Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1976.

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Photo of Mr John Davies Mr John Davies , Knutsford 12:00 am, 14th December 1976

The Secretary of State will appreciate that a party in opposition, faced with issues such as this, which affect so closely the lives of many people and have far-reaching implications beyond that, is bound to exercise great forbearance in the questions that it puts. There are, however, three major questions which I feel I must ask the right hon. Gentleman.

He speaks in his statement of a fresh impetus. I think that the general feeling in the country and elsewhere is that there has been an extraordinary degree of passivity on the part of the government in pursuing this conference. I hope that in speaking of a fresh impetus the right hon. Gentleman is talking of an active rôle by this country in the conduct of the conference with a view to securing a settlement.

Second, I think that the rôle that the right hon. Gentleman casts for Mr. Ivor Richard is open to question. Does his experience not also lead him to believe that where a person is sent on a major mission with his senior held in reserve for an eventual subsequent visit, the whole tendency is for all the serious questions to be deferred until that senior person arrives? Is the right hon. Gentleman not once again casting Mr. Richard in an absolutely hopeless rôle in the task he is assigning to him?

Third, I raise the question of the support of the United States. It was, after all, Dr. Kissinger who largely took the initiative in bringing about this whole series of events. The right hon. Gentleman speaks in an almost aside way now of Dr. Kissinger's concurrence in the procedure now proposed, but can he satisfy the House that the United States, having played such a formidable part in starting this operation, is fully in support of it in seeing it through?