Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st March 1977.

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Mr. Alan Lee Williams:

I always follow the argument put by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) with considerable interest, but I disagreed profoundly with his massive generalisation that Western containment of Communism has failed. I had hoped to hear him argue the case, but he did not do so this evening.

There is much that encourages me. I agree with some of the comments of the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) in his analysis of the Soviet Union, but I do not accept his conclusions. There is much to encourage us and we ought to be more confident about the future and not so deeply pessimistic. But perhaps we ought to pursue that argument on another occasion.

I should like to say a few words to the Secretary of State. He made a competent and buoyant speech, and I was interested to hear his analysis of British foreign policy. I was particularly pleased to hear that he is to continue with the outward-looking approach that has always been the basis of British foreign policy in the past.

I was also interested to hear him apply the argument to the European Community because I am sure that he would not deny that since Britain became a member of the Community—and there has been the problem of the oil crisis and the world economic crisis—developments within the Community to some extent have stalemated. The outward-looking approach that one would have hoped for at the time of Britain's membership has not yet emerged.

I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary is to play a major rôle in looking at problems outside Europe. I ask him to bear in mind that he will receive a lot of advice from his officials. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), who referred to this, was totally wrong in saying that the officials who give advice to the Foreign Secretary have a class bias. I am often staggered by what my hon. Friend says from time to time, but I was frankly amused by that remark, because the former head of the Foreign Office, Sir Thomas Brimelow, is now a Labour Peer. My impression is that some Foreign Office officials vote Conservative, some vote Labour and some are Liberals. I have never noticed a class bias in their attitude, so the Foreign Secretary should not be too frightened of their advice.

I hope that he will listen to the advice given by Sir John Killick, the Ambassador to NATO, whom I have known over the years. His analysis of the Soviet Union is always interesting to listen to and it is not in any way as pessimistic as that of some hon. Members opposite.

There is no question whatever that the West is faced with a great opportunity with the forthcoming conference in Belgrade. But the Secretary of State must resist the advice that, faced with this opportunity, we should put the Russians into the witness box and put the maximum pressure on them. The room for pressure is great and I should like to see greater pressure applied, but it would be a profound mistake—and this is where the hon. Member for Blackpool, South is wrong—to create a political atmosphere so that when the conference meets in Belgrade it will be abortive. Some constructive things have arisen from the Helsinki conference upon which we can constructively build, and unlike some hon. Members opposite, I do not dismiss detente quite so easily. There is a strong case that one can argue for the Secretary of State to do some important and constructive things in Belgrade to strengthen the Western position and not to weaken it.

I wish to conclude with a final word of encouragement to the Foreign Secretary, because what pleased me about his speech was that he made no attempt to hide his strong European feelings. It is sometimes not uncommon for Ministers when they go into the Cabinet to speak from the Dispatch Box as if all their past had no meaning for them and to try to lean over backwards to be absolutely fair—and sometimes it has even been known for them to turn on their friends. I am encouraged by the Foreign Secretary's approach. I know that we can expect that from him and he will have my full support.