Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th March 1974.

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Photo of Mr Benjamin Ford Mr Benjamin Ford , Bradford North 12:00 am, 19th March 1974

The right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) made an interesting speech, but I shall not be able to follow his arguments too far, not least because of time considerations.

As so often, the Foreign Secretary made a speech which seemed exactly to fit the occasion, appealing broadly to all parts of the House. It was a very good springboard from which he can launch his various rounds of talks and discussions throughout the world. His principal theme was the EEC. We are talking about fundamental renegotiation, which means, as has been explained, not renegotiation with a view to coming out but renegotiation for the benefit of this country.

I hope that the terms of reference in this renegotiation will include strengthening the European Parliament. I should like it to have a real influence over events, particularly budgetary and political policy. I should like it to be directly elected and have real powers. I hope that there will be a push towards mone- tary reform, moving to a European unit of currency. Many people have experienced great difficulties with exchange rates, particularly floating rates, over the last two or three years. It is becoming a widely accepted view, within the business community particularly, that a European unit of currency would greatly assist.

Last, I should like to see a framework of company law Europe-wide in which we can take account of the matter mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson)—the international company. These great organisations can be dealt with within a framework of European company law, whereas, as he said, it is difficult to deal with them country by country.

Turning to European security, I believe that the conference on security and cooperation has an important rôle to play in securing understanding and co-operation, particularly in Europe and perhaps throughout the world. It is vital for my right hon. Friend to pursue on behalf of this country the aims that he set out. I hope that he will maintain the requirements of freedom of speech, freedom of contact and so on as pre-requisites to further developments in East-West relations, since this is absolutely basic for countries wishing to develop co-operation.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will particularly pursue economic, technological, scientific and environmental cooperation. I was fortunate to be rapporteur for a commtitee dealing with this matter in the Inter-Parliamentary Union which met at Geneva last year—a conference unfortunately transferred from Santiago. After consultations and discussions, we arrived at a resolution on these matters which is three pages long. It was the result of some hours of discussion and anxious thought and of some time spent in negotiation. We finally decided that the resolution was one of the ways in which we could help to reach international understanding.

The House will no doubt forgive me if I do not read the full three pages, but I should like to pick out one or two salient points which I hope my right hon. Friend will pursue in his negotiations. For instance, the conference Appeals to the Parliaments and Governments of all countries to take account, as far as possible, of the recommendations of the United Nations World Plan of Action for the Application of Science and Technology to Development, as approved by the various UN Agencies, and to contribute to their implementation;Urges, also, the Parliaments and Governments of all countries to seek urgently the early implementation of the relevant provisions of the international Development Strategy for the Second United Nations Development Decade, as well as the Work Programme in the field of Science and Technology of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ….Recommends that, in all scientific and technological development, Governments give full consideration to its impact on the human environment and that, towards this objective Parliaments give attention to the establishment of mechanisms in Government for the conduct of technology assessment. I recommend the whole of the resolution to my right hon. Friend and hope that he will study it and endeavour to implement many of its provisions. It was arrived at in a full international forum and so, from that view, is worthy of consideration.

I turn to the main burden of my remarks which are connected with Latin America. I have mentioned this matter before in foreign affairs debates. Unfortunately, one always seems to strike rather a discordant note, because nobody else seems to discuss these matters. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was pressed for time during his speech and I make no apology for introducing these matters into the debate. We rarely have foreign affairs debates in this House and I cannot recall a debate devoted entirely to the question of relations with Latin America.

An active group in the House, which, over the years, has gradually spread its influence, believes that it is extremely important to develop—or perhaps one might say redevelop—relations between this country and the countries of Latin America. In recent years there has been a loss of impetus in this process, but Latin America is an increasingly important region in the world's affairs. It contains at least one country, Brazil, which has shown every indication of becoming a world Power by the end of the century, and it has the capacity and will to do so.

I give one figure to show the importance of Latin America to us. Exports from this country to Latin America in 1973 amounting to £355,447,000—a considerable sum, representing much em- ployment for people in this country. As a result of the oil crisis and the consequence flowing therefrom, the balance of comparable economic advantage appears to be swinging in favour of most South American countries, particularly those such as Venezuela and Ecuador, which produce oil, and Brazil, which exports many valuable commodities.

I regret that this country seems to have been a little remiss recently in attending to its diplomatic duties. I hope that my right hon. Friend or perhaps the Minister of State will give a public assurance that no offence was intended recently by the absence of special representatives at the inauguration ceremony of President Ernesto Geisel of Brazil and President Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela. These were big occasions, and there were powerful delegations from almost every other country. I hope that steps will be taken to remedy the absence of special representatives from this country.

Venezuela will, I think, be a good friend of this country. I was visiting there at the time the General Election was called and, sitting by the side of Lake Maracaibo, I saw a picture of Westminster flash upon the television screen. The right hon. Gentleman responsible for calling the election was not exactly top in my thoughts at that time. Nevertheless, I had spent two or three days in the country with a colleague who is now a Member. We had spread ourselves considerably and made a number of contacts, and had made an arrangement to meet the incoming President. The talks we had indicated that in Venezuela there is a fund of good feeling for this country, and I hope, therefore, that we can look forward to developing our trade, cultural and other relations with it.

I assure my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that there is much good will towards this country through, out Latin America. No doubt he would join with me in congratulating Venezuela upon its well-established democratic system, which has encompassed two changes of Government without incident following democratically-conducted elections. Years ago that would have been unthinkable for any country in Latin America. It is a measure of the development of the area.