is illogical to expect their battalion group to continue much longer in Singapore. They have also said that they have no objection to units going there for training for three months at a time. One comment made as recently as August of last year was that it is most improbable that any Australian units will remain in Singapore-Malaysia beyond 1973.
The position with the Army is that it is extremely doubtful whether the battalion group will remain after the service of the present unit comes to an end towards the end of 1973 or the beginning of 1974. It is strongly on the cards that that would be the last permanently based ground unit of the Australians in Singapore-Malaysia, as opposed to the sending of units to train there from time to time. The New Zealanders, whose principal contribution to ANZUK is a battalion and a frigate, are likely to follow suit. The Air Force might be there for a little longer in view of New Zealand's obligation to ensure the training of Malaysia's forces.
Where do we stand, with Australia undoubtedly intending sooner rather than later to pull out, with New Zealand likely to follow suit, the Malaysians adopting a low profile and only the Singaporeans currently enthusiastic? Can we continue to justify keeping our noses at some expense in this corner of the world? I suggest that the Government must soon renegotiate the Five-Power arrangements and consider the rôle of British forces, particularly the ground forces, there.
I hope that in the reply we shall be told what contingency plans there are, what emissaries have been sent to the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand to discover their attitude now that they are settling into power and, in the event of Australia and New Zealand radically changing their policies, what justification there is for British forces, particularly ground forces, even on the present scale, to remain in Singapore.
I cannot follow the arguments put forward by the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) in his interesting speech, as I do not know enough about that part of the world to do so. I wish to revert to the African continent and to talk in the few minutes at my disposal about West Africa.
I am sure the whole House warmly welcome the news that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will shortly be paying a visit to Nigeria. I hope that he will go not only to Nigeria but to Ghana, Sierra Leone and Gambia. It would be a great help to Liberia if he is able to go there.
Since the Nigerian civil war has been over we have managed to send there only two Ministers, but thank God for those two Ministers, the right hon. Lord Carrington and the Minister for Overseas Development, who did a sterling job. Relationships since then have improved tremendously. Relations between Nigeria and the United Kingdom have been strained, largely because of inaccurate reporting in the British Press, radio and television during the civil war and after. This has led to a great deal of misunderstanding, especially about Rhodesia and arms supply to South Africa. Those two Ministers have done a grand job in resolving some of the difficulties which Nigeria faces.
Through those misunderstandings we have perhaps missed out on the major concession that has been given in the form of a car assembly plant in Lagos. There are the assembly plants of Peugeot and Volkswagen, but British Leyland, which was keen to set up a centre there, has not been invited to do so.
In just over two weeks the United Kingdom will become a full member of the European Economic Community. It is right that we should be excited as the prospect of a new and hopeful chapter in our history unfolds. In the excitement, we must not forget what we have been and what we mean to many nations of the world. We have been the greatest imperial power the world has ever known, and I am proud to say that our empire was peacefully changed into a Commonwealth of nations and peoples quite without parallel in the history of the world. To those nations and peoples we still stand for justice and integrity. Their view of us is one of affection and respect. As we evolve into a European personality, let us not forget our friends in the Commonwealth. Many of them have great problems with which to deal, and they look to us for our advice and earnest help.
I want to speak of two of these nations, Ghana and Nigeria. I know these countries well, and I want the United Kingdom to maintain its strong associations with them.
Ghana has an outstanding medium-term debt of 371 million dollars, of which 77 million dollars is interest. There are great problems surrounding these debts. I pay tribute to the Government for the initiative they showed this year in holding the introductory talks and getting the World Bank to intervene as arbiter. Ghana has repudiated £37 million worth of the debts because they are either vitiated by fraud or tainted with illegality. There has been a public inquiry into this in Ghana, and certain public companies have admitted irregularities, notably making payments to Ministers. As to the remainder of the debts, Ghana is in difficulties with repayment. Much of the medium-term debt was incurred on commercial terms but applied to very non-commercial projects. Ghana would find repayment of these debts extremely difficult unless they were to be converted into long-term debts.
Britain is the most important medium-term creditor, and accounts for about one-third of the total debts. The Ghanaian Government want the creditors involved to help them in their difficulties. Britain should take the lead in converting those medium-term debts to a longer term. Already Her Majesty's Government have asked the World Bank to reconcile the differences between Ghana and her creditors, and Ghana, I am glad to say, has been receptive to this idea. I urge the Government to take a more positive and practical approach and to negotiate a longer term for repayment of these debts. Such a solution would help to put Ghana back into solvency and buoyancy and would lead to a greater flow of foreign investment into the country. This at the moment it sadly lacks.
Ghana has embarked upon a gallant policy of economic self-reliance. Its budget takes no account of aid flow. Any foreign aid is regarded and accounted as a welcome bonus, and not as a necessity. The Ghanaian Government are determined that future loans will be negotiated only if they will make a real impact upon the economy, and will not aggravate the external indebtitude position. Future loans must develop growth in the economy, and must not in any way diminish the nation's sovereignty, with all that that implies. In other words, self-reliance is the keynote.
Ghana has built up its reserves to an unprecedented level. At the end of 1971 they stood at about £4 million, but in June of this year they were £25 million. While the reserves have been building up, Ghana has endeavoured to liquidate its short-term debts as fast as possible. The Government has launched "Operation Feed Yourself", which has been a great success. The principle is to promote self-sufficiency. It tends to reduce food prices. Those of us who visit Ghana regularly know that the cost of food in Ghana is probably higher than in most other countries in the world. Necessary imported foodstuffs have their prices subsidised, but most of the consumption is internally produced.
Ghana has done well with exports. Unemployment is falling although it is still high at around 19 per cent. This young country needs all the help that we can give it. But Ghana is determined to pull itself up by its bootstraps. It is achieving great things in the process. Its balance of trade for 1971 was well in the red, but up to August-September of this year the balance of trade was in surplus to about £40 million. I urge the Secretary of State to give serious consideration to my proposal regarding medium-term debts.
That Ghanaian Government have embarked upon a policy of participation in the extracting industries. It is not nationalisation. The Government intend to buy a 55 per cent. share in the companies which mine gold, diamonds, manganese and bauxite, and a 55 per cent. share in the companies engaged in the timber trade. I understand that Her Majesty's Government do not favour such participation. However, I heartily endorse the concept. I believe that Ghana will benefit enormously from such participation. It is right that Ghana should control the use of its natural resources. The land is a storehouse of future prosperity. Such participation will enable Ghana to achieve faster growth and so relieve its current financial difficulties.
The reasons are clear to follow. First, Ghana should end with the development of subsoil clearly vested in the State. Secondly, the Ghanaian Government have a duty and a right to assume effective control over the production of these resources. Thirdly, control over vital sectors of Ghana's economy is necessary for economic independence and self-reliance.
I turn to the EEC and the problems that Ghana faces as we enter the Common Market. Ghana's largest trade partner is the United Kingdom. However, Ghana wants to trade not only with us but with all countries. She wants us to help her get the best terms when negotiations begin with the EEC. Ghana hopes that British entry will not adversely affect the Commonwealth.
Nigeria is a nation of 65 million people. It is eight times the size of the United Kingdom. It has an abundance of natural resources and a colossal potential which will affect those countries close to it in trade and friendship. In recent years our relations with Nigeria have been strained. I welcomed the efforts of Lord Carrington and the Minister for Overseas Development when they respectively visited Lagos to bring about a happier relationship between the United Kingdom and Nigeria. I am pleased to report that their efforts have been most successful. I am glad to say that they were able to clear up any misunderstandings which were caused by distorted, exaggerated and unnecessary reporting in the newspapers and on television and radio. I wish the Secretary of State an enpoyable visit to Nigeria in, I hope and trust, 1973. My right hon. Friend did not name the date, but I hope that he will visit Nigeria as soon as possible. He will be able to build upon a trust and respect between our nations. His visit in 1962 was warmly received and the people of Nigeria have a very great affection for him.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will see in General Gowon the man I know him to be. He is exceptionally coolheaded, very fair and a good Christian. He has tried hard to reconcile the Nigerian people in the aftermath of the terrible Biafran conflict. Most of the Ibos who fled to the East have now returned. Only last month 100 houses in Port Harcourt were handed back to their Ibo owners. That would have been un-thought of 12 months ago. General Gowon is respected and loved by all the people of Nigeria. I hope that when he comes to Britain next year he will be accorded the accolade of a State visit.
Nigeria's recovery since the civil war has been nothing short of remarkable. In the past year Nigeria has had a growth rate of 7 per cent. per annum. Exports during the first six months of 1972 increased by 6 per cent. on the same period in 1971. That was in large part due to the increase in crude petroleum exports, which were 20 per cent. higher than in the first part of 1971. Further, in the first quarter of 1972, industrial production rose by 12 per cent. over the comparable period in 1971. Crude oil exports in the first half of 1972 were £336 million, which is 62 per cent. of the value of total exports. Before the civil war 950,000 barrels of crude oil were taken per day. It has now risen to 1·7 million barrels. The future of the Nigerian economy looks bright.
There is still plenty of opportunity for the United Kingdom to contribute to Nigeria's future. Nigeria still badly needs technicians and teachers of all skills and crafts. I welcome the forthcoming British industrial exhibition in Lagos, which will be a splendid opportunity to sell ourselves and our techniques to an old friend who needs no introduction to the Quality of our workmanship and our conscientiousness.
The Nigerian Government feel very strongly about the Rhodesian problem, and welcome the result of our debate on sanctions. Nigeria is deeply concerned about the voice of African opinion in Rhodesia. The Nigerian Government respect Bishop Muzorewa. It finds him to be an acceptable leader and spokesman for both black and white Rhodesians. He could well engineer a fruitful dialogue between the races.
Nigeria wants a speedy solution to the Rhodesian problem. It is also considerably perturbed by the United Kingdom supplying arms and equipment to South Africa. But although Rhodesia continues as a callous affront to the African independent States, life between Nigeria and the United Kingdom must continue. We must work towards greater friendship with each other.
Nigeria wants an arrangement with the Common Market. Its policy is not to accept Arusha or Yaoundé types of agreement. Nigeria has no wish to preclude trading with any nation. The United Kingdom is assisting the second national development plan, and Nigeria wishes that to continue in the areas of trade and technical aid. It has no wish to leave the Commonwealth or to do anything detrimental to its ties with Britain.
At this watershed in our history, let us remember our old friends and the debts we owe them. I support British membership of the European Economic Community, but that in no way should interfere with the close relationship we have with our Commonwealth. In Lawrence Binyon's words, "England remains a mother for her children across the sea."
I am sure that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) will forgive me if I do not follow him in what he had to say, but I know that his speech will be read with great satisfaction in Ghana and Nigeria.
I am glad to see the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) in his place because I am glad to follow his speech, with which I profoundly agree. It is encouraging to those who hold the same general viewpoint and approach as he does to see how, as the months go by, what was once a minority view on the Middle East is becoming the accepted view of the great majority of world opinion. As the hon. Member pointed out there was, for example, the remarkable convergence of view at the United Nations last week on the resolution setting out the kind of attitude on the Middle East which he himself is putting forward. I should like to follow him by making some tentative suggestions to the Government as to how perhaps the dim prospects of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East might be improved.
I am not criticising the Government. Indeed I am bound to say that, when I look at the record of this country under both the present Government and the Labour Government, I judge that this country has done more constructive work for peace in the Middle East than any other country. The Labour Government produced resolution No. 242 at the United Nations, which was the best and remains, as the Foreign Secretary has said, the best chance for the future, and the present Government have continued championing that policy. Last week in the United Nations, with extremely able diplomacy, they helped to marshal, with the French, a most remarkable convergence of opinion of the Third World, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and many other countries behind, essentially, resolution No. 242, and in the process inevitably and rightly criticised Israel sharply for obstructing the implementation of the resolution.
I returned from the Middle East last week. There I had a chance to speak to a number of Arab leaders, including President Sadat of Egypt. The prospects of a settlement are fairly depressing at this time. The Egyptians are always anxious, naturally, to create the impression that if a settlement is not soon reached war will break out again. This shows in the conversations one has in Cairo. But even when one has discounted this natural desire to make such an impression, my judgment is that the present situation of "no war, no peace" cannot go on much longer for Egypt.
The Egyptians now accept that the Israelis are militarily more powerful, because of their dominance in the air, and that if fighting is resumed they will suffer much heavier casualties and damage than the Israelis. But they say with increasing conviction that to sit back and allow vast areas of their country to remain in foreign occupation simply is not an option open to people with any self-respect or any sense of honour at all. This is a growing and sincerely held conviction among Egyptian people. They point out that they have accepted without reservation resolution No. 242 and that they have chucked the Russians out. As a result of all this, however, it seems that the Israelis and the Americans are, if anything, even more unyielding and intransigent than they were before. This adds to the bitterness which the Egyptians naturally feel.
I said that they had accepted resolution No. 242, and a feature of that resolution is that they are committed to recognising the State of Israel as part of a settlement. It specifically rules out that, by meeting Israelis face to face in negotiations, they recognise Israel in advance of a settlement. That is understood perfectly well on all sides.
I say, therefore, that the Egyptians are getting more and more restive, while the Israelis are becoming more and more obstructive.
The latest official statement I have seen of Israel's position is a statement by Mrs. Meir to an Italian journalist a few weeks ago in the magazine L'Europeo. On Gaza she is reported to have said:
Gaza should remain part of Israel.
of the Golan Heights she said:
The Syrians today are exactly where the boundary should be fixed. On that we do not yield.
of the West Bank she said:
A majority of the Israelis would be prepared to give back to Jordan a part of the west Bank … though the Israeli Government has as yet taken no decision on this.
On Sinai she said that Israel wanted control of Sharm-el-Sheikh and a stretch of desert linking Israel with Sharm-el-Sheikh.
On Jerusalem Mrs. Meir said:
Israel will never give up Jerusalem. Inadmissible. Jerusalem is out of the question. We do not even accept discussing Jerusalem.
To everyone who knows both sides in the Middle East, and not just one side, such an attitude seems suicidally shortsighted and arrogant. This is especially true of the attitude on Jerusalem, because here even the Israelis themselves do not claim that security factors are involved. They conquered and annexed Jerusalem because they coveted it and for no other reason. They cling to it now in defiance of three unanimous resolutions of the Security Council and in face of the disapproval, sometimes amounting to bitter hostility, of virtually the whole civilised world. They have no
legal claim to it and they have no moral claim to it.
As though this were not enough, they are now spoiling Jerusalem by permitting new building there which destroys the character of the city. My attention has been drawn to the following report in the Jewish Chronicle of 8th December from its correspondent in Jerusalem. It is headed,
Appeal to Sir Isaac Wolfson".
An appeal was made to Sir Isaac Wolfson in the Knesset last week to consider the aesthetic aspects of the high-rise building project hearing his name.
During its discussion of Kiryat Wolfson, which is being built in Jerusalem, the Knesset agreed that it would affect the character of Israel's capital, but that the project was too far advanced for any changes to be made in the tower blocks already built.
Now Sir Isaac Wolfson has a perfect right, if he feels that way, to obstruct the foreign policy of successive British Governments over Jerusalem. He has a right, if he feels like it, to support Israel's conquest and annexation of Arab Jerusalem in defiance of a unanimous Security Council. But no man has a right to spoil the beauty of Jerusalem by building a vast hideous edifice in his own honour. No one has that right. Often in history the Holy City has been desecrated by barbarians. Sir Isaac Wolfson is the latest in that line.
While not dissenting in essence from what the hon. Gentleman has said about the new buildings currently being constructed, may I ask him whether he will not make the record fair and agree that the hotel building on the Mount of Olives during the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem was an equal desecration?
I am not forgetting that hotel but I am referring now in particular to the vast masses of blocks of flats, often exclusively reserved for Jewish people on a discriminatory basis. These are a desecration, in my opinion, of the city of Jerusalem. It is held to be so not only by the Arabs but by the whole Moslem world in Africa and Asia and by many Christians. Indeed, Sir Isaac Wolfson's buildings have been criticised by the Israelis themselves in their Parliament. Vandalism in the old days would usually outrage either the Moslems or the Christians or the Jews, but on this occasion Sir Isaac Wolfson has outraged all three together.
I want to turn now to the constructive things I have to say. First, one bright feature is the possible removal of one of the obstacles to early attempts to reach a joint settlement. This was the insistence of the Palestinian Arabs on the objective of a united Palestine, a Jewish/Arab Palestine. This led them logically into direct and violent opposition to a settlement based on Resolution 242. It seems possible, however, that without prejudice to this wider objective, the Palestinians are now prepared to work towards a more limited objective, namely the establishment of an independent Palestinian State in the liberated territory when the Israelis withdraw. If this is what the Palestinian Arabs want, I personally think it is strongly in their interests. What a fine thing it would be to see hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees being welcomed back on to Palestinian soil under the Palestinian flag.
I therefore ask the Government, following up the suggestion of the British delegate at the United Nations that the new refugees should be allowed back into the occupied territories, whether even now, even in advance of an Israeli withdrawal, they might initiate plans for resettling the refugees in those zones. Let the British Government, with their European partners, make plans now for a resettlement fund, to which European and Arab Governments would pledge contributions jointly, for providing jobs and homes for these refugees in Gaza, on the West Bank or in Arab Jerusalem—or in other parts of the world if they prefer to go there. This would be without prejudice to the refugees' other rights under United Nations resolutions and it would be conditional on Israeli withdrawal. If the Minister studies this, he will see that many advantages would be gained and little harm done by this project.
But, of course, the big problem remains of how to induce the Israelis to agree to withdraw from the occupied territories so that we can get the settlement. Unfortunately we have to face the fact that persuasion seems to have failed, certainly so far. The Israelis see so plainly the undoubted risks of withdrawal but seem blind to the greater dangers of digging in. They see the strategic advantages of their present frontiers. They see and are aware of their present military superiority. They are aware of the lavish supplies of arms and money which continue to reach them from the United States. But they seem totally blind to the dangers of their present position—their increasing political and moral isolation in the world, increasingly marked last week at the United Nations, and the impact that this isolation is bound to have eventually on the United States' attitude towards Israel. They are blind to the rapid increases in wealth, education, technology and population of the Arab world and its ever-increasing sense of frustration and hostility.
What, then, is to be done if the Israelis simply will not see their own dangers, if they will not be persuaded by their friends? I wish more of their friends would try to persuade them of the dangers of their present position.
One thing on which I fault the British delegate, in his otherwise admirable speech at the United Nations, is that he did not spell out again the possible security advantages to Israel, even in the short term, of accepting a resolution 242-type settlement. There would be not only a treaty subscribed to by her Arab neighbours and underwritten by the great Powers, not only demilitarised zones on both sides of the frontiers, not only a United Nations peace-keeping force within the demilitarised zones, but the offer of the armed presence of the medium and large Powers within the United Nations peace-keeping force—from the French and British.
There are still risks. Everybody knows that. It is a question of which is the more dangerous course of action: to accept what is offered in the settlement, to try to make peace with the Arabs, to withdraw from their territory, to accept the security which is offered or to plough onwards, as they are doing now, into more and more isolation and eventually, I believe, to self-destruction. I want the Government always to spell out the positive side, the security aspects of Resolution No. 242.
May I secondly suggest that the time has come for a new formula for arms deliveries and arms supplies to the Middle East. The British, like the Americans and other countries, are always justifying their granting of supplies or their withholding of supplies on some formula about the balance of power. This has never made much sense and it makes no sense at all now. Israel holds the balance of power in the Middle East. Everybody is agreed on that, including the Arabs. The Israelis are militarily dominant in the Middle East. It is absurd to try to justify granting or withholding arms on that formula. The Americans pretend that by sending Phantoms they will maintain the balance of military power. That is ridiculous.
I would like to suggest to the Government that we should have a new formula, first for ourselves, then ask the Europeans to conform and then together to try and get the United States to conform. The simple formula is that we supply arms only to Middle East countries which respect United Nations resolutions. If Israel accepts the settlement and withdraws to her frontiers, let us tell her that she will then gladly be supplied by us with all the arms she needs to defend a settlement and to defend herself on her proper frontiers. Let us make that quite clear to her, but let us make it equally clear that we are not prepared to supply arms to Israel to enable her to defy the settlement and to resist our policies or to continue in breach of Security Council resolutions, which is precisely what the arms delivery of the United States has done in recent years.
What we say to Israel we should say also to the Arab countries. I do not think it is right or proper to deliver arms to Arab countries which try to subvert Security Council resolution No. 242. or a settlement along those lines. We should apply the formula to both sides in the Middle East: that arms will be supplied only for those who are prepared to cooperate in a peaceful settlement along the lines of United Nations resolutions. I believe that if the Government, Europe and the United States accepted this formula it would bring useful pressure to bear towards the settlement that all of us want.
Finally, the question of economic sanctions was raised this year at the United Nations. Economic sanctions against Israel were supported by a number of countries. I think that the Government were right to resist the demand for sanctions at this stage. However, if Israel continues to ignore United Nations resolutions, the demand for economic sanctions will grow and will have to be taken seriously. If the Americans were to support sanctions, they would immediately be effective. In 1956 the mere threat of sanctions by President Eisenhower got the Israelis instantly out of Egyptian territory and back to their own frontiers. Even if the United States did not support sanctions, at least one could say that sanctions against Israel would be no more ineffective than sanctions against Rhodesia which are supported on both sides of this House. Moreover, bad as the regime in Rhodesia is, it has not invaded and occupied large stretches of its neighbour's territory. Nor has it expelled its African residents and appropriated their land, homes and property.
As I say, the Government are right to resist the demand for sanctions at the United Nations at this time, but it is not sufficient that time after time the General Assembly and the Security Council should condemn Israel and require Israel to do certain things, to be defied by Israel and to have no further action taken.
In the present circumstances, those who are opposed to the acquisition of territory by conquest and colonial rule and to open defiance of the United Nations Charter and international law should adopt a general attitude of reserve towards Israel.
I do not think I am the only Member on this side of the House who deeply regrets that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has chosen this moment to make a good will visit to Israel. Such a visit can only encourage Israel in her policy of defying the United Nations, of violating the Charter and also, incidentally, violating all the traditional principles of the British Labour movement.
I greatly hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition will seize the opportunity of persuading the Israelis to be more co-operative with the United Nations and with world opinion.
I ask the Government seriously to consider the two or three tentative suggestions I have made. I know that the Government, like hon. Members on both sides, are doing their utmost to avoid the danger of war in the Middle East and to put an end to the suffering and bitterness that is so widespread there.
Order. Before calling on the next hon. Member to speak, I draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that there are nearly 20 hon. Members seeking to catch the eye of the Chair. There are just over two hours left for the debate before the winding-up speeches.
I have followed the speech of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) with the greatest of interest. I have always understood the hon. Gentleman's great compassion for and interest in the problems of the Middle East. I was especially interested in the hon. Gentleman's proposal that Britain should take a lead about the refugees. I hope the Government will take note of the hon. Gentleman's views. I agree with many of the points he made about the Middle East, but there is perhaps a considerable difference in emphasis between us.
In this debate on foreign affairs—a somewhat unusual experience for us—I want to dwell upon the problem in a rather broader sense. One hundred years ago John Bright said that foreign policy was neither more nor less than a gigantic piece of outdoor relief for the British aristocracy. Times have changed. We have had a great empire. In a few days' time we embark on a great new venture in joining the Common Market. Over the last 10 to 15 years in which Britain has given up her great empire we have adopted a policy of introspection and, to some extent, an attitude of resentment and bitterness to the outside world.
Over the past 400 to 500 years we have been involved as much with Europe as with other countries throughout the world. Many historians will doubtless argue that our short-lived empire, as it was in some respects, did some harm to European interests and to our own interests in the European context. I think we were right at last to take the advice of Field Marshall Smuts, although rather late in the day, who said after the First World War that the only way for Europe to live in harmony and peace was for it to get together in political unity.
Britain's joining the Community provides us with a chance to take a fresh look at our foreign policy and to take exciting new opportunities. Key factors in a country's foreign policy are its economic stability and its political stability. It can be argued that during the days of our short-lived empire we over-estimated our strength in the world and over-stretched our resources. Lord Curzon said that as long as we ruled India we were the greatest Power in the world; if we lost it we should drop straight away to a third-rate Power. That had some truth in it although it was perhaps a little exaggerated.
The recent Duncan Report on the Foreign Service summed matters up in this way:
Britain is nowadays a major power of the second order.
In any broad consideration of foreign policy we must consider the promotion of the British interest. Over the last 50 or 100 years we have not always put this first. It is of enormous importance that we promote the British interest. This involves working closely together with countries which are interested in security, stability and prosperity.
Our broad aim must be to work for peaceful solutions to international problems, to ease the tensions between the Communist and non-Communist world, to protect the weak countries against the strong countries and to narrow the division between the rich countries and the poor. If anything is to create instability in the world, it will be the strains of race relations and of poverty.
I want to look at our foreign policy within the context of Europe as a springboard for Britain and offer some comments, first about the Middle East. The vast majority of the oil supplies of Britain and the whole of Western Europe comes from the Middle East. This indicates where Britain's interests lie. Stability in the Middle East is essential to us and to Europe.
We in Western Europe cannot opt out of the Arab-Israeli dispute; we cannot stand on the sidelines. We must in the long term grope for areas where there is at least some hope.
I pinpoint four factors. First, it must be in the interests of Arabs and Israelis to prevent increasing Russian predominance in the area. Secondly, the Americans will become increasingly concerned about oil supplies in the Middle East. If we can help the Americans along in the right direction, this may enable them to bring more influence to bear in the interests of peace and stability in the area.
Thirdly, there is some willingness on both sides to reach interim settlements—for instance, the withdrawal of troops along the Suez Canal. Jointly with Western Europe and with the Americans Britain should push the parties to secure an interim piecemeal solution to this problem.
The fourth factor concerns the agonising point about the occupied territories. I condemn the Israelis, who have what might be called a Massada complex, a fortress complex. I condemn them for creating so many new settlements in the occupied territories.
I do not believe that in the long term the Israelis want a predominance of Arabs in Israel territory. The rule in Gaza could be described as enlightened colonial rule. There is a chance that some Israelis want to demonstrate their ability to live on reasonably harmonious terms with Arabs. Over the next 10 to 15 years this may help to improve the atmosphere. In the meantime Britain, Western Europe and America must work hard and use resolution No. 242 as the basis for negotiation.
The other aspect of the Middle East situation with which I should like to deal is the Arabian Gulf or the Persian Gulf, whichever one chooses to call it. Now that we have withdrawn from the area we must establish new and friendly links with the independent countries there. The most important factor in the situation is Iran. Nothing could be more important to Britain than to have Iran as a strong, stable, friendly Power in that part of the world. I strongly hope that Britain will continue to build up her trade and her political links with Iran.
I turn briefly to the subject of Latin America which I recently had the good fortune to visit. It is a continent that Britain and Europe need to rediscover. A long time ago Columbus said:
Out to sea, far west of Spain,
Lies the land men call Cockayne.
No land that under heaven is
For wealth and beauty comes near this.
The British discovered that this was the situation in the last century and we recall Canning bringing in the new world to redress the balance of the old.
There are few people in this country who realise the enormous fund of goodwill in most of the Latin American countries towards Great Britain. We must not forget that we helped many of these countries to achieve their independence. We also did a great deal to build their railways and water systems and to establish commercial systems and enterprises in Latin America.
One very important factor is that Latin America is untarnished by British colonial rule and we have an opportunity to establish close relationships to increase our trade and to improve stability in Latin America. It is extraordinary that we conduct twice as much trade with the South of Ireland, which has a population of 3 million people, than with the whole of the Latin American continent. I urge the Government to build on their recent efforts to establish trading links with those countries and to work hard to improve relationships between Europe Latin America.
I turn to Britain's relationship with the Third World. The greatest challenge which faces us in joining the European Economic Community is to take the lead in making the Common Market countries and Europe as a whole more outward-looking. When we have the opportunity of looking at ourselves from another terrestrial body, as we now may do from the moon, we realise when we see the earth on the television screens how vulnerable we are. We need to remind ourselves that stability depends on the growing strength and prosperity of the under-developed countries. I believe that Europe must take a lead and that we should reappraise the meaning of aid and how we use it. This also relates to the way in which we trade with the underdeveloped countries and how we should develop trade in our own interests as well as in the interests of others.
Britain is in a position to take a lead internationally on problems affecting refugees. This topic was mentioned by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East. We have taken a lead in terms of Bangladesh, but there is one neglected area in which we have not taken sufficient interest, namely the Sudan, a country which we ruled for 60 years. I very much hope that Britain will shortly take a bigger lead than we have done in the past since there is an enormous challenge of reconstruction in that country.
We also have another task that faces us on the question of refugees relating to the 250,000 United Kingdom passport-holders who are outside Britain. One hopes that we shall not see a repeat of the Ugandan situation, and we now have a challenge to develop international contingency plans.
In mentioning the Third World we should not forget the remaining British dependencies in the Pacific, the Falkland Islands, St. Helena and all the rest. In turning our attention to Europe we must not forget our remaining obligations in other parts of the world. Britain, historically, has been a pioneering nation. We have pioneered a great empire and we can now develop a new sense of common destiny and purpose with our European allies and our allies elsewhere. We can become pioneers again in Europe in seeking peace and stability everywhere.
Following the Front Bench speeches we have now heard five speeches dealing with particular aspects of foreign policy. Three hon. Members dealt with the Middle East—two of them very specifically—one speech dealt with the Far East and one with West Africa. Therefore, I hope that the House, and indeed the hon. Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Mr. Luce) who also dealt with Latin America, will not think it unreasonable if I return to the broader issues of foreign policy which have already been dealt with from the Front Benches.
No debate on foreign affairs in recent times has taken place at so significant a moment of change for Britain. Our accession to the European Community on the first day of next month has profound implications for our foreign policy. I believe that this important fact has not been fully realised by hon. Members, and far less by people outside the House. For the first time in our history we are committing ourselves, for virtually an unlimited period, to trying to work in concert with a number of other countries which we conceive to have similar interests, needs and obligations. It is undoubtedly a far less free-ranging rôle than we have previously had but, because of our altered power status, potentially a more effective one than any we have been able to follow since 1945. In large part it is a recognition of our limitations and therefore it will be a more exacting, perhaps often frustrating, rôle. It is also, in the view of the Liberals, who have continuously put this case since 1945, the most responsible and rewarding rôle now open to us.
I should like to make three brief specific points on our involvement in the Community. First it is important that national factions within the Community must be avoided. The argument has been put forward by a number of people that the only reason the French eventually said "Yes" to British entry was that they felt they had lost the opportunity to influence and dominate the Germans. It would be very bad for this country and for the Community if we sought to establish any kind of special Franco-British relationship within the Community. The object of British Governments must be to look at issues within the Community, not at some sort of juggling of national groupings. For example, regionalism will have a great effect on many hon. Members in this House. Such an issue will not merely affect the Highlands of Scotland, Mid-Wales or the south-west of England, but will affect the Dordogne in France, Bavaria and the south of Italy. This issue must be raised above narrow national pressures.
Secondly, the reduction of national factionalism and the achievement of issue politics in Europe can best be furthered in our view by the strengthening of the European Parliament and developing party co-operation across national boundaries within it. The decision of the Labour Party not to co-operate in this effort at this stage is most regrettable. It has been condemned by the Socialists of Germany and France. It is hardly open to me as a Liberal to argue ways of furthering Socialism, but I am entitled to say that this refusal to become involved in the mechanisms of checks and balances in Europe weakens the capacity of all of us to arrive at fair decisions reflecting needs and attitudes within this country and across the Channel.
Thirdly, I take up a point which was referred to by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). The Community's relationship with the United States is of great and neglected importance. I hope that the Minister of State will say that it is Britain's intention to press the need for a sympathetic dialogue between the Community and the United States. I should hate to see the valid assertion of the economic independence of Europe lead to any political estrangement from a country which, whatever its faults, have been very generous to Europe in the past and remains the bastion of democracy upon which we all rely.
The European security conference potentially represents another point of departure for us all. I make only two brief points about it. First, I go some way with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East in believing that the Government are less than fully enthusiastic about the potential for the improvement in relations and the consequent reduction in tension and military expenditure which at present is possible. The fact that Russia remains a regime which denies freedoms that Liberals hold sacred need not prevent our pursuing with vigour and the hope of success the aim of banishing the threat of war which for the first time is within our grasp.
Secondly, we must beware of being seduced into the belief that this prospect will be furthered by any unilateral weakening of our physical defences and any reduction of our commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, as is sometimes advocated by the Labour Left.
I was surprised by the continual references made by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East to the spy issue. What precisely was he saying? He almost seemed to suggest that it was this country's fault that these spies came here at all. We must be clear about this. If we accept that a threat exists and that we have to respond to it, we must accept the consequences of our response.
The most significant achievement of détente has been the Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt and Walter Scheel. This has been achieved only against a background of the fullest involvement in European integration and an acceptance of the presence and relevance of NATO. Perhaps the House will permit me from this bench to make a brief reference to Walter Scheel and the German Liberals. To be the junior partners in a coalition can never be easy. They have secured some remarkable achievements in that position.
In a wide-ranging debate like this the problem is to confine oneself within an acceptable time limit. In winding down to a conclusion I shall confine myself to two further brief points well aware that each one in itself justifies a speech with which Mr. Deputy Speaker undoubtedly would he extremely irritated.
First, I think that Britain's and Europe's acceptance of responsibility for the advancing and the less-developed world has been and looks likely to be in the future miles less than adequate. It might be slightly controversial to say as much to the Labour Party, but as one whose uncle lived and died in New Zealand I think that to concentrate as a major point of renegotiation on the problems of one of the richest little countries in the world is to give undue emphasis to the wrong target. There are many other targets throughout the world which are far more deserving of our closest attention. I hope that the Government will say that their object is to seek much fairer trading agreements for all Third World countries which our Commonwealth bridge, like the French community itself, should make more feasible and acceptable.
Secondly, Britain should stand up more for human rights all over the world and increasingly set aside the old formula so often used by Ministers of both parties that "This is an internal matter for the country concerned". The Government should roundly condemn cruetly and oppression wherever it occurs. I accept their action in withdrawing aid to Amin's Uganda. I should like them to speak more forthrightly to Portugal, to South Africa, to India about her treatment of the Nagas, to Russia about the Jews, to the Jews about the Palestinians and to the Arabs about the Jewish minorities.
Retrospectively, picking up points made by other hon. Members, I am not altogether happy about the official attitude of both Government and Opposition to what was once Biafra.
Increasingly for many people in this country justice is more important than national self-interest. If the politicians and policies are fair and not slanted, they are more important than extra cake at someone else's expense. The new parameters of Europe need not be confining. They offer the opportunity for Britain to call upon her democratic tradition to argue issues and their solution more effectively and, despite what the hon. Member for Arundel and Shoreham said, less patronisingly than we ever did in the past, and therefore with more hope of success.
The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) and a number of other hon. Members, including both Front Bench spokesmen, pointed out that we are conducting this debate under the shadow of our imminent entry into Europe. Already coming events are casting their shadows ahead of themselves, and it is to one of them that I wish to address myself.
Last week for the first time we passed an order bringing a group of treaties between the Community and non-member States within the scope of our own European Communities Act. On that occasion the Minister was criticised for including in a single order a number of treaties which were relatively innocuous with some which were highly controversial. I hope that it is not the Government's intention to follow the same procedure again. There will be many similar treaties in the months to come to be brought forward under the terms of the Act, and some of them will be extremely controversial.
The one on which I hope to hear the Government's views tonight is that to which a brief allusion was made by the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris), whose remarks I wish to expand. This is the agreement of association between the European Community and Greece.
The agreement was negotiated in 1961 and came into force in November, 1962. But after the military coup in 1967 it was decided to restrict the operation of the agreement to "current administration", a decision which was recommended by the Commission, endorsed by the Council of Ministers and reported to the European Parliament, and confirmed again as recently as last year in the Commission's Annual Report.
The reasons for that policy included both the legal argument that since the agreement provided expressly a rôle for the Greek Parliament it could not be effective while no such Parliament existed, and arguments based on the violation of human rights and the continued retention of martial law in at least some parts of the country.
Although that still represents Community policy, it is obvious that the phrase "current administration" is open to interpretation. The Community has already been obliged, reluctantly or otherwise, to give it a fairly wide interpretation. For example, progress towards a customs union is regarded as "current administration" because, if it were not, Greece would remain exempt from the common rules of the Community on competition. An especially important case would be competition in agricultural products which are, of course, Greece's staple exports.
When the agreement was signed in 1961 the Community did not have a common agricultural policy. It was therefore explicitly stated that the protocols to the agreement should be revised when the common agricultural policy came into effect. Until that revision takes place, the common agricultural policy rules will continue to be infringed by the facilities which are allowed to Greek exporters, particularly of wine, under the existing protocols. Clearly a fortiori what is to happen to Greek agricultural exports will be a matter of great concern to the new members of the Community who are not yet bound by any part of this agreement.
It is perfectly natural that the Comunity—the French in particular—should wish to close that loophole, and it is equally natural that the Greek Government should expect other extensions of the interpretation of "current administration" in the process of renegotiation. For example, the Greek Government have already sought to link the process of renegotiation with their request for loans from the European Investment Bank for capital projects.
It is important to remember that the presidency of the Commission is shortly to be taken over by a Frenchman from Dr. Mansholt. Whereas in the past Dr. Mansholt took an uncompromising line towards the Greek military dictatorship, it may be doubted whether the French commissioner will be inclined to do the same, especially in view of the French interest in completing the common agricultural policy. It is clear that the attitude taken by the new member of the Commission, particularly the British members, will be extremely important.
The Greek Government have already shown themselves to be well aware of this fact. When the Minister of State for Defence visited Athens in September, a newspaper, which usually reflects the views of the Greek Government on these matters, wrote a leader on his visit which ended:
Greece hopes to receive once again the support of her ally in her problems, especially in the context of the Common Market".
This is an implicit admission that, for the first time in many years, we have an opportunity to exercise a real influence on Greek policy. For once this is an opportunity open only to Her Majesty's Government, not to the United States Government, who in any case have shown that they will not lift a finger to restore democracy in Greece. British Ministers have frequently said that they would like to see the restoration of democracy in Greece—the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said that in so many words in reply to a Question of mine on 27th March—but he implied that they had no power to do anything about it. Now they have power to do something about it. They can indeed, if they wish, make a return to democracy in Greece a condition sine qua non of renegotiation of the agreement with the EEC. The only question is whether, having that power, they should use it.
In the past several arguments have been advanced for showing tolerance towards the Greek military dictatorship. It is said that the colonels are a bulwark against communism, that they are loyal and valuable allies in NATO, and that anyway they intend to return to democracy of their own accord. I should like to speak briefly on each of these arguments.
That they are a bulwark against communism is merely their own assertion. It will be remembered that in April 1967, when they seized power, they claimed that they had forestalled a communist conspiracy and captured lorry-loads of evidence which they would use to bring the conspirators to trial. In fact, there was no communist threat in April 1967. That is easily proved, because, of the hundreds of people who have been put on trial since the military coup, not one has been indicted for, let alone convicted of, any offence of treason or subversion, committed before 21st April 1967, the date of the coup. All the trials have been for offences committed since that date—in other words, for offences against the colonels themselves. So there was no communist threat before the coup.
The claim that they should be sustained in power because they are loyal and valuable allies in NATO is equally spurious. It is inconceivable that any Greek Government would be disloyal to NATO, except a communist one, and of that, as I have already explained, there is no danger. It is true that Greece's geographical position makes the country strategically important to NATO, but that is no special argument for having a military dictatorship.
It is also true that the human material of the Greek armed forces is as good as ever. But concerning the Greek Army—I do not speak of the Navy or the Air Force which took no part in the military coup—I am sorry to record an adverse opinion of its value for purposes of external defence.
I have discussed this subject with many Greek senior officers whom I have known since they were lieutenants and captains in the early days of the Second World War and who are now generals, but in many cases forcibly retired or dismissed on account of their loyalty to their king. The view which I have reluctantly formed from talking to them is that, although the Army is well organised for internal security—organised in fact as a number of private armies directly dependent on the Prime Minister—it is no more use for purposes of external defence than the French or Italian armies were in 1940. I have submitted evidence on this to the Minister of State for Defence and I prefer to say no more about it.
Finally, there is the claim that the colonels should not be submitted to pressure because they intend to return to democracy anyway of their own accord. I can only say that anyone who believes that is living in cloud cuckoo land. I need quote only once more from the same pro-Government newspaper which wrote in September, interpreting a speech by the Prime Minister, that the time for fully implementing the 1968 Constitution—that is, the extremely restrictive constitution drawn up under the colonels—could not be expected in less than five to seven years. It follows that none of these arguments provides any justification for treating the military dictatorship tolerantly or for failing to use what influence we can through Community channels to compel the colonels to restore a democratic constitution.
I was interested in my hon. Friend's remarks about the Greek Army. He has described a different Greek Army from that which I knew between 1953 and 1956 when I spent about three and a half years with it and gained an extremely favourable impression of it as a military fighting force. Is there any particular way in which my hon. Friend suggests it has changed since then?
Yes. I am glad that my hon. Friend has referred to this point. Unquestionably in the 1950s it was a very good fighting force. If my hon. Friend will examine the record of forcible retirements and dismissals of senior officers since April 1967 he will see why I say that, although the human material is as good as ever, under its present leadership the Greek Army cannot be relied upon for purposes of external defence.
I am aware that what I have said tonight will be labelled in the Athens Press as anti-Greek. But it is nothing of the kind. The Greek people are not involved in this matter in any way, except as the victims of a small number of professional conspirators and a large number of American tanks.
I should like to illustrate my point with a personal experience which is closely relevant to the subject of Greece's relations with the Community on which I started. Last September I tried to visit a friend of mine who was then living under compulsion and restraint in the village of Deskati in southern Macedonia from which he has since been removed and taken elsewhere for greater security. On instructions from Athens, the local police refused to allow me to meet him. A few days later a paragraph appeared in a Government newspaper in Athens which began:
Very rightly the police forbade the British Member of Parliament (Mr. Woodhouse) who went to Deskati to meet the pseudo-professor who is living there in exile on account of his subversive activities …
There followed some personal abuse of myself, but the name of the pseudo-professor was not mentioned.
I am glad to give the House his name. He is Mr. John Pesmazoglou, a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Greece, until he resigned because he refused to serve under the military dictatorship, a former Professor of Economics at Athens University, until he was dismissed under the direct command of the Greek dictatorship, and—and this is the relevant point—the man who virtually single-handed negotiated the agreement between Greece and the EEC in 1961. Mr. John Pesmazoglou, like so many of the democratic opposition to the Greek military dictatorship, is a conservative in politics and a determined supporter of an enlarged unified Europe with the active participation of his own country. That is why he negotiated the agreement in 1961.
I have the best of reasons for knowing that he would endorse what I have been saying today, the conclusion of which is this: the Greek military dictatorship—not Greece—is already a blot on NATO, and it lies within the power of Her Majesty's Government to see that it does not become a blot on the European Community as well.
The only comment that I should like to make on the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) is that I wish that I had said that and, by God, I intend to on some future occasion. The hon. Member will forgive me if I do not follow him into territory in which he is an acknowledged expert and I am the dimmest of amateurs.
When we have these package tours throughout the world in these foreign affairs debates it is not out of keeping with the general tone of the debate to refer to certain general principles, to certain abstract ideas. I happen to believe that in the last decade the political map of the world has changed out of all recognition and that, in spite of the storms and stresses which still affect so many parts of the world, it has changed for the better.
One of the best ways of measuring this change is to go through the writing of Dr. Henry Kissinger and his move from a position of commentator to a position —and a very successfully filled position it is—of active participant in diplomacy, Ten years ago, when Dr. Kissinger was writing his book called, I think, "The Necessity for Choice", he was arguing, in a rather depressed mood, that in a period when power was coagulating into larger and larger units—and he was writing, it must be remembered, at the very beginning of the evolution of the European Community—diplomacy in the old sense of the term was becoming more and more difficult.
In 1972 it is clear from his own activities that the very coagulation about which he then wrote with some anxiety has produced a more or less stable balance in the world which makes it possible for individual States once again to take diplomatic initiatives, and his own initiatives in relation to the USSR, China and, latterly, Vietnam, are the most effective demonstration of a theoretical proposition.
I believe that other opportunities, though not on the same scale and not affecting the entire world quite so much, will present themselves to Her Majesty's Government in spite of the necessary limitation of the formulation of the foreign policy which is imposed by our membership of organisations such as NATO and the new Community which we are about to enter on 1st January.
There never has been a time when it was possible for this country to be totally independent in its pursuit of a foreign policy. Policy tends to emerge like toothpaste from a tube as a result of the pressures applied on each side, and I think that that is as true today as it has ever been. But in spite of that certain opportunities will open up, and I want the Government and the Secretary of State to seize those opportunities and not to be unduly inhibited by the new stable mates that we shall acquire on 1st January.
From those rather abstract principles I want to take my own package tour and inevitably, in view of the tenor of the remarks made earlier, this package tour takes me into the Middle East. I believe that in confronting, as the Government had to, the resolution that was passed earlier this month by the United Nations General Assembly their attitude was hardly in keeping with the realism which they promised, when they first took office, would be the guiding light of their own foreign policy. The resolution is a bit of a rag-bag, and there are certain contradictions within it. In one segment doubt is cast on the whole legitimacy of occupation. This casts considerable doubt on our presence in Berlin which the Berliners naturally accept but which is, nevertheless, occupation.
I find it somewhat difficult to accept as my mentors in international affairs such people as Members of the Government of Uganda writing into a resolution references to human rights, Members of the Government of India who write in a hostile fashion about occupation as totally illegitimate and illegal in all circumstances when they occupied territory—and occupied as a military occupation—during the transition from East Pakistan to Bangladesh. I make no detailed comment on the legitimacy of the emergence of Bangladesh, but I am not going to listen to lectures on international morality from many of the people who subscribed to that United Nations resolution on the Middle East.
To follow that would be to stray from the main theme of my argument, but it underlines my point. One has to look at the authorship of certain resolutions before elevating them to the status of the Ten Commandments engraved in stone and delivered from the top of Mount Sinai.
Arising from that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said, there has been the suggestion that in some way the Government must change their policy towards the Middle East in relations to arms supplies, Resolution 242, and so on. He delivered himself of the proposition that world opinion demanded such a change. I am neither in touch with the Almighty, nor can I stand here and arrogantly proclaim myself the only legitimate voice of world opinion, but I suggest that, even if my hon. Friend is right, what world opinion thinks, or can be presumed to think, on any given issue is not always a very good guide for a sovereign Government trying to make up their mind what their own policies should be in any part of the world. It seems a totally spurious proposition that the Government should frame their arms deliveries to the Middle East entirely in terms of whether the recipients accept Resolution 242.
I was under the impression that the Israeli Government had also accepted Resolution No. 242. But it is very easy just to accept a resolution in principal. The arguments begin when a timetable has to be attached to a resolution and general principles have to be translated into specific peace-making steps.
It seems to me that, if arms supplies are to be determined by non-material criteria—that is, whether we can make a profit on the deal or not, whether we can rope in the shekels or not—then those States which actively encourage the spread of terrorism by refusing to collaborate with other States in its active suppression should be on the same black list as some of those mentioned.
No, it is a totally impossible proposition to submit that, if one acts in accordance with the views of my hon. Friend one becomes a "goodie" in the Middle East and entitled to receive arms, and that if one disagrees with my hon. Friend, then one becomes a "baddie" and is denied the means of self-defence. I happen to believe that the criteria which have hitherto governed the policy of the Government and which governed the policy of the previous Government are sound. I should like an assurance that those criteria have in no sense been changed.
Second, I should like the assurance that, inherent in the Government's attitude towards the Middle East is the central proposition that the sovereignty of all States in the area shall be equally sacrosanct. It is all very well to wax emotional about Jerusalem. It is necessary to cool oneself down by recalling that the status of Jerusalem has been in question for considerably longer than five years, that Eastern Jerusalem was annexed by Jordan in the turbulence of 1947–48. It lies very awkwardly in the mouths of Arab statesmen or leaders to claim some legitimacy for the annexation of 1948 and yet to deny to the Israelis what came about as a consequence of an unsought war. Jordan had no need to participate in the war of 1967. Jordan had been warned by the then UN commander, General Bull, what might happen—he was acting as an intermediary on that occasion—if Jordan went to war. Jordan went to war and what he had warned came about.
There is a vast difference between an occupation which arises almost fortuitously from a different kind of struggle altogether—a battle for survival by the State of Israel—and the territorial occupation which arises from and is the consequence of imperialist ambitions right from the start. I want no more from the Government than an assurance that the criteria which have governed Her Majesty's Government's policy in the Middle East have not changed.
Third, I hope that we shall hear no more, either at the United Nations or anywhere else, of a policy of sanctions which might or might not be supported by the Government, to bring pressure on the Government of Israel. I am not running out of argument but I am running out of time, so I will not be able to press that. But I hope that the Minister who is to reply will realise that I am not asking for any radical change of policy but simply for a pursuance of what I believe to be the existing policy, a policy which is founded on very sound criteria.
It is necessary to assert here and now that there are more threats—I have touched on this earlier—to the peace of the world than those represented by the actions or attitudes of sovereign States. At one time, we used to wonder about the possibility of a lunatic, as head of a sovereign State, acquiring control over a nuclear armoury. That is not so great a danger in 1972 as it appeared to some of us in 1960. But there is an equal danger in the terrorists or the groups of terrorists who have access to weapons. There is an escalation in the weapons of terrorism. They start with pistols, we reached the stage of bazookas some time ago and we are now at the stage of rocket firers. Where will it stop?
There is a total necessity to establish the rule of law throughout the world—not against the potential malefactor who might gain control of a sovereign State and its armoury, but against those who owe no allegiance to any kind of State. I include the IRA in this category, because no kind of Ireland would ever satisfy those people. We have to recognise that the peace of the world can be threatened almost as much by a man with a packet of gelignite or a man carrying a grenade on to a crowded aircraft as by a person who is on his way to power and the control of the military armoury of a State.
Why can we not reach international agreement on this real and present threat to the security of us all? I suggest that a close examination of recent United Nations discussions, particularly in the General Assembly, would give us the answer to that question. I would urge the Government, in framing a policy with other Governments to deal with international terrorism, not to be guided too much by the deliberations—if one may use that term for these vast explosions of emotion which occur from time to time at Lake Success—of the United Nations General Assembly.
As the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) said, foreign affairs debates are inevitably package tours. He rightly said that our power as a sovereign State is very limited, and that if we are to have any diplomatic success it rests with our ability to persuade our new stable mates in Europe to agree with the policies which we are putting forward. In a sense, this debate is a continuation of last Friday's debate on a Private Member's motion, basically on the forthcoming European security conference. My my small package tour, which will be brief, I should like to say something about that.
This is how I see the objective of the European security conference. Basically we are trying to come to terms with the 25 years of stalemate in central Europe, and coupled with that is the hope that we shall see the beginning of a slow withdrawal or thinning out of forces from the centre of Europe. Of course countries have talked about this for years, but the Soviet-American nuclear balance makes the prospect of some withdrawal more hopeful than some years ago.
Added to this is the success of Chancellor Brandt's Ostpolitik, which the Government, since they came to power, have warmly welcomed, and which has had as one of its objectives the achievement of the desire of Willy Brandt to bring about progress and a better life for the average East European. In other words he has recognised that, if tension can be reduced between West Germany and her eastern and south-eastern neighbours, this must improve the prospects and the general attitude of the Governments there and thereby the living hopes of the people in those countries.
But although the cold war is declining, it has not yet ended. Although we must continue to improve our trade with the Eastern European countries, eventually discussion in a European security conference will come down to the question whether it is possible for the Soviet Union to start withdrawing its forces from Eastern Europe. If it does this, inevitably it releases the political mechanism in those countries.
Quite rightly, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. Anthony Royle), when talking about the Helsinki talks and the preliminary talks, said:
The smaller countries of Europe, including the neutral countries, are making their voices heard. They feel entitled to their place in the sun, and it is entirely right that they should have it. It is not only the security of the members of the two alliances that is at stake."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December 1972; Vol. 847, c. 1877.]
Therefore, I think that what the Government are ultimately aiming for in these talks are, first, a fuller and deeper solution to the German problem, which will be more acceptable to her southeastern neighbours; secondly, if we are to have a balanced reduction of American and Soviet forces, obviously a greater reliance by the West Europeans on themselves for their own defence; and thirdly, the recognition that with a withdrawal of Soviet forces we must expect Finlands, Austrias and Switzerlands to appear in Eastern Europe, which is something for which we have all worked hard. These countries would have, if the Soviet Army was withdrawn, a balanced foreign policy, equally friendly to East and West. This would inevitably result in a reduction of tension in the centre of Europe.
There will be difficulties in this and it will take a considerable time for Moscow to accept it. But if the Soviets are genuine in their desires to relax tension in central Europe, they must surely realise that a balanced withdrawal of forces will lead to more neutralism in those countries they have occupied since 1945, which will lead to different political attitudes—I do not say hostile attitudes—to the Soviet Union in those European countries.
On the Middle East problem, I have had the pleasure of visiting both sides of the Israeli and Arab dispute in the past 18 months. The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) accurately pinpointed the dilemma faced by Mr. Attlee's Government in 1947, namely, whether it was possible to have a solution which would satisfy the Jews without provoking the Arabs. Manifestly it was not. We sometimes forget that the partition ordered by the United Nations in November 1947 was very much a second-best solution. Everyone hoped that it would be possible to have a multiracial, independent Palestine. After all, that was what the famous, or infamous, 1939 White Paper called for. Over those 10 years a completely independent or multiracial Palestine became unacceptable, so we had partition.
We have now to accept that the solution to the problem has to be a solution arrived at step by step with the countries surrounding Israel agreeing. Therefore, I should like to say a little about the three fronts of Israel, and first the west bank of Jordan.
I found that many Arabs there do not wish to return to rule from Amman and King Hussein. They want a State of their own. There is a growing realisation, with the improvement of the economy of the West Bank, that any independent Arab State there will have to be as close to Israel in economic terms as Luxembourg is to Belgium or Belgium is to Holland. All the time the Israeli Government allows the open bridges policy to continue, which accelerates trade, there is growing Arab awareness, as the economy grows, that this may be a way out of the problem.
If one ever felt that the economy had sufficient strength on the West Bank and security was sufficiently good to allow an independent Arab State, the dilemma for Israel is simply this: if there is peace and security and living standards have risen, does Israel take the plunge and allow Arabs on the West Bank full political rights and bring them into an enlarged Israel, or does it settle for a Benelux-type State? If it allows Arabs full political rights in a larger Israel, this comes in a full circle back to a multiracial Palestine, but with a crucial difference—which both Arabs and Israelis would have to accept: that there is one law which will never be rejected in Israel, the law of return. We should never get the Israeli Government to say "We shall have control of Jewish immigration into Israel". That is enshrined, understandably so, in their laws. Anyone trying to get round that problem is being unrealistic.
Secondly I see no prospects of Israel handing back the Golan Heights to Syria. The violence, hatred and ferocity on that front is such that no Israeli Government could stand up to Israeli public opinion if there were a suggestion of some withdrawal there.
On the third front, and possibly the easiest one to solve—therefore, if it be the easiest, let us attempt it first—is the Suez Canal front, on which the Israelis could make a partial withdrawal. I do not believe that it is in the interests of Israel to see President Sadat overthrown. If he is, inevitably he will be replaced by someone harsher who will come to power in Egypt on the slogan "President Sadat did nothing to push the Israelis away from the Canal. I shall get tough and do something about it." The situation would definitely be worse.
Once the Suez Canal is open, there will be the chance to see a little of resolution No. 242 observed or unobserved. That is the part which says that there should be free navigation for all States through the Suez Canal.
Obviously first in the queue of ships to go through the cleared Suez Canal would be an Israeli ship, and then we could see if there were a partial withdrawal, whether the Egyptian Government would allow an Israeli ship through the Canal. I believe that President Sadat would do so if the Israelis moved 30 or 40 miles back and the Canal were cleared. This small attempt would relax tension between Israel and the Arabs. Israel could make a concession here.
In conclusion, the Common Market Nine have certain things to remember about the Midle East. Israel is now suspicious of United Nations mediators because she feels she is being asked to make unilateral concessions.
To say that Israel has been called upon by the United Nations to make unilateral concession is really the grossest perversion of the facts because the United Nations mediator, Dr. Jarring—this is on the records of the United Nations—clearly showed that the Egypt the hon. Gentleman has been talking about unequivocably accepts resolution No. 242, which was promoted by the Labour Government and supported by the present Government.
I am saying that there is an Israeli fear that a United Nations mediator forgets his rôle and tries to help the Arab side by saying "If you make this concession, this will happen". Unfortunately this attitude is held in certain sections of Israeli public life. They are not too keen on United Nations mediators. That is something which the Common Market Nine should remember when moving towards a common policy on the Middle East. Secondly, there are obvious gaps in Israeli knowledge of the Arab States. I found in Israel that people wondered what sort of man President Sadat was. They were uncertain about how Arab States would react to certain situations. With our trade experience and history in the Middle East, we could supply much information. We should never forget that a settlement of the refugees should be top of the list of common policy actions.
Lastly, we should not take any action liable to postpone the direct talks which will have to come about between the two sides. The hon. Member for Woolwich, East spent a lot of time talking about Jerusalem. This is the hardest problem to solve by far in the Middle East. We could not return to partition of the city. The best solution would be some form of international city. Even that is a long way off. Let us accept that the most difficult problem in the Middle East should be the one we should attempt to solve last. The easiest problem is that of the Suez Canal. Anything we can do to persuade the Israelis to make a partial withdrawal could lead to a stabilisation of the area.
There are a number of points which the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) made with which, I am afraid, I cannot wholly agree, and which because of time I cannot take up.
There are other aspects which I wish to stress about our relations with the Middle East. Britain has a long history of relations with the Arab world—our traditional connections, the old imperial routes, the oil that we buy and our trade that spreads throughout the area. Even today, when the Suez Canal is still closed in the aftermath of the June war, this country's economy is closely tied to the Middle East, and we should remember that.
In terms of oil, our economy is very largely dependent upon it. Politicians and businessmen may have got excited about the North Sea oil discoveries, but the North Sea reserves represent only about 1 per cent. of the world's possible resources—not nearly enough for our needs. For the foreseeable future the British economy will be running on Middle East oil, however unpalatable that may be to some hon. Members. Moreover, as a result of our historical ties with the Arab world, and despite the long series of mistakes made by successive British Governments, including the Balfour Declaration, which I much lament, which broke agreements we had already made with Arab rulers, this country has a wide circle of friends in the Arab world.
A large number of Arabs study in this country. They go back to become politicians, businessmen, heads of State. Many Arab businessmen prefer, where possible, even these days, to buy British, although this country's economic and industrial performance does not always make it easy for them. At the same time, many major British companies trade with the Arab world, and not only in oil. We have massive construction contracts for roads, airports, hospitals and harbours. British engineering companies sell equipment, British banks such as National and Grindlays and the British Bank of the Middle East are deeply involved in the economies of the region.
This propensity to buy British and this British involvement in that part of the world is an asset to this country which is by no means confined to the conservative Arab countries. Other new countries, new regimé in the Middle East, such as Egypt, Sudan and Syria, have also expressed, diplomatically as well as in commercial negotiations, their desire for closer relations. I was fortunate enough to be one of a small delegation of Parliamentarians recently in Syria, and we found this very strongly expressed. Even the Government of South Yemen, which has bitter memories of the fight for independence—it is not all that long ago since the dashing hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lt.-Col. Colin Mitchell) was playing a fairly dynamic part there—wants to improve relations with Britain on the basis of mutual respect.
Yet this asset, this fund of good will towards this country that characterises radical and conservative Arab States alike, is wasting away. Those of us who visit the Middle East frequently discover this more and more on each visit. It is wasting away because of the support which this country and the West gives to Israel. Our Arab friends cannot understand why Her Majesty's Government, sadly, like their predecessors—our record in this was worse than the present Government's—have chosen to risk all the good will and the commercial links in the Arab world by identifying this country so closely with Israel.
Let us make no mistake about it. There is a real risk involved for our interests in the Arab world. Even if the Government choose not to recognise it, the Vickers Company certainly does. It lost a major dry dock construction contract in Bahrein because it had built submarines for Israel. I sometimes wonder just what Her Majesty's Government and Her Majesty's loyal Opposition imagine they are sustaining in the State of Israel and why. Israel was set up after the Second World War as a result of years of Zionist propaganda with the support of those States who wished to salve their consciences about not allowing Jews fleeing from Nazi-ism to enter their countries freely. The United States, which had most strictly kept out Jewish refugees from Nazi-ism, was the most keen after 1945 to back the creation of a Jewish State somewhere else—in Palestine.
Let us remember—and this is an important fact which we are inclined to muff in this country because we do not like to face it—that Israel was created as a Jewish State with a constitution written to enshrine that fact. It was a State for all Jews in the world so that they could go there and be granted immediate citizenship. It was a State, moreover, which claimed the right to speak for all Jews throughout the world, whether or not they accepted Israel's right to speak for them. About 20 per cent. of world Jewry today lives in Israel. Yet its leaders claim to speak for the other 80 per cent., too. We must face the fact that Israel was set up as a Zionist State based upon a racially exclusive idea.
I hope the House will forgive me if I make these perhaps unkind and somewhat direct comments. If there is one thing I am known for in my political life it is my abhorrence of any sort of racialism. This is why I am making these comments on the nature of Zionism. Israel was set up not in an empty space but in a land already occupied by another people, the Palestinian Arabs. Israeli politicians, like that attractive personality the Prime Minister, Golda Meir, have been quoted on numerous occasions as suggesting that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people. I have met a number of them, and it is not an argument with which Palestinians would agree. The escalation of their resistance—we have seen this happening over the years—both civil and military, bears witness to that.
This Jewish State has not only taken the land of another people but refuses to allow that same people, the Palestinians, equality in their own land. Large numbers of Palestinians left their homes as a result of the 1948 fighting that led to the establishment of the State of Israel. Few have been allowed to return and fewer still have received even the most derisory compensation for their property and homes, now being lived in by immigrants from Europe and the United States. The United Nations has called on Israel for the past 24 years to allow the refugees to return and it has been met with a stony refusal—and by the Israeli suggestion that the refugees are the responsibility of the Arab States.
It is as well to remember that it was not the Arab States which took their homes and land. One can scarcely be surprised, however much one may condemn incidents such as Munich—and I do—that some of those who have subsisted in refugee camps on UN charity and UN resolutions for the whole of their lifetimes have become totally desperate Some Palestinian Arabs have lived within Israel since 1948 and many others came under Israeli rule as a result of the 1967 June War. There are now so many Arabs in Israeli-occupied territory that the fear is regularly voiced by Israeli politicians that what was founded as a Jewish State may become a State with a Jewish minority.
Those Palestinians under Israeli rule are sadly—and this is not perhaps publicised often enough in the Western Press or politics—subjected to systematic oppression. Some of this is military in nature—the neighbourhood punishment. What a neat phrase and what an operation. There is the blowing up of houses and mass arrests. This has been condemned by the United Nations and it is too well known even for Israel to deny effectively.
There are other forms of oppression. Large areas of land on the West Bank and in Syrian territory have been seized for new Jewish settlements, taken by military decree from the Palestinians. Since the June War large numbers of Palestinians from the West Bank have begun to work in Israel proper, in con- struction, agriculture and other industries where there is a labour shortage. They receive lower wages than Israelis in similar jobs. The national trade union federation, the Histadrut, represents one of the biggest sectors of the Israeli economy and is controlled by the governing parties. The Palestinians have no freedom of movement. Yet they are recognised, even by the Bank of Israel, as being vital to the Israeli economy. They have become, in effect, second-class citizens in their own land—feared for their numbers but valued and underpaid for their labour.
Yet they—and this is a sad irony—are in some ways the lucky Palestinians. They at least are living in their homeland, albeit under alien occupation, and are not subjected, like the refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, to the expressions of world concern and world charity that are renewed each year at the United Nations General Assembly.
If the phrase "Next year in Jerusalem" has become a meaningful phrase for Jews whose ancestors have not seen the Holy Land for 2,000 years, how much more meaningful must it be for those Palestinians on the East Bank of the Jordan who, on a clear day, can see the domes of Jerusalem shining in the sun?
My hon. Friend should remember that oppression creates oppression. May I make an unkind comment? It needs to be made. Most of us here are fortunate enough to have a single loyalty to this country and to this Parliament. It is time some of our colleagues on both sides of the House forgot their dual loyalty to another country and another Parliament. They are representatives here and not in the Knesset—[Interruption.]
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman meant to be as drastic as perhaps he sounded. We shall leave it to the hon. Gentleman to explain exactly what he meant. At the same time, I can understand why the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) felt it necessary to rise.
I did not think I was discussing the Market, but I shall make a 40-minute speech on that if my hon. Friend wants to interrupt me. What I was trying to suggest in the whole of my speech was that what should be paramount to British Members of Parliament is British interests.
The hon. Gentleman has just made an entirely unworthy smear. The campaign is not orchestrated by Israel or by Jews. It is a humanitarian campaign supported by many who can agree with several of the things the hon. Gentleman has said.
I must be allowed to make my own comments on that. They stand on the record.
None of us would deny that Jews in the Soviet Union have faced some suffering, unacceptable suffering unnecessarily imposed. But I have noticed little slackening in the campaign now that the Soviet Union is allowing thousands of Jews to leave the Soviet Union every year. Yet while the Israeli Government devoutly defend the right of people who have never been to Palestine to "return" there from the Soviet Union, the same Government maintain a studied silence in the face of demands that the Palestinians should be allowed to return to their homes. Scarcely a week passes without more Palestinians being deported from their own country, from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, to Jordan.
What kind of State is this Israel? It was founded on racial exclusiveness and continues to follow that policy. It invites Jews, and only Jews, from all over the world to come as Israeli citizens. It encourages those Palestinians still there to leave, while refusing to allow the refugees, the real Palestinians, to come back. It has ignored—
On a point of order. I have been listening with some care to my hon. Friend's speech and I have been waiting for an adequate elucidation of his earlier remark about which my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) complained. I intervene as a non-Jewish Member. I feel that the imputations about dual loyalty are unworthy, and I urge that on reflection my hon. Friend might wish to withdraw those remarks. I am not concerned with the fact that I have in my constituency a substantial number of Jewish voters.
I have other people with other interests as well, but it would be just as unworthy to accuse those of us who have sympathy with the Vietnamese people or with Socialist Governments in other parts of the world of having a dual loyalty.
I think the hon. Gentleman will realise that there is no intrinsic breach of the rules of order for me to take serious account of and call on the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) to withdraw. But I think that the hon. Member for Smethwick would please the House generally if he could put the matter straight so that hon. Members, not least those on his own side of the House, would feel that perhaps he had not done them an injustice.
I had hoped to make a brief speech, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You put me in a terrible quandary. I find it difficult to retract statements that I feel to be true. They may be unfortunate, and they may offend other hon. Members, but I should find it as difficult to withdraw my comment on Zionism as to fail to make the same comment about Communism, which also involves dual loyalties. I hope that what I have said will be allowed to stand and that I may succeed in making a brief speech.
The very insistence that all Jews belong in Israel and not in their own countries has given the anti-Semites a new weapon that they have not been slow to use. Is it any wonder that the Palestinians and other Arabs, from kings to Communists and sultans to Socialists, call Israel a racialist State? For without any doubt Zionism is a racialist dogma.
Our friends in the Arab world are puzzled by British support for that State. They wonder why, despite our massive commercial and historical ties with them, we choose to support what they see as their enemy. They wonder what has happened to the British love of freedom and justice which we taught them in our schools. Today they wonder and are puzzled. If tomorrow they decide to nationalise all British interests and to cripple our economy, we should not be surprised.
Perhaps even the British Government cannot hope to live for ever on past friendships. The justice of the Palestinian case appears, sadly, to carry little weight with hon. Members. But whichever way we look at it, British support for Israel and its racialism is both unsavoury and, in terms of our national interest, profoundly unwise.
I end by making a necessary comment about the future development of the Israeli State. It is time that some of us who wish to ensure the survival of the Jewish community in the Middle East presented the only possible peaceful solution for the long term. Israel will eventually, much as its inhabitants dislike the prospect, have to undergo a voluntary de-Zionisation. The new generation of Israelis—I do not think that the present one will do it—will have to accept a new Palestine in which all the communities, Jewish, Moslem and Christian, have equal political and civic rights, which they do not have now, in a secular State. Otherwise—this is the inevitable movement of history—the people of Israel will face another annihilation, and a modem Massada will be as final as the previous one. That would be totally unacceptable to me. But it will be avoided only if the Israelis—perhaps the younger generation sense this already—abandon the exclusive racialist nature of their State and give to other people, the Palestinians, the respect they demand for themselves and the rights that justice demands for the Palestinians.
I hope that the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) will forgive me if I do not follow him on the subject he chose to discuss but return to another matter discussed earlier, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) mentioned that we had a debate on that subject on Friday. I was very sorry that constituency commitments did not allow me to be here.
During that debate many notes of caution were struck, particularly by hon. Members on the Government side. Today I think we have had three-party unanimity, if I correctly understood the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston), that we should be extremely cautious in our approach to the subject.
When the Soviet Union accuse Her Majesty's Government, as they have done during the past months, of dragging their feet on this matter of the CSCE, they are being totally unfair.
The Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact should remember the circumstances in which the conference has been convened.
Firstly, in particular, after one of the loudest calls for such a conference in 1968 the Soviet Army rolled into Prague. Within weeks of the honeyed words of the call, there was the violent brutality of the action.
Secondly, there has been enunciated on a number of occasions the Brezhnev doctrine, which still allows the Soviet Union to roll into any other Communist country if it feels that Communism is being undermined.
Thirdly, of course, we have recently had this extraordinary definition of coexistence by Mr. Brezhnev which seems to allow anything except armed intervention and seems to be a dictum of an almost pseudo-Clausewitzian nature that co-existence is just a continuation of war by other means.
I accept what other hon. Members have said about the principles on which we must operate at the CESC.
First, NATO must continue to speak with a united voice.
Secondly, a strong Western Europe is essential if we are to have an all-Europe détente, and a détente without strength would be capitulation.
Thirdly, whatever reductions we seek to achieve, there should be no disruption of the balance of power.
In that context I welcome the words of the British Ambassador in Finland on 30th November. What he said was practical and full of common sense.
Nevertheless, I hope that the Government might be more forthcoming in future towards the CESC. I know that we felt originally that calls for the CESC were to a considerable extent Soviet propaganda. We thought that the Soviets would use it as an exercise in propaganda. But that is only half the story. The other half from the Warsaw Pact side, as anyone who is familiar with Eastern Europe will know, is that there is a real sincerity, almost a desperate sincerity, on the part of the Czechs and the Poles, for example, to have this security conference.
There is a "reality" about these negotiations which anyone who has ever taken part in negotiations will recognise. We do not have in this conference the situation where one side has the other side "over a barrel", as the saying goes. One side will not say that it is delivering an ultimatum; will not say this is our decision, take it or leave it. There is a vast area of common ground between the 34 countries taking part in the CESC, an area of common memories of the Second World War and a common determination that it will never happen again. There is a situation here for once where government policy is genuinely sustained by the deepest feelings of people on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Almost certainly if the crunch came the satellite powers would side with the USSR, but I hope the Government will recognise that in spite of this there is a great difference in attitude between the other Warsaw Pact countries and the USSR. There could also be a great difference between the USSR in 1972 and the USSR in 1982—and in 1992. This difference will, I believe, be caused by awareness of the growing power of the EEC; second, the growing power of China, and third, the stress and strain that will increasingly develop in the USSR itself over that period.
All that is quite apart from the attitude of the neutral countries, whether they are neutral like Yugoslavia or neutral like Switzerland or Austria. It is the cooperation and confidence of these countries that we must win.
In other words, I should like to see the balance of the Government's approach to the CESC—and I put it no higher than balance—based less on suspicion and more on trust, less on scepticism and more on a fresh and open approach, less on defensiveness and more on a determination that the conference should mark the start of genuine progress in European co-operation.
As an illustration of this, I shall make one point and ask one question. What do we expect to be the result of the conference?
We could have some sort of paper declaration of rights on how relationships between the States may be guided. I do not think this would be worth very much.
We could perhaps have a promise that there would be another security conference in two or three years time, which would be something, but again I do not think it would take us very far.
Or we could have the setting up of some sort of permanent organisation.
In the debate on Friday, the Under-Secretary said that the question of continuing machinery was difficult. He also said that we should be very wary of international bureaucracies and he said that we already had enough of those. He also asked who would pay if one were to be set up. Although I respect his general attitude to this, I do not agree on this point. I think that the best result we could see from this conference would be the setting up of some sort of permanent organisation whose objects would be to discuss, to research, to study and to co-ordinate the approaches to our common European problems.
First, I would hope that this organisation would provide facilities for regular meetings between Foreign Ministers of the individual European countries, and of other Ministers if necessary. If we wanted to discuss pollution, for example, we could send the Secretary of State for the Environment.
Second, I should also wish to see facilities for regular meetings between officials.
Third, I would want the organisation to be able to provide study groups of experts who would report back to the relevant meeting of the Ministers for coordination and implementation by the individual governments.
Of course, I am not blind to the great difficulties there would be in setting up such an organisation.
We do not want another mini-General Assembly of the United Nations.
We do not want yet another platform for abusive propaganda.
We do not want to be too ambitious too soon in the subjects to be discussed.
But the Under-Secretary said in his speech on Friday the talks to discuss the CSCE among EEC members has been a spur to political integration, and I accept that. If that were so, surely some sort of permanent organisation such as I have suggested could act as a practical spur to pan-European co-operation.
This may seem a faint hope to many of my hon. Friends, but I do not believe it to be a faint hope. Over the next 10, 20 or 30 years I believe that Western Europe will generate such a magnetism—beyond the ideologies of capitalism and Communism—in social, cultural, economic and political terms, that those countries which are now outside the EEC but which are as indisputably part of Europe as are those countries which are already within it, will ultimately find its magetism impossible to resist. It is in this setting and in this historical perspective that I believe we should be considering the potential of a security conference.
I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Iain Sproat) will forgive me if I do not follow what he has said. By the same token I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) will forgive me. In the cold light of day, when he reflects on some of his remarks, I think that my hon. Friend will come to regret them. I believe the day will come when this House is far more representative of the various communities which live in the United Kingdom. When we have West Indians and Indians and perhaps more Welshmen and more Irishmen in the House, there will be no question of dual nationality or dual loyalties. With great respect to my hon. Friend, some of the things he said would have been better left unsaid.
This has been a wide-ranging debate, and I shall seek to widen it a little further by drawing attention to a matter which has not so far been canvassed—the question of aid to undeveloped countries. British aid to developing countries is mean, niggardly and wholly inadequate. The Government's foreign aid policy continues to be the least generous of any of the industrialised nations. When private investment in undeveloped countries is included, it is said that Britain more than meets the target of donating 1 per cent. of its gross national product, but it is a cause of national shame that we still refuse, even in principle, to meet the United Nations target of 0·7 per cent.
The British aid statistics published yesterday reveal an abysmally mean picture. One of the most depressing features is that the number of publicly financed specialists and volunteers working in developing countries again fell last year, as it has done every year since 1967. That is a disturbing pattern. Equally important, the number of publicly financed students coming to this country from the developing nations fell to 7,000. The most depressing feature, however, is that private investment makes up almost two-thirds of the total British aid to these countries.
The crucial issue is whether the regional approach or the worldwide approach is the best means of aiding the Third World. Our foreign affairs debates, perhaps understandably, have become waterlogged with the question of the EEC and the solutions which need to be pressed have not been gone into in any great detail. The solutions advocated tend to correspond to the interests of the countries to which the various experts belong. The basic question is whether it is better for communities of industrial nations to evolve a system of aid facilities specifically for the under-developed countries within their own sphere of influence or whether it is preferable to pool the aid resources of the world in an attempt to avoid a situation in which each group has its poor members and new forms of discrimination are created between the developing countries.
The debate on aid at the UNCTAD conference in Santiago last May showed that the developing countries favour a system whereby aid is multilateral rather than bilateral, channelled through international agencies such as the IDA. The dangers of bilateral aid were stressed by President Allende of Chile, who said:
Another fact which should be regarded … stems from the increasingly obvious conflicts between the public interests of the wealthy nations and the private interests of their great international corporations. We should also take into account the depredations to these consortia, and their powerful corruptive influence on public institutions in rich and poor countries alike. The peoples affected oppose such exploitation and demand that the Governments concerned should cease to leave part of their external economic policy in the hands of private enterprises, which arrogate to themselves the rôle of agents promoting the progress of poorer countries and have become a supranational force that is threatening to get completely out of control.
This is a matter which we should scrutinise with some care. The crux of the problem is that private investment is not attracted to the real problems which face the developing countries. They are not attracted, for instance, to basic infrastructures, to middle level industry or health, welfare and education services.
I will attempt briefly to highlight the problem. The difficulties are aggravated by our entry into the EEC from 1st January and also by American protectionism and aid withdrawal. The weakness of the system is well illustrated by the grave difficulties confronting the Commonwealth Caribbean countries. Throughout the region foreign companies are repatriating their profits while unemployment lies at about 20 per cent. The individual countries have scanty means to remedy what is now a desperate situation. A more integrated Caribbean, with a larger market, would not justify, in the eyes of the private firms and the multinational corporations, investment in manufacturing much beyond the level of finishing and processing. That is the problem which we must face.
The larger companies, including those of the United Kingdom, seem blatantly unaware of the difficulties involving the political set-up of the Caribbean countries. If we look at the situation realistically, we see a danger that several more Cubas may be created if the developed world remains blind to the reality of the problems confronting Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean.
The outstanding problem which confronts the Caribbean is its dependence primarily on a narrow range of products —for example, bananas and sugar. The destruction by fire of the Caribbean banana box factory at St. Lucia last week represented a major catastrophe for the whole of the area. I hope that the Government will immediately come to the assistance of the banana-producing islands. The Government could make a real contribution as an earnest of their professed view that they are concerned not only with the countries of the Nine.
If the Caribbean situation is looked at realistically it will be seen that tourism is a fragile industry on which to base a major part of a country's economy. Nevertheless Grenada is in urgent need of financial help to build an airstrip for medium-size jet aircraft, which would play a useful part in bringing tourism to the Caribbean. But the reality is that no hotels will be built on an island like Grenada unless there is an airport. Grenada requires the same kind of grant and soft loan which St. Kitts received. Help is urgently needed in the greater utilisation of agricultural resources to enable these countries to achieve greater self-sufficiency in the production of food. They need more aid of a technical kind, more know-how and more expertise. They need help with agricultural machinery and instruction in better farming methods and marketing facilities.
Having regard to the hour, I shall not dwell on the EEC's outlook on aid to the Third World. However, one of the major disappointments of UNCTAD III was that so little progress was made towards a world wide commodity agreement which more than anything else might have stabilised the foreign earnings of the primary producers. Nor were there any firm undertakings to interpret trade preferences towards manufacturers from the poor countries in a less restrictive way. Nor have the countries which use the preference system, particularly those within the EEC, given up their habit of demanding reciprocal access to underdeveloped countries' markets which require protection.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that all the talk and the trumpeting that we have had from the Government benches about Britain giving a lead towards the Third World that would transform the European rôle out of all recognition has come to nothing. That will remain the position as long as the Government continue to insist that the major emphasis must be on private investment rather than on public aid. Such an example of the economics of self-interest can hardly serve as an inspiration to the other Community members.
I invite the Government to take a number of practical steps. In the first place I ask them to disentangle the Ministry of Overseas Development from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. At present it lacks the teeth that it would have if it were a completely independent Department.
Secondly the Government should without delay set up a Select Committee on aid and development. I was glad earlier today to hear hopeful sounds from the Leader of the House about the setting up of a Select Committee, but hopeful sounds are not enough. I should like there to be a firm commitment in the near future. At the moment the overall appraisal of provisions for implementing the United Nations strategy, made biennially by the General Assembly, is to be the task of each individual nation. No provision exists for any such scrutiny in Britain at the present time.
Thirdly there is the provision that is made through the commonwealth Development Corporation. According to its latest report, last year £22 million was invested while approval was given for £29 million. It is to be regretted that the Caribbean share of the new commitments decreased sharply. Particularly in view of our entry into Europe, I believe that in these circumstances we should look again at the powers given to the corporation in 1969 to operate in countries outside the Commonwealth.
The retiring chairman, Lord Howick, was gravely concerned about the way the corporation was financed. A great deal of its work is being thwarted because it receives the bulk of its money on unrealistic terms. The general manager rightly takes the view that it should receive cheaper money to enable it to carry out a number of projects which cannot bear such a high interest rate. It is monstrous that Treasury advances have to be repaid at between 6 and 7 per cent. interest. The corresponding French organisation, the Caissé Centrale, receives its money at a rate between 2 and 3 per cent. and is able to carry out its functions in a more meaningful way. The West German and Dutch organisations also receive more favourable treatment from their respective Governments.
It is also the height of absurdity that the funds allocated to the corporation by the Treasury must be spent within the appropriate financial year. As a result there is no provision for carrying forward an unspent balance. As The Times pointed out on 2nd June, this is a major additional problem for an institution whose function is the financing of medium-term running programmes.
I hope the Government will take account of what is happening generally in the Caribbean community. I believe that the new relationships and regional communities which are slowly evolving in and around the Caribbean are all new spheres of influence which we cannot afford to ignore. On the contrary I believe that, bearing in mind that this is a crucial period for that part of the world—with new hopes, new trends and new markets there will increasingly be a tendency towards the formation of bigger States out of Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaica and so on, with the smaller and associated States tending towards becoming an independent community—it would be foolhardy of us to ignore what is happening there. We should make it plain that we will give them all the help we can and that our firm friendship is still theirs.
It is very much a truism that we are in a position of reappraisal of Britain's position in the world when we are so close to the event of our entry into the European Community. It is obvious that we are no longer able as a country to control or bend events in the way in which once we were able to control them. There has been an undoubted decline in our overseas power. Many people regret this. Regret is not the appropriate emotion to feel. We may as well recognise that it was inevitable that we should suffer a relative decline in strength as other nations reached their full maturity. I do not bemoan this fact, and I do not feel unduly nostalgic, for those days of yore. I only feel that perhaps we misled ourselves for too long that we still held a degree of power which it has been obvious, at least since 1945, that we do not have.
If it is no longer a question for Britain in forming her foreign policy of might being right, what, then, is the guideline for us in forming our policy? How should we conduct ourselves? It is obvious that one of the considerations we bear most strongly in mind is that we wish to avoid future world conflicts. That almost goes without saying.
I should like, in passing, to think that closer co-ordination in foreign policy between the countries of Europe—and I do not include only those of the Community—will be a step in the direction of reducing the possibilities of future world conflict. I also believe that the rôle of overseas aid is important in this respect—that, maybe, by the liberal use of aid, we can avoid conflicts arising in the underprivileged half of the world.
Our second objective as a country must surely be to concentrate on the growth and protection of our trade. We are essentially a trading country. We depend on the success of our companies, our industry, in order to survive. Therefore, we must seek friendly relations to assist the development of our trade throughout the world. But the purpose of wanting to keep the peace of the world and of developing our own trade are by no means unlinked. The struggle between East and West has changed from being a hot war confrontation to more of an economic struggle. In that economic struggle we certainly cannot afford to lose out. If we are seeking to trade on the widest possible basis in the world, then we must have a clear understanding of the nature of the world as it is today.
It ought not to be necessary to say that it is a changing world in which we live. Yet it seems to me that many people do not yet realise how much the world has changed. There is a tendency to indulge in strange bouts of romanticism. Nowhere is this more common than in regard to the Commonwealth. I simply believe that as a guideline to our dealings with the Commonwealth, both now and in the future, sentimentality must be out. I do not mean to say that I have no regard for the Commonwealth, but I believe that its true concept and purpose have been misunderstood from the start.
There was an anxiety by the Government to try to convince the British people that the Commonwealth was merely a continuation of the Empire under a different name. People have been inclined to think of the Commonwealth as a power bloc, or as a trading bloc. I do not believe that either of these things was its true purpose. I believe that it was a forum in which there could be exchanges of views at all sorts of level between people with different geographical backgrounds, different racial backgrounds, and that this could lead to an understanding contributing to peace in the world. But the regard in which I hold the concept of the Commonwealth is a regard for the whole of the Commonwealth, and I find that the term "old Commonwealth" is quite meaningless in my whole view of things. It would be grossly improper if the term "old Commonwealth" were further defined as meaning a white Commonwealth only.
I do not want to lose any friendships in the world, particularly with Australia, New Zealand and Canada, but, in common with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), I want to see new relationships growing up with Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I hope that we can get away from the dewy-eyed affection with which we have regarded them up to now and realise that they are adult countries and that the new generations in those countries do not want their relationships with us to be conducted in terms of the sentimental past.
I believe that in the Commonwealth we must behave in an absolutely evenhanded fashion as between one member and another. Whether or not we are animated principally by a spirit of the Commonwealth, we should be thinking hard about our relationships with the countries of Africa and Asia which will become increasingly important to us. We start with certain advantages in our dealings with them. They think in terms of dealing with us almost as a natural reaction. We find it difficult to understand that for various political reasons they sometimes behave in ways which to us are not attractive or agreeable. But this should not turn us from the long-term view.
Short-term difficulties should not negate the need for aid and development from Britain towards the countries of Africa and Asia, nor should these difficulties negate the chances of the growth of British trade and investment in those countries. British trade and investment has been increasing all the time in the countries of Africa and Asia, particularly in Africa, despite some of the political difficulties we have experienced.
We shall have to face the fact that our relationships with the African and Asian countries may become increasingly affected by our relationships with South Africa and Rhodesia. I realise the importance of South African trade to Britain. Some people place a reliance on the link with South Africa for defence purposes. We must look carefully at our relationships with South Africa to ensure that we are doing all we can to assist in furthering the causes with which we have the most sympathy within that country. It is not necessarily in the longterm interests of racial harmony in South Africa that Britain should go for a 100 per cent. boycott.
It is even more true that we may come under pressure because of our relationships with Rhodesia. It would be a grave mistake for Britain to reach a position where she gives her blessing to Mr. Ian Smith's regime without there being certain arrangements that are accepted by the Africans before we allow legal independence to go forward. I would rather withhold approval altogether unless there are reasonably satisfactory arrangements acceptable to the Africans. This factor can affect our relationship with the other African countries. I hope that in trying to pursue the worthwhile cause of achieving a multiracial constitution in Rhodesia we are not prepared to compromise so short of the target and thus impair our relationship with the other African and Asian countries.
Our relationship with these other countries in Africa and Asia may be complicated by our new status in their eyes as a colonial power. We have very few colonies left, and most of them are willing colonies. They are not pressing us to be free of "oppression". But other countries do not always understand this.
As a recent visitor to one such colony, the island of St. Helena, I hope that we shall do everything we can to lift the living standards and social conditions in all our remaining colonies so that we may look on them with pride and so that no criticism can be levelled at us about our relationship with them. I was pleased with the recent statement by the Minister for Overseas Development that he was appointing a development adviser to assist the Governor of St. Helena in considering the future development of the island.
With the advent of our entry into the European Economic Community, we are at long last coming to terms with the reality of our position in the world. We should unclutter our minds of past illusions and concentrate on Britain's interests in the world as we find it. It is vital that we do not throw away the chances of having a close and friendly relationship with Third World countries by clinging over-long to attitudes and policies which are relics of a bygone age.
One needs a great deal of stamina in this place to get called to speak, and I see by the clock that I have nine minutes left.
The debate has been a little unbalanced. To have three Arab apologists is a bit much in one debate. But I want to talk about Germany which is one of the most exciting developments we have before us at this moment of time.
I happened to be in West Germany during the recent election campaign, and I thought that Brandt's campaign and the result were absolutely splendid. However, the CDU's campaign was disgusting—[Laughter.] I do not know what is funny about that. They carried out a disgusting personal smear campaign on Brandt. Everybody who opposed the CDU was smeared as a Communist. Of course, that happens in this place, too. They tried to stir up prejudice against the considerable number of foreign workers who are now in West Germany. Despite this, the West Germans showed their maturity in electing Brandt and his electoral victory was due largely to his Ostpolitik. I join with the Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office who on Friday welcomed the result and the significance for the Ostpolitik and what was likely to stem from it.
I should like to say a few words about our attitude to the German Democratic Republic. We have seen the initialling of the treaty between the two Germanies. This was an enormous step forward. I am sorry that we have had to wait so long for it. I regret that neither the present Government nor their predecessors were willing in the past to take some initiative in the matter. We waited on the West Germans, and we had to wait for the return of a government led by Willy Brandt to make this progress.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) on his speech. Every sinner that repenteth is much loved—and I love him very much for that part of his speech. No doubt it resulted from his visit to the Soviet Union. I have news for him. Precisely the things he did on his return I did on my return both from the Soviet Union and from many visits to the German Democratic Republic. After I had spoken to Walter Ulbricht, the Minister of Foreign Trade in Berlin and the Foreign Secretary, I made reports to my Ministers. I received replies similar to those that my right hon. Friend got from our present Ministers. Nothing changes. The only unchanging feature is the cold war attitude of the mandarins in the Foreign Office. That never changes.
We need some indication of activity from our own Government, and it will surprise the Treasury Bench to learn that I welcomed the statement made in the House last Friday by the Under-Secretary of State about the opening of negotiations with the GDR. I regret only that we were not taking a similar lead in this years ago. Many overtures have been made by the GDR since 1964 and, as chairman of the Anglo-GDR Group in this House, I know that large numbers of my parliamentary colleagues on both sides have been to the GDR. In fact about 80 of them have been. They have understood the attitude of people there, just as my right hon. Friend understands the attitude of the Soviet leaders today.
We need to seize the opportunity presented to us. There is good will on both sides. I hope that the Minister of State will give us some indication of the progress likely to be made. When does he expect negotiations to begin between Britain and the GDR. Is he aware that the French Government have already started negotiations? We always have to be beaten by the French. It is the same, in or out of the Common Market. When does the right hon. Gentleman expect recognition of the GDR by Britain? When does he expect that we shall set up an embassy in Berlin? Will he undertake that the embassy will have a very strong and competent trade section?
As we have lost trade with the Soviet Union, so we have lost an enormous amount of trade with the GDR. When right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power in 1955 the total of our exports to the GDR reached the magnificent figure of £ 1 million. By last year, 1971, our exports had reached £17 million. We hear that last month there was a deficit of £81 million in our balance of trade. Two countries have been suggested today where the Government could make a great deal of advance for Britain and do something about this appalling deficit, if only they had the sense to do it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East compared West Germany's trade with the GDR with that of the Soviet Union. In 1955, a comparable year, West German exports to the GDR were £48 million. By last year that very interesting figure had risen to no less than £293 million. That represents a considerable amount of exporting by West Germany to the GDR. It is clear that we are always outrun and defeated by countries which in the past have proclaimed that they have considerable animus towards the GDR but which nevertheless have had the sense to safeguard their national interests by developing trade.
We shall keep a very close eye on the developments which take place between our Government and the GDR from now on. We hope very soon to see normal relations established between our two countries.
Although the debate has covered a wide range of subjects, many well-informed hon. Members on both sides of the House have been unable to take part. This certainly points the need, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) reminded us earlier, for more frequent debates on foreign and commonwealth affairs so that specific areas of policy may be discussed.
This wide-ranging debate contained within it a number of substantial debates, particularly on the Middle East, to which the Foreign Secretary—I make no complaint—made scant reference. But this is the way of these portmanteau debates. We never know when within such a debate a substantial debate will be generated.
I shall confine my contribution to a number of questions to the Minister of State arising partly from the debate and one or two points on disarmament which I think should be put at this stage.
Before addressing myself specifically to disarmament, I should like to repeat the important question which my right hon. Friend put in his masterly speech at the commencement of the debate, namely: what will be the position after 1st January when this country becomes a member of the EEC and wishes to negotiate trade agreements with other countries? Shall we be obliged to negotiate through the Commission? Will the Commission do the job for us and dictate to us the terms of such an agreement? I take it that the Minister of State has by now got a definitive answer to that extremely important question which I make no apology for restating.
It would indeed be well to have a separate debate on disarmament so that the technical as well as the political aspects of this vital and difficult sphere could be properly discussed. In the meantime I wish to raise a number of points, on some of which the Minister may be able to comment tonight, although there are others, I freely admit, on which he may need advice.
The past year or so has seen some very encouraging developments towards agreement on peaceful relations in central Europe and towards disarmament and arms control, which is not quite the same thing, but is essential and possibly more practicable in our time.
It is not euphoric to state that détente is a developing fact—at least in Europe. It would be dangerous defeatism at this time to deny it. The fact that the Ostpolitik a Herr Brandt had a local context does not in any way detract from its significant contribution to a much wider relaxation of tension. This is something that we have been seeking since 1945 and it eluded us until the German Chancellor more than anybody, strongly supported by both the Labour and Conservative Governments, took certain risks. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), in a very thoughtful and significant speech coming from the benches opposite, called upon his own Government to be more forthcoming in responding to proposals for implementing detente in central and eastern Europe.
Herr Brandt had to take certain risks. He had to override certain persistent suspicions. He did so. He succeeded, and received a resounding vote of confidence for so doing from his own electorate. There are no prizes in the sphere of peace and disarmament without a certain amount of risk-taking. I believe that the policy of little steps, Ostpolitik, which Herr Brandt initiated and carried through so successfully, should be our guide in this matter. Indeed, we should be guided by him. He is a good friend of this country, of the West, of democracy, and has shown this in many ways.
It is clear that the NATO Ministers, at successive council meetings, took heart from what was happening under Herr Brandt's leadership in Central Europe. There is no doubt that Ostpolitik stimulated them to be more forthcoming, to use the hon. Gentleman's words, in relation to proposals that there should be a conference on security and co-operation in Europe. Similarly, it is clear that the Soviet Union was encouraged by Ostpolitik to respond to expressions of readiness to engage in preparations for such a conference, and we are therefore faced with the position that a certain amount of risk taking—not too much, but a certain amount of forthcomingness, of not being too timid in reaching out for the possibilities of peace and disarmament —is paying off.
The great event of this year has been the American-Soviet agreements in respect of anti-ballistic systems. The May agreements have given us all hope, but we must look a little further back to see that as early as September 1971 the two super-powers came to agreements—not paper agreements but definite, practical arrangements—to prevent the accidental outbreak of nuclear war which many people consider to be the real hazard of our age, and Phase 2 of the SALT talks promises to go beyond the agreements of September 1971 and last May.
All this raises hopeful implications for the rest of us. It also raises new questions of considerable importance. The first is, how warm is the British attitude to this developing détente? I again quote the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, because he reflects a certain suspicion on both sides of the House, and it was voiced by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston). The suspicion is that the Government have been dragging their feet. On Friday last there were repeated accusations from the benches opposite that the rest of us were euphoric about the prospects of détente in the East-West situation. Today the Foreign Secretary, while not being in a state of bounding enthusiasm, nevertheless advanced quite perceptibly, at least since last Friday, and I congratulate him on doing so. Bearing in mind that the countries nearest to what is called the Soviet threat are so much more keen to talk to the Soviets and their associates than we are, does it not raise the question whether the British Government have been holding back, have been putting the brakes on this promising detente in NATO and otherwise?
There was the statement by the Secretary of State for Defence—admittedly to the Tory Party Conference—in favour of an Anglo-French nuclear force, or a European nuclear force. Whatever one may think of the terms of entry into the EEC—and opinions on the two sides of the House vary on that—surely that was not the time for the Defence Secretary, a senior member of the Cabinet, to throw this spanner into the works. It has been regarded in some quarters as an attempt to hold back the increasing détente.
I do not think that it was intended in that way—I prefer to think that it was a misjudgment—but in any case is this Government policy? Have they properly considered the effect of such a policy on our relations, first of all, with the United States, or the impact of such a policy on Eastern Europe at this crucial time or, as my right hon. Friend said, in respect of the developing SALT agreements? How does this concept fit in with what is likely to emerge from the second phase of SALT? This very disturbing statement has done no good at all and may do considerable harm.
The second group of questions that I should like to raise emerge from the fact of détente, in that we are faced with two sets of talks developing in Europe and related to Europe as such, apart from SALT, which are of universal application and importance. There are the talks on mutual balanced force reductions, directed towards the situation in Europe —this is to be a swap within Europe, which includes Western Europe—and the conference on East-West security and cooperation, again addressed to the situation in Europe.
During last Friday's debate, the Under-Secretary said that, at some late stage of the security conference, consideration might be given to a permanent European body to supervise the implementation of the results of the ESC. I think that he was right to say that the mutual balanced force reduction talks should proceed separately, at least for the time being, and the Foreign Secretary was right today to remind us that the two sets of talks are quite different. The ESC is essentially political and the MBFR talks are essentially technical. Nevertheless, the two could come together within the European context and join an already existing commission, the Economic Commission for Europe.
Surely it is not too early to think ahead a little and consider whether these three institutions, should not be bound together in some form under an all-European supervisory commission. This is an important suggestion, which is being canvassed increasingly among those who are very anxious that the reality of Europe should come about.
I am not at this moment disposed to argue the rightness or wrongness of the decision to enter the EEC, but the reality of Europe is much more than a tight little zollverein of nine countries into which we are urged to go. The Foreign Secretary, in one of his more engaging moments, when he delved into history, said that, as he recalled, two world wars originated in the so-called civilised Western world. He is slightly off the line geographically. I think that both—I do not remember either, both—originated in Eastern or Central Europe. The 1914 war started in Sarajevo, which may not be quite in the COMECON area but is certainly not in Western Europe. Danzig, in the Polish corridor, seemed to be the originating point—if not Danzig, certainly Czechslovakia—for the 1939 war.
I make this point because I am very anxious that whatever happens if and when we enter the EEC, we do not enter into an arrangement which takes a posture of defence against the rest of Europe. If the aim is to be European, we must think in terms of the whole of Europe. It seems that the key to this European reality—which if we can achieve it is really the only guarantee of peace in Europe—would be through breathing life into the various commissions, the economic, security and force reduction commissions, which are on the way from the present talks.
The Foreign Secretary rightly reminded us that that set of talks is in turn different in character and ambit from SALT. Also, by implication, I would say that it was different from the conference of the Committee on Disarmament which has been dealing, with remarkable success, with chemical and biological weapons. The first set of talks is addressed to Europe. The second talks are the children of the United Nations. Let us remind ourselves that what has been achieved in Geneva by the conference of the Committee is an example of some successful progeny of the much-criticised UNO.
I have one or two questions about the Convention on Biological Weapons. The convention has been opened for signature since April 1972. About 90 countries have signed it, but before it can be enforced 22 must have ratified it. Will the Minister of State, perhaps tonight or in the near future, say what progress has been made in this direction? Have the three depository Powers, including ourselves, ratified? What pressures or persuasions are Her Majesty's Government exerting, particularly on their prospective EEC partners, to contribute to the necessary minimum of 22 ratifications? Once it is ratified, Article 2 pro- vides that all biological weapons and the means of their delivery must be destroyed or diverted to peaceful uses within nine months. Therefore, the sooner we have the necessary number of ratifications, the sooner we can see the enforcement of this very important convention.
This convention brings us very close to a solution of the vexed problem of verification. The Minister of State will know that, certainly since the rejection of the Baruch plan—one of the most promising proposals ever placed before the world in regard to nuclear weapons—it is the problem of verification of compliance which has baffled disarmament statesmen. But on biological warfare, which potentially could be as terrible and as catastrophic, as nuclear warfare, it seems that the Russians as well as the West have come fairly close to acceptable verification. They still resist on-site inspection. However, there is a provision under which defaults shall be reported to the Security Council and it could be—I would not minimise it—that a report and world-wide exposure of default in a matter such as this might be sufficient sanction. Nevertheless, the question arises and perhaps the Minister will enlighten us upon it. The Security Council is entitled under the appropriate article to make its own investigations when a complaint is made of default. It will presumably issue a public report about the defaulter. Is the publication of such a report subject to a veto? This is one of the practical points arising from the circumstances and powers of the Security Council that possibly we have not considered properly. It may well be that the Security Council does not proceed by vote and veto on the issue of a report. I do not know whether that is the position and I have not been able to find out.
On the proposed convention on chemical weapons we are making a substantial technical contribution towards verification. I believe that the Minister's predecessor, now the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, put in a paper on the possibility of seismological detection of certain explosions related to chemical production for warlike purposes. I hope only that the Government are diverting sufficient highly-qualified and rare manpower to following up these technical questions related to disarmament. It is an investment of manpower and expertise which would be more than justified by the results.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East referred to the international seabed. What is the position about the seabed arms control treaty which seeks to prohibit the emplacement of nuclear weapons on the seabed outside the 12-mile coastal zone? I believe that the necessary number of ratifications was attained in May this year, the three depository powers, ourselves among them, being among the ratifiers. But what is happening about China? It is intended, is it not, that China should be in a position to sign and ratify this particular treaty?
I have not the time to raise a number of other points but before I finish I must say that while I do not criticise the Foreign Secretary for not saying more about the situation in the Middle East, I would suggest that Article 11 of Resolution 2949 of 8th December, which called for a progress report by the special representative, Dr. Jarring, might give an opportunity for new initiative, a new attempt to break the deadlock in this area.
Finally, I was much taken today, as on Monday, by the phrase which the Foreign Secretary used about Africa—
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the Middle East, will he give an assurance that as well as supporting Resolution No. 242 the Opposition also support the moves towards its implementation taken by the 86 members of the United Nations under the resolution he has quoted?
There are a number of consequential resolutions which seek to implement Resolution No. 242 which remains the best, indeed, the only possible basis for a solution and to that extent I can give my right hon. Friend my fullest assurance.
However, I must conclude, as I promised the Minister that I would sit down at half past nine. I said that I was taken by the phrase used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary about the choice in Africa between evolution and revolution. I only hope that he was addressing that salutary admonition to white Africa as well as Black Africa.
The transition which I have just accomplished from housing and construction to the Foreign Office is on the face of it rather abrupt, and yet I think the House will agree if it looks into the matter that they are both essential bread and butter problems affecting the lives of men and women in this country, foreign affairs perhaps even more closely than housing.
For a nation which has experienced two world wars in this century peace is the highest priority, higher even than prosperity. Prosperity for us is in any case bound up with trade. Half of everything we make has to be sold overseas to pay for raw materials and the food we need. Without that export and import trade, our industry would come to a grinding halt and our people would be faced with a choice between emigration and starvation. At least, half of them would, because we have about enough resources to keep 25 million people going here. There would be quite a stormy debate in the House about which half should go or stay. All peoples in the world are concerned with peace and trade, but no country more than ours.
For all this century until very recently our economy was based on the Commonwealth, on a trade and payments system buttressed by preferences and sterling. But in the post-war period the Commonwealth gradually began to outgrow the British industrial base. Historians may dispute whether the process could have been delayed or changed. If I ever go back to writing history I may have something to say about that. The system was eroded until we reached a state where Mr. Dean Acheson was not far wrong in saying that we had lost an empire and not found a rôle. Yet in one sense he was very unfair. Sir Winston Churchill proclaimed as early as 1946 the European vision, and if Mr. Harold Macmillan and the present Leader of the Opposition failed to get into Europe it was not their fault.
We have known for a long time that Europe in one form or another, either on the terms we have obtained or the terms the Opposition think they might obtain, would provide the rôle we sought. It is the great success of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that he has reached this long-sought goal. The new understanding between France and Britain that led up to it may well be accounted as significant a diplomatic achievement as significant as, and possibly more significant than, the original Entente Cordiale negotiated 70 years ago. On its development perhaps everything will depend.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) put a very specific question on our relationship with France, namely, whether we have had discussions with the French on the nuclear tests in the Pacific. Will the Minister answer that at some point in his speech?
I would not have given way if I had thought the hon. Gentleman would ask a question of that sort at this stage.
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) asked me a number of very detailed questions. After only three weeks at the Foreign Office I am not in a position to answer all the points he raised about the Chinese attitude to the sea bed and some of the other more difficult points—
That is a different question from some of the points the right hon. Gentleman raised about disarmament. I shall look into them and communicate with him.
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) questioned whether my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary was right in talking of the political attraction of the European Community, and stressed with anxiety the potential political power of the European Parliament. This came a little strange to me, as it did to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston), since it came from a representative of a party which has just decided not to take part in that Parliament. The poet Dante condemned to the hottest place in hell those who were given an opportunity and refused to take it.
Let us be fair. Perhaps the great Italian poet would not have taken such a serious view of somebody who refused only for a year. We appreciate the terrible problems which would have confronted the Opposition in selecting Members for the European Parliament. We on this side of the House had little difficulty in getting proper representation among our anti-Marketeers. The Opposition would have had a big problem in getting proper representation from their pro-Marketeers.
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon described the European Community as being a tight little zollverein. I have never believed that this step involved any clash with our Commonwealth partners. On the contrary, a strong and prosperous Europe will offer an immense new market to the Commonwealth and immense new sources of capital investment. Already the existing nations in the Community have negotiated a number of association arrangements with overseas countries and we trust that something similar can be done with a number of our Commonwealth associates. The European Community cannot be inward-looking even if it wants to be. The whole history of Western Europe makes this clear. The rocky peninsula of Western Europe lacks the raw materials and markets it needs to give its people the standard of living to which they aspire. We must always be involved in problems of world trade. We must remember the Roman Empire, the impulse of the Crusades and the colonial era. We must be very much involved with the advancement of the less developed countries and the maintenance of world peace.
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East told us about his visit to the Soviet Union and much of what he said was extremely interesting. I realise that he was not making a definitive statement, and it was a little unfortunate that since he made a change in his programme it prevented his being received at the level at which a Shadow Foreign Secretary should be received in Moscow.
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly explain what he means by that statement?
I was very sorry that the Foreign Secretary on his visit to China was not received by Mao Tse-tung. It so happens that I was received by a very senior member of the CPSU, Mr. Ponomarev, as the right hon. Gentleman's Foreign Office officials should have told him. The right hon. Gentleman has a great reputation. Mr. Leopold Amery once wrote that a Member first makes and then improves his reputation by his performances in this House. If Mr. Leopold Amery had heard his son tonight, he might well have added that he loses his reputation that way too.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should be so upset by what I have said. I was only saying what I did to justify the criticisms which I am now going to make about what he said and to excuse him for being slightly wide of the mark. He asked about our trade with the Soviet Union and he talked of its decline. The decline began in 1968. It began three years before the spies were expelled—an expulsion to which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to take exception. The figures are a little better today. The trade for 1972 is 10 per cent. up as compared with 1971.
The right hon. Gentleman thought that we might have handled the expulsion of the spies more discreetly. That was exactly what my right hon. Friend tried to do. It was only when private representations had failed to produce withdrawal that we proceeded to expulsion. The object was not, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested through a misquotation, to improve Anglo-Soviet relations. The object was to rescue this country from dangers which grew to monstrous proportions under the previous Government.
As to the effect on trade, I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the report of the mission of the London Chamber of Commerce which visited Moscow in the spring and to repeated Soviet statements that politics do not enter into trade.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the impact of the EEC and Community law on trade agreements. I should answer this point clearly, particularly as the right hon. Gentleman reinforced the question in his recent intervention. Under the Treaty of Rome all trade agreements made after 1st January of next year must he made through the Commission, and all those concluded before 1st January expire within two years. I must qualify that in two respects. Trade agreements are not the only form of trading with what are called State trading countries. There is no restriction to private industry trading with a foreign State. For example, Hawker Siddeley can trade with the Chinese Government, and continue to do so, as a firm. There are also economic agreements, that is to say, agreements not involving tariffs and quotas, outside the scope of Article 113 of the Treaty of Rome. The agreement of the French Government with Moscow, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, is an economic and not a trade agreement. I am not yet clear whether the German agreement with China is a trade or an economic agreement. We have as yet no precise information.
The right hon. Gentleman chided us and asked what we had done on the trade front. Next year there is to be a trade fair in China at which 360 British firms will be represented. The Chinese tell us that they have invited 200,000 Chinese managers and experts to come to see it. In the Chinese context a good deal has been done. Seventy million pounds worth of Trident business has been secured, three Concordes are being sold—the French of course will get half the advantage of that—and there is discussion over the VC10. With the Chinese hard currency resources of the present time I do not think we could much improve that sector of the trade.
Looking ahead to trade with the Soviet Union and China, we think that in many respects trade will be better handled through the Community than directly. The Community represents a market of 250 million people. The Commission arguing on behalf of the Community is in a much stronger bargaining position than is Britain or France alone. That is one reason why we joined the Community.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why during the period in which countries were given the opportunity of making trade agreements France, Germany and Italy have rushed into making so many before the period runs out and they are stopped? If they think it worth their while, why are they so wrong and the Foreign Office so right?
All sorts of agreements can be made, industry-to-State and agreements not involving tariffs or quotas which are outside the scope of what I am saying. I know of no arrangement of that character which involves tariffs and quotas on which we are losing out.
There have been several interventions on the Middle East, notably by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and by my hon. Friends the Members for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and Arundel and Shoreham (Mr. Luce). The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and Shoreham will gladden his father's heart when he reads it.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East agrees with us that it would be wrong to seek to impose sanctions at present. I am glad, too, that he raised the question of arms, because it gives me the opportunity of making the position clear. Our policy is to sell no arms to either side that would impair the chances of a settlement or contribute to the renewal of hostilities.
Our objects in this difficult problem are to find an interim agreement which can be linked to an ultimate settlement. We think that the best basis so far described is within Security Council resolution No. 242. The problem is extremely difficult but I see a little light on the horizon. There is the continuing and obvious stability of the régime in Jordan and the wider debate going on inside Israel about what the future settlement should be. Above all, there is the withdrawal of most of the Soviet military presence from Egypt. Perhaps that is the most striking Soviet withdrawal since the withdrawal from Austria in 1955. That has the great advantage of taking the problem to some extent out of the East/West confrontation.
The right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) asked that the five-Power agreement in South-East Asia should be reconsidered. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is premature, but as he spoke about it in some detail and as he has experience in these matters I should reply to his suggestion for the record. The Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers have made it clear publicly that they will honour the terms of the five-Power arrangements.
The Australian Prime Minister has said that he will do so pending the possible neutralisation of South-East Asia. Mr. Kirk has said that he will not terminate the agreement until Singapore and Malaysia are prepared for a termination. Since the Australian election the Prime Minister has said that the battalion will stay in Singapore at least until January 1974. He will discuss the matter with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence when he goes out there in the next few weeks. The Prime Minister of New Zealand has said that he will not take any initiative in removing the New Zealand force from the brigade in Singapore. In the circumstances it seems that to talk of reconsideration or re-negotiation would be premature.
The right hon. Gentleman was a little worried about Singapore buying American aircraft. If the previous Government had not cancelled so many of the aircraft which I had started, perhaps we would have a market on a bigger scale than we have now.
Our entry into Europe coincides with a time when new thought is being given to world trade and monetary agreements which have prevailed since the war. In many ways those arrangements have served us well. However, they were conceived in different circumstances and in a different world from the one in which we live. The recovery of Europe and the growth of Japan and of a number of other countries, like Australia, Canada and Iran, require adjustments to both trade and monetary arrangements Europe will need to work closely with its allies in these matters, particularly with its greatest ally, the United States.
In answer to the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, I point out that there will be differences between us in the negotiations in GATT, but in the continuing confrontation which exists between the free world and the Communist countries we must remember that the factors which unite Europe and America are far more important than those which divide. The Community will not be a third force in the sense of a neutral group balancing between two other forces. It will be a second force on the same side as the Americans. It will, of course, have its own distinct European personality and its own distinctive policies.
But let us be conscious that our security and the peace of the world depends on the maintenance of the Atlantic Alliance. Confrontation between the free world and Communism remains, in spite of the talk of détente. We must remember the meaning which the Soviet authorities attach to the term "peaceful coexistence". The phrase is widely used but it is not always so widely understood. In Communist parlance it is a technical term. It is defined by Soviet spokesmen as describing the relationship between the Soviet system and the capitalist system during, as they see it, the temporary interval before the first triumphs over the second. It prescribes an intense struggle in the political, economic and ideological fields. What it excludes is direct confrontation by military force.
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman thinks he remembers about me but we are talking of relations between States at the moment.
Nevertheless there are some hopeful signs in the development of East-West relations. One of them, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, is that the Communist bloc is no longer monolithic. China has emerged from isolation and has reasserted its independence—as much from the Soviet Union as from the West. The Chinese share many of our anxieties about Soviet policies. There is also the Soviet withdrawal from Egypt, which has far-reaching implications for the Mediterranean and Africa. There is the success of Herr Brandt's Ostpolitik. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) asked me about recognition. After the signature of the agreement between the two Germanies on 21st December, we shall open negotiations about the establishment of diplomatic relations with the German Democratic Republic and we would look forward to appointing diplomatic representatives in the spring or early summer of next year.
Perhaps the most important hopeful sign is the trend towards economic and technological agreements between the Soviets and the West. These were given particular impetus by President Nixon's visit to Moscow earlier this year. The fact that he was able to undertake the visit in spite of the mining of Haiphong was significant. It suggests that the Soviet leaders, or some of them, are giving a higher priority than before to raising the living standards of their people.
If this analysis is right, the security conference could lead to relaxation of tension and to freer movement of peoples and ideas. Here I join the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) in recalling that the European Economic Community is, after all, only half of Europe. There is another half of Europe with which we want to establish closer human contact than has been possible before.
The security conference is only in the stage of deciding the agenda and the venue. Progress so far has been good. The right hon. Gentleman chided my right hon. Friend for lack of enthusiasm about it. I am glad that he is not at any rate as much of a cold warrier as the former Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who said that he would sink the Soviet fleet in two minutes. I welcome the insistence the right hon. Gentleman placed on force reductions being mutual and balanced.
No one can read for sure the mind of the Kremlin. We must safeguard our security and at the same time encourage those forces in the Communist world which may be genuinely working for better relations. It may be that we are at a crossroads. If we are, we must try to do two things—avoid provocation and beware of appeasement. Nothing could be more calculated than appeasement to encourage hardliners.
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon said that in disarmament one must take risks, and I take the point. But when we talk about force reductions we have to start from the point that we have already disarmed a great deal more than the other side. We have to take into account quantity, quality and location. Those of us who study foreign affairs and work on them must remind ourselves every morning of the extent of Soviet strength, as described by my right hon. Friend in his speech this afternoon.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the discussions of forward-based systems. Whether they should be discussed in SALT or in the force reductions conference is something now under discussion in NATO.
Coming back to study of the details of international affairs after a gap of some years, I am struck by how much the world has changed from the bipolar world of the late '50s and early '60s. The polycentric system is extremely complicated and baffling. It would need the combined intelligence of a Spassky and a Fischer to forecast what the moves of the Soviet Union, China, the United States, Europe, Japan and all the others will be. However, I see certain new opportunities ahead of us. There are divisions on the other side. That not only means new opportunities for us, but there are new dangers too because there is the possibility of divisions on our side. So we must be careful not to let our alliances fall apart or our guard fall.
I am encouraged by one thing above all others. The new Europe we are joining will in due course become a great power in the world. Its technology and the magnetic power of its market assure it a decisive part in the world's economy. A market of 250 million developed people must command a tremendous influence in the world and be able to achieve trade agreements, trade arrangements and access to raw materials on the same kind of basis as the United States has been able to do in the postwar years, and will be in a better position to do it in many respects than the Soviet Union.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman's flight of fancy at the end, but we have heard this many times before. I wonder whether he would be good enough to comment on the export figures I gave, comparing our export trade with the GDR with the West German export trade with the GDR. This is tremendously important for us. That is really where we can make some progress.
The hon. Lady asked me a detailed point about the GDR. I was talking about the magnetic effect of the European market on world trade as a whole. I believe that our technology will assure us of a decisive part in the world's economy. This in turn will lead to development of European policies, and ultimately of European defence arrangements. In all these things Britain will have a leading part to play. It is my belief that the long period of declining British influence is ending and that within and through Europe our voice will be heard again in the world as it has not been heard for a long time.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he intends to reply to the question I put to him about European union, and what the Government's attitude is towards the development of a European Government which will strip sovereignty from this Parliament?
I thought I had replied to so many of the right hon. Gentleman's questions. The European argument has been debated in this House nights without number. I have never believed that we would move swiftly or quickly to a federation. I believe we shall proceed for quite a long time to come on the basis of inter-governmental co-operation.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) put a specific question on the French tests about to go on in the Pacific. What worries many of us who voted as we did on 28th October is that if we were unable to influence President Pompidou on a subject on which most civilised countries in the world are agreed—namely, that these tests have no need to be going ahead—what can we influence him on? When the Foreign Secretary talks about the political attraction of the European Economic Community, what earthly meaning do these phases of the Foreign Secretary have if we cannot do something about the tests which will go on in the Pacific next year?