European Security and Co-Operation Conference

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th July 1975.

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3.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet Chipping Barnet

The subject which the Opposition have chosen to discuss today is the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe—the CSCE, to add to the already tangled mass of initials in foreign affairs.

I recognise that this is not the ideal day to choose. I am sorry about it. But the exigencies of parliamentary business meant that this was the only time that we could have the debate. At any rate, we had during Question Time today a statement from the Prime Minister that throughout these complex negotiations the Nine had been working very closely together. We regard this as being of great importance. But it is a pity that the Foreign Secretary, who is abroad on an important mission, cannot be here, although I see that he is extremely well represented. It is also a pity that we have to debate this matter before the documents are available from the discussions that have taken place. But this was the only opportunity available to the Opposition to raise this matter before the Helsinki Conference, and we felt that it would be wrong for that conference to take place without any discussion in this House of the issues involved.

After all, they are very big issues—at least, they seem likely to be. A conference of 35 Heads of Government of the European countries, East and West, plus the United States and Canada, is a really prestigious one. I see from a Press report recently that someone has likened it to the Congress of Vienna. It would be wrong for this conference to take place without this House having some opportunity to discuss what is going on and what line our own Government should take at the conference.

The difficulty is to know what has been going on. No doubt for good reasons of confidentiality, very little has emerged from the discussions. We hope today that the Minister of State will tell us as much as possible of the details of the discussions that have been taking lace.

The situation is strange, if not bizarre. Here we have an enormous gathering of 35 Heads of Government—probably the biggest conference of Heads of Government in history—and we know nothing about it. I suggest that if any hon. Member cared to ask a man on an omnibus in Tooting or Balham what he knew about the CSCE, there would not be a very clear answer forthcoming. What is more, we as Members of Parliament are hardly in a position to enlighten our constituents about it because we have not been told very much about it. In the view of the Opposition, we should be told a great deal more about it before the final conference takes place and before the final agreement is signed.

The other strange feature to me is that it appears to be agreed by all concerned that every single detail must be tied up in advance. No one will go to the conference without being satisfied that the texts of the agreements are acceptable to everyone. In that case, what are the 35 Heads of Government to do about it? It seems very strange to propose bringing 35 such prominent people together merely to endorse a document that has been agreed in advance. Of course, there will be opportunities for discussions in corridors outside the main meetings, but we must be careful in looking at an occasion of this kind to avoid the cynicism about and the devaluation of meetings of Heads of Government which can take place unless we are careful.

We live in a strange world. On television at lunch time today there was a programme about the launching of the Russian spacecraft in this quite extraordinary joint venture with the United States which apparently is to reach its consummation 140 miles vertically above Bognor Regis, which itself is surprising. But this is a very large step forward in international relations and, despite the strangeness of the circumstances, we must remember that what we are discussing today is deadly serious. Nothing matters more for the future of mankind than the relations between East and West.

At present, the peace is maintained by the precarious balance of terror, as it is called—the knowledge of both sides that if they commit aggression they will commit suicide at the same moment. That is the present preservation of peace. It is not satisfactory, and it must be replaced as soon as possible.

Therefore, I say on behalf of my party that we are fully committed to the concepts of détente and of disarmament. Nothing else is rational. The only objective for a rational man is peace with his neighbours and disarmament. Therefore, anything that will promote peace and understanding between the nations of Europe and North America obviously will have our support. I wish to say that clearly and categorically at the start of this debate.

I must also say that this commitment to détente and disarmament does not mean that we should suspend our critical faculty. We must exercise a sense of realism in looking at all the measures which come before us. This House does not make a man good by an Act of Parliament, and we do not restrain aggressors by a scrap of paper. If any nation or group of men had the wickedness to conceive the idea of launching a new war, they would not be deterred by any considerations of a treaty. We must be realistic about that.

The only way that we can hope to prevent war in the future is by removing the desire to make war and by taking away the prospects of success from anyone who makes war. At the moment, the nuclear balance of terror does both. It removes the desire to make war, and it makes it clear that the prospects of success do not exist. But we must find a better substitute for the balance of terror to achieve this objective.

It is against that background that I consider the CSCE. I shall welcome it strongly if it is a contribution to peace and understanding. But the Opposition make certain conditions. First, it is most important in our minds that it must not be the occasion for the West to let down its guard. We regard this as fundamental. Secondly, it must not be just a matter of platitudes. There is enough cynicism among politicians in most countries already. The mere utterance of high level platitudes would do no service at all to the cause of international relations.

Thirdly, there must be a fair balance between the two sides, whatever action is taken, in the practical results of the conference. Fourthly, it must not be a case of pushing the problem out of Europe into the Indian Ocean. Fifthly, we must have some confidence that it will work in practice.

If all these conditions can be met—and I believe they can—then we believe that something of considerable value to us and all Western countries will arise from Helsinki, but we must not let down our guard. There is a danger if this document is signed, as we believe it will be at the end of the month, that many will say that now is the time to reduce our defences and to cut back our defence expenditure. People sometimes say of NATO that there is peace in Europe, so why do we have NATO? The answer is that we have peace in Europe because we have NATO —and it is a tribute to NATO that we have peace in Europe at the moment. Equally, the same principles should apply to what happens in Helsinki.

A breakdown of this conference would heighten tension. That would be a bad thing and a retrograde step which we would deplore. But let us be clear that the signature of an agreement in Helsinki would not justify the standing down of a single soldier in NATO. The real way to disarmament is through mutual and balanced force reductions. That is the essential way. The warning of troop manoeuvres will always be valuable and useful but clearly to modern, sophisticated, intelligence-provided countries there will be no great change in the present situation. It may avoid the danger of incidents but is not a major contribution.

Originally, MBFR was linked with Helsinki but somehow it has not got very far since it was originally started. We believe that it is of the utmost importance —and I believe that the Government fully agree—to proceed further and faster with mutual and balanced force reductions, and I certainly hope that the signature of an agreement in Helsinki will contribute to such progress by providing the atmosphere in which such progress can be made. I hope that the Government will make that point in the course of the meeting which will take place.

I turn next to the contents of the agreement, the so-called "baskets". First, let us consider the political basket. This, again, must not be purely platitudes. I have very little faith in clauses in treaties which say "We promise not to break treaties", any more than I have in clauses in the constitutions of emerging countries which say, "You must not overthrow the constitution". We do not get treaties and constitutions observed by these methods. When one looks at the matters to be considered under the first basket, one finds, for example, reaffirmation in conformity with the purposes and principles of United Nations of the following principles: Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty; refraining from the threat or use of force; inviolability of frontiers; territorial integrity of States; peaceful settlement of disputes; non-intervention in internal affairs; respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief; equal rights and self-determination of peoples; cooperation among States; fulfilment in good faith of obligations under international law. All these, surely, are admirable principles but the public might ask, why has it taken all these years to agree on this? Surely these principles are self-evident to any rational person. Surely all these principles and obligations are already accepted under the Charter of United Nations, so what is it all about and why has it taken so long to come to fruition?

Therefore, we must look at the interpretation of these principles a little more closely and in particular, at how the Soviet Union will interpret the phrase about "non-intervention in internal affairs" and how they react to the point mentioned in the course of discussions about frontier changes by agreement.

All these are very important points on which we should be clear that Helsinki will be a success. First, on nonintervention in internal affairs, there can be a myriad interpretations of this statement, and interminable arguments about it, such as, what were the Russians doing in Portugal and what were the Americans doing in Italy? But the question is, does non-intervention in internal affairs mean no more Czechoslovakias? That is a point on which we should be a little clearer. There is what is known as the Brezhnev doctrine, though I do not know what status it has in Soviet Russia. If we are to finish this conference understanding one another—and there is no point in having it if we do not—does the Soviet Union accept that if, by some spontaneous development, a non-Communist regime should emerge in an Eastern European country, that would be accepted by the Soviet Union and it would not try to intervene? Unless the Russians will agree to that, frankly I do not believe that a commitment to nonintervention in internal affairs has a great deal of solid meaning.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet Chipping Barnet

There are arguments on both sides. We shall no doubt be asked, "What would you do if a Communist régime were to emerge in a NATO country?" We all know what the answer would be on both sides, but it is a fair question. But to get the reality of progress, particularly in a conference of this kind, sincerity and frankness are absolutely essential, otherwise it is a waste of time.

There is a second point about changes of frontiers by mutual agreement. This, again, seems common sense. If two countries want to change their frontiers, why should they not do so? From our point of view, at some time or other there could be frontier changes made for a solution of the problem of the running sore in Northern Ireland—but would the Soviet Union accept the reunification of Germany by mutual agreement? We would like to hear the Government's view on what is meant by the acceptance of the principle that frontiers can be changed by mutual agreement. These seem to me to be the main points in the first basket, the political basket.

Secondly, economics. Obviously, in the long run the expansion of trade is of mutual advantage, not only to our living standards but probably more important to our understanding of one another and to mutual sympathy between peoples, which is the only long-term safeguard against war. Therefore, we would very much welcome anything that can be done to make trade between the Western and Eastern blocs easier and flowing more freely than at the present time. There are, of course, disadvantages in the different systems, but my impression is that business men, and indeed Governments from the West, both in Europe and in North America, find that they can do very good business in the Soviet Union. I always hear from my business friends that the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc will adhere to any contract that they make and that once they make a bargain they stick to it.

I am puzzled by the reference to "most favoured nation", because, as I recall it, there is the problem of how one protects one's own trade. We do so in the West by means of quotas and tariffs but in a Communist State the man who is in charge is merely told not to buy certain goods or that when he buys, say, textiles, from perhaps Yorkshire or Lancashire, these are to be marked up by 200 per cent. when put on sale in the Soviet Union. There are these different methods of protection used for the Communist economy. Therefore, in trying to reach agreement on economic problems I hope that we shall bear in mind the difficulty of protecting our people whilst giving them adequate access to the markets of the Communist bloc.

Thirdly, there are social problems, to which the House will pay particular attention—problems involving family ties, the ability to marry or the ability to travel for professional reasons, including in order to emigrate, and including that ability to travel for those who no longer wish to live in a country which they feel is not friendly to them. Naturally we, with our traditions in the House of Commons, regard all these personal movements of families and of people as of the highest importance. Equally important is the exchange of information, the ability of our people to distribute their ideas in the Soviet countries, and, on the other side, the ability of the Soviet authority and the Soviet media to express their own views here.

These are ideas of the greatest importance. We have the impression from what we read in the Press that a great deal of progress has been made in these matters. I should be grateful if the Minister would tell us, so far as he can, about the progress that is being and has been made. Unless there is a substantial move, it is difficult to see what the balance of advantage is.

I come next to the balance of advantage, which is my third condition to accepting a Helsinki agreement. There must be a fair balance of advantage to both sides. We must not quibble. It is silly to quibble. In any case, the advantage to both sides of a really fruitful agreement is overwhelming. The Government have recognised and the Foreign Secretary has said that we cannot go forward to the signature of an agreement unless there has been some mutuality and fair exchange. Indeed, I suppose that is what a great deal of these protracted negotiations have been about. We would like to hear from the Minister today how the Government see the position at the moment.

My view, for what it is worth, is that it is difficult to define any tangible advantage to either side. We have asked for greater freedom of contact, which is of advantage to the individuals concerned, and for greater freedom of information. This will be of advantage to us and, frankly. of advantage to the East. It is mutual. I do not see either side getting an exclusive benefit out of the free flow of ideas and people.

It is said that the East wants more trade and access to the technology of the West. We want access to the markets of the East. Again, I do not see any exclusive balance one way or the other in economic terms.

There is the argument, which I have heard expressed by many people, including a number of my hon. Friends, that the Soviet Union will gain much from the acceptance of present frontiers in Eastern Europe. I am not as yet convinced by that argument. I should welcome the Government's view on it.

It seems to me that two problems are a little confused. The first relates to frontiers and the second to the domination of independent countries by their neighbours. They are quite separate points.

I should have thought that by now the frontiers had in practice been fully recognised, including Germany's frontiers. No one conceivably imagines that we shall try to change those frontiers by force. Indeed, I understand that there are provisions within the Helsinki agreement for the changing of frontiers, where desirable, by mutual agreement. Therefore, I do not see that the Soviet Union gains anything in practice regarding frontiers on the European map.

On the domination of one country by its large neighbour—I take here the Czechoslovakia example—I see nothing in this potential agreement which would make such domination any easier than at present. On the other hand, an undertaking not to interfere in the internal affairs of another country, if fully understood, explained and set out explicitly at the conference, could be of advantage. Therefore, subject to correction in the debate, I do not see that the Soviet Union will gain either on frontiers or on the possible domination of its neighbours in the Communist bloc.

I want to make only two further points. The first is on overspill. Europe, though fundamental, is not the whole world. It is a fair point to make, as I saw made in the Financial Times recently, that it would be a pity to concentrate solely on Europe and to ignore the growing dangers in the Indian Ocean and east of Suez. Therefore, I hope that, so far as possible, anything which happens at Helsinki will not push the problem further east but will be a foundation for reaching similar agreements and détente in the further eastern situations.

We must recognise that throughout these discussions—they have been going on for more than two years now—the build-up of Soviet forces has gone on. They have more tanks, aircraft and ships, and they are wider spread throughout the world. During the whole time there has been a great growth in the strategic power and deployment of the Soviet Union. It is not a matter which can be disregarded when we come to a summit conference such as is being foreseen at this moment.

Finally, on enforcement or the follow-through, I read the wise words of the Minister in another place recently. We should not be too formal about this flatter. We do not want some rigid way of enforcing what is said. A rigid way of doing it will not happen anyway. The sorts of things said at this type of conference are not rigid. We should take time over this matter. We should recognise that, unless the agreement is carried through, it will be a great let down to public opinion and give rise to further cynicism about politics and statesmen in general.

The objectives are clear. It would make a nonsense of the whole conference, to which the Russians are clearly committed, if it were not followed through. I hope that the Government will advise us on this matter. In our arrangements on the follow-through, let us try to concentrate on the substance and not get too enmeshed in the forms and modalities.

I believe that MBFR and SALT are infinitely more important for peace than anything which can happen at Helsinki. I very much hope that the Helsinki conference will mean that these talks will go ahead more effectively. The success of Helsinki will depend very much on what emerges from them.

Subject to that and to the reservations that I have made about defence, practicality and other matters, we strongly support the idea and the objective behind the conference. We believe that anything which contributes to détente and disarmament is to be welcomed, but let us keep our eyes very wide open.

4.07 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) has dealt in some detail with the history of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and has, therefore, absolved me of the necessity to do the same.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to begin what I have to say by defining what I believe are the three questions which should be examined in the debate.

The first, as I understand it, is: will the second stage of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe end in success?

The second is: will that success be sufficiently great to justify the work of stage two, now being completed, being confirmed and endorsed by a summit meeting with all the implications which that occasion would carry?

The third question to which we must address ourselves is: if the conference has succeeded overall, has that successful result involved concessions by the West which might in themselves jeopardise our security?

I want to try to answer those three questions. However, before attempting to do so, I should like to remind the House of two other matters. The first is the real objectives and intentions of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Secondly, I want to suggest ways in which the success of that conference in its second stage, now almost completed, ought to be measured.

The purpose of the CSCE is clear but, I fear, complicated. It is one element in the West's policy of détente. Its specific contribution to that general policy comes in many forms. It is intended to create the trust that ought to characterise relationships in Europe. It is intended to build the confidence that ought to exist between European nations.

The conference is meant to establish a code of conduct which will guide the nations of Europe in their relations with each other. Equally, it is intended to encourage policies which translate détente into real advantages for ordinary people.

Those, in either identical or similar words, were the purposes of the conference outlined in its first stage by Foreign Ministers of a variety of persuasions, including the then British Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas-Home. Those are the aims which the conference will attempt to achieve.

Before I move on to describe how successful the conference has been in pursuing those achievements, let me try to explain some of the things which the conference is not, but which it has been described as being over the past two years. The conference is not, as some people have feared, and, indeed, as today's Daily Telegraph has stated, in effect a peace treaty defining the post-war map of Europe". In no way does the outcome of the conference affect the legal status of existing frontiers. It is emphatically not a Treaty of Vienna in the sense that the purpose and intention of the Treaty of Vienna was to draw the map of Europe for ever. That is not the purpose, intention or hope of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Nor is it the intention, as some people —people in Eastern as well as Western Europe—hope that the CSCE will provide an opportunity to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Indeed, that conduct is specifically renounced in the stage two texts which I hope, as I shall later explain, 35 Prime Ministers and Presidents will endorse in Helsinki during the summer.

Nor is it the intention of the conference to act in a military sense. In this context it may well be that the adjective or adjectival noun "security" is something of a misnomer which has deluded and confused many people who have watched and examined the conference.

The conference is not concerned with military reduction or weapon limitation. Discussions on those subjects take place in Vienna in the mutual and balanced force reduction talks. I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that nothing that has come out of Geneva or that may come out of Helsinki will, in itself, justify the standing down of a single soldier or the making obsolete of a single tank. I hope that what flows from the conference, particularly the impetus it may give to the mutual and balanced force reduction talks, will produce exactly that end, but the CSCE in itself is not intended for that purpose and could not legitimately have that result.

The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the summit, which we hope will endorse the texts already agreed by the 35 participating countries, will not in itself be a self-contained achievement. It is important, and I believe it is of crucial importance in terms of relationships in Europe for the rest of this century, that it should provide, and can provide, a general framework upon which more specific achievements can be based. Perhaps its overwhelming historical importance is that by the signatures of the 35 Prime Ministers and Presidents—given, I hope, before the summer is out—all the nations of Europe will become formally and publically committed to a relationship which is based on co-operation rather than confrontation.

I agree that those achievements, if achievements they he, are, in the words of the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, intanaible. That was always understood and always accepted. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman in his capacity as Foreign Secretary, as he then was, when launching the British position during stage one of the conference accepted that the nature of the deliberations and of the outcome would not be material things which we could measure and draw, but they would be setting the tone for European relationships. I cannot tell the right hon. Gentleman that as a result of a successful summit in a week or a fortnight's time the Brezhnev doctrine will be dead, that the reunification of Germany will be possible or that another Czechoslovakia could never come about. However, I can assure him that all those matters are a good deal less likely to be resolved in terms which are unacceptable to the United Kingdom than if CSCE did not take place. I think that the pressure of world opinion on those countries which have—

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Stretford

That was some comfort to the Czechoslovaks in 1968.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I hope that as the years pass the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) will come to face the world as it is rather than as he would like it to be.

The Government's task, which has been endorsed by the official Opposition, is to accept that making some progress and some achievement is better than no progress and no achievement at all.

I devoutly believe that as a result of the texts which I am sure will be endorsed by the Presidents and Prime Ministers in a week or fortnight's time, along with the pressures on countries to observe and respect the texts which they have signed, and the pressures of international opinion, the prospects of international odium will specifically and definitely reduce the possibilities of the sort of anomalies to which our attention has been drawn. I cannot pretend to suggest that the signing of the agreement will automatically prevent that from happening. Nor could anyone who launched the conference, nor could the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member when the conference was evisaged, nor could the right hon. Gentleman when he was Foreign Secretary and introduced stage one of the conference.

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torbay

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, I should like to raise a matter. I do not know of any positive act by the Soviet Union to suggest that détente is other than an illusion. Assuming that I am wrong, is it right that the Yugoslavs are any happier than they were 10 years ago?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I cannot speak for the Yugoslav Government. However, if the summit is held—it is my hope that it will be—the Government of Yugoslavia will be a signatory. In this matter, as in others, it is encumbent on us to accept the judgment of the Government of Yugoslavia rather than to think that we know better than they about what is best for their security. I shall develop in a moment the argument that one of our qualifications is to protect the interests of the neutral and quasi-neutral countries, and Yugoslavia is one of the countries involved.

The achievements are, in a sense, intangible, but they are in every sense real, and can be measured and can be described as successful. Measuring the success of the conference can be done in two ways. The first is the extent to which the texts that are argued over—some people would say agonised about over the last two years—and perhaps soon to be submitted to the Heads of Governments, actually endorse the proposals and principles of détente that this House and this country would approve.

The second measurement of success from which we cannot run away is the likelihood that those texts will be respected as well as accepted. The prospects of those texts being implemented as well as approved is the point that was raised by the right hon. Gentleman when he said that the conference will lose its validity if it talks in terms of platitudes rather than policy.

I should like to make one point absolutely clear. The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe was never intended to have an international legal force. Had such a proposal been made, Her Majesty's Government of the time and the Government which followed would not have agreed to such a proposition. The implementation of the principles enshrined in the texts and eventually endorsed by the Prime Ministers depends on the pressures of world opinion, logic and, I believe, self- interest. If they work in practice, they do so because of the odium which would accrue to countries which, having signed them, then ignored them.

I turn to the review arrangement and the idea that after two years there should be an examination of how the texts have been applied, how the principles have worked and how the rules have been observed. That will focus, as it is intended to do, international opinion on those countries—and I hope I speak hypothetically—which have signed the agreement but have chosen not to observe it. I cannot assure the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon that every word, every line and every comma of the texts that might eventually be signed will be observed. That is a matter of forces of politics, influence and power which goes far beyond the scope of the CSCE.

I believe that the principles enshrined in the documents are more likely to be preserved, observed and respected because of what has happened during the past two years.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

Whether or not these texts are observed, is it the view of Her Majesty's Government that the texts are compatible with the Brezhnev doctrine which I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say was still in vogue?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

No, I said that the texts and their signatures do not mean overnight that the Brezhnev doctrine is no longer in vogue. That is a very different point. The Brezhnev doctrine remains something which is accepted and advocated by substantial forces in the Soviet Union. I also believe that it has in no way been enhanced, enshrined or incorporated into international understanding by the CSCE.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

That was not my question. Is it compatible?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The question of compatibility is not appropriate. The question of compatibility is: are we, by signing the texts and by Prime Ministers endorsing them, giving a credence to the Brezhnev doctrine which it did not have? My answer is a categoric "No". We are not doing so, and, therefore, the hon. Gentleman ought to be assured on that point and ought to be content that we are not giving the doctrine of which he and I disapprove a status and importance which it did not previously have.

I turn to the texts, about which the hon. Gentleman has asked me and on which I can give him some help. I ought to tell the House, in response to the right hon. Gentleman's question, that we are now ready in Geneva—the 35 participating nations—to offer to the Prime Ministers and Presidents a whole range of mutually agreed texts, all of which reflect the Western view of détente in Europe. I hope, in a moment, to give examples of the principles which are proposed in those texts, texts already agreed by the participants, principles already enshrined. Before I do I ought to emphasise that there are still a number of outstanding issues to be resolved. Until they are resolved there can be no absolute certainty that the summit will take place in the summer and that the Presidents and Prime Ministers will assemble at Helsinki on the proposed dates.

Let me also make it clear that none of the outstanding issues is a matter of major contention between NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. Each of them is of great importance to a large number of delegations. As the House will know, the CSCE proceeds by consensus. It would be intolerable if the wishes of neutral nations were overridden by the interests of the two great military alliances. Therefore, while these outstanding issues remain we cannot say with any certainty that the summit is an established fact. At this moment it is a hope. Let me explain why "hope" is the right word to describe the Government's attitude and intention. The Government certainly want a stage three summit in July or August.

The Government judge that it is in our direct interests that a summit should not be postponed until later than that date. The idea of a July meeting of Heads of Government gives great impetus to the stage two discussions. The desire to reach agreement in time for that meeting made progress possible on a number of extremely difficult issues. In recent weeks we have achieved consensus on a whole range of issues which previously seemed insoluble. I emphasise again that we have reached agreement on terms which are wholly acceptable to the West.

If momentum was now lost, if for some reason the summit could not be held towards the end of July or the beginning of August, I believe that it would result in a substantial deterioration of our overall position. Issues at the point of formal agreement might not be resolved, while issues that have been decided might be reopened.

The souring of the general atmosphere might cause delays in the MBFR talks in Vienna, talks which we hope will make increased progress once the CSCE summit is held. We hope—and that is exactly the word—and believe that a meeting at summit level will be held in Helsinki on 30th July or soon after. The Government of Finland have begun to plan and arrange a conference on that date on the assumption that this is the target for which the participants aim and in the hope that that target can be met.

If—I use the word a fifth time—as we hope, the 35 Presidents and Prime Ministers are to meet there and then, let me remind the House of some of the principles they will endorse, and let me in doing so take an example from each of the baskets, as they are called, thanks to the influence of France.

Basket 1A, dealing with the principles that ought to characterise the conference, commits participants to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. It confirms that existing frontiers in Europe are not to be assaulted or changed illegally by force but acknowledges that frontiers can be changed in accordance with international law by peaceful means and agreement.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Staffordshire South West

The right hon. Gentleman reads out Basket 1A. Does it not become an absolute farce that countries where it is manifestly impossible to practice one's religion have been signing this document? Does it not show the whole thing for what it is, an absolute sham and charade?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I do not believe so. I believe that the documents will be signed, and I believe that hon. Members, I with them, will use every opportunity in future to say to those Governments to which the hon. Member refers and to those countries he has in mind, "Not only is this intolerable in terms of principle and morality but you, in Helsinki in the summer of 1975, committed yourself to a different policy". The hon. Member and I will say to those Governments, "The odium you are attracting in the Third World, among the uncommitted nations, in those countries which are confused about where real peace, justice and freedom lies, will so redound to your discredit that in your own vested interests you will be wiser to behave differently". This is an important ingredient, an important lever we possess.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the developing nations in Africa and the East will look on some of us as practising a form of hypocrisy when we look aghast because there is not freedom of expression and the right to self-rule in Eastern Europe, yet do not think that similar principles should apply in places like Rhodesia?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I am sure my hon. Friend and hon. Members will agree that we can sign those paragraphs concerning individual human freedom with a clear conscience. I agree with my hon. Friend about Rhodesia. The important point is that we can sign this and will use the signature by other countries in a less unequivocal position as a lever to bring pressure to bear on their future conduct.

That is not the only advantage of the texts which I hope will be signed. In Basket 1B concerning confidence-building measures there is the agreement that States will provide each other with clear details of the nature and purpose of their military manoeuvres and will ensure that observers are made available to check and confirm details. The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet may be right to say that the great Powers of NATO and the Warsaw Pact regard that as a rather insubstantial benefit. I cannot confirm or deny that. The Deputy Foreign Minister of one Eastern European country said he had no doubt that every country in the Warsaw Pact and every country in Western Europe knew whenever a general left central headquarters in any of the capitals. That may be so for them and for us but it is not so for the Governments of the neutral nations who take a positive and enthusiastic view of the need for notification of manoeuvres by Warsaw Pact and NATO countries on their borders.

The conference is as much about Sweden, Austria, Finland and the other non-aligned countries as it is about the great Powers. For the benefit of those other countries, if for no one else, this is a most important step forward.

Photo of Mr Julian Critchley Mr Julian Critchley , Aldershot

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Russians have agreed that the CBM should include areas of Western Russia?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The Russians have included a specific parameter of 250 kilometres—[Interruption.] In negotiations one asks for artificially high figures and accepts what is thought to be a reasonable compromise. The figures we have accepted are a great deal larger than the figures we were originally offered and a great deal lower than were originally asked for. It is the view of ourselves, the United States and all NATO partners that they represent a reasonable basis for compromise. It is a compromise which certainly meets the needs of the neutrals, and it is the neutral countries whose interests are specially respected and need to be respected.

I now turn to basket 2—commercial matters. In basket 2 there is a commitment to greater dissemination of technical and commercial information and to the promotion of better working conditions for firms and their individual representatives. Every Minister at the Board of Trade and every Minister of Foreign Affairs is told that those are essential ingredients if we are to improve trade with Eastern Europe.

I should like to deal with the question of the most-favoured-nation clause. This treaty is not a trade agreement. Therefore, in a direct sense the most-favoured-nation clause does not apply. The text says that in the future relations between the 35 countries the most-favoured-nation clauses should be thought about carefully. The fact that we have signed the text and that the Prime Ministers have approved them does not mean that each of the 35 is the most favoured nation of the other 34.

Basket 3 is most important as it affects the lives of ordinary people in Europe most directly. That is where we have made the most progress. It includes pledges for the reunification of families divided by national and ideological frontiers. It guarantees the working conditions of journalists. It provides for the freer flow of written and broadcast information between Eastern and Western European countries. I believe that this is a practical measure. As part of my daily work I present to the ambassadors of certain European countries the names of families divided by nationality or ideology whom the Government think should be re-united. My task in obtaining those reunifications will be made increasingly easier as a result of the Prime Minister's signatures on this document. I already have a great deal of evidence of families who are now reunited in expectation of the Helsinki agreement and who would still be divided had the Helsinki prospect not been held out. I regard those as substantial achievements. Some, such as the prior notification of manoeuvres, make a positive contribution to trust and, therefore, to the security of nations. Others, such as that providing for the reunification of families, make a positive contribution to human happiness. For that reason alone I regard the conference as worth while. and a success.

Therefore. I offer an unequivocal answer to the first two questions. The two years of stage one and stage two have proved a success. Indeed, they have proved sufficiently successful to justify them being enshrined and endorsed by a summit meeting in the summer.

Although I answer those questions unequivocally, my self-imposed third question remains. Has the West made damaging concessions to achieve the overall result? I think that the answer is equally unequivocal. No such concessions have been made. None of the points about which I was asked this afternoon has lessened the result of the CSCE. Many points have improved it. No position which the West needed to hold has been sacrificed in the achievement of the overall result.

As the afternoon wears on, another fundamentally important question will be asked: does the existence or the occasion of the summit involve inherent dangers? Does it encourage the belief that more has been achieved than is the case? In consequence of that, does it persuade people that there is less argument in favour of maintained defence spending, and a reduced need to maintain our vigilance and protection? The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet referred to our letting down our guard. I recognise that danger, but I believe that it can be overcome and avoided by describing the conference not as the achievement of détente, which it is not, but as an important step along the road to détente, which I believe it to be.

By pursuing the success of this conference we can overcome a second and even more important danger in terms of our defence and détente policies. We live in a world in which the Berlin airlift and the invasions of Hungary and of Czechoslovakia are barely remembered by a majority of the electorate. If those people are to remain—as I believe they should —committed to the Western alliance, the importance of defence and the necessity of keeping our guard up, they must be convinced of two points. The first is that détente has still to be achieved. Despite all the rhetoric, the meetings, the progress and the achievements which I believe will characterise the CSCE. there will still be a long way to go. If they need evidence of that long way to go, they need only examine the Soviet Union's increased defence expenditure year by year. However, that is only one ingredient of the message that we must give to the new generation.

The other message is that our pursuit of détente is real and genuine. Although we now insist that we must continue to be prepared and ready, we do not regard that preparedness and readiness as the way in which Europe should live for the rest of this century and the centuries which lie beyond. We actively hope to see a more civilised, a more compassionate and co-operative relationship throughout Europe, East and West Unless we can convince the electorate that that is our genuine purpose and intention, not only will it be cynical about our defensive capabilities and defensive commitments but it will be rightly and properly cynical about them.

The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe is part of the general pattern and pursuit of détente. Without it I do not believe that we can justify our defensive posture. Nor can we argue as potently and as eloquently for our defence expenditure. Defence and détente must go hand in hand. I do not suggest that as a result of the Helsinki meeting in 14 days' time, or the Geneva talks for the past two years, our defensive effort should be reduced. I suggest that Helsinki can provide one step along the road to a better relationship throughout Europe. For that reason I believe that the conference and its intentions should be endorsed.

4.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Maurice Macmillan Mr Maurice Macmillan , Farnham

I shall confine my remarks to those elements and policies which I find dangerous. Therefore my attitude will seem more critical than it is.

There is an old and somewhat odd saying to the effect that soft words butter no parsnips. I have often wondered what it meant. I think I know now. It means that soft words from the Soviets are not enough for security and should not persuade the United Kingdom to feel safe and its people able to relax either their physical or, what is perhaps more important, their mental guard.

There is a risk that even a small stagger along the road to détente could be regarded as a kind of appeasement. That is especially true when the soft words come in a declaration from a conference which, for all its three stages, is only part of that detente. These words should have been matched by progress in the other part, at the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna. But here the Russians are firmly fixed on proposals which give them a massive advantage in every form of conventional weapon and which give to the Warsaw Pact great numerical strength compared with NATO.

I do not think that we can regard the Helsinki and Geneva talks as a proposed stage or step which will give us great reassurance, although the Soviet Empire might inside its borders describe it as "Operation something for nothing".

The Minister referred to four main headings or baskets. The proposals contained in the first basket will be formally accepted by the world, by implication if not explicitly, on the basis that conquest is permissible for Communists. However, it is true that the Russians have moved from the position of regarding the bound- aries of Europe as immutable, in that they can be changed by agreement. However, that must be little consolation to those people who saw what happened in the latter stages of the war and afterwards. Despite this change, the conference has accepted that Europe, east of the Elbe, remains Communist, regardless of the fact that it is so only because of the force of Soviet arms. In return, we have accepted some rather vague assurances, welcome as they are, about human rights and fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of thought, of conscience and religion.

The second heading, "Economic and Trading", seems almost wholly to the Soviet Union's advantage. It gives them free access to superior technology which they have long wanted. If we look back we can see how much they have already been achieved based on the technological developments in Western countries. Unless we are very careful, we shall also give then trade benefits on extremely favourable terms. There may be some advantage to us and our European partners, but I do not find it very easy to detect.

On the heading "Cultural and Human Contacts", except for a reasonably firm undertaking on journalists the statements are vague in the extreme. Everything is presented on the basis, "We will do what we can" or "We shall use our best endeavours". Again, this is something, but it is not very much.

The danger in these main headings and the terms in which they will be presented at Helsinki in the third stage of the conference is that we shall be led to believe that Communism is no longer the enemy of a free and open society as well as the enemy of free enterprise and a mixed economy. If we forget that, détente indeed becomes appeasement and could become defeat.

The biggest and best basket of all the items is that relating to arrangements for the follow-up of the conference. I hope that the United Kingdom will concentrate on deed and action. Whatever else we may do, let us see that the countries behind the Iron Curtain put into action the aspirations signed at Helsinki.

Let us see whether the Russians will change and no longer seek to extend their political and economic influence in other Iron Curtain countries and no longer seek to dominate them and to intervene elsewhere as they have done in many cases before.

Let us see that there is real progress in the Vienna talks and that the Soviet Union accepts that the ball is now in its court and that it must make the first move. It is its superiority in conventional forces that frightens us, and it cannot be said that NATO represents the same sort of threat to Russia. Unless we get this sort of progress, then even the little shuffle, rather than a step, along the road to détente that will be represented by the conference will be a dangerous sham.

I hope that the Government will assure the House that they will recognise the importance of the European Economic Community in the follow-up. Surely this will be an opportunity to develop political co-operation among the nine member States. With a unity of policy and purpose, which I am glad to see was welcomed by the Prime Minister at Question Time this afternoon, and in the hope that this unity will begin to lead to a common policy and reinforce in the political field the economic co-operation, we must ensure that what follows the conference is of advantage to the members of the Community.

I am sorry that the Prime Minister denied that the EEC had any real concern for defence. Formally, our defence is through NATO; but there is an EEC concern, which has to be linked with cooperation in every way throughout Europe, between defence and the policies of the Community. Any possibility of the security of Western Europe being endangered must be of concern to the Community as a whole.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnett (Mr. Maudling) referred to non-intervention in internal affairs and quoted the role of the Russians in Portugal and the Americans in Italy. He implied, unintentionally no doubt, that only these two great nations were in a position to intervene in other countries and that only they could stop each other from intervening. I hope that the Government will make clear that, despite NATO, which, of course, we all support and recognise as essential to the safety of Western Europe, the EEC has an interest in the future of the Vienna talks. It has an interest in defence policy as well as in the follow-up to the conference. That interest, though allied to, is separate from, that of the United States and extends beyond the boundaries of Europe because the security of Europe also extends beyond its boundaries.

I hope that we shall hear tonight that the follow-up to the conference, whatever its outcome, will be real, that the reality will comprise a joint effort by the nine EEC States and that we shall use this to help formulate a unity of purpose and policy in the form of a common policy for the countries of the EEC towards the rest of the world.

4.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

I suppose it is inevitable that, whenever we debate any aspect of European life, we are compelled from time to time to go outside Europe and to refer to this country's policies in other parts of the world. Mention has already been made of our policies towards the United States and towards developing countries and it is quite right that reference should be made to these policies.

It would be proper for the House to note some of the warnings of the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan), but I do not think we should be too downhearted and agree altogether with his Cassandra-like prognostications for this conference. The more we can talk with the countries of Eastern Europe and meet them as parliamentarians, the greater the hope that, later, ordinary people will also be able to meet with equal frequency. This would make a contribution to the achievement of détente which we all wish to see achieved as swiftly as possible.

As the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said in opening the debate the joint venture which we all trust will be successful, involving the Soyuz and Apollo spacecraft is an example of the sort of co-operation which must and can take place. It is not the result of some casual agreement between the Americans and the Russians to link these craft in the heavens, 155 miles above Bognor Regis. The exploit follows from a tremendous amount of sensible cooperation between the two countries. The venture has been free of espionage, which has bedevilled international relations since the war. Russian scientists, technicians and technologists have been working amicably with their American counterparts to bring about this scientific achievement. If only this sort of co-operation could be extended to other areas we should move towards the ultimate goal of complete civilisation for mankind.

It is within Europe that we can show the lead which is desperately needed in securing co-operation, and for that reason I welcome the conference on security and co-operation. It will not be a magnificent achievement which will of itself set us on the road to sanity, but it will represent one small link in the chain which decent people are trying to forge to bring the world together in mutual understanding.

The basket system seems to be a complicated and difficult way of working. I had experience of it when I attended the IPU conference on these issues last January in Helsinki. I came to the conclusion that it offered an advantage to both sides. It was possible to put into departments or baskets the various problems facing Europe.

It is worth stressing to the right hon. Member for Farnham that Britain should not be seen as being concerned only with itself and the other eight members of the EEC. There are those in Eastern Europe who would be only too happy for us to adopt that approach. It would be dangerous for Britain to take that view and to forget that it had friends and allies in Western Europe outside the Common Market. We have very strong friends in the Common Market who cannot stomach NATO and have got out of it. These issues must be borne firmly in mind when we consider the question of our security.

One of the things we stressed at the Belgrade meeting of the IPU this year was the need not merely for free movement of people in the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc but that if there were to be a genuine understanding between East and West, a start could perhaps be made by allowing business representatives to travel much more freely in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

I was criticised for advancing this view and I was asked why, as a democratic Socialist I should be concerned that the business men of Britain, the representatives of the big firms, should have more freedom to move around in Eastern bloc countries. I pointed out that those business men were the representatives of skilled British artisans. It was impossible for every working man from the benches, the mines, and the factories to go personally to sell the products he made, and that the business men were their representatives who could demonstrate how much the British working man and British industry had to offer and how wise it was to purchase their work.

Exporting is not only good for the economy, it is good for international relations, and I hope that in the discussion on economic matters it will be stressed that both sides of the House of Commons want a much freer attitude adopted towards business representatives who travel in Eastern Europe. If that freer attitude were adopted, the day might come when people from this country, who at present go for their holidays to France, Germany and Italy, would feel safe to take them in Eastern bloc countries.

What we have to overcome is that which thwarts all our endeavours and which might well thwart the endeavours of those in Eastern Europe who genuinely wish to see détente—namely, the fear that we shall produce something in the way of armaments which will be superior and more devastating than that which the other side possesses. When I look at the ordinary people in my constituency and throughout the country, I cannot imagine that as they go about their work and play the matter that occupies their minds is how they can wipe out the Soviet Union. Equally, I do not believe that the millions in the Soviet Union are thinking of how they can wipe out the West. It is probably fair to say that it might be a fair criticism of all politicians, both East and West, that they are out of touch with the genuine feelings of the people whom they represent. I can understand some people advancing that argument, although if I had time I would like to analyse it.

If we are to try to bring about détente effectively and if we can in confidence persuade countries in the Eastern bloc to reduce their arms, it will be possible, once we have every assurance that it is safe to do so, to lower our guard. I use the phrase of the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet. Equally, it would he very dangerous to say that as Russia is spending millions and millions of pounds on defence we must inflict on ourselves a form of economic polio. That could be just as devastating as some form of physical invasion. We must beware of that danger.

I wish the conference to be a success. I believe that this country has a great deal to offer not only to Europe but to the world. Even if the conference goes only half way towards what it wants to achieve, that in itself will be a step forward towards the creation of an atmosphere within which we can work amicably and sensibly in bringing about what I believe everybody wants in both Eastern and Western European countries. What we do not know yet is how that can he achieved. It is only by talking to one another and by discussing problems with one another that we might find the solution and move towards the desired goal. It is in that context that I believe that these forms of conference are well worth while. I believe that ultimately they will make a contribution to the restoration of sanity in Europe and perhaps thereafter in the rest of the world.

5.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness

Thus far in the debate there has been a consensus of view. First, it is agreed that the CSCE is unlikely to have a great impact on security but may well lead to useful advances in co-operation on a European scale. Secondly, it is agreed that it cannot be looked upon in isolation. The security aspect must he concentrated upon through the SALT talks and the MBFR talks, which themselves have unfortunately so far had disappointing results.

It is worth noting at the beginning that if the Soviet Union is sincere in its desire to strengthen détente, it has clearly in the MBFR talks the opportunity to demonstrate its sincerity by displaying a more forthcoming response to the Western proposal that there should be cuts on both sides in Central Europe and some kind of common ceiling. It is there that the likelihood of an improvement in security on a lower scale in Europe is likely to happen.

It is equally important to emphasise that we cannot separate East-West security within Europe from the rest of the world. It would be unreasonable for the countries in Europe to accept a situation in Europe and at the same time to ignore what is going on in the Indian Ocean, what we read is going on in Somalia and what we know is going on in Uganda. Incidentally, it would be useful if the next time Jack Jones visits the Soviet Embassy he mentions Uganda and asks what justification the Soviet Union can have for arming General Amin. That would be a useful contribution for Mr. Jones to make.

The Soviet Union's original objective in pushing for a security conference was to obtain formal ratification of the status quo in post-war Europe. The West has long mistrusted this approach. Indeed, we went through a long process of mistrust which, to some extent, the Minister has outlined. The Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 undoubtedly was an event which delayed the CSCE, although for me the 1968 invasion was nothing like as important as the 1947 take-over of Czechoslovakia. As a Liberal, that event is embedded in my mind, in that the Liberal-Social-Democratic alliance is the one most susceptible to that kind of take-over for political reasons. Therefore, I am deeply suspicious of whatever alluring words we hear from the East.

Subsequently we had Ostpolitik, and in some ways the CSCE is the conference after the event, the acceptance of Ostpolitik and the acceptance of reality. However, I must say that at one stage I did not like the Minister's phraseology. Although we should not chide Ministers for their phraseology in response to interjections, when their words are not as considered as they might otherwise be, the right hon. Gentleman said that we should accept the world as it is rather than as we would hope it to be. As a politician, I believe that we should always look at the world as we would hope it to be. I am not of the view that we should accept things as they are simply because that is the real-politik of the matter.

Since the conference began, the balance of power as between East and West has shifted considerably to the West's disadvantage. There has been the Greek-Turkish conflict on the southern flank of NATO and the events in Portugal. There has been the effect upon the United States of its defeat in Vietnam. At the same time, we have had the Soviet Union continuing to expand its conventional military forces while the West—that includes Great Britain specifically—has been making defence cuts. That has shifted the military balance in Europe heavily to the advantage of the Eastern Bloc.

I note that the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) shakes his head in dissent. The reason that this debate has been so consensus-like thus far has been that we have not yet had a contribution from the element that the hon. Gentleman represents. However, we are entitled to ask what the Soviet Union means by détente if it has definitely and consciously continued to add to the strength of its conventional forces.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the West has vast superiority in nuclear terms and that the Soviet Union can well argue that it has to have superiority in conventional terms? Is not that a fact?

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness

I am not at all clear as to the logic of that. We all know and it was the Minister who remarked upon it at some stage, that once one is involved in a nuclear conflict it does not matter how many nuclear weapons one has because the whole balloon goes up. I do not see how we can use that as a justification for increasing conventional arms. So although détente, in the sense of a relaxation of tension between East and West, is warmly to be welcomed, we must be wary of confusing the illusion of détente with the reality of détente.

We do not know very much about the agenda for the forthcoming conference and the baskets which have been mentioned. We must depend on unofficial sources rather than on specific communications.

I believe that two main points emerge from the situation. I take the point made by the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) that the Community countries have demonstrated their capacity for cohesion. I also accept the point made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) that the Community is not the whole of Europe. But it is a desirable achievement that the Community countries have demonstrated that capacity, particularly when we realise that France does not even take part in the MBFR talks. That surely shows a move towards stability.

Basket 1 is worth referring to because of the military confidence-building measures which were an initiative of a British Conservative Government, which were continued by a British Labour Government, and which indeed represent a degree of consensus on these matters which both sides of the House have followed, including the Liberal Party. That package also contains items such as the prior notification of force manoeuvres and the exchange of military observers. It looks to be a possibility for agreement. I am much more interested in what is possible than in any rhetoric.

On basket 2, I cannot add very much to what has been said, except to make the rather pessimistic point that it is still possible to argue, I am afraid, that more can be achieved on a bilateral basis than on an East-West basis. We have, after all, done it ourselves. That has been the experience so far.

Basket 3, as the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said, is the most important basket from the West's point of view. It is true, as the Minister said quite clearly, that the concessions that we are likely to achieve as a result of CSCE are, relatively speaking, minor. I refer to the reunification of families, inter-marriage across frontiers, improved conditions for Western journalists—matters which appear to us as minor because we regard them as normal, but which, nevertheless, are very much to be welcomed because they represent gains.

We have now reached the crunch in détente and we face a huge dilemma. We must face the fact that the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc is a monolithic and autocratic system which exists, and is able to exist, only because it denies the freedom which we have in mind when we talk about the improvement of human contacts. Therefore, the Soviet Union in maintaining its own system can go only so far towards the West. It can yield only so much to the West without in turn creating the risk of destabilising its own internal situation. There we reach the dilemma. From the point of view of the free, liberal, Western democrat, we want the East to release its tensions and to reach towards the freedoms that we possess. But if this happens, it will result in a highly volatile situation such as may happen in Yugoslavia when Tito dies. This will not lead to the security and stability of which we are talking but to a highly unstable, volatile situation.

The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet and the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said that there would be no interference in any nation's internal affairs. What does that mean? It obviously means that we do not send armies into other countries that we do not like. Does it mean, however, that we do not comment on other countries' internal affairs? I do not think it can mean that any more—and indeed it should not mean that. I am tired of receiving answers from the Foreign Office informing me that a certain matter is a question not for the Foreign Office but for the internal affairs of whatever country it may be. It is the duty of the democratic West, and particularly of the democratic country in which we live, to express its views about matters which it does not like and of which it disapproves and regards as being in contravention of human rights. But—and it is a big "but" —we must face the fact that if the monolithic and in some cases tyrannical system of the East ever breaks up, it will cause immense tensions.

Finally, clearly the follow-up will not be legally binding. I agree with the view that there is no point in creating some special machinery following the conference. I do not regard that as a good idea because it could develop into a propaganda machine. But the idea of a follow-up after two years, in which period one can assess reasonably and calmly the results of the conference, is the right way to proceed.

On behalf of my Liberal colleagues, I welcome any steps towards a genuine détente in Europe and beyond. Nevertheless, Soviet defence spending, linked to Soviet political rhetoric, casts the gravest doubts on the sincerity of the Soviet Union about détente, and it is of the greatest importance not to confuse the symbols of détente with its realities.

I hope that we shall look back to the CSCE not as a symbol but as a reality —as a milestone in easing tensions between two very different political systems. We shall not achieve a relaxation of tension which will benefit East and West unless we clearly understand the risks and maintain throughout the highest degree of realism.

5.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Stretford

All those who love peace and democracy—and I include the overwhelming majority of Members on both sides of the House—want with a deep passion to see achieved a genuine détente and a genuine end to the arms race. The agreement which we shall be asked to sign following the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe must be judged by one criterion: is this genuine détente or is it a fraud?

I speak as one who believes in close relations and understanding between the Soviet Union and ourselves. I also believe that such relations can bring forth successful agreement on specific and clear fields of common interest. We have seen this in the Partial Test-ban Treaty and in the Non-proliferation Agreement. But the CSCE agreement, as outlined so far, does not fall into that category. It is broad and in many respects unspecific. Therefore, it should be looked at with care by those who will be signing on behalf of the democratic countries.

The meeting of 35 Heads of Government will take place against a background of continued escalation of the arms race by the Soviet Union—not only in nuclear weapons but also in conventional arms. I should like to cite but one specific example: tank production in the Soviet Union today is running at 5,000 tanks a year—ten times the tank production of the United States. What is the purpose of this massive boost to the arms race?

The conference will also be taking place against the background of the substantial and recent victories of the Soviet Union and her allies in South East Asia, and what I believe to be clear interference by the Soviet Union in the internal affairs of our NATO ally, Portugal.

I have recently returned from Portugal where the battle for freedom and democracy is raging. It is not being fought with weapons, as yet, but none the less it is being fought in the factories, the trade unions and within the senior councils of the Armed Forces Movement. The verdict of the Portuguese electorate, 94 per cent. of whom voted—would that we could get such a turn out in our elections—has been pushed aside by the military junta of Portugal as being of no consequence, even though the Portuguese people voted more than four to one in favour of democracy and against the Communists who, with their allies, achieved only 17 per cent. of the popular vote.

However, amid the apparent chaos of the political situation in Portugal there are powerful forces working towards a clear and positive objective. They are relentlessly and remorselessly taking advantage of the situation at every turn in the crisis.

The Portuguese Communist Party is, perhaps, the closest of all the Western Communist parties to the Soviet Union. There is a close relationship between it and Moscow. Shortly before the elections, Mr. Brezhnev saw the No. 2 in the PCP, Dr. Octavio Pato, and told him that he had to accept the verdict of the electorate, at least in the short term. At a time when we are being asked to accept from the Soviet Union the principle of non-interference, which presumably means that the Soviet Union will bind itself also to that principle, we should examine the realities. In the recent elections the Portuguese Communist Party was able to display ten times as many posters as all the democratic parties put together and today the Socialist Party and the other democratic parties are bankrupt but the Portuguese Communist party, thanks to cash from outside—and we all know where that comes from—is able to employ 2,000 full-time paid officials. This is a clear sign of interference by the Soviet Union in the domestic affairs of a NATO country.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

Would the hon. Gentleman equally strongly condemn the interference by the United States through the CIA in, for example, the internal affairs of Chile and many other countries, including Iran? Will he make it clear that he is being fair and that he condemns that sort of influence equally strongly when it is carried out by the forces of the United States?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Stretford

It is particularly important that we should not tolerate a situation in which interference is totally one sided. This is the reality of the situation today in Portugal.

An interest, which goes much deeper than that of a passive observer is being taken by the East in this affair. The countries of the West are standing aside and not even exerting themselves in a proper democratic way in order to help the domestic parties that are struggling for survival in Portugal. I shall cite but one example. I have been advised by no fewer than two heads of the democratic parties in Portugal that the Portuguese Service of the BBC is at present putting out broadcasts with a distinct pro-Communist bias, especially in the news programme at 11 o'clock at night. This is listened to by a large number of Portuguese because their own Press is totally controlled by the Communists—not only the eight principal daily pewspapers, but also the television and radio networks. This is their only means of getting truthful outside information which they cannot otherwise obtain. This is one way in which the West could be helping. I am not suggesting that the CIA should intervene in Portugal but, equally, I do not believe that it is for the KGB or anyone else to interfere in the internal affairs of a NATO member State.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness

The hon. Gentleman has clearly said that the BBC has been beaming out Communist propaganda to Portugal in its overseas services. This is an extremely serious allegation. Can he substantiate it?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Stretford

I have represented what was said to me by two leaders of the democratic parties in Lisbon only two weeks ago. One of them, Dr. Mario Soares the Socialist Party leader, expresesd his substantial concern at the content of those programmes. He stressed the particular importance of this in the present situation where, as he put it, the diet that is available to the ordinary Portuguese people today amounts to little more than Pravda and lzvestia. Therefore, particular importance is attached to what is being broadcast from London. Even if we cannot be helpful to the democratic parties in Portugal, the least we can do is not to help their enemies.

The implications of a Communist take over in Portugal, which is a clear possibility, would be very grave for NATO. On top of the Cyprus crisis, which has neutralised the Turks and the Greeks in the NATO Alliance, and on top of the Communist gains in the recent local government elections in Italy, it would mark the total collapse of the southern flank of NATO and would give free rein to Soviet power from the Azores through the Mediterranean to the Middle East.

In the CSCE Agreement the Soviet union is seeking to gain from the West formal acknowledgment of its conquests in the Second World War and, above all, its right to control indefinitely some 200 million people of Central and Eastern Europe who, before that war, were not under Soviet control. What, we may ask, are the feelings of those people? Unless the Soviet Union ceases forthwith its direct interference in Portugal, unless it is prepared to take fairly substantive—while recognising that we cannot ask too much—steps to liberalise and democratise its own society, unless it is, above all, prepared to give an undertaking that there will be no more Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and acknowledge that to have been a mistake, by going to this summit meeting and by putting their hands on behalf of the free people of the world to this document the leaders of the Western democracies could be in danger of signing a second Munich Agreement, signing away the rights of millions of people in far-away lands and, above all, duping their own people into believing that genuine détente and "peace in our time" had been achieved.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Tam Da1yell:

As one who submitted evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure to the effect that in three-hour debates speakers should be short, I will try to follow that precept.

I go back to what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said about reunification of families in anticipation of Helsinki. That means something in my constituency. In the 1940s the Polish Armoured Division was stationed in Fife and West Lothian, with the result that many Polish men have made their livelihood amongst us and now, towards the end of their lives, they want for personal reasons to return to Poland on a visit with their families. Therefore, what my right hon. Friend said, and the general feeling of détente, are important to some hundreds of my constituents.

I take this opportunity of thanking the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for its expedite behaviour whenever personal problems are raised in these often difficult matters relating to Poland or East Germany, and to comment that, perhaps not before time, I am glad that the British Foreign Secretary is in Poland. We have rather missed out in senior Ministers going to Poland, compared with the French and West Germans.

I wish to ask three blunt questions about the Russians. The first concerns Portugal. The House will not expect me to follow the extreme speech made by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill). My hon. Friend for Neath (Mr. Coleman) and I saw Admiral Coutinho as we stopped off in Lisbon, on return from the IPU visit to Brazil. I hope that the Government will make it clear that it would be unwise for the Russians to try to manipulate a foothold in Portugal because that would cause serious problems in NATO and the West.

Secondly, I wish to see discussed the question of the Indian Ocean. Many of us who have a history of friendship with the Soviet Union are bothered, to put it mildly, by what we hear about an increasing naval force in the Indian Ocean and off Somalia. The Russians should be asked why they are doing this, and it should be explained to them that that policy seems to justify our policy of allowing American bases on Diego Garcia. I should be very much against allowing an American unit in Diego Garcia in the light of the views of the littoral states, especially in view of the nuclear weapons opposed by Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, were it not for the growing Russian presence. The situation is awkward, and the Russians should be told that when there are massive Russian naval forces in the Indian Ocean it becomes difficult to deny the use of Diego Garcia to the Americans.

Thirdly, the Antarctic should be discussed at an early stage. Before the major countries of Western and Eastern Europe become too involved in the Antarctic, as they are rapidly becoming, some agreement should be worked out. I had the good fortune to attend the Foreign Office seminar on this subject. Time precludes my going into the subject in detail, but I should like a clear statement from my right hon. Friend that this subject is on the agenda for the conference.

My constituents—and I think most East Scots—are becoming slightly bothered at constant Press reports of Russian ships shadowing our fishing boats in the North Sea and looking at the oil rigs. We should be candid with the Russians and ask what is the purpose of this shadowing. As my right hon. Friend talked of a spirit of co-operation rather than confrontation, I should like to go a good deal further and ask the Russians whether it is possible to come to a positive agreement on the difficult problems of deep sea diving that we and they face. As my right hon. Friend knows, the 52nd diver has lost his life in the North Sea, and there is some evidence that the Russians have had similar problems.

At a time when the American and Russian astronauts are linking up in Soyuz and Apollo it should not be too difficult for ourselves and the Russians, faced with similar problems on deep sea diving, to get together to see whether there is a basis for joint research. Incidentally, this subject raises yet again the issue of the deep ocean search and recovery vessel. That is the kind of project on which we could co-operate with the Soviet Union.

At Question Time today the Prime Minister made it clear that the European Parliament and the Nine were not concerned with defence and foreign affairs. At one level that is true, but at another level, those of us who have recently met Sir Christopher Soames and had the good fortune to see the European Parliament in action and to talk to our German and French colleagues, might have rather different views on this subject.

To limit myself to one aspect—procurement—there is no doubt that a European view is developing on procurement. For example, there was the episode of the Belgian F16 and what the French Government had to say about it. There is not time for me to deal with that in depth, but any Defence or Foreign Office Minister knows precisely what I am getting at, and knows also that there are people in Brussels who are beginning to take major decisions that are not sorutinised under any democratic process.

One might ask whether the countries of Western Europe who have been through 300 years of struggle for democracy are now to find that some major decisions are being taken that are accountable to nobody. We might go back to the 1630s and to the problem that the House had at that time with Supply.

Speaking as a member of the budget committee of the European Parliament, I say this with some feeling. Let us not suppose that there is any chance of scrutinising and investigating these important decisions as long as the European Parliament is peripatetic, as long as one month the Parliament meets in Strasbourg, one month it meets in Luxembourg and the committees meet in Brussels. No serious Parliament can operate in those conditions.

If there is to be scrutiny, the European Parliament must meet in one place, and that must be where the decisions are made, which is Brussels. I hope that before many months are passed there will be a serious initiative from the British Government with the Governments of France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries, to ensure that if the European Parliament is to be taken seriously and if there is to be an element of democratic scrutiny, that Parliament must meet in one place and must be seen to be doing a solid job. So long as the European Parliament moves from place to place, I doubt whether the scrutiny that is necessary can be undertaken.

Will my Government undertake to raise the subject with the Governments of the Nine and to investigate whether the European Parliament can settle down next to the Commission and become an organ of proper and effective scrutiny?

5.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Brighton, Pavilion

The mountain has brought forth a mouse. The Minister of State has tried to assure us that there is nothing very dangerous about the mouse and that there might even be some good in it. I hope that he is right, but I want to ask him one or two questions.

I understand that Her Majesty's Government have never recognised de jure the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States or the Oder-Neisse frontier. May I have an assurance that when we subscribe to the principle of inviolability of frontiers we are in no way going back on the present position in regard to the Baltic States and the Oder-Neisse frontier? Many commentators, as recently as in the Financial Times yesterday, have argued that the Helsinki Declaration will set the stamp of recognition on the status quo in Europe.

If by the status quo is meant that we continue to recognise the territorial integrity of the countries of Eastern Europe, with the exception of what I have just said about the Baltic States and the Oder-Neisse Line, clearly, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) pointed out, there is nothing very new about that. We have always recognised this and have been in diplomatic relations with them. But I should like an assurance that there is nothing in the declaration that would involve recognition of the partition of Europe on ideological lines, as something that we accepted as established and entrenched, that this is not a new Holy Alliance or Treaty of Westphalia intended to establish existing régimes permanently.

Here I should like to press the Minister a little on his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) about the Brezhnev doctrine. As I understand it, the declaration would be incompatible with any attempt to impose a change by force on another country, as was done in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968. I should like an assurance that that is Her Majesty's Government's interpretation of the declaration—that it would in fact outlaw the Brezhnev doctrine. I accept that it could not be a guarantee that it would not be done again, but that if it were done it would be contrary to the declaration.

The matter is important because of the anxieties that have been expressed by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), among others, about anything untoward happening in Yugoslavia and Albania.

Photo of Mr Ernest Fernyhough Mr Ernest Fernyhough , Jarrow

I well remember the right hon. Gentleman as a very great supporter of the intervention in Suez in 1956. Would he say that a similar line should be laid down with regard to British activities?

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Brighton, Pavilion

The right hon. Member is making a joly debating point about a very different situation, where treaty rights applied. I do not think it has any bearing on the Helsinki declaration. If we subscribe to the principle of the declaration I should like to be sure that the Government's interpretation would outlaw the Brezhnev doctrine.

I think we all welcome the concessions in basket 3, such as they are. It would be naive, as indeed the right hon. Gentleman made clear, to expect too much or even very much of this. Opinions may vary on how far the Soviet leadership still wants to spread world revolution, but I think all of us must agree that it has a vested interest in maintaining an adversary relationship with the West. The maintenance of its exclusive power and privileges depends upon it. The Soviet Union dare not allow freedom, as we understand it, to spread through its territory, because it would undermine the whole position of its leaders. This is a measure of their weakness, but it is also a measure of danger; for with technical developments, satellite television, and so on, the truth is going to be spread and will not be kept out. This may lead to a sharpening of the adversary relationship in the future.

I do not think that we can call what has been achieved in Geneva a great step towards real détente. There will be a real détente only when the Berlin Wall is pulled down and the whole paraphernalia of the "Gulag Archipelago" and the Police State has been dismantled. The Security Conference may be a small step in the right direction, but there is a slight atmosphere of charade about the summit that is to take place. There is a gap between words and realities. I say nothing of what has been happening in Vietnam or the expansion of the Soviet Fleet in the Indian Ocean. Looking simply at Europe itself, the Vienna talks on mutual and balanced force reduction were supposed to be a parallel development—not directly linked but moving in parallel—with the security conference. In Vienna there appears to be no progress at all but a steady build-up of Soviet forces in Central Europe. This is the background to the security conference.

There is something rather grotesque—to any of us who heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) or who have been following the Portuguese situation in the newspapers—at the thought of a number of middle-aged statesmen toasting each other in champagne and making speeches about détente while in a European country at this moment democracy is being stifled by the very forces that were foremost in summoning this security conference.

I should myself have preferred that the conference were wound up at Foreign Minister level, but if our partners in the European Community thought differently, I think the Government were right to fall in step with them about it. I certainly salute the remarkable co-operation which has been achieved between the nine members of the Community in this very long haul. I hope that in the period ahead we shall keep the interests of the Community and of all Europe constantly in mind, particularly where the follow-up is concerned. I hope that we shall make sure that no machinery is established which would give to the Russians or, indeed, to the Americans, a right of supervision over the affairs of the Community.

The present tragic division of Europe stems directly from the Yalta agreements between President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin. It was a deal between super-Powers undertaken at the expense of Europe. It was a division which will be very hard to bridge, but at least let us do nothing to perpetuate it, let alone to entrench it.

5.47 p.m.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George , Walsall South

This is an historic day in East-West relations, not just because of the debate taking place here today, as a result of which to some extent I think East-West relations may have been retarded. I am referring to the Soviet-American link-up in space over Bognor Regis. Perhaps the technical benefits are rather limited but the political benefits of this relationship are, I believe, enormous, showing the new spirit of co-operation between East and West. It shows, too, that the détente proceeds at a number of different levels.

The MBFR talks and the SALT negotiations may be progressing slowly, but the fact that they are progressing at all is something that we must welcome. The CSCE negotiations, culminating shortly in Helsinki, although lengthy and complicated—one might call them marathon negotiations—are welcome because they are bringing about improvements in relations between East and West.

I do not believe that we should see the MBFR and CSCE negotiations as separate. They are politcally and conceptually linked. One cannot talk about one without talking about the other. Many people have expectations about the outcome of these negotiations which are little short of euphoric. I do not share this euphoria. On the other hand, I deplore the attitude of some writers, especially the writer of a recent article in The Economist, who aproached the CSCE negotiations in a denigrating fashion. The writer said that there is "no agreement in sight". He also called it "this cursed conference", and said that everyone in the West is weary to death of the CSCE, its ten principles, its four baskets and its endless talking.

I hope that the views expressed by this writer are supported by only a limited number of people because, for all of the difficulties of the negotiations taking place, they are offering to East and West some hope for the future. One has only to recall the last 25 years of cold war, when this nation and the nations of the world on a number of occasions were almost plunged into a mighty conflagration, to see that progress is being made, which we must welcome. The fact that these negotiations that are taking place in Helsinki are protracted is an indication of their very complexity and the range of issues still dividing Europe 30 years after the ending of hostilities in the Second World War.

Rather than support The Economist I prefer to reiterate the much more optimistic sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Richie Calder, in another place. He said, and I agree with him that for good or ill this conference would determine the course of world events, and we should view these negotiations with considerable interest. We must view the progress of these CSCE negotiations as part of the wider progress towards détente. For all the obstacles which have been placed before it, its participants show a determination to reach agreement and, although the history books are, littered with examples of failed conferences, we must express the hope that this one will not go down as an example which took a great deal of time and which did not yield any significant success.

Photo of Mr Michael Brotherton Mr Michael Brotherton , Louth Borough

The hon. Gentleman said that the world's history books were littered with conferences which had been begun with great hopes. However, he is gloomy about hope for the future. The hope for the immediate future for the West must be to have sufficiently strong defences to make sure that we can defend ourselves against those who would attack us.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George , Walsall South

If the hon. Gentleman had curbed his impatience for a few more minutes he would have heard the remainder of my argument, which substantially reiterates his point.

We must remember that détente is little more than a decade old. I prefer to use the phrase "limited détente". A détente is not an alliance It does not mean a sinking of differences. It does not signify an amicable approach to all our problems. I wish that détente did signify more.

The rivalry between East and West will persist into the foreseeable future, but it will operate at a lower level of tension. Our survival depends on our working out a modus vivendi for living together peacefully, and our present state of limited détente recognises that, although East and West do not share the same goals, at least they are prepared to conduct their competition with significantly less risk to themselves and to the rest of the world.

We now face a clear choice between living in a mixed international system in which allies and adversaries are loosely bound together in a network of fundamental co-operation or a return to a bipolar situation in which the lines of conflict are drawn starkly, and the second of those choices almost inevitably will result in a significant increase in the danger of a new war.

We have come a long way since the process of détente began, but we cannot assume that we are moving progressively and inescapably towards a higher plane. We cannot assume that we are moving towards a position of détente and coexistence which will progressively im- prove. Détente has suffered many reverses. One has only to read letters in the Daily Telegraph or attend debates in this House to know that some cold warriors are still with us. What is more, in the USA and in the USSR opposition to détente is still to be seen, and one well-known writer has said that he could envisage developments which would make this opposition to détente very considerable in the years ahead. We must not see progress as inevitable. Détente and a general improvement in relations have to be worked for. Given the mistrust in many quarters I am constantly amazed that détente has progressed as far as it has. There is nothing automatic about its continuation, and that is a point which we must bear in mind. It must be worked for, because our futures depend on it.

Recently I was in the Library looking at one of the works of a hard-working American professor, Professor Elliot Goodman, and I came across his "Soviet Design for a World State". That exemplifies the attitude of many people in this country who see the Soviet Union working towards world domination. Others say that the Russians have abandoned at one level their desire for world revolution but that they are now embarked upon a more cunning way in which they can lull the West into complacency, lower our guard and then strike with a view to creating this World State. Anyone who has read the works of Lenin knows that he said. Our philosophy is not a dogma but a guide to action. There are those people who, therefore, say that Soviet philosophy is war-consequent action and adaptable, that we are faced by an adversary with a more cunning approach. But we must remember that whereas the West would like to see every nation a liberal or social democracy that does not mean that we are prepared to engulf the world in a war to achieve that objective. The Soviet Union would like to see many nations embracing its political, economic and social system, but that does not mean that the Russians are now intent on world revolution to achieve that goal.

A pre-condition for the success of détente is clearly a military balance. The West negotiates from strength. As someone said earlier, we must maintain our defences, but at the same time we must work genuinely for an improvement of relations. I do not say that the Soviet Union is trying to beguile us and that we should abandon all our defences. We must have a viable defence system, but at the same time we must work for an improvement in relationships.

All the participants in this Helsinki conference have a mixture of motives. Many people say that originally the Soviet Union saw these negotiations as an opportunity to drive a wedge between NATO and its allies. Many people say that the Soviet Union sees the conference as a process to facilitate United States disengagement from Europe. Many have seen it from the Soviet standpoint as a means of ratifying the post-war status quo and of confirming Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe or as a means for the Soviet Union to secure its European flank in order to free itself for greater propeations on its border with China.

We in the West, too, have our motives. This is not a matter of one cynical set of individuals from Eastern Europe facing a naive sect of individuals from the United States and Western Europe. We have our motives. Such a conference is a legitimate forum at which to pursue the national interests of both East and West. We often hear it said that war is a continuation of diplomacy by another means. We have not yet played out the diplomatic processes, and we hope that the negotiations will be successful.

Photo of Mr Alastair Goodlad Mr Alastair Goodlad , Northwich

I have listened with interest to the hon. Gentleman's exposition of Soviet motives. What is his explanation of the enormous increase in the military might of the Warsaw Pact countries in recent years?

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George , Walsall South

If the hon. Gentleman had attended our defence debate a few days ago he would have heard my exposition of that already. I said then that there was once a grotesque imbalance of forces between East and West and that the Soviet Union for its own motives wanted to increase its armoury. I do not share the views of some of my hon. Friends that the Soviet Union has any degree of inferiority. I believe that there is a balance, and I hope that it will be maintained, because disarmanent can continue only from a position of parity.

These CSCE negotiations must not be seen as a new departure. They must be seen as part of an on-going process. I hope that the conference can create a new plateau from which we can look back on the progress of relations between East and West over the past 10 years. I hope, too, that it will enable us to take stock of the situation and possibly codify our relations over that period. Until now these results have been underpinned by force or by the threat of force. I hope that as a result of the negotiations there will be an agreement which will help to create a less militarily-based relationship.

Détente has suffered many setbacks, but there have been significant advances. We have seen improvements in trade. I welcome the activities of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in improving trade relations between Britain and the Soviet Union. We have seen technical and scientific collaboration. We see a proliferation of bilateral treaties between Russia and the Western nations. Many dangerous problems have been defused, such as that over Berlin and Germany. SALT 1 and 2 give hope that ultimately there will be nuclear force reductions. Although these achievements will not bring about the millenium they may ultimately transform the international political scene. They will, I hope, replace confrontation with negotiation and bring about a reversal of a generation of hostilities. They will create a more favourable environment in which trade can continue, and I hope that they will bring about a more prosperous and secure Europe, and from that, I hope, a more prosperous and secure world.

In conclusion, I would like to comment on what I believe should happen after the Helsinki negotiations assuming, as most of us do, that these are successful. There are some who are urging the creation of a permanent body, permanent consultative machinery, on European security. Clearly, the Soviet Union is attracted to this, but there are many cautionary voices from Western circles. Some committed Europeans of the EEC variety believe that joint East-West European negotiations would retard the economic unification of Western Europe, something which I might subscribe to as well. There are many committed Europeans who see this dialogue on a permanent basis as retarding a common defence policy in Europe and a common foreign policy approach in Europe. Some committed supporters of NATO see a permanent relationship on security as possibly leading to the demise of NATO or to a reduction of United States' influence.

If the Helsinki conference is successful one has the choice of taking stock of the new situation and thinking very seriously about creating permanent machinery; because if the functions of the proposed authority are well defined, if we can be assured that the existing NATO presence is maintained, I see no reason why an East-West dialogue should not continue. My point is not whether permanent machinery should be set up. I ask, rather, when it should be set up, how it should be set up and where it should be set up.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I would remind the House that the debate for back benchers will conclude at about 6.30. I hope that that will be borne in mind.

6.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

When we are considering negotiations with the Soviet Union my mind goes back to the time, rather over 20 years ago, when I was personally involved in the negotiations by which Western Germany was brought into NATO, and the attitude of the Soviet Union at that time; because the Soviet Union told us that if we brought Germany into NATO we would not get an Austrian State treaty—the treaty on which we were working to bring to an end the state of war in Austria and the withdrawal of the occupying Powers from that country.

We in the West were faced with the question what we should do in the light of this ultimatum. Very rightly, we decided to go ahead with admitting Germany into NATO; and within six months not only was Germany in NATO but we had the Austrian State Treaty. I mention that example because it shows two things about negotiations with the Soviet Union; first, that it pays for the West to be united and firm and, secondly, that the Soviet Union is capable of reversing its position in international affairs much more readily than could a democracy such as ours, because the Soviet Union has no problem of persuading public opinion of the wisdom of making a sudden change.

I fear, in connection with this conference, that the West may not have insisted on enough. I shall explain later why I take that view. Meanwhile, I acknowledge the force of the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State deployed and, in particular, his argument that the principles which have been agreed will provide a yardstick against which we can test Russian performance. On balance, it is right that the nations should go to Helsinki.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) had serious reservations about the wisdom of this conference. He is concerned that the conference may amount to the ratification of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. He said, I believe, that the world will accept that conquest is acceptable for Communism. I do not go along with him in that view. I believe that the events of 1956 in Hungary, the events in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Ostpolitik, have themselves made it clear that the status quo in Eastern Europe is something which we cannot do anything about by force of arms, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) made clear. We are not, by what has been agreed at this conference, approving the Brezhnev doctrine. If the principles in basket are observed the position of countries in Eastern Europe should be better, not worse. So regarding the fear of my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham that this agreement will be taken as setting the seal on the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, I believe that it will not, unless we in the West keep saying that that is so.

My concern is a different one—the danger that the West may imagine that détente has arrived and that this conference may accelerate the process we already see towards unilateral disarmament on the part of the West, caused partly by lack of will on the part of peoples and Governments and partly by the process of inflation. The Russians regard détente as a tactic, as the continuation of subversion by other means, as a sleeping draught for the West, and they are having a good deal of success in that respect.

My analysis of Soviet motives is confirmed day by day by the continued Soviet military build-up. The point on which I feel that the Government may not have insisted enough is that there should have been more progress on MBFR before the CSCE was concluded. I am afraid it is now too late to insist on that, except to this extent—that it ought still to be possible in Helsinki to extract from the Soviet Union some declaration of intent, which may be of some value, which we can repeat back to them if necessary, about the seriousness of their intentions at the MBFR conference.

As far as the baskets are concerned, it all depends how they are interpreted. Yesterday, I looked at the constitution of the Soviet Union, Article 17 of which says that The right freely to secede from the USSR is reserved to every Union Republic". So in theory Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are free to secede. Article 125 says that In conformity with the interests of the working people and in order to strengthen the socialist system the citizens of the USSR are guaranteed by law freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings, freedom of street processions and demonstrations. That is the kind of thing we should bear in mind when we are assessing whether these principles amount to détente or, as the Minister of State more accurately said, are—as they are in my view—only a first step in the direction of détente.

Basket 3 is one of the most important baskets. If we achieve success with this basket the conference will have been worth while. Here again our attitude should be one of scepticism. We should be saying to the Soviet Union, "We have agreed to these principles. Now show us that you will observe them. It is all very well to have family contacts, but why are you not going further than that?" We should ask, "Why are you allowing families to be reunited only if one member of the family is already outside the Soviet Union? Why are you not allowing families to leave the Soviet Union together if they wish to do so?" There will be no real détente until the Berlin Wall comes down and there is a complete change of attitude in the assumptions made by the Soviet Union—until it abandons its objective of overthrowing the capitalist way of life, which it daily repeats in its newspapers.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham in this respect; the EEC countries have worked together extremely well throughout this conference. They have had an influence on the result and a measurable influence on the Americans. We must build on that. It is as sure as can be that sooner or later the Russians will attempt, either by the carrot or the stick, to detach one or more members from the Community. The closer we are knit together at that time the better. One of the ways we can best knit ourselves together is by evolving a common foreign policy.

The Minister of State referred to the importance of teaching the new generation—who do not remember the events of 1956 and 1968—the facts about our relations with the Soviet Union. It is up to the Government to educate the country in the realities of the Soviet system. The right hon. Member represents a Birmingham constituency and as I understand it Birmingham City education authority is distributing literature aimed at educating children in religion, including Marxism. I would like to see it and other educational authorities educating young people in the true nature of the Soviet system as it works in practice.

This would be one of the ways in which we could prevent our people from being lulled into the assumption that détente has arrived and disarmament is the order of the day. We should be educating them about the world ambitions of the Soviet Union, the history of the Soviet Union, the practices of Stalin, the treaty with Hitler, and the fact that the Soviet Union is still putting intelligent educationists, artists and writers into asylums for the insane—not concentration camps but insane asylums where they are incarcerated for years. We should be educating our children about what Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and others have said about the nature of the Soviet régime.

I say this not because I want to perpetuate the cold war or cause tension but because I believe that if we understand the true facts about the Soviet Union it will help reduce tension. The best way to convince the Soviet Union that it must one day change its objective of overthrowing the Western world is to show it that we are not deceived by it and that we have the will to remain strong and united in our defence.

6.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

I would have thought that all those who are genuinely concerned about peace in Europe and the world as a whole would welcome the progress made towards the Helsinki conference. I am afraid, however, that the tone of some speeches from the Opposition benches has been reminiscent of the cold war. This is unfortunate. We ought to have welcomed much more wholeheartedly what has been achieved. When we consider the objections which have been raised on the Right, we see that it is argued that we must not make any concessions which affect Western security and we must not separate agreements from progress on mutual and balanced force reductions at Vienna.

We have heard about the superiority in conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have conveniently ignored certain facts which ought to be brought out. There is no question at this stage but that the West has nuclear superiority. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said in the debate on the Defence White Paper that there was nuclear parity. I challenged him about that in my speech at that time.

I repeat that according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute handbook of 1974, which quotes official United States estimates of total warheads on missiles and planes in the West and East, the figures are 7,940 for the United States and 2,600 for the USSR. No facts have been brought forward to refute those figures. In those circumstances we must accept that at this stage there is enormous Western nuclear superiority.

In view of this the Warsaw Pact Powers clearly argue for the maintenance of conventional superiority. I do not accept the argument of West or East on this. I consider that both sides are going down the wrong road and that it is necessary for some of us who try to speak with the voice of sanity to say that we should not argue for the increase of armaments on either basis.

Photo of Michael Mates Michael Mates , Petersfield

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House how the figures which he has quoted overall are broken down between the ICBM-type missiles, which are capable of launching all-out attacks on civilisations, and tactical missiles? When that breakdown is made he can be sure that there is parity in the larger and potentially more destructive weapons.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

I do not think that I am free to pursue that matter here. Outside this House I shall gladly meet the hon. Gentleman and look at the facts and the statistics and consider anything he puts forward. Nothing that I have so far seen refutes what I have said. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to do that. Those on the Right who argue against the steps towards the ECSC must recognise that the Left could equally argue against such steps on the grounds that they are meaningless because of the behaviour of the Western nations since the 1939–45 war.

Let us remember that the record of the West includes the support of such events as the pursuit of the war in Vietnam to the bitter end, during the course of which 7 million tons of explosives were dropped on Vietnam by the United States—three times the total dropped by all the combatants in the Second World War. We must remember that 3½ million acres were sprayed with defoliants and that there was a total of 6 million casualties. In those circumstances, I do not think that we can regard the case of the West as unassailable.

The Left might equally argue, as some more militant elements have argued against the Labour Left, that it is only by the use of force that essential radical social change can be achieved. I do not accept that argument, but I believe that Right wing Opposition Members should recognise that that view is taken by some people in the world today.

Opposition Members have raised the issue of Czechoslovakia. I clearly state that some Labour Members took just as strong a stand as Opposition Members on that issue. Many of us can claim to have a lot more sympathy with the concept of Socialism with a human face than can Opposition Members.

All hon. Members have a duty to seek to avoid bloodshed and suffering, and this means that we must foster co-operation throughout the world. Therefore, we should give our support to the steps which have been taken towards détente in Europe and press the Government to give every support now to the steps which have been taken towards the conference in Helsinki.

I do not regard the achievements of the Commission at Geneva as ultimate. However, considerable progress has been made in basket 2, concerning economic co-operation.

In my view, more problems have arisen concerning the freedom of information and ideas and the access of citizens across frontiers. The record of many countries, especially the Warsaw Pact countries, leaves much to be desired in this area. The obstacles which have frequently been placed in the way of family unity and the movement of people are deplorable. By moving forward in this respect, we may help any people in Eastern European countries who have so far been deprived of the right to move across frontiers. I hope that all hon. Members will regard this as desirable.

On the other hand, let us not be completely mealy-mouthed about this issue The record of the West is not spotless. I believe I am correct in saying that the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was at the Home Office when Rudi Dutschke was excluded from this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hear hon. Gentlemen saying "Hear, hear". It is no good their claiming that they want complete freedom of movement of people and then arguing that it was right for a British Conservative Government to throw out somebody on the basis that Rudi Dutschke was thrown out.

Photo of Mr Michael Brotherton Mr Michael Brotherton , Louth Borough

Is the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) really arguing that we should allow crooks to come into this country?

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) is either extremely ignorant of the facts of this matter or extremely stupid. The argument against Rudi Dutschke had nothing to do with his being a crook. It should be deeply resented that the hon. Gentleman has raised this issue in the manner he has done.

Rudi Dutschke was excluded because of his political views. We cannot argue in favour of that when we talk about what is being done at present, and when we criticise the Governments of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries for not allowing freedom of movement towards the conference and ideas in those countries.

We must not forget that the Communist Party is illegal in Western Germany and that there are regulations about immigration. We must recognise that there are faults on both sides. However, I believe that progress is being made and that all hon. Members of good will should welcome and support the next stage in CSCE.

The next question to be asked is, how will these agreements and recommendations be carried out? We cannot just leave it to a review conference. We should aim to ensure that permanent commissions, representative of all countries, are set up as a result of the Helsinki conference—commissions that will seek to implement the agreements which have been reached. If this is not done, it may well be that no progress will be made in the long run and that these agreements will be empty words. Therefore, I feel very strongly that we should ensure and press for the implementation of the agreements by permanent commissions.

As one of those hon. Members who are extremely critical of the inadequacy of our Defence Review and who believe that we are vastly overspending on arms, I argue that we must go much further than the scope of the CSCE provides. In this respect, I am anxious that we should press on with the other discussions that are taking place at present. None the less, we should welcome and support the decision which has been taken because it represents at this stage a real step forward.

We must recognise that the whole of humanity has been spending far too much money and wasting resources on arms and means of destruction for far too many years. But at the same time it has utterly neglected the problems of world poverty and deprivation. That is something that we should never neglect.

We must recognise that with CSCE we have taken a considerable step forward in the right direction. I hope that hon. Members will give full support to that step and that we shall see in the years ahead considerable improvements in the situation.

6.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr Iain Sproat Mr Iain Sproat , Aberdeen South

In the few minutes left I should like to say that I very much welcome what the Minister of State has said about hoping to sign an agreement at Helsinki.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I now understand that the Ministerial reply is not likely to begin before 6.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Iain Sproat Mr Iain Sproat , Aberdeen South

I am very grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to my hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman. The reason I welcome what the Government are doing is that I believe that on balance the advantage of this agreement, as provisionally drafted, is with the West. Not only is the overall balance with the West, but the balance of each basket, to a different extent, is also with the West. This is not to say that I am blind to or under any illusions about the aims of the Soviet Union. I believe that the aims of the Soviet Union remain the same, namely, that by this conference and by other means, it seeks to alter the balance of power in Europe in its favour, to weaken and divide the West, to strengthen and consolidate its hold in Eastern Europe and to reduce its own risks in Europe as a whole in the light of the threat posed on its Chinese border, its technological and consumer failures and its various ethnic problems.

However, against that bleak background, I believe that the advantage of each basket lies with the West. It is true that in basket 1 the Soviet Union has gained what might be called a further paper formalisation of the status quo and no doubt the Soviet Union will make as much of that as it can. The fact remains that that paper formalisation is not a legal document. It does not mean that we, in the West, are legally recognising the situation as it emerged after 1945, to any greater extent than previously. In other words, the de facto and de jure situations seem to remain the same—the de jure situation because it is not a legal document and the de facto situation because it has never been our intention to invade, say Eastern Germany to reunite East and West Germany by force.

I suggest that the Russian advantage—they may see it—is negligible. It is not an advantage, because it is still possible, under the terms of this agreement, to change frontiers peaceably. I do not think that the various principles about inviolability of frontiers, respect for sovereignty and non-recourse to force would stop the Soviet Union doing a Czechoslovakia 1968, if it wanted to do so, any more than would the prior warning of troop manoeuvres, excellent as they are in their way. None the less, by a process of Gulliverisation—that is, tying down by small threads, none binding but all having an overall restraining effect—I believe that the overall advantage is to the West.

Basket 2 is perhaps the most underestimated basket. I think that the advantage is to us, but somebody is making a big error of judgment. The West believes that commercial, industrial, scientific and technological co-operation is to its advantage because it thinks that it has more expertise, plus the magnetism which the EEC will generate. We think that somehow an increase in trade will stimulate rising expectations in Eastern Europe which will lead to dissatisfaction with the régimes there.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union clearly believes that it will get the balance of trade, that the credits which we are extending will enable it to free money to be spent on other matters and that the technological expertise that we are to give will enable it to consolidate its grip on the people under its sway.

I believe that the commercial and technological expertise of the West, particularly through the medium of the EEC, will dominate. However, the advantages—perhaps the dangers—are somewhat underestimated by the West.

Basket 3—the freer flow of people and ideas—is entirely to our advantage. I do not suggest that the advantages are great, but, such as they are, they are in our favour. Everything that we require the Soviet Union to do by way of free exchanges we are doing already. We are giving nothing that we have not already granted to others. Therefore, although these advantages are not considerable, they add up to something in the process of Gulliverisation. If the Soviet Union does not keep its word under the provisions of basket 3, it will stoke up discontent among its own and other peoples of Eastern Europe which will ultimately redound to the advantage of the West.

On basket 4, the follow-up, I accept the common wisdom that we should have another look at that in two years with a meeting not of Heads of Government but of Foreign Secretaries. There is some advantage to the West in having a permanent secretariat of some kind after two years.

Loth as I am to agree with the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens), I think that ultimately the West will have the better tale to tell. It is the Soviet Union which will break these provisions and which will be before the bar of any commission which may be set up. We should not be too scared by what I might call any provision for a platform of abuse by the Soviet Union, to which the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) referred, but we should walk rather slowly on this one.

Finally, I should like to echo what has been said by a number of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. Détente is no substitute for defence. There must be no relaxation of our guard. The Berlin Wall is still there, the occupying forces are still in Czechoslovakia, and the Warsaw Pact forces still outnumber NATO. In the light of these factors, it would be grotesquely dangerous for us to lower our guard for a minute. On the contrary, we should maintain and increase our guard against conventional attacks, against subversive attacks and, indeed, against psychological attacks on the West.

6.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I think that the whole House would agree that this has been a useful and important debate. It fully justifies the decision by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Cabinet to make available part of a Supply Day for this purpose. It might have been better had the Government provided the time in view of the importance of the subject. Indeed, if I were in a chiding mood, I might criticise the Minister of State for not providing us with a little more information, for not arranging for statements to be made on the negotiations which have so far taken place and, indeed, for not providing at least partial texts of the documents which I understand are available to the Press. But, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's reassuring and welcome speech this afternoon, which struck me as being sensible and striking exactly the right balance between détente, which we all want, and defence, without which we dare not be, I pass on to some of the excellent, short speeches which have been made by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) was worried about this being "Operation Something for Nothing".

My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) spoke with some force and a good deal of personal experience about the disturbing situation in Portugal.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), speaking with great experience, was anxious that in the CSCE agreements there should not be any formal recognition of the partition of our continent.

Whilst welcoming what has happened and hoping that it will make an important contribution to the peace and security of Europe, the theme running through the debate has been that we must nevertheless be cautious and ensure that it does not lead, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said, to the letting down of our guard. Our attitude, therefore, is certainly one of welcome, but qualified welcome.

We welcome the progress that has been made and the prospects for the agreements being signed at the summit in the terms expressed by the Minister of State—namely, as one small step along the road to détente. I certainly take his point that, as far as younger generation is concerned, the credibility of our defence posture requires that there should also be a credible search for détente in the world as a whole.

I must qualify our welcome in terms of genuine doubts on three of four specific scores.

First, I wonder, as many of my hon. Friends have wondered, how much genuine progress towards peace and security and freedom of exchanges will arise from the CSCE agreements. I do not go along with all the rather strong comments which have been made in, for example, the Daily Telegraph. But I notice that its reporter in Geneva, referring to the documents which he apparently had seen, wrote that the main one consists of a number of slippery clauses painstakingly negotiated into suitable ambiguity. They are generally agreed unlikely to change the situation in Europe in the foreseeable future. I do not endorse that particularly jaundiced view, but I think that I am entitled to ask, how much reality is likely to arise from these agreements?

Our second concern arises from the possibility that the Soviets, having made very few, if any, real concessions or movements towards the West, will be able to present the proposed treaty and, perhaps more important, the summit conference that agrees it as a major breakthrough for their "peace policy" as they describe it. The Russians have been calling for such a conference for a very long time. But I cannot help noticing that, while their words have grown more peaceful and their actions perhaps more cautious over recent years, nevertheless they have continued to arm at a pace and on a scale which has increased their military advantage vis-à-vis the West.

The Opposition are concerned that the signing of these accords should not lead the West, and some Government supporters in particular, to conclude that the danger has diminished or even disappeared and that NATO is therefore less necessary.

The view of the Opposition, and I think of the Government, is that if there has been progress towards a measure of peace and security in Europe in recent years it is precisely because NATO is strong—not because NATO is weak. We should therefore very much regret it if the Helsinki summit were to be the signal for ever more frantic demands for further reductions or dismantling of the defences of the West.

I shall come to some more precise reservations. I ask the Minister to say what is to be the exact status of these agreements. He said that they were not to be legal documents in the sense that the 35 signatory nations would regard themselves as legally bound by them under international law. They cannot therefore be enforced. If, for example, a Jewish woman, seeking to leave the Sovet Union to join her husband in the West, were prevented from leaving, she would in law be unable to cite the Helsinki agreement under basket 3 and would not be able to appeal to any international court for redress.

The Minister said that the Soviet Union would incur the odium of world opinion. He mentioned the opinion of the Third World. I hope that he will not regard it as offensive if I say that I thought that that was the weakest part of his speech. When looking at what is happening in parts of the Third World, some of us would not regard odium from that quarter as any guarantee of the rights of European peoples.

The question arising in respect of the status of the agreement was anticipated by the former Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, when he said at the commencement of the Helsinki discussions on 5th July 1973 to the assembled Foreign Ministers, It is time to move from general declarations of principles to their application in the lives of ordinary people. He agreed with Mr. Gromyko, who called for a code of conduct for Europe, and said, That is an impeccable sentiment. The pertinent question is—what is this to mean in terms of the lives of ordinary people in Europe? We cannot leave such sentiments hanging in the air. We must come down to earth. At a time of the union of cosmonauts over Bognor Regis, I think that that is the right approach. We must come down to earth. Therefore I put a number of down-to-earth questions to the Minister.

First, will basket 3, and the agreement on the free exchange of information, mean that more British, German, American and French newspapers will freely circulate in Moscow? We obtain copies of Izvestia and Pravda in London. Why should not The Times and the Daily Express circulate in Moscow? This agreement, if accepted by the Soviet Union, should make that possible. What about broadcasts? We listen to Radio Moscow, which even gave us advice on the referendum. Are we to believe that following this agreement BBC programmes to the Soviet Union will no longer be jammed?

I next refer to the many cases of human rights. I cite the case of a Jewish physicist arrested on charges of parasitism because he had applied to emigrate to Israel. I know of the case of a Roman Catholic priest, Father Bernard, who was dealt with most severely on being convicted of preparing children for Communion. That happened in the Soviet Union. I have some sympathy with the great Soviet writer, Solzhenitsyn who said at a conference arranged by the American Federation of Labour and the CIO in New York that the CSCE should try to slow down the process of concessions but speed up the process of liberation of the Soviet people.

We are entitled to judge the reality of the CSCE by the pace at which personal freedom—including the ability to read the newspaper of our choice and to listen to the radio programme of our choice—progresses on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

We all welcome any increase in trade and exchanges between our countries provided by basket 2. I was interested in the answer which the Prime Minister gave to a Question asked today by a member of the Opposition about how far the agreement would improve the trade arrangements recently negotiated in Moscow. The United Kingdom agreed to give to the Soviet Union an enormous credit of the order of £1,000 million at a rate of interest reported to be about 7 per cent. while we borrowed a large sum from Iran at more than double that rate. When he replies, will the Minister say whether the negotiations and the summit conference which is to take place will put trading arrangements on a fairer footing, so that in our trade with the Soviet Union we do not borrow short and lend long? I do not think that to do that makes much sense.

Finally, basket 1 provides security measures. I confess that I sympathise with the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion and others who found it hard to square the Soviet Union's commitment of the ten principles enunciated in basket 1 with what has happened. Take for example the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of others States. How is that to be squared with events in Hungary, Portugal and Czecholslovakia? I was in Budapest when the Soviet Union intervened. I shall never forget the killing and fighting which occurred then. It is difficult to describe that, in terms of basket 1, as non-intervention in the internal affairs or as showing respect for human rights and fundamental freedom.

One of the most brutal acts of force to take place in Europe since the war, occurred in Czechoslovakia. We are entitled to ask how that fits in with the basket 1 principle of non-recourse to the threat of the use of force.

I next refer to the question of confidence building. I welcome the progress which has been made towards the prior notification of manœuvres and troop movements. I should be grateful if the Minister would give us more detail about that.

This is the reality. The CSCE basket 1 is not worth very much unless there is agreement and specific action to enforce it in the MBFR talks and the SALT negotiations. When the CSCE talks began they were regarded by the West as part of a package in which the MBFR and the SALT negotiations played an essential part. At that time Sir Alec Douglas-Home said that the confidence building measures touched only the fringe of the basic question of military security in Europe.

Our attitude is that we welcome the progress which has been made. We wish the summit well. But we shall judge it by what actually happens. We want to see the defence of the West maintained as the essential precondition of détente. We want to see progress at the MBFR and SALT negotiations and we shall look carefully to see whether the bold and splendid words and principles of CSCE are translated into a little more freedom, trade and peace for the people of Europe.

6.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

With the leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, I should like to reply to the debate.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling), the representative of the Liberal Party and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat)—who speaks more often than most and, I suspect, knows more than most in the House about this subject—all gave a qualified welcome to the progress that has been made during the last two of the CSCE negotiations, and a welcome, equally qualified, to the prospects of a summit in 14 days' time and what that summit might achieve.

I want to turn first, however, not to those right hon. and hon. Members who have welcomed what the Government and their 34 partners in CSCE hope to do, but to those hon. Members who have dealt with the possible dangers of the CSCE summit. They range from the reasonable—the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) in particular, who rightly referred to the dangers of overstating the advantages, success and achievements of CSCE—to the absurd—the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), who compared the CSCE summit with Munich. That is something that I think will embarrass him in the years ahead.

Although he is not in the Chamber at present, the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) needs a special mention, because he condemned the entire exercise so totally and so completely that one is left in wonder that he could have remained in the Cabinet that began the exercise exactly two years ago.

I turn to the more specific criticisms and fears. Let me at once put some of them at rest. The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) raised two specific questions—the Oder-Niesse line and the Baltic States. The Oder-Niesse line will be no more recognised or legally determined as a boundary after the Helsinki summit than it was previously. Our policy on that, de jure, will be unchanged. Similarly, we recognise the Baltic States as part of the Soviet Union de facto, not de jure. That position, too, remains unchanged.

Let me reinforce and reiterate what I said to hon. Members about the Brezhnev doctrine. The position on that is simply this: the Brezhnev doctrine, as it has come to be called, is simply the statement by the leader of one nation, made by him unilaterally and arbitrarily, to describe his views on the rights and responsibilities of the State he represented. It is no more and no less than that. There is nothing in the CSCE, nothing in any of its tenets, which endorses or upholds that doctrine. Indeed, Principle 4 of basket 1, which was finally approved for submission to the Heads of Government yesterday, specificaly and categorically repudiates that doctrine. It is not for me or for hon. Members to decide whether others in this place will continue to say that the doctrine is valid, but they cannot do so relying on texts of the CSCE.

I turn now to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston). He made a point of criticism which is important in terms of understanding the nature of the Government's policy and the character of this debate. He first complained about some of the language I used, and then apologised for complaining because he said I had used it in response to an interjection. However, he was wrong in both particulars. He is entitled to complain that Ministers should get their language right, whether it is prepared or unprepared. He was wrong to complain firstly, because it was appropriate. When I said that it was no good describing the world as how we would like to see it and that we should accept it as it is, I did not mean that I did not want to see the world changed and improved. Like most of my hon. Friends, I am in politics for that single objective. What I meant was that we should not pretend that change and improvement can come about more quickly and easily than is reasonable.

It is normally the Government side of the House which is accused of having false, naive views of how soon the world can be changed and improved, but we are not guilty of that today. Indeed, when the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion described as naive those who expected too much out of the CSCE summit, I can only assume that he had in mind the hon. Member for Stretford, who actualy said that we should not sign any of these documents unless we had an assurance that the Soviet Union would move towards the Western style of democracy. If that is his view of how East-West negotiations are to be conducted, I think that he has a great deal to learn.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds asked, legitimately, a central question. He said, "What will come out of CSCE?". The answer is, of course, not as much as any of us hope. We would be wrong to delude ourselves about that or to pretend anything different. That is the nature of the agreement. It is the nature of all international agreements, particularly between two systems which are so diverse and different, and in some cases so fundamentally opposed, as those of the Soviet Union and its allies and those of Western Europe.

I should like to give an example. The right hon. Member for Brighton. Pavilion is one of the many people, including the Prime Minister, who have this afternoon paid tribute to the co-ordination that has been carried on by the EEC. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was necessary to make sure that no supervision over Community affairs was exercised by the Soviet Union and its allies. He is quite right. But the Soviet Union feels very nearly the same about COMECON and the necessity to make sure that no supervision is exercised over those countries by the Western countries of the EEC.

The detailed achievements and areas in which we hope to make practical progress are always limited by the need to make agreements. That is the nature of the dilemma that has faced the negotiators. In this matter we have to press for getting the best deal that is possible and the maximum amount of concessions. We have to get a good deal. But we have to make sure that in that process we give very little. Sometimes that means that achievements we would like to see are not obtained. But equally, it means—and I think that this is fundamentally important in an area in which caution is essential—that we do not concede anything that it would be dangerous to concede. As I have said time after time, that, I hope, above all else, characterises the nature of the progress we have made over the last two years.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds asked about the status of the document which, hopefully, will be endorsed in Helsinki in 14 or 15 days' time. I can only repeat to him that its status remains essentially political rather than legal. If it is enforced and enforceable, it will be enforced at the bar of world opinion. It will be enforced as a result of pressure from the neutrals, who, both East and West, are, I think, anxious to impress. It will be enforced by Members of this House and the people of this nation, by drawing the attention of other Governments to what they have promised in Helsinki and asking them to put actual flesh on the bones erected there.

That is true in two particulars, to which the hon. Gentleman referred. Basket 3 talked generally about a freer flow of information. The hon. Gentleman asked whether that meant that the Daily Express and The Times will be sold in Moscow. He asked whether it meant that jamming will be reduced. Jamming is being reduced. I am open to correction, but I believe that the BBC broadcasts are no longer jammed by the Soviet Union. However, it now becomes our duty—Government, Opposition and the people alike—to build on the generality and to obtain the specifics.

That is equally true of basket 2, which sets the framework for trade. But it does not mean that any trade pattern is specified. We must build on the framework of Helsinki.

In the last two minutes of the debate, I return to perhaps the most important question that has been raised. It is a question to which, in the 120 seconds left, I cannot do great justice, but nevertheless, something must be said about it. I refer to Portugal. We need to acknowledge that Portugal is not the product of Soviet aggression. Portugal is not Hungary. It is not Czechoslovakia. If we pretend that, we are deluding ourselves—and perhaps some of us are comforting ourselves.

Portugal has come about because many of us did not take democracy in Portugal seriously enough early enough. Portugal has come about because many of us were prepared to accept any structure which did not support the Soviet Union. To put it crudely, in my blunt Yorkshire language, some felt that "They might be dictators, but at least they are our dictators". That is not an acceptable moral position, or an acceptable position in practice, as Portugal is now showing.

What CSCE is supposed to do is to break down some of these old prejudices and abandon the barriers as a result of which the tragedy which might still overcome Portugal—although all of us hope this will not be the case—is not likely to happen in other countries; that is, if East and West can talk about political morality and understand that there are principles which are, I hope, permanently irrevocable, and which we shall observe ourselves and urge other nations to observe with the same degree of sincerity.

Photo of Mr David Stoddart Mr David Stoddart , Swindon

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.