The deterioration of East-West relations in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the spreading of regional conflicts, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, have posed a severe challenge to the West. In the six months since the House last debated foreign affairs, the dominant events have been: first, the continuing shadow of events in Poland over Europe; secondly, the advent of a Republican Administration in the United States which is committed to restore the strength of the American economy and American diplomacy; and thirdly, the stalemate in Afghanistan, marked by increasing opposition across the world to the Soviet occupation.
In these months, the Government have been intensely active in their diplomacy. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went to Washington in February, and was the first European Head of Government to visit President Reagan in office. She has just completed successful visits to India and the Gulf.
My right honourable and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has in addition visited Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Hong Kong, China and Japan. These contacts symbolise Britain's continuing role in international and regional questions in all parts of the world.
Regrettably, or perhaps not regrettably, it is not possible to deal with everything in this speech. For example the internal affairs of the European Community, which are of great importance to our citizens and therefore a major preoccupation of the Government, were fully debated only a month ago, and I shall accordingly not dwell on these aspects. However, my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able, when he replies, to address himself to issues raised at a later stage.
The main strand running through the Government's visits and consultations which I have outlined has been security. This is a reflection of the present troubled international environment. The Government see their primary responsibilities as being to ensure our defence and to contribute to the relaxation of tension through the resolution of disputes.
The week between meetings of NATO Foreign and Defence Ministers is therefore an appropriate juncture for a debate. Europe and NATO are the bedrock of our defence and way of life. Moreover, freedom and security elsewhere in the world are profoundly affected by developments in Europe.
As I have said, the coming to power of President Reagan's Administration is an important factor for the Alliance. There has also been a significant change in the political balance in the United States Congress, reflecting changes in American public opinion on domestic as well as foreign policy issues. There is a wish on the part of the American people to reassert their influence upon events. The Administration is determined to renew the strength and cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance. Her Majesty's Government welcome this, and believe that it will enhance the West's ability to defend its vital interests.
Co-ordination of policy within the Alliance and among our partners in the Ten is crucial to the success of our efforts. On the management of intra-Alliance relations, the new United States Administration has already made a major effort. Clearly there must be a proper transatlantic consultation before major decisions affecting European members are taken. That is necessary if mutual confidence is to be maintained among the members of what is, in contrast to the Warsaw Pact, a free association of peoples and Governments.
Improved co-ordination within Europe can and should lead to improved co-ordination in the Alliance. Much has been achieved by the system of political co-operation. This has been a major success of the past two years. Europe is speaking more and more with one voice, as for example on the Middle East, Afghanistan, Poland and on CSCE at the most recent review meeting in Madrid. As a result, our views have carried more weight.
We believe that Britain's interests will best be served by strengthening the machinery of political co-operation both to extend its area of application and to make it able to respond faster to international crises. As the House is aware, my right hon. and noble Friend made some proposals for this towards the end of last year, and others, notably Herr Genscher, have expressed a similar desire to set up a firmer foundation for European activity in foreign policy. Important discussions on this subject are continuing within the Community.
On the substance of NATO's activities, as the House is aware, the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting was held in Rome earlier this week.
May I intervene before the right hon. Gentleman goes into too much detail about NATO? So far, he has dealt mainly with security. In our last foreign affairs debate, the Government made no statement about Namibia. In view of the triple veto that was recently cast in the Security Council, will the Lord Privy Seal assure us that he will tell us the Government's policy to resolve the issue?
I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.
My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues agreed that, in the face of increasing Soviet military power, the collective strength of the North Atlantic Alliance remains indispensable to the security of all its members. They agreed also that the members of the Alliance should work for
genuine detente and the development of East-West relations whenever Soviet behaviour makes this possible".
They warned that outside intervention in Poland would have the gravest consequences for international relations as a whole.
The Foreign Ministers stressed the importance of effective Alliance consultations on developments affecting the vital interests of the West, not only in Europe but worldwide. NATO Ministers recognise the benefits to security which arise, when those Allies possessing suitable defence resources—and this includes the United Kingdom—use them to good effect in defence of shared Western interests.
The Foreign Ministers also reaffirmed the importance of securing realistic measures of arms control. They supported the French proposal for a conference on disarmament in Europe aimed at achieving a coherent set of militarily significant, binding and verifiable confidence-building measures, applicable throughout the European continent. They particularly welcomed the announcement by the American Secretary of State that the United States intended to resume negotiations with the Soviet Union on theatre nuclear forces by the end of this year.
Before the Lord Privy Seal leaves the subject of General Haig's statement on arms control, is it true that that statement referred only to theatre nuclear weapons and negotiations in that connection? If so, what are the Government doing to ensure some progress on strategic nuclear weapons, either by accelerating the ratification of SALT II or by renegotiating it?
The right hon. Gentleman will know that the SALT negotiations take place between the United States and the Soviet Union. We do not take part in them. Earlier we expressed our hope that SALT II would be ratified, but that hope was vitiated by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There was then no question of the American Senate ratifying the treaty. The Reagan Administration are now looking at the whole subject, as they are fully entitled to do. At this stage, at least, we can play no useful part. In view of the 1979 decision it is important that Secretary Haig made the announcement about resuming talks on theatre nuclear forces before the end of the year.
I apologise for intervening so early in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but is it not true that the 1979 decision was based on the assumption that the SALT II treaty, which had already been negotiated, would be ratified by the United States, and that the decision not to ratify and proceeding with the development of weapons whose development and deployment was forbidden by SALT II, destroys the basis on which the 1979 decision was taken?
The decision was not conditional on that, although it is true that SALT II would probably have been ratified. However, that was before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which, as the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, transformed the situation in America and, to some extent, has transformed East-West relations ever since,
The wisdom of the Alliance's 1979 decision to modernise its theatre nuclear forces has been amply reinforced by the continuing deployment of Soviet SS20 missiles and Backfire bombers.
Mr. Brezhnev has offered a moratorium on the deployment of these weapons while negotiations proceed. This is an unacceptable precondition, because it would freeze the existing imbalance between East and West. However, the exchanges on theatre nuclear forces between the United States and the Soviet Union offer the prospect of greater stability through verifiable and genuinely balanced limitations on both sides.
The pursuit of worthwhile arms control agreements, by which I mean agreements that work on both sides, remains an important element of the Government's security policy. We have supported the efforts of the United States and Soviet Union to reach agreement on the limitation of strategic arms, and we attach importance to continuing the SALT process.
We have been engaged in talks with the United States and the Soviet Union on the cessation of nuclear weapons tests. We introduced the draft of the convention on inhumane weapons which was signed at the United Nations last month. In MBFR we continue to work for the reduction of NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in central Europe. We have made a major contribution to the discussions on the prohibition of chemical weapons which are continuing in Geneva, and a comprehensive programme of disarmament in the 40-nation Committee on Disarmament in Geneva. Preparations began this week for the second United Nations special session on disarmament in 1982. All this adds up to considerable international activity by this country in arms control and disarmament.
Thus, any allegations that Britain is inactive in disarmament are utterly at variance with these facts. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition, whom we are delighted to have with us today, has listened to what I have just said. I hope that it will lead to a certain improvement in this aspect of his speeches.
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that Her Majesty's Government are acting in concert with the United States and with the European communities to reduce the sale of arms throughout the world?
That is not what I said. If we tried to do that we would run into considerable difficulties. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are far from the only country that sells arms. The sort of initiative that he mentioned is not practical at present.
I think that the House will be interested to know what the Labour Party policy is on NATO and disarmament. The recent remarks of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) show that this is a fair question. I hope that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) will tell us what the party policy is and, if not, I hope that he will tell us what his own policy is.
In general, I may be able to help the right hon. Gentleman locate his party's policy—if, indeed, there is one. Presumably, it can be found somewhere between what was voted through at the Labour Party conference last October, including a call for significantly lower spending on defence, and the views of the right hon. Member for Stepney, and Poplar (Mr. Shore) who thought recently that present levels of expenditure were inevitable, given the threat. Alternatively, it might be found between the same right hon. Gentleman, who does not seem to wish even our Allies to be stronger than ourselves, and the Leader of the Labour Party, who, irrespective of our opponents' stength, would like to disarm unilaterally. The right hon. Gentleman may find it if he looks between his leader, and Mr. Terry Duffy, leader of the AUEW, who calls unilateralism a "never-never land policy". When he has found it, I hope that he will have time to bring it to the House of Commons and the British people, if he is not marching around London with placards, because we would like to see it.
Moving from the subject of NATO and Europe to the crucial issue of relations with the Soviet Union, I am not necessarily pessimistic about the long-term prospects. If the Russians are made to recognise that the West has both the means and the will to defend its interests, they will respond accordingly. It is of course deplorable that the Soviets have not yet shown any willingness to participate in a genuine political settlement in Afghanistan. But we shall maintain our activity over this question for as long as is necessary to produce an acceptable solution.
Strong resistance by the brave Afghan people to the Soviet Union's 80,000 well-armed troops is continuing against great odds. Every month thousands of Afghan families make the hazardous journey to neighbouring Pakistan and Iran rather than accept Soviet domination. Over 2 million—one in seven of the population—have already made the trek.
The hardening of world opinion against the occupation is evident. Last November the United Nations General Assembly passed by an even larger majority than on the previous occasion a resolution which clearly condemned the occupation. In February of this year the Non-Aligned Movement, meeting in New Delhi, issued for the first time a demand of its own for the withdrawal of Soviet forces. The Islamic heads of State have maintained their strong position on the issue. However it is achieved, a withdrawal of Soviet forces would remove the major obstacle to East-West contacts and co-operation.
We are prepared in the meantime to keep open our channels of political communication to prevent misunderstanding but it should be recognised that the primary cause of the present strain is the failure of the Soviet Union and its friends to act with restraint in the international arena and to create the climate for genuine arms control and disarmament. I do not need to remind the House of the roles of Cuba and Vietnam in recent international crises.
I do not think that the United States has the remotest intention of intervening militarily in El Salvador. President Duarte is now planning elections in that country for next year.
A major factor in determining our relations with the Soviet Union will be events in Poland. The significance of the recent Polish internal reforms has been the subject of much commentary in the press and is well understood in Britain. I need not take up the time of the House by any commentary of mine. Indeed, on this issue I think that there is a remarkable unanimity in the House. It is based on the idea and belief that it is essential that there should be no foreign interference in Polish affairs.
I support and congratulate the Government on the way in which, with their Western allies, they are providing food, credits and debt rescheduling to Poland. However, is it not ironic that the capitalist and free enterprise West has to go to the rescue of the Poles when the Soviet Union can not do so? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that if the Soviets interfere militarily in the affairs of Poland—we hope that they will not—there will be no question of any support from the West continuing either to the Poles or to the Soviet Union?
I agree that there is an irony in the fact that the Soviet Union, with vast agricultural land, is unable to feed itself. Poland is in the same position. However much we may criticise agricultural surpluses in Western Europe, surpluses are a good deal better than famine and shortages.
I take my hon. Friend's second point. I have no doubt that it is properly understood that what we are doing
depends upon a lack of foreign interference in Poland. I remind my hon. Friend of what the Prime Minister said. She said that if we are called upon to react to an external intervention in Poland we shall do so
far more quickly, effectively and appropriately than after Afghanistan.
We have already intervened to give food aid to Poland and to reschedule Poland's debt. Such actions show our support for the people of Poland and our confidence that they will overcome their present troubles.
It is right that Europe should be the focus of our efforts but the defence of our national interests cannot be pursued solely in Europe. History since the Second World War shows that local or regional conflicts outside Europe have repeatedly carried within them the danger of wider conflict.
The Prime Minister's recent visit to the Gulf was the first by a British Prime Minister in office. It was a great success—[Hon. Members: "You are joking."] It was a great success. Anybody who denies that is indulging in petty partisanship. It is a denial of the truth to say that the visit was not a success.
The visit reinvigorated our traditional links with the Gulf in the light of the changes in our relationships caused by the Gulf's huge economic advances since British withdrawal in 1971. The Prime Minister stressed that the United Kingdom is keen to participate in all aspects of the Gulf's future development plans. Clearly there is still room for further expansion of British commercial effort in the Gulf. In the Prime Minister's political talks there was wide agreement, particularly on the dangers to the region and the means of combating them. Any misunderstandings which there might have been among the Gulf States about our intentions in relation to support for the rapid deployment force concept were removed during the Prime Minister's recent visit.
The Prime Minister also pointed to the Venice declaration and subsequent follow up by the Ten as evidence of the great importance that we attach to a settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute, which is a primary concern of the Gulf States, as it is of the Arab States as a whole.
The Arab-Israeli dispute is the main threat to peace. Will my right hon. Friend explain the conundrum which puzzles me, wherby the Israelis, whose air force daily invades Lebanese sovereignty and kills counties women and children, both Palestinian and Lebanese, has the gall to complain that the Syrians, who are there with the blessing of the Lebanese Government, are producing air defence against Israeli bombardment?
I shall come later to the Lebanon which, as my hon. Friend says, involves a number of paradoxes. The situation there is extremely delicate.
The importance of peace in the Middle East, the importance of good relations between the Middle East and the countries of Western Europe, as well as the region's traditional links with Europe, make it natural that we should continue our efforts to contribute to a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israel dispute.
The Dutch Foreign Minister, acting on behalf of the Ten, is nearing the end of his consulations. We await his report with interest. We hope that our Presidency of the Ten in the second half of this year will coincide with an opportunity for renewed progress. That hope is widely shared in the Arab world, as the Prime Minister's recent visit to the Gulf showed.
The principles of the Venice declaration, which are carefully balanced, will remain the basis of our efforts. Our object is to persuade all concerned to accept them as a reasonable and realistic basis for peace. If progress is to be possible, both Palestinians and Israelis must move from their present entrenched positions.
I underline once again the fact that we want a settlement fair to both Israel and the Palestinians, giving them both, within the limit of the possible, the future security which they crave.
My right hon. Friend mentioned being realistic. As a matter of practicality, how can it be realistic to expect the Israelis ever to give up land of strategic importance to people who are sworn to destroy them?
My hon. Friend must also question whether he thinks it is realistic for Israel indefinitely to occupy land which, by any stretch of the imagination, cannot be said to belong to it. The Venice declaration is designed to ensure that the Israelis' security should be balanced by the recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.
It was Henry Kissinger who once said that 100 per cent. security for one side means 100 per cent. insecurity for the other. Both sides have a great interest in an agreement, and that is what the European initiative is seeking to foster.
We have, of course, kept in close touch with the American Administration, most recently during Mr. Haig's visit to London following the Middle East tour. We are agreed that European efforts should not conflict with those of the United States but that each has a role to play, and that the stability of the area requires urgent progress towards a solution of the Palestinian problem. We share the same objective of a comprehensive negotiated settlement.
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that if we are to see any movement towards a settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute, it is essential to bring Chairman Arafat, the moderate and responsible leader of the Palestinians, into the centre of the discussions? Is it possible that, when the Foreign Secretary becomes chairman of the EEC Council, that meeting will take place? Further, is it possible that, with our special knowledge of the Middle East, we should try to impress on that simplistic cretin who is the present President of the United States, that a Palestinian involvement in this matter is absolutely essential?
I do not think that that sort of language, applied to the Head of State of one of our major allies, is either accurate or helpful, and I cannot go along with it. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Venice declaration mentioned that the PLO had to be brought into the negotiation.
The current crisis in Lebanon is increasingly disturbing. It arises from the failure since the end of the civil war in 1976, to reach a political solution to the differences within Lebanon. This has been a tragedy for the Government and the people of Lebanon. It is encouraging that fighting has now ceased and negotiations are under way. At the moment, there is all the more cause for concern now that a new element of Israeli-Syrian tension has been introduced. I shall say no more than that we have urged all concerned to support the United States in its efforts to mediate.
Britain's historical ties have also led to our involvement in peace initiatives in Africa. The Government have continued to give vigorous support to Zimbabwe to consolidate the Lancaster House settlement. In his recent address to the nation, Mr. Mugabe expressed warm appreciation of the role of the British military training team in intergrating the former guerrilla forces into the national army. The transformation from a bloody civil war 18 months ago to the peaceful situation of today is a remarkable tribute to Mr. Mugabe and to Zimbabweans of all races.
The recent conference on reconstruction and development in Salisbury, attended by my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Soames, was a resounding success. The whole Western community, including Britain, responded generously. We remain the largest donor, with a contribution of £111 million. There are welcome signs that the economy is improving rapidly, which will bring valuable benefits to other countries of the region.
A settlement in Namibia is essential for progress and stability in Southern Africa. The five nations concerned intend to intensify the search for agreement. The Foreign Ministers agreed on 3 May that the United Nations plan provides a solid basis for a negotiated settlement, and that it should be strengthened in order to facilitate agreement. They instructed their officials to draw up proposals which would include constitutional arrangements for the future independent Namibia.
The five nations can use their good offices only if there is will to reach agreement. We regret that it was not possible to reconcile differences of view in the Security Council last week on the breakdown of negotiations in Geneva in January. The five hope to re-establish a common approach among the parties involved and call upon them to play their part.
Our vote against sanctions in the Security Council, in the company of France and the United States, is not a sign that our will to work for a settlement has diminished. It is not a sign that we side with apartheid. We voted against sanctions to keep open the prospects for a negotiated settlement.
Such prospects may not look bright at present but they are brighter than the prospects of reaching early independence by the means proposed by others, such as relying on economic or military strength.
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. It has always been our view that sanctions against South Africa would discourage rather than promote internal reform in South Africa. Our views on apartheid are well known. While congratulating the South African Government on their recent electoral victory, we hope that the opportunity thereby created to move towards more internal reform will not be missed. In our view, this is essential for the maintenance of peace and stability in Southern Africa.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Does he recall that it was in 1977 that the so-called "contact group" of five Western Powers began detailed negotiations with South Africa, saying at that time that sanctions were not the answer, and that negotiation was the quickest way of getting agreement? What has happened in the last four years?
The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do what has happened. There have been intensive negotiations and discussions. Towards the end of last year it looked as though we were getting quite a long way with them.
There is no question but that the failure of the conference in Geneva a few months ago was the fault of the South African Government, who decided at that stage that they did not want an agreement. Nevertheless, I believe that the methods we have been using are the right ones. I do not believe that sanctions would have the effect that the hon. Gentleman wishes. He must also take into account the fact that many of the countries adjacent to South Africa would suffer from sanctions far more than South Africa herself. They voted for them but they knew that they would not be imposed. Mr. Mugabe has said publicly, as have the leaders of other States, that they would suffer very badly from sanctions. There is no doubt about that.
As I have said, much of our limited national resources is devoted to defence and peacekeeping efforts. These reinforce our strength, in as much as our economy relies on peaceful conditions in our trading markets. Our influence is immeasurably increased by our ability too combine our influence and resources with those of our partners. There are problems, particularly in economic development, which must be tackled jointly and speedily with future generations in mind.
The lobby on the Brandt report on 5 May showed clearly the extent of public interest and concern in world development. The House had a full discussion of some of these issues in the debate on overseas aid on 24 March. My hon. Friend the Minister of State may have more to say later. I shall not dwell on them here except to reassure the House that the Government will continue to play their full part in international efforts to tackle these vital problems.
At the beginning of this debate, I referred to the intensity of consultations and visits in recent months. The months ahead will be even more active. Not only shall we be in the Presidency of the European Community, but the wider international agenda is extremely full. In July the Prime Minister will attend the seven-Power economic summit in Ottawa. In the autumn there will be the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Australia and the North-South Summit in Mexico.
Each of these meetings has its distinctive agenda, but they all to some extent overlap. The fabric of the international community is being woven more and more closely together. Britain is called upon to play an important part in this multi-dimensional diplomacy. In addition to material resources, creative diplomacy relies on trust, judgment, imagination and boldness. These are qualities which we feel able to provide. The record of the past two years shows that our diplomacy does indeed have the strength and resources to make a real and valued contribution to the world.
It is not easy to be disappointed by the Lord Privy Seal, but I am sorry to tell him that I am a little disappointed this afternoon. I was expecting to get from him some information about the Government's policy on the issues which he named, but all we had was a tired recitation of communiqués we have already read, laced with a flaccid recitation of threadbare Central Office briefs about the Labour Party. As the poet said, the time will come when worms will try that well-preserved velleity.
We are having this debate—the first one of this parliamentary Session—at a time when the state of the world is more dangerous than it has been at any time since the Second World War, although the danger of war is not essentially in Europe. The crisis in Poland still looms over us, and I agree with the Lord Privy Seal that if the Soviet Union were to intervene by force we should have to say goodbye to any hope of detente for a long time. But whatever happens in Poland is unlikely to lead to war between East and West. We have a strong interest in giving economic help to Poland; if we had not rescheduled the debt recently the Western banking system would have collapsed. There is not much point in taking moral credit for that, but we have a moral obligation to Poland. We must not forget that Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered Poland at the end of the Second World War into the Soviet sphere of influence without getting Poland's agreement or consulting Poland. Let us not forget in this House, which has discussed the matter on so many occasions during the past 30 years, that we have some direct responsibilities to Poland that we cannot shrug off.
Europe has enjoyed, and still enjoys, 32 years of uninterrupted peace, thanks to the existence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which I am happy to tell the right hon. Gentleman, as he asked me about this, is overwhelmingly supported by the Labour Party. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman might unfold his limbs and raise himself to his feet if he wants to ask questions. I will answer them before they come.
The Labour Party also supports the NATO strategy of deterrence. We must accept that the political tensions in Europe since 1945 have been such as would, at any other period in world history, certainly have led to war. Such tensions did lead to war less than half a century ago, and in that war 50 million people were killed by conventional weapons. I find it difficult to understand why people welcome the prospect of conventional war when they find nuclear security so terrible.
The conventional weapons available to the world today are far more terrible than those which were available in the last world war. It is vital to maintain the security which we have enjoyed for the past 35 years and the conditions which have made it possible. We must accept—I was disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to this—that security based on balance of terror is bound to be at risk so long as the arms race continues. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman must be as conscious as anyone in the House—he has been Minister of Defence—that the cost of maintaining security in a continuing arms race is intolerably high, particularly for Britain.
I hope that the Minister who is to reply will tell us how much truth there is in the report in The Daily Telegraph today that the Government are engaged in a major defence review in which their contribution to NATO both in Germany and the Eastern Atlantic is an issue, and whether the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), who wrote a fascinating piece in The Daily Telegraph today, is right in describing the situation that has been reached so far in the discussions inside the Ministry of Defence.
It is impossible for this country, or any country, to continue to maintain its security at an acceptable cost if the arms race continues. Therefore, effective initiatives to control and reverse the arms race must be an indispensable element in any Government's policy. I was disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman had practically nothing whatever to say about that.
The right hon. Gentleman had very little to say about it. Anyone can verify that by reading Hansard tomorrow.
The immediate threat to world peace lies not inside but outside Europe, where 10 million people have died and many more have been rendered hopeless over the period when Europe has enjoyed unparalleled peace and security. The origin of the conflicts in which those 10 million people have died, mainly in the Third world, does not and did not lie in the conflict between East and West, although on many occasions either the Soviet Union or the Western Powers decided to intervene in these conflicts.
Fighting is going on now in Southern, Central and Eastern Africa, 'in South Arabia, between Iraq and Iran, in the Lebanon, Afghanistan and Kampuchea, and there is an imminent threat of fighting beginning in some countries in South America. This morning we read the horrifying news in The Times that 22,000 people have been killed in tiny El Salvador since the beginning of last year.
These wars and conflicts outside Europe not only carry appalling costs in human life and suffering, costs which are being paid all over the world by thousands of men., women and children; they also create the risk that they may drag the great Powers into confrontation with one another. That risk is particularly great in a period when there has been an important change of government in Washington, and when we must all expect an imminent change in Moscow. I want to concentrate my remarks on the implications of the change that has taken place in Washington and the change that may take place in Moscow for the instability in the Third world, which is the main threat to peace.
In talking to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs recently, the Foreign Secretary referred to the long period required before the new American Administration will crystallise their policies. Having visited Washington after every Presidential election since the war, I cannot remember a slower transition than the present one. Half the people who are charged with responsibility in the State Department have not even been nominated, never mind confirmed, by Congress.
There is a worrying and unresolved conflict proceeding between the Conservative ideologies in Washington and the Conservative pragmatists. That is reflected in the confusion of American policy in most of the Third world areas—in Central America, Southern Africa and the Middle East—and on the overriding problem of disarmament and arms control. If the ideologues were to win the argument in Washington, their policies would render the current instability in the Third world far more dangerous than it is even today. It would present great dangers to world peace and to the unity of our alliance. I must confess that even the pragmatists in Washington seriously exaggerate the role of the Soviet Union in the instability of the Third world and are dangerously insensitive to the local and regional factors which determine what happens in most of these areas.
In Moscow the situation is rather different. We still have in power an elderly leadership which faces the failure of its economic policies both for industry and for agriculture, which faces the imminent collapse of its system of control in Eastern Europe, which has trapped itself in a colonial war in Afghanistan on its southern frontier and which is increasingly worried by the difficulty of divining what American policy on all these issues is or might become.
What struck me most in talking to some Soviet representatives recently was the way in which they look back—this may surprise some of my hon. Friends—on the age of Nixon and Kissinger as a golden age. So it was by comparison with the last few years. If we could restore co-operation between East and West to the level at which it existed under the last Republican Administration, all the problems to which I have referred would be that bit easier to deal with. To restore relations between East and West to that level now could be decisive in persuading the next generation of Soviet leaders to seek their security by co-operation rather than confrontation with the Western Powers.
As it is, the process of co-operation between the West and the Soviet Union has completely stopped, as the right hon. Gentleman said. There has been no movement in this area since President Reagan took office. There was a good deal of movement after the invasion of Afghanistan right up to the date in November when President Reagan's election was announced. There has been no progress on disarmament. On the contrary, both sides in the conflict are embarking on a new cycle of the arms race. When all this is happening in relations between East and West, the combination of the increase in oil prices and the deflationary response of the industrial countries is pushing the developing world into bankruptcy and increasing social and political strains throughout the West.
Unless rapid action is taken—by that I mean action in a matter of months, not years—at least to finance the growing deficits in the Third world which in 1981 are likely to amount to over 90 per cent. of the whole of the OPEC surplus, about $80,000 million, many parts of the Third world will face mass starvation within the next 12 months, and we risk also seeing the collapse of the private banking system on the scale of the collapse in 1929.
I was heartened to see that the magnificent lobby on the Brandt report yesterday produced at least a change of rhetoric from the Government. The Minister of State put the best face on the disastrous policies of his Government in this affair, and so did one of his colleagues in the Foreign Office. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will put to the Foreign Secretary that he should bestire himself to exert effective pressure both on the Treasury and on No. 10 to take these issues seriously.
We need desperately to provide more aid to the developing world, more help to the Internaional Bank for Reconstruction and Development and more help to the International Monetary Fund for recycling. There is no sign, and has not been for two years, that the Treasury takes these issues seriously. Within a few weeks the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to meet his colleagues at the interim committee in Gabon which is where the issues of the IMF and the International Bank must be discussed. In July the Prime Minister will meet her colleagues at the summit in Ottawa. I hope that the Foreign Office will exert some influence on the briefs which are provided for these meetings since I see no sign whatever that the Treasury or No. 10 will help.
The modest target which my right hon. Friend set himself in speaking to the Brandt report yesterday—that is, to restore the cuts of 15 per cent. in our aid programme carried out by the Government against the increase in aid of 30 per cent. promised by the Labour Party and to move before the end of this Parliament to the 0·7 per cent. of GDP in international aid—is something to which the Government should commit themselves if they are interested in the problems which the Foreign Secretary at least has described so eloquently in talking to the Select Committee.
I should like to look at the background to the specific problems which the right hon. Gentleman enumerated. First, I agree with what I think was behind what he said, namely, that the European countries, not just those in the European Community but others such as Norway, Sweden and Austria, can play a decisive role in helping the pragmatists to win the battle in Washington and also help them to see some of the realities more clearly because there is still much to be done in that area, too. Many European leaders have contributed to a crystallising of American policies in these areas over the last few months, particularly the German Chancellor and Foreign Secretary, the Austrian Chancellor and our own Foreign Secretary, to whom I pay tribute.
The Community has played very little part in this because it has been distracted from these important world affairs by the need to remedy the patent inadequacy both of its rules and institutions which were established in the Treaty of Rome. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would agree—certainly the Prime Minister would—that they are proving as inappropriate to the problems facing Western Europe in the 1980s as the institutions of the Communist bloc in Eastern Europe are appropriate to them. It is vitally necessary to get them changed quickly to produce a much looser and more flexible framework for policy making based on a fair sharing of the burden and the right of national Governments to decide their own policies.
I was glad that in an interview on Sunday the Prime Minister promised a long drawn out battle on the refashioning of the budget. I hope that she still believes in a battle to refashion the common agricultural policy as well. While these battles are proceeding, we must seek closer co-operation with our European allies on the international issues where we clearly have an interest in common. That means essentially co-operation on the problems which Europe faces vis-a-vis its ally the United States and vis-a-vis the Soviet Union.
Is the right hon. Gentleman arguing that it will be easier to find effective co-operation with our European partners if we are not prepared on our side to play any part in a meaningful common agricultural policy, which he knows perfectly well is a sine qua non for effective co-operation on the part of more than one of our European partners?
I can only answer by saying that if the hon. Gentleman means that effective international political action by the countries in Europe depends on Britain and Germany soaking their consumers to pay a grossly unfair bribe to the electors of France, Holland and Denmark so that politicians in those countries can buy their farmers' votes, I disagree with him. I believe that most Germans agree with me and not with him about the matter. That is why the German Chancellor has so often promised, but delivered, I fear, slightly less often, to join us in refashioning completely the common agricultural policy.
I should like to continue for a while.
The Foreign Secretary will agree, I think, that the real problem is that his efforts are continually frustrated by interventions from the Prime Minister. On all the major issues I have described, the right hon. Lady has identified herself with the tendencies that the Foreign Secretary is trying to defeat. On her visit to Washington recently, she argued in favour of the neutron bomb just at the moment when the United States Administration were deciding to drop it——
—not to produce it. She played to the gallery, both in Washington and in New York, of the extreme Right wing. She played a sort of dual role, half John Wayne and half Calamity Jane, blazing away with her six-shooter at targets of opportunity and of the most vulgar opportunistic opportunity. I am glad to say that she shot herself in the foot over the rapid deployment force by appearing to offer a degree of support which is practically impossible for the United Kingdom and which scared the whole of the Gulf out of its wits.
On her visit to India, the right hon. Lady reduced our relations with India to their lowest ever level, as The Times of India pointed out in a blistering editorial. She even got a slap on the wrist from The Times of London—which was something—by pandering to racialism with her talk of immigrants pouring into this country. On her visit to the Gulf, if she did succeed, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, in appeasing the hostility that she herself had created by her speeches in Washington, she did so only by offering to pour more arms into an area already unstable and already bulging with more armaments than it could conceivably need.
In the run-up to the Maastricht summit——
I shall be delighted to give way when I have finished this little exordium.
In the run-up to the Maastricht summit, the right hon. Lady's behaviour led the German Chancellor to accuse her of deceit. She forced the summit to spend a meeting that should have been devoted to discussing the major issues of Poland, the Middle East, detente and disarmament into discussing a week's fishing for 1,000 fishermen from Hamburg in Canadian waters. She has been at it again.
Perhaps the Lord Privy Seal did not read, or perhaps his officials did not dare show him, her interview in The Sunday Times where she had another bash at Chancellor Schmidt. After referring to his promise to help her on the budget, she said:
It does no good your saying that to me and then retreating.
What a helpful diplomatist she is. How much the Lord Privy Seal, with his well-known delicacy, must appreciate her assistance on these matters.
If the fishing issue is as unimportant as the right hon. Gentleman makes out, does that mean that he would have given way? I should like to correct hint. The idea that the Prime Minister forced the summit conference to spend a lot of time on the issue is not true. My right hon. Friend did not even bring up the matter.
All that I can say is that the right hon. Lady could have fooled me. That is not the impression that I gained when I talked to many of the German protagonists in the discussion when I had the pleasure of attending the Königswinter meeting with the right hon. Gentleman's Parliamentary Private Secretary a few days later. I can see, as I know the right hon. Gentleman can see, why Chancellor Schmidt and even President Giscard d'Estaing refer to the Prime Minister as a rhinoceros. I mentioned this fact when I was Shadow Chancellor. What has struck me is that the Foreign Secretary seems to be her zookeeper. He is dragged away continually from the delicate, diplomatic task of feeding the marmosets by the news that Rhoda the rhino is on the rampage again. The poor fellow has to put down his pipette, or whatever it is that one uses to feed marmosets, and follow a trail of wrecked cars, shattered shop windows and bent lamp posts, until he finally tracks her down in the middle of some great store where the counters are overturned, the goods are strewn over the floor and the sales staff are clinging to the tops of pillars. I must pay the Foreign Secretary credit. By some magic, or pitchfork, he manages to lead her back to her pen, past the flamingo pool where the Lord Privy Seal is standing immobile, elegant and elongated, his long leg in the water, pink and wet, we have always known.
I am coming to that issue. I want, against this background, to take in order the issues that the Lord Privy Seal has raised. I refer first to the dog that did not bark in the night. What is happening in Central America, to which the right hon. Gentleman chose not to refer? I suggest that the British Government have a special interest in what happens in Central America. I congratulate the Government on being on the brink of bringing about a settlement of the problem of Belize, which has troubled many Governments over a long period.
I must tell the Lord Privy Seal that the Opposition believe that the United States must forthwith cease giving military aid to the junta in El Salvador. We know from too many painful reports that the aid is used only to massacre the innocent and to drive more of the population of El Salvador into the arms of the extremists. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will also mention to the American Administration that they must put an end to the training of terrorists for the death squads in Florida. All hon. Members know that this is going on. There is no excuse for a Government, especially a Government who accuse the Soviet Union of organising international terrorism, allowing that type of training to continue on American soil.
The Government should support the initiative, now publicly taken by the Governments of Mexico and Venezuela, for talks to end the civil war. I understand that President Duarte has expressed himself in favour of such talks, as has the Revolutionary Front. The major German parties, the SPD and the CDU, have played a big role in helping to bring them about. I hope that the British Government will lend all their support to the efforts now being made unofficially in Germany and officially by Mexico and Venezuela to produce a peaceful end to that terrifying conflict. It will not be successful if the United States continues to supply arms to a junta that is trying to prevent its own Prime Minister, President Duarte, from pursuing the talks.
I suggest also that the Government should ask the United States to cease the bullying of Nicaragua. I hope that there is no truth in reports that I have seen in the last day that the United States plans again to send arms to the junta in Guatemala. I can think of nothing that would be more damaging to the prospects of success for the settlement in Belize, for which the Government deserve genuine credit.
I wish to say a word about South Africa. The veto cast by the Government, along with the French and United States Governments, on sanctions against South Africa has been a tragic disaster, especially after the Foreign Secretary had said in public that he was not committed to a veto. I raised that matter several times in questions some months ago. Whether the Lord Privy Seal likes it or not, he cannot deny that the Western Powers have now lost the confidence of Black Africa, because they are thought to have surrendered to American pressure.
The Lord Privy Seal told us—I hope that it is true—that the casting of the veto does not imply any change in Western policy. I hope that he can assure us that the statement by Mr. Chester Crocker when he was in Africa, that resolution 235 was dead in the water, is untrue and does not represent American policy.
I hope that the Lord Privy Seal can persuade the United States Administration that if they want to get Cuban troops out of Angola, as we all must, the way to do that is to obtain independence for Namibia. If the American Administration were to support the forces of Mr. Savimbe in Namibia, that would guarantee the permanent presence and reinforcement of Cuban troops in Angola.
When the Minister of State replies to the debate, will he answer a question which the Foreign Secretary promised to answer when he was talking to the Select Committee but only after notice. What is our information about the number of Cuban troops in Angola? Are they being increased or reduced? The Foreign Secretary said that he would have liked to answer the question, but he was not sure whether he was able to do so when the Select Committee questioned him.
I have just returned from South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman has condemned the British, American and French Governments for using the veto. Bearing in mind the enormous amount of trade, investment and jobs in this country that are dependent on our business with South Africa, would the Labour Party be in favour of a ban on trade or investment in that country?
When I was Chancellor of the Exchequer—I agree that that was over two years ago—we conducted a study on the importance of trade with South Africa for Britain compared with trade with black Africa. We came to the conclusion that trade with black Africa was significantly more important. Moreover, we note from our experience with Nigeria under this Government that our trade with black Africa can be at stake if we behave in ways which the black Africans consider to be inconsistent with their position.
I shall give way in a moment.
If the Lord Privy Seal is right and the black Africans passed the resolution for sanctions only because they knew that we would veto it, why did we not let them know that we were not going to veto it, and then they would not have passed that resolution? What did the Foreign Secretary say?
The right hon. Gentleman was asked a civil question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) which I was about to ask. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Labour Party is now in favour of the imposition of economic sanctions against South Africa?
The answer is "Yes", with regard to the Namibian question. If the South African Government were to change their policy in Namibia—that policy was changed against the will of the British Government—[Interruption.] I would support it, and I am saying that for the reason that I have just explained. Both the long-term and immediate interests of Britain in trade with black Africa are greater, not less than, its interest in South Africa. We conducted a careful study of that when we were in power. My right hon. Friends who were then in office will know that to be so. Since then our stake in trade with South Africa has increased, not decreased.
I agree with what I believe the right hon. Gentleman was implying about the Middle East, that there can be no peace there until there is a solution of the Palestine problem. There will be no solution of the Palestine problem without the implication of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I agree that that organisation must accept the existence of Israel as a State with secure frontiers. On that issue there is probably no difference between the two Front Benches, although I know that there are many hon. Members on the Back Benches who would disagree with what I have said.
I am worried about one matter. Western policy in the Middle East has been waiting for the elections in Israel, in the belief that following them negotiations might be made easier. That is an assumption that we can no longer take for granted, because Mr. Begin has had some success in seeking votes through the ruthless exploitation of greed, chauvinism and even, latterly, racism. I hope that the whole House will join me in deeply deploring the remarks that have been made in the last two days by Mr. Begin, purely for electoral purposes, about Germany's people and its Chancellor. I hope that Mr. Begin and the Israeli people will accept that such behaviour can only isolate Israel from the rest of the world, to their great disadvantage.
The most urgent problem in the Middle East is that of the Lebanon, where in recent days there has been a risk of war between Israel and Syria. That is perhaps not unconnected with the coming elections in Israel. The only real gleam of hope in the international scene arises from the fact that the United States has sent out a special emissary to try to persuade the Israeli Government to shift their policy. At the same time the Soviet Union has sent an emissary to Damascus to try to persuade—I assume—the Syrian Government to adjust their policy. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has any information on the matter. I hope that that suggests a recognition by Washington and Moscow that they have a common interest in the stability of the Middle East, and that neither has any interest in its continuing instability.
If that is so, can we not go a little further and persuade the two great Powers to deal with some of the causes of instability in the Middle East, one of which—I accept that it is by no means the only one—is the continuing arms race, not only between Israel and the Arabs, but between one Arab country and another, and between Iran and some of her Arab neighbours?
Nothing would do more good for stability in the Middle East than an agreement between Russia and the Western countries to limit and control arms supplies to the Middle East and also to limit and control arms supplies to India and Pakistan, because there is now a danger that the arms race in those areas, which has so far been largely in the conventional area, will take a new turn in the next few years with the production of atomic weapons by Arab countries, Isreal, India and Pakistan. There is little time left to deal with that problem. However, determined action by the West and the Soviet Union could help to head off the danger. I say no more than that. Such an agreement may not succeed in heading off the danger, but everyone has an immense common interest in urgent action on that problem. I believe that from that seed and from action on those problems in the Middle East and the Indian Sub-continent other plants could grow.
I hope at least for an agreement to limit political competition in both areas. I hope, too, that the Government were as encouraged as I was by Mrs. Gandhi's reported remarks in an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper the other day, strongly asking the Russians to leave Afghanistan in order to prevent competition between the great Powers from moving into South-West Asia. Most important of all, the beginning of co-operation on urgent and immediate problems that are common to East and West might enable us to start dealing more purposefully with the central strategic balance—the arms race between East and West.
I applaud the Government's support of the French proposal for confidence-building measures. It also has the Opposition's support. I hope that the recent NATO council meeting in Rome means that the West will take visible and effective initiatives well before the end of the year to reduce and control theatre nuclear weapons in Europe. I was interested to see that the Lord Privy Seal accepted that the 1979 decision on the deployment of cruise and Pershing missiles was made on the assumption that SALT II would be ratified and enforced before the new weapons were deployed in 1983.
I hope that there is no truth in newspaper stories that the United States Administration are developing new intercontinental nuclear weapons—not only the MX, but a new light missile. It is not good enough to say that the strategic arms limitation talks are for America and the Soviet Union. When we were in power we were deeply involved in consultation with the United States on its position. Progress in the talks is a vital British interest. The failure to ratify SALT II damages Britain and every other country. The Government have a responsibility to use their influence to the maximum to get the treaty ratified and to make progress as quickly as possible on SALT III.
Europe can make a decisive contribution by insisting to the United States that new steps in defence must be accompanied by steps towards detente and disarmament, and by insisting to the Soviet Union that if it fails to respond positively to Western initiatives on detente it cannot expect the West not to proceed with new defence measures.
Although the Lord Privy Seal may find elements of my speech difficult to agree with—at any rate in public—I suspect that there is not a great deal of difference between himself, the Foreign Secretary and the Opposition Front Bench on the main thrust of our ideas. The fringe movements that have their mayfly existence for a month or two and then flicker out and disappear may also agree. As long as the Lord Privy Seal and the Foreign Secretary fight to overcome opposition to our common ideas from No. 10 and the Treasury, they will have our support on foreign policy. If they could overcome that opposition on domestic issues, they would have our support there, too.
In the closing passages of an incisive if not illuminating speech, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said that rearmament should at every step be accompanied by a show of readiness to accept arms control and to work for detente—but how long is that to continue? We have had Afghanistan. We have had unacceptable pressures placed on Poland. The Soviet Union does not need to invade Poland. She is there already and in control of its main communications. We have a level of Soviet rearmament unexampled since the war.
I do not object to the fact that, in the Rome communiqué, the United States Administration should have been pressed by their European allies to accept the idea of resuming arms control talks on theatre nuclear weapons this year, but it is shaming that we were obliged to ask the Americans to get European Governments off the hook because of a failure of democratic leadership. The spectacle of statesmen on their knees to their electors, with an ear to the ground, is unedifying. Their bottoms are in the air, which is undignified and vulnerable.
The right hon. Gentleman devoted much of his speech to Africa and the Middle East. For two reasons I, too, shall concentrate on those areas. First, there is increasing agreement that the threat of Soviet imperialist expansion is most likely to develop in the Middle East. It may also exert considerable pressure on events in Central and Southern Africa. Secondly, in those areas there may be differences of opinion between the United States Administration and the European Governments, which could become dangerous if they are allowed to grow.
A school of thought that the right hon. Gentleman voiced is that the real danger in those areas comes from subversion arising from local problems rather than from direct military aggression, some months ago the Foreign Secretary also gave comfort to that view. If that were so, the response should be political instead of military, and we should give the lead in solving local problems rather than deploying armed forces, I believe that that is a cosy view, designed to allow us to escape from the obligations and sacrifices involved, physically, financially and diplomatically, in deploying military forces. In any case, the distinction is unreal.
Over the past six or seven years, subversion has been at most the preparation for military intervention. In Angola, the Soviets helped the MPLA—now the present regime—to build up. But it would never have been able to retain power without direct military intervention by regular Cuban forces, assisted by Soviet and East Germans. Nor would it hold its power today without that force. In Ethiopia, Colonel Mengistu headed a revolution— a subversion, if one prefers. He would long ago have been destabilised and overthrown by the combined efforts of Somalia, the Eritreans and the internal Ethiopian opposition had not regular Cuban forces been deployed with Soviet and East German elements attached. The great Soviet base in Aden did not come about by subversion, except in the initial invitation. The initial Taraki coup in Afghanistan could be said to be subversion, but it could not have been maintained without the occupation of eight or nine Red Army divisions.
Those were all military victories; and they call for a military response. That is not so say that we should not use our best endeavours to settle local problems, but it is idle to believe that a settlement of the Palestinian or Namibian problems would exorcise the Soviet threat to the Middle East or to Southern Africa. On the other hand, the converse may be true, that a full military deployment can provide in itself the backing for diplomatic efforts to bring about the settlement of local problems.
Taking first the Middle East, the main threat in the Levant, in the Western part of the Middle East, comes from Soviet influence exercised through Syria and to some extent through the Palestine Liberation Organisation. It has been reduced by the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt and will be further reduced if, as seems to be the case, the Americans have succeeded in achieving agreement with Egypt and Israel for the establishment of American forces in the Sinai as an element of the peace-keeping force. I believe that that development is of the greatest importance.
I cannot help but express once again to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal my regret at the lukewarm attitude that we have consistently adopted towards the reconciliation of Egypt and Israel. We are dealing here with the two strongest military powers and the two most advanced, if not the wealthiest, economies in the area. No country has done more than ours to bring about the creation of the State of Israel or the creation of modern Egypt as we know it today. In spite of its present isolation in the Arab world, Egypt remains by far the most important cultural and political influence in that area.
Yet when it comes to a peacekeeping force in Sinai, participation by Britain is not even considered. That is most regrettable. If we were there, we should have far more say in the development of events in the Middle East than we shall achieve by any declarations made by the Grand Canal.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Lebanese crisis is the focal point at the moment. It arises from the determination of the Syrians to crush the Christian community in the Lebanon. Secretary Haig has described the Syrian action as "brutal". If press reports that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are cutting off their subsidies to the Syrian element in the Arab Defence Force are true, this suggests that Mr. Haig's work has already begun to bear fruit and that there is some co-ordination of American and conservative Arab diplomacies. I have not yet seen any British statement supporting what Secretary Haig has said. I hope that we may get it from the Minister of State tonight. Certainly, it is scandalous that no voice has been raised in Rome or in Canterbury in favour of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and that it has been left to Israel to stand up for our co-religionists.
The far graver, although less immediate, threat is to the Gulf. It comes fron the Soviet presence on the Northern border of Iran, in Afghanistan, only 300 miles from the straits of Hormuz. It comes also from the Soviet presence in Aden and in the Horn of Africa. Clearly, the first answer here must be the rapid deployment force. The countries between the North of the Gulf and the Horn have small populations and cannot be expected to exercise a great influence on the course of events, as they themselves are the first to admit. We must welcome the decision of Kenya, Somalia and Oman to help the Americans in setting up the rapid deployment force. I pay special tribute to the Sultan of Oman for his courage in being prepared to enable the Western powers to use the island of Masira, so incontinently and improvidently thrown away by the Labour Government only a year or so before the Gulf crisis came to a head.
I say emphatically that Britain must make a major contribution to the rapid deployment force. The right hon. Gentleman rather scorned what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on this in Washington. In my judgment, she was quite right to say what she did, just as Mr. Haig was quite right to say what he did during his recent tour of the Middle East. The immediate and public reaction from some of the Arab countries should not dismay her or the United States. It is natural that those countries should adopt a rather cool attitude towards the proposals when first put forward. They do not yet know how strong the force will be or how soon it can be deployed. In the Middle East, one has to live for the day. One cannot plan very far ahead.
Naturally, those Governments do not wish to provoke either their opponents at home or the Soviet Union. It is also natural that they should wish to obtain a good price for their co-operation, but the Saudis know very well that they are wholly dependent on the United States for their survival, and their actions speak much louder than their words. Their keenness to acquire modern American weapons systems and the men who will maintain and operate them over several years shows clearly where they stand. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will have been left in no doubt about this in the private talks that they had during their visit. Perhaps the Minister of State can also enlighten us a little more about the course of the visit in which he took part.
I suppose that it is also natural that in an election year, the Israelis should be critical of the American proposal to sell advanced weapons to the Saudis, I think that they are wrong in this. The more widely the United States is involved in the Middle East, the sooner the Saudis will be reconciled with Cairo and involved in the peace process themselves.
The immediate crisis in the Middle East comes from the Iran-Iraq war, which at present is at stalemate. But the situation may change suddenly, and the consequences could be unpredictable. The Ayatollah's regime is inherently unstable and will collapse—possibly soon. When it does, this may open the door to the Soviet penetration towards the Gulf against which even President Carter warned in unmistakable terms. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that it is urgent to develop a Western policy to prevent this. It is not easy to say what it should be, and this is certainly not the arena in which to discuss these matters. It may be tempting to wait and see, but inaction could lead to an accomplished fact. Once the Soviets are installed on the North shore of the Gulf, it will be very difficult to secure their withdrawal.
By comparison with the immediate Lebanese crisis and the crisis in the Gulf resulting from the Iran-Iraq war, the Palestinian problem seems much less urgent, but it is deep-seated and deep-rooted, and it is not just a local problem. It reverberates through the Middle East. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, whose links with the Palestine Liberation Organisation are well known, are right to emphasise the importance of the problem. I am glad to note that both have somewhat changed their emphasis since the Reagan Administration came to power and have been putting rather more pressure on Mr. Arafat to recognise the rights of Israel to secure and recognised boundaries.
The only reservation that I would express about the views that my right hon. Friends have publicly stated concerns the PLO. The Palestine Liberation Organisation is not a State, and it is not an organisation. It is a movement. Like all movements, it is many-faced and has many links, not least with Moscow. It is often said that the PLO is not basically pro-Soviet, but works with Moscow only because it has no Western backing. There may be some truth in that, but we are entitled to suggest that Mr. Arafat takes a leaf out of President Sadat's book. Egypt fought three wars against Israel with Soviet support. In each of them, it failed altogether to achieve its objectives.
It was a mark of the statesmanship of President Sadat that he learned his lesson, broke with the Russians and turned to the United States. As a result, he has secured all of Egypt's objectives without striking a blow. We have a right to tell Mr. Arafat that he cannot expect us to support him until he first breaks with Moscow and makes it plain to us that he will no longer be on the other side.
Here is the rub. The leaders and the chief components of the PLO are physically situated in Lebanon and Syria. Inevitably, they are under the considerable pressure of Syrian and Soviet control. To involve the PLO as principals—that is what the Venice declaration suggested—in a settlement of the Palestine question would, in present circumstances, be to bring in the Soviets through the back door.
I know that some people hold that we cannot get a settlement of the Middle Eastern problem without Soviet participation. That is a tenable view—it is the view of Mr. Cy Vance—but in the context of American-Soviet relations today, it is wholly unrealistic to seek that kind of approach to a settlement. To do so would mean abandoning any possibility of a settlement for a long time to come.
I wonder whether we would not do better to seek a more localised approach to a settlement rather than a general approach. Resolution 242 commits the Israelis to withdraw at any rate from most of the territories occupied on the West Bank and Gaza. Camp David commits them to some form of autonomous regime for those areas. Therefore, should we not encourage them to negotiate either with the previous owners—in the case of the West Bank, Jordan—or with such local representatives as may emerge as a result of the autonomous development? Let those negotiating parties between them decide how, and at what level, to bring in the PLO. That is an approach, and I can say no more about it. My own personal view is that we shall make very little progress towards a settlement until an American presence has been much more firmly established in the area than it is today.
Such a presence will be the basic condition of confidence between Israelis and Arabs. Even today, I do not think that the Israelis would leave the bit of Sinai from which they are due to withdraw before April next year if there was not an American component in the peacekeeping force in Sinai. Similar considerations apply much more strongly to the relationship between Israel and its Arab neighbours to the east. Meanwhile, I hope that the Government will accept that the Palestine problem is not yet ripe for solution and that they will perhaps be wise to keep it on the back burner.
I should like to follow the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) on the African problem. Whether we like it or not, we are in for a new relationship with South Africa. We cannot deploy substantial naval, air and land forces in the Indian Ocean without ensuring their communications with the Atlantic ocean and both seaboards of the Atlantic.
Only South Africa offers the harbours, air fields and industrial equipment which could make such communication possible.
I know this argument very well. I could scarcely not do so as an ex-Secretary of State for Defence. However, the present Secretary of State for Defence has made it very clear that the Government have no intention whatever of deploying substantial naval forces in the Indian Ocean; therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's whole argument falls.
I was talking about the West as a whole Our American friends have made it perfectly clear that they will deploy substantial forces. If they are to have a new relationship with South Africa, as they will inevitably do, we shall find it very difficult not to follow suit if we are to have an element attached to the rapid deployment force. A new relationship is inevitable. It is not a question of whether we like it. It is something that is now written into the new geopolitical development which has taken place since the Reagan Administration came to power. It is ironic and regrettable that the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member should have thrown away the trump card of Simonstown at a time when it might have been extremely useful and advantageous to Britain. This strategic interest which the West is bound to develop from now on will be compounded by our existing dependence on South African minerals.
We should be doubly concerned to prevent the destabilisation of South Africa from outside. That is not say that we should condone apartheid. On the contrary, a greater involvement in South Africa will give us both the right and the interest to press the South Africans for timely reforms. However, it means that we can no longer sit on the sidelines and condone Soviet-inspired subversion of Central and Southern Africa, as we did in Zimbabwe and are still doing in Namibia.
This new relationship will not be very popular with some of the countries of black Africa, but the Americans have made it clear that they will not be made to choose between black and white Africa. Nor should we. The black States of Central and Southern Africa need the West—and, for that matter, South Africa—much more than we need them. The situation to the north of the Republic is pretty grim. In Angola, there is civil war and a Cuban garrison. In Mozambique, there is civil war, with Soviet gunboats coming to the rescue when the Government there are shown up for what they are worth by a small South African raid. The heads of Zambia and Zimbabwe are just kept above water by massive injections of Western aid. Tanzania is a slum, there is anarchy in Uganda and there is no chance of massive aid from Moscow.
The West and South Africa perhaps represent the only possible locomotive which could pull Central and Southern Africa out of the grim consequences of premature decolonisation.
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman might say a little more about apartheid in South Africa. Is it enough merely to say that we are against apartheid and to do nothing whatever to try to impress upon the South Africans the fact that they must give us a clear indication that they will dismantle effectively the brutal and inhuman policy of apartheid?
It would have been easier, had we had a friendlier relationship with South Africa in the past, to work towards a reform of the system. The march of events will now oblige us in any case to establish a new relationship with it, but my hope is that that relationship will give us both the right and the interest to try to help it reform its system in the light of a closer understanding of the situation that prevails.
Against that background, I must ask whether we are right to give as high a priority to a Namibian settlement as my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal appeared to do in his speech, because it is a settlement which is likely to bring SWAPO to power, even with such paper guarantees as are now being discussed for the minorities. This is a vast, rich, strategically placed and under-populated territory. At present it is pretty stable. I was in the operational zone in the autumn. It is by no means operational for those who saw the operational situation in Zimbabwe. From what I saw of them, the operations are insignificant.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that about 18 months or two years ago he told the House in the same solemn tones how he had just returned from Rhodesia, how everything was under control and how insignificant events were taking place there? The right hon. Gentleman strains our credibility too much.
If the hon. Gentleman would do me the courtesy of consulting Hansard he would see that I did not say that the operations were insignificant. I said that I thought that the Salisbury Government were still on top of them. I do not want to rehash the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe debate today, but I take nothing back. I still believe that the decision and course that we took was mistaken.
The Foreign Minister of Angola has said that if Namibia is settled on the United Nations basis, the Cubans will be withdrawn from Angola. I see that Mr. Brezhnev told Mr. Waldheim yesterday that if there were no more outside intervention in Afghanistan, the Russians would withdraw from it. That is a pretty flimsy basis for a policy in a vital part of the world. We would do better to leave well alone and to give some encouragement and help to Mr. Savimbi.
As regards the Namibia problem, the right hon. Member for Devonport (Dr. Owen) and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary were anxious to avoid the risk of a confrontation with the Russians when they could count on little or no support from the United States of America. At the time, I thought that their fears were exaggerated and I said as much. The lines of communication between the Soviet Union and Southern Africa are too tenuous and their local allies too weak. However, the situation today is different. The age of Cy Vance, Andy Young, and McHenry has gone. A completely different attitude prevails in the United States of America. If we adopted a more robust attitude towards Southern Africa we could get the Americans to stand with us and to give us their help in the same way as we would give them ours.
In the last few years I have come close to despair, as I watched the Carter Administration and successive British Governments—both Labour and Conservative—retreat in the face of Soviet imperialism, from one important area or another. I have seen the West run down its defences, while the Soviets have built up theirs on an unprecedented scale. This policy of appeasement, inspired by good intentions, defeatism or lack of understanding, has brought us to the brink of catastrophe. The balance of power has moved in favour of the Soviets and will inexorably continue to do so for some years to come. As a result, the prospects for peace are more fragile than at any time since the war and the danger to our survival is great. We may have to pay a heavy price for the years which the locusts have eaten.
There is a new hope and opportunity. The American people seem to have shaken off the defeatism of Vietnam and of Watergate. The Reagan Administration seem determined to restore a favourable balance of power. They are concerned to have sufficient strength overall—and at any vital point—to deter aggression. They are also concerned to give diplomacy the backing it needs to roll back the aggressor.
That determination is shown not only in speeches, but in the latest American defence budget and in America's commitment to the rapid deployment force. But the task is too great for the United States of America to carry alone. Europe must play its part and that includes us. We have the means. Collectively, we are richer than the Americans. Our interests and those of Japan are more in the front line than those of the United States of America. Japan should also play a part, or make at least a financial contribution.
For the first time since President Truman there is an opportunity of wholehearted support from an American Administration. If we fail to grasp that opportunity—whether from fear or from failure to lead our peoples—we can hardly complain if voices are raised in the United States calling for isolationism or for a new Yalta settlement between the super powers. It is not easy to turn about British foreign policy. The habits of appeasement are ingrained. However, we must achieve an about-turn. I hope that I do not need to say to my hon. Friend that we should not sell or try to sell the policies of President Carter to President Reagan. Our interest is not to restrain the United States Administration but to encourage it on the course upon which it has embarked. We should ensure that our European friends do the same.
It is probably true to say that for the past 20 years relations between the United States of America and the Soviet Union have improved. One of the major problems facing the world is that over the past two years those relations have been extremely uneven and, at times, bad. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned, because those relations could deteriorate rapidly. They have not done so yet.
It is premature to judge the Reagan Administration. They have not been in office for many months. There are signs in the development of that Administration's policy offer little hope of an improvement in relations. There are other signs that the same degree of realism that characterised relations between the Soviet Union and the last Republican Administration could emerge. One of the central questions facing this House and Europe is how to rebuild a constructive dialogue between the two world super Powers.
There is immense scope for Europe to play a role. At no time since the 1930s has there been the prospect of a major division between the two big parties on foreign policy. The 1930s were scarred by major differences in foreign policy. Britain and Europe paid a heavy price for that. We have not got the same influence and we do not carry the same weight as we did then.
In the 1980s Britain is not the global Power that it was in the 1930s. Nevertheless, it would be a serious state of affairs if a deepening difference of opinion arose between the two parties that have held the monopoly of power since 1924 on the two pillars of foreign policy, namely NATO and the EEC. It is no use scoffing or trying to avoid the issue as the Lord Privy Seal and the deputy Leader of the Opposition did.
I turn to our commitment to the Alliance. It is true, as the deputy Leader of the Opposition said, that the Labour Party is committed to NATO by a conference resolution. One would not like to feel that one had to pray that in aid. Unfortunately, it is not true that the Labour Party is solidly committed to the policies of that Alliance. I am glad to say that the deputy Leader of the Opposition confirmed that it was his policy—and presumably that of his party—to remain committed, as he said, to NATO's strategy of deterrence. The right hon. Gentleman did not refer to nuclear deterrence. We all know that deterrence is both conventional and nuclear. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman's views on NATO are pretty unequivocal—at least in private. In order to find a public demonstration of his commitment, one has to search through "Fortune" magazine. There is a good statement in the edition of 11 August 1980. I believe that it contains the right hon. Gentleman's view. I hope that it will be confirmed as the Opposition's view. The right hon. Gentleman said:
The bedrock of allied security is the commitment of America's strategic nuclear forces to retaliation against the Soviet Union if it attacks Western Europe.
Most of us—and, I believe, the right hon. Gentleman—support that position. However, no one can believe that that will remain the bedrock of allied security, if we do not take account of the views of the American public about how we conduct ourselves in Europe in our dialogue on defence.
The other question relates to the European Community. It is extraordinary that speeches are made which barely refer to it. That was what the deputy Leader of the Opposition wished to do. He will have to make up his mind over the next few months and so will the Labour Party. I am surprised that he can presumably support a National Executive Committee economic statement which said that we would come out of the European Community. That has not been his position in the past and it is time that it was said clearly to the country that
our weaknesses have nothing to do with the Common Market, they have been steadily increasing for the past 30 years … We can only make it more difficult to solve if we seek to find foreign scapegoats for our own shortcomings and to escape from real life into a cocoon of myth and fantasy.
Those were words well spoken by the deputy Leader of the Opposition in May 1975. I hope that in the next few months we shall hear more forthright statements from him. It is not enough to talk about the European influence as being that of Helmut Schmidt, Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Bruno Kreisky—important role though Austria has played, particularly in the dialogue about the Middle East—and the role that Sweden can play. There is a political role for the European Community that no one can avoid. That role needs to be enlarged and increased.
The diversion that has occurred with the badinage between the two leading speakers has not helped the debate much. The Lord Privy Seal in his eulogy of the Prime Minister could, I suppose, be said to be defending his own position in the Cabinet which these days appears to be somewhat tenuous. The deputy Leader of the Opposition in his excoriation of the Prime Minister was defending his position as deputy leader.
I am defending what I think are the views of the majority of people in this country. They will be represented. The right hon. Gentleman has always been good at handing it out but not at receiving it. We are good colleagues and friends. At times I have handed it out to him, as he has handed it out to me. I enjoyed, as did the House, his likening of the Lord Privy Seal to a flamingo—long, languid, pink and wet.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) reminds me of a bullfinch. He flew around in the debate with a great display of colour with a red face and a white behind. He must concentrate more on the central issues of foreign policy. We want to hear—it is the right of the House to hear it—whether the Labour Party is likely to stick to the defence strategy of NATO and to its commitment to the European Community. Those are central issues which affect the livelihood of every person in the United Kingdom.
The European Community is not just a foreign policy issue. It involves energy, employment, investment and jobs. For the Labour Party to be drifting by default into outright opposition to the European Community is not good enough.
The right hon. Gentleman has a particular responsibility in these matters. He has been aetheist, agnostic, ambivalent, avid——
For a short period as Chancellor of the Exchequer—I would date it as 1977–78—the right hon. Gentleman was avid. He was aetheistic in 1961, agnostic in 1967, and in fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, enthusiastic only as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The right hon. Gentleman is an expert. In May 1971 he wrote an article in the Daily Mirror which he has always regretted——
If the right hon. Gentleman does not regret it, I shall quote it at him. He said:
Britain could be hammered into the ground if she were outside the main trading blocs. It would mean another quarter of a century in which what happens to all of us in Europe is decided mainly by the Americans and the Russians.
I was drawing attention to the fact that in May 1971 this right hon. Gentleman's position on the European Community was clear, positive and definite, but by July there was a problem on a television broadcast and others had to be brought in and by September or October at the party conference he had changed completely. What worries me is that in May 1981 we see ambivalence and I am not sure what we shall see by October 1981. Perhaps he will join us.
The slight contretemps was not due to the right hon. Gentleman, but to some of his supporters who appeared to be heckling someone who was not making a speech. Does the right hon. Gentleman regret anything that he said in 1971?
I am sure that I have made many mistakes and if I comb through what I said in 1971, there will be many issues that I would regret. I do not regret the vote that I made in 1971 to take this country into the European Community. I have never regretted that and I intend to stand by it.
The first key issue in the debate is how can Britain, especially with the combined weight of France and Germany in the European Community, make its weight felt in the United States? We must face it that our weight in decisions on the Soviet Union is limited, though the Western response over the past nine months as we have watched a Soviet ring of steel around Poland has been correct—careful, well balanced with the right mixture of political toughness and economic help to Poland.
I have said before outside the House, and I repeat, that I hope that there will be no misunderstanding that the sort of action to be taken, were there a military invasion of Poland, would have to hit the Soviet Union in the only place that would hurt and that is high technology. There is no escape from economic sanctions in that. It will affect all countries. A series of political actions, such as withrawing from arms control negotiations, would be the wrong response at a time of crisis. If arms control negotiations are to mean anything they must be undertaken on the basis of protecting the security of the nation. They are not part of the diplomatic dance. By all means withdraw ambassadors. That will affect the climate of detente, but arms control negotiations are not part of the diplomatic dance. They are part of the deadly serious business of trying to lower the military threshold safely on both sides.
I do not wish the Soviet Union to sign an arms control agreement which it will later regret, because it will cheat. I do not believe that the British or NATO should sign an arms control agreement that they will live to regret. Such an agreement must be balanced and toughly negotiated. That is why the right hon. Gentleman was right to remind the Lord Privy Seal of the theatre nuclear weapons discussion and of the fact that the dual decision taken by NATO was taken in the context of endorsing the SALT II treaty.
The Soviet Union has shown some readiness to repackage SALT II but that repackaging should be kept to the minimum. The error of the Carter Administration was to make a dramatic change in the SALT negotiations in Vladivostock. With hindsight, there is no doubt that it would have been better to have carried on the continuity of the Ford-Kissinger Administration for the first few months of the Carter Administration and signed a more limited SALT II and moved on to a SALT III. The same message must be conveyed to President Reagan. It is better to make a few changes to the Carter Administration's package and go for a more adventurous SALT III or a different SALT III later.
I hope that the American Government will not lose the opportunity of building on the work done on SALT II. In addition, I hope that they will show in the negotiations on theatre nuclear weapons not only toughness, but a readiness to entertain seriously the possibility that, as a result of a tough negotiation resulting in the Soviet Union withdrawing its deployed SS20s, there would be no reason to deploy cruise missiles or the upgraded Pershing II missiles in Europe—the so-called zero option. Even if we cannot get the zero option immediately, there may be a way of reducing the number of cruise missiles or going ahead with only the Pershing missiles. The negotiations will be watched with great care and the British Government must show a great deal more commitment to the dual nature of the 1979 NATO decision.
I welcome the French proposal for a European disarmament conference. The time has come for that and there is a role for the EEC's political co-operation machinery in disarmament. It is not often understood how far that machinery has moved into disarmament. It played a major role in the preparation for the Helsinki conference and in the follow-up conferences in Belgrade and Madrid. Those involved in the machinery have been prepared to discuss SALT II and it is logical for a disarmament initiative to come from the EEC.
That does not mean that the EEC would be developing a defence identity or treading on the toes of NATO. However, it is a forum in which France would be more imaginative over disarmament and arms control than it would be in NATO and during the next year, when the Reagan Administration will be acting slowly in this area, there will be ample scope for a European initiative, particularly in the months leading up to the United Nations special session in the spring of next year.
There is also room for movement in the talks on mutual and balanced force reductions. The first-phase agreement on MBFR should be implemented and I hope that the Government will start focusing their mind on some of the important matters involved. First, it would be outrageous if NATO responded to the Soviet deployment of gas by going for a gas capability. It is necessary to consider what is happening in space and the danger of an arms race in space, and we must also look at the new technology of lasers and other areas.
The Government must regard arms control and disarmament with the utmost seriousness. There is scope for a British initiative and for British pressure on our European allies and on the United States.
It has been pleasing to see the role of the Federal Republic of Germany in Latin America. It has had a powerful influence in restraining the United States position in El Salvador, and powerful influences have also been exercised by Venezuela and Mexico. The United States Administration are finding, as the British Government have found, that there is no way in which any single nation, even a strong one, can conduct its foreign policy without taking account of other people's views.
We had a strong influence in getting a settlement in Belize, and the Americans could be a helpful influence in relation to Guatemala. I am concerned about what is happening between Chile and Argentina. It is a mistake to believe that Britain alone could have much influence, but a war between those countries would have a serious effect and that is an area where, because of trading and other links in the past, the EEC has a formidable role.
On Africa and Namibia, I hope that the Minister of State will answer a fundamental question, namely whether the use of the veto was tactical, in order to avoid the United States imposing the veto alone and to give them more time for negotiations. I hope and believe that that was the reason for our use of the veto. If so, it need be only a hiccup in the process of achieving a United Nations based settlement in Namibia.
However, I have to ask whether the use of the veto meant something more. Are we starting to move our position into one of abdication from the initiative of the five Western powers for a United Nations based settlement in Namibia? If so, it will be a major error. The success of the Zimbabwe settlement should spur us on to achieving a settlement in Namibia and nothing could improve the possibility of eventual peace in Southern Africa than another success for peaceful transition to independence through the ballot box.
The Government may, by all means, attempt to make some changes in the exact arrangements, but the principles of resolution No. 435 should not be tampered with. It is vital to realise that we would not have got as far as we have but for the full support of the five front-line Presidents, now joined by Zimbabwe. Contrary to what the Lord Privy Seal said, we have out-manoeuvred the Soviet Union in Southern Africa over Zimbabwe and we can do so again over Namibia, but not in an East-West polarised battle. We can do so only by mobilising the non-aligned and African countries.
There is a sign of an important policy initiative by the United States in the Middle East. The Americans have recognised that we shall not get a peaceful settlement out of the fraught situation in the Lebanon without using the full range of diplomatic initiatives, including the involvement of the Soviet Union. It was a good decision of the American Administration to involve the Soviet Union and I hope that it will be noted by the Prime Minister who seems to think that the Soviet Union has no role to play in the world. I wish Phil Habib and his mission on behalf of President Reagan every success. It is difficult to imagine a better envoy.
The situation in the Lebanon is fraught and difficult and there has always been a slight danger that the Americans, in picking up the initiative for President Sadat. as they were bound to do, and in forging ahead in Camp David, as they were right to do, would give sustenance to those who believe that we can shut the Soviet Union out of a role in the eventual settlemant of the Arab-Israeli dispute. That does not reflect the realities of power in the region. The major role will be played by the United States but the Soviet Union also has a role and it is good to see the Reagan Administration accepting that.
I utter a word of caution to the Foreign Secretary about the handling of the Middle East dispute. There is a fear that we may exaggerate the role of Europe in the Middle East. There is a proper role for a European initiative, but I must issue a caution about the meeting with Chairman Arafat that the Foreign Secretary will inevitably have eventually.
It is right to stress that the PLO will need to be brought into the negotiations, but the timing of the meeting between the Foreign Secretary and Chairman Arafat will be one of extreme delicacy. Successive Foreign Secretaries have said that there would be such a meeting in the right circumstances. They were right to do so, but they have never felt able to justify that meeting. I hope that the criteria that have always been applied will be maintained.
I authorised our ambassadors to open a dialogue with the PLO in certain key Arab countries and I do not believe that the Venice statement should have been criticised. It achieved the right balance, but I do not want Britain to adopt a position on the Arab-Israeli dispute that is governed solely by our membership of the EEC.
Britain's attitude to Israel has always been slightly different from that of some other members of the EEC, and the Community has benefited from the nuances of differences among the 10 countries. It would be foolish for Britain to lose the respect and trust of many Israelis. We shall need to use that capital when we say to Mr. Begin that he should not have made his recent speeches attacking the Chancellor of the Federal Republic and he cannot continue to flout international opinion by creating new settlements on the West Bank.
If we are to be able to speak as a candid friend of Israel—I believe that most people think that that is a necessary British role—it is necessary to convince Israelis that the British position on the PLO will be as realistic, fair-minded and tough as in the past. There is a suspicion growing that that position is changing. I am strongly committed to the European Community, but I am even more strongly committed to believing that Britain has an independent foreign policy and that it exercises its judgment within the framework of political co-operation in what it thinks will be the best and most effective way. At times that means that we may have to hold out, even against the majority, and we have always done so. The European Community has benefited from the French understanding of the Arab world and the Dutch understanding of the Israeli position. That is one of the reasons why European diplomacy can be extremely helpful and successful in that area.
The Government have made one major foreign policy error in the past two years by virtue of the appalling way in which Britain has treated its aid and development programme. That which we have allowed to happen is a scandal. It is a tragedy that the Foreign Secretary is not answerable in this House for the depth of the cuts and the insensitivity of what has been done. It has caused great damage to Britain in the Third world. There are signs that we are beginning to change our position. The Government faced the prospect of being frozen out of the Mexico summit. It was clear that they would not be invited if there was no change in their position. The Government now have the possibility of playing an important role. If we can convert the Government to accepting the need for a more enlightened attitude to Third world issues, we could exercise considerable influence on the Reagan Administration.
I have always believed in horses for courses. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was Prime Minister, he exerted a helpful influence on President Carter in bridging the gaps between western Europe and the Carter Administration. It may fall to the Prime Minister, if she gains some greater sensitivity in this area, to convert President Reagan to accepting the need to take a more enlightened attitude on Third world issues. I note that the Minister of State shakes his head. The hon. Gentleman knows in his heart of hearts that this is the most abysmal part of the Government's record. It is a tragic error. There have been cuts of financial meanness and attitudinal changes towards overseas students, technical aid and transfers. Great damage will be done and it will take time to build up the position that Britain was adopting.
If only Britain were like Holland, where the political parties vie with one another for votes by promising a greater commitment to the United Nations and to aid and development. Let no one in the House or outside think that we have a great record in aid and development. In comparison with most other European countries our record is appalling. It is high time that we followed some of the other countries. It is high time that the Government changed their policy on aid and development. If they do, they will bring great returns and they will restore our position. If they continue to make cuts and to adopt an insensitive attitude, our ability to carry weight, especially within the Commonwealth, will be considerably undermined.
The debate should focus on how to improve the dialogue between the United States and the Soviet Union. In my view, Britain and the European Community can contribute to improving that relationship.
I shall speak briefly on matters of security. I returned at the end of last week from a three-day visit to Washington as part of the North Atlantic Assembly where I am writing a report on theatre nuclear rearmament. One of the first clear impressions that one received in Washington was the hostility to arms control which is held strongly in certain sectors of the administration in the State Department and in the Pentagon.
Arms control—all good speeches should start with one robust assertion—is a Western interest without qualification. I do not accept the linkage argument, that others have to behave well so that we may do them a favour by negotiating with them on arms control. Arms control stands or falls by its being a Western interest that we should pursue.
Arms control has enemies. The USSR obviously preferred to intervene in Afghanistan at the risk of the Senate deciding not to ratify the treaty. The other enemies of arms control are the ideologues within the United States Administration. It appears that it will be a long time before the Senate is prepared to ratify SALT II. However, in the long term the United States, even under a Reagan Administration, will be forced eventually to start SALT II and SALT III processes because of the ever-escalating expense of nuclear weapons.
The Foreign Ministers' meeting last week in Rome appeared to be a success. Al Haig is clearly a good thing. It is clear that he is a highly intelligent man who has his eye upon the White House after President Reagan leaves it. He understands, more vividly than other members of the Administration, Europe and its problems. Indeed, he is a friend of Europe. As we all know, he agreed that there would be negotiations with the Soviets on theatre nuclear rearmament before the end of the year. That was half of the European demand. That was good news.
The question that we must all pose is, how firmly based in Washington is Al Haig? There were many in Washington last week who were saying to me that Al Haig's days are numbered. He advised against the lifting of the grain embargo that the President decided to lift. That is not the only occasion on which his advice has been disregarded. Yet it is clear that we have a great interest that Al Haig should stay as Secretary of State.
If NATO is unable to modernise its theatre nuclear weapons and to get agreement on that, we are incapable of doing anything in the context of the Alliance. It is vital that we pursue that policy. The rationale of the extension of theatre nuclear weapons to Europe is the refurbishment of the American nuclear guarantee to Europe. The American nuclear guarantee is strengthened by having 572 American theatre nuclear missiles stationed in European countries.
It is somewhat ironic that the British Government at one and the same time believe strongly in theatre nuclear modernisation, and therefore wish to strengthen and extend the strategic nuclear guarantee of the United States, but are in favour of the Trident missile programme. The rationale behind that is that deep down we have our doubts about the United States coming to our assistance if the worst were to happen.
That is only part of a wider contradiction. Europeans hope that if, God forbid, there is a war it will be fought over their heads between the United States and the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the United States hopes that if there is a war it should start in Europe so that the United States might hope to control it and avoid the nuclear exchange that would obviously place American cities in some peril. The fact that the Atlantic divides Europe from America makes it almost intellectually out of the question to reach some form of firm defence conclusion.
I refer briefly to an article that I wrote that appeared today in one of the national newspapers. It considers the imminent defence review in the United Kingdom. I believe that a new review is to be announced to the House at some time in July. I hope that it will not be announced in the last week of July, shortly before we all leave for the sunshine of Europe. If that happens, there will be no opportunity for a debate.
I do not need to put that idea into anyone's head. I even suspect that the defence review might be announced in a written answer, if the responsibility were that of the Department of the Environment. However, that is another matter.
I suspect—though I do not know, because the overseas and defence committee of the Cabinet has not yet decided on the parameters—that the proposals for the defence review now before that committee are roughly these: first, that there should be a marginal increase in the air defence capability of the United Kingdom; second—and here we start to get worried—that a one-third to one-half reduction is to be made in our forces in Europe, the Rhine Army; and, third, that there should be an even more drastic reduction in the Royal Navy's capability in the Eastern Atlantic, where we contribute 70 per cent. of all the available forces.
If those proposals emanating from the Ministry of Defence are accepted by the overseas and defence committee of the Cabinet, and that committee then reports to the full Cabinet, the full Cabinet, with no expertise on defence, will accept the recommendation and a statement will then be made in July. There will be no debate on what may be the most fundamental defence review that has taken place since the Sandys review in 1957. The exercise on which we are embarked is far closer to Duncan Sandys' review in 1957 than to Denis Healey's reviews in 1965, 1966 and 1967.
Clearly the Government face a dilemma. We live far above our station in defence. We spent 5·3 per cent. of our GDP on defence, while Germany spent 3·3 per cent. of a larger gross national product, and France spent 4 per cent. of a larger gross national product. Clearly, therefore, we live beyond our means, and something at some time will have to go. The question is, what?
I am afraid that if we went as far as some of the proposals now being put forward by the Ministry of Defence, the effect on Alliance relationships, in particular, would be nothing short of catastrophic. We look to the Foreign Secretary to argue his corner in the overseas and defence committee of the Cabinet so that there will not be a reduction of as uch as one-third to one-half of the Rhine Army forces. I can imagine the effect that that would have on the Reagan Administration, who were elected to spend more money on defence than their predecessor and who are eager to urge on Europeans a greater defence effort. What would be the effect on the Germans? Their defence budget is already under pressure, and the German Army would have to fill the gap if there were any major withdrawals from the British Rhine Army.
The military argument is overwhelmingly against withdrawal. NATO needs and wants "ready forces", forces that are in being and on the spot, ready to meet an attack, were that to occur. NATO prefers ready forces, because forces that are kept at home—reserves—have to be mobilised at the time of crisis, the decision has to be taken to mobilise them, then a fortnight or more is needed to move across the channel or from the United States to join a battle which already will have been lost.
I fear that we shall have another Sandys review when, for reasons of economy, the nuclear is preferred to the conventional and we shall be back in the old position of putting too much reliance on nuclear deterrence without asking ourselves the question, what will happen were deterrence to fail? There must be some cuts, but surely they must be marginal ones, not major.
In examining Britain's role in foreign affairs, it seems sensible, to me at any rate, for a start, to look at the head office, our Foreign Office. While my party has on occasions said unkind things about that establishment, we have never forgotten Lord Avon's oft-repeated remark that the most important thing about foreign affairs is that they are foreign. It follows that the Foreign Office must specialise in persuading others to change or modify their views rather than legislate for change, as other Departments of State are wont to do.
That may be why the Foreign Office avoids violent change. Indeed, the more important policy changes have not coincided with changes in Government. The Minister of State, the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd), recently said that there had been continuity of policy, with only some changes of emphasis when Governments changed, but that the more radical changes were made in response to changes in the outside world. In short, the Foreign Office has a mind of its own, and tends to follow a predetermined course until it is forced to deviate by outside forces—not necessarily outside the bounds of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. While a certain remoteness might be thought to make for calm reflection and sound judgment, there is a real risk that detachment may result in mistaken advice being tendered, with disastrous results.
We had one such example last week, which I mention more in sorrow than in anger, and that was the visit to Northern Ireland by the Vatican emissary, Father Magee. He was reported to have said, while in Great Britain, that his was
a two-way mission directed to the British Government and the hunger striking prisoners".
One must ask: was the Foreign Office aware of that interpertation when, presumably, it was consulted through the usual diplomatic channels before the visitors set out? If so, did it accept those terms of reference when tendering its advice through our envoy to the Holy See? one cannot imagine that the Vatican would have risked a rebuff or, indeed, have continued the initiative had it been fully aware of the true facts. Were those facts fully understood when the Minister of State met Father Magee at Heathrow, or was the Minister given to understand that the original explanation was correct, namely, that the visit was of a
purely spiritual nature? Did the role of intermediary emerge after the visitor had been in Northern Ireland for some time—and perhaps been advised by Cardinal O'Fee? Did the Foreign Office seek or accept the advice of the Papal Nuncio in London, who would have been aware of the views of Cardinal Hume?
The conflicting claims and assertions became so apparent that many people, including many English and Irish Catholics, suspected that both the Foreign Office and the Vatican had become victims of the IRA propaganda machine. Clearly the Northern Ireland Office—the Government Department that was most intimately concerned in the issue—was kept on the fringe of what decision making there was. It must have been disconcerted to hear the verdict that the mission had failed because of the intransigence of the British Government on the one hand and of the hunger strikers on the other.
There is another example of what appears to have been inadequate preparation and faulty briefing. I refer to that which has become known as the Dublin summit meeting, which took place on 8 December 1980. The Foreign Secretary has said that summits are of little value without the most careful preparations for them, and that such preparations may take several months. It is difficult to believe that such careful preparation was made for the Dublin summit. If it had been, the Prime Minister's position would not have been exposed to misrepresentation and party political exploitation by the Dublin Government. Surely it would have been foreseen that the joint communiqué would have placed upon it an interpretation different from that in the mind of the Prime Minister and, one hopes, her ministerial colleagues.
The Republic's Foreign Minister, Mr. Lenihan, has made the outrageous claim that the summit and the resulting study group provide the machinery for the unification of Ireland. Mr. Haughey, in a more subtle fashion, subscribes to the object of improving the relationship between the two nations. However, he goes on to explain that such a development will achieve the unification of Ireland in advance of the people of Northern Ireland voluntarily agreeing to any such thing. In other words, in typically Irish fashion, he is saying "If they do not agree, we shall make them agree."
Members of the Ulster Unionist Party accept the Prime Minister's word. We accept that she has no intention of allowing any of the Dublin arrangements to be used or exploited to weaken the integrity of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However, the Dublin summit caused confusion—and not only in the minds of Ulster people. Confusion has been exploited to create fear. Thousands of responsible citizens of the kingdom are genuinely suspicious and uneasy. Their suspicions will be increased if the impression is given that study groups, or, worse, institutional structures, are permitted to erode the Prime Minister's determination to maintain the Union intact.
The Government's advisers must ask how they will ensure that on future occasions the Prime Minister will not be exposed to the same risk, or certainty, of her good will being abused and her words twisted against her. In preparation for any future summit, the Foreign Office might begin by destroying the myths fed to the international community about Northern Ireland and its constitution. First, the false impression that Northern Ireland was severed from the rest of Ireland should be destroyed. The Irish Republic cut itself off from the rest of the British Isles. Secondly, the Foreign Office should stop subscribing to the concept of a unique relationship between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.
It is ironic that the word "unique" can be applied validly only to that which elsewhere would be regarded as a defect in normal relationships. The relationship is unique in that the Republic lays claim to the territory of a portion of the United Kingdom. It is unique in that the Republic permits its territory to be used as a launching pad for attacks on its neighbour's territory. On those points the uniqueness of the relationship cannot be denied. However, it is not a relationship that would commend itself to civilised nations and Governments in any part of the world. What other country in Western Europe would refuse to extradite known terrorists on the flimsy pretext that crimes committed for political purposes elevate the criminal above international law?
It is instructive to note how conveniently national integrity, the cornerstone of international politics, is forgotten when the Foreign Office is dealing with the Irish Republic. On 11 March, the Foreign Secretary said:
Almost all the countries of the world are independent sovereign countries.
But, when the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the United Kingdom were attacked by the West German Chancellor, the Foreign Office was conspicuous by its silence. There was another example only yesterday when the elected representatives of the Irish Republic in the European Assembly took an initiative which resulted in that Assembly debating the internal affairs of the United Kingdom. Did the Government and the Foreign Office make it clear that that was an unwarrantable intrusion by the EEC into the internal affairs of a member State? I am afraid that they did not.
I have described some of the reasons why—and can anybody be surprised?—Ulster Unionists are often hard put not to believe that the Foreign Office is indifferent to the Government's policies and that it is working against the commitments of the Prime Minister and her colleagues.
the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) will forgive me if I do not follow him on Ireland but return to some of the original themes of the debate and concentrate mainly on the Middle East.
I welcome some of the remarks by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Heeley). From what he said about the Opposition's attitude to talks with the PLO and the Venice declaration, I sense a shift in attitude from the position of his predecessor. I welcome that.
I was, however, surprised by the right hon.Gentleman's remarks on the supply of arms to peaceful and friendly countries in the Gulf. Moreover, when talking about the control of arms to the Middle East, one should remember that Israel, supplied with all the latest and most sophisticated equipment, still has undoubted and total military supremacy in the area.
I endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Venice declaration and the Government's position. The Venice declaration of June 1980 by the European Ministers signalled the most important step forward since resolution 242 was passed unanimously in 1967 by the United Nations Security Council. The principles of resolution 242 were accepted by the United States and the Soviet Union. They have been endorsed by all the relevant countries to the conflict, including Israel and Syria.
Moreover, the Camp David accord started by reaffirming the resolution "in all its parts." The essentials are:
The inadmissibility of acquision of territory by war and a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security.
With regard to withdrawal, most informed observers agree that the American Secretary of State, William Rogers, got it about right in December 1969 when he said:
We believe that while recognised boundaries must be established, and agreed upon by the parties, any changes in the preexisting lines should not reflect the weight of conquest and should be confirmed to insubstantial alterations required for mutual security. We do not support expansionism. We believe troops must be withdrawn as the Resolution provides.
Unfortunately, the troops have not yet been withdrawn.
One of the arguments put forward by Mr. Begin and others to justify the permanent annexation of the West Bank or large parts of it is that it is necessary for Israel's security. Even if tha were true, it would be a novel principle of international relations to concede that one State could justifiably take from its neighbours whatever territory it thought necessary to ensure its own security.
My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal aptly quoted Henry Kissinger, who remarked that the desire of one State for absolute security means absolute insecurity for all the others. Nor of course, does resolution 242 speak of ensuring Israel's security alone. It proclaims the right of every State in the area to live in security. In any case, is it true that Israel must have more territory in order to be secure? It may marginally improve its defences if they lie on the river Jordon rather than on the previous armistice lines, but today security cannot be achieved by a few more miles of territory.
Surely David Ben Gurion was right when in old age he said:
As for security, militarily defensible borders, while desirable, cannot by themselves guarantee our future. Real peace with our Arab neighbours—mutual trust and friendship—that is the only true security".
I repeat his words:
Real peace with our Arab neighbours.
That is precisely what the Israelis are denying themselves by insisting on hanging on to land which does not belong to them. The attempt to annex and incorporate the eastern part of Jerusalem exemplifies the fallacy of the whole argument. Far from ensuring greater security for Israel, it dooms Israel to unending conflict, not only with its Arab neighbours but with the whole Islamic world.
Can my hon. Friend be absolutely certain that if Israel gave up the territories that it conquered in the 1967 conflict the Arab neighbours of Israel that have not yet made peace with her—notably the PLO—would immediately accept the existence of Israel and undertake not to invade or undermine the existence of the Israeli State?
I shall come later to the solution that I would favour for the period in between the withdrawal and the formation of the Palestinian State.
With regard to mutual recognition between the PLO and Israel, if the PLO felt that Israel was prepared to recognise the existence of the Palestinians, and the Palestinian rights of self-determination, I believe that it would be possible to get the PLO to recognise Israel. We should be working towards that objective in our diplomatic initiatives.
The step forward and the central achievement of the statement of the nine European Powers in Venice was that it recognised in definitive terms the right of Palestinian self-determination, and made it absolutely clear that the realisation of the rights and freedom of the Palestinians and the security of Israel are dependent one upon the other.
Regrettably, progress since then has been very slow. Meanwhile, Israel has been flouting the internationally recognised principle that the acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible, and has continued in its policy of increasing the illegal settlements on the West Bank, in open contempt of world opinion.
The insulting and hysterical abuse of Chancellor Schmidt by Mr. Begin—which was admirably described by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East—can be partly explained as electioneering tactics. But, coming at a time when the Israeli occupying forces are continuing to harass the Palestinian civilian population on the West Bank, and the Israeli air force has intensified its indiscriminate attacks on South Lebanon, killing thousands of innocent Lebanese civilians, Mr. Begin's outburst is remarkable for its cynicism and opportunism.
The explosive situation in Lebanon and the tense situation on the West Bank highlight the urgent need for the European initiative to gain momentum. I thought that my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) rather over-simplified the Lebanese problem when he put the whole blame for the present crisis on the Syrians for wanting to exterminate the Christians. He seemed to have forgotten that Syrians first came into Lebanon to protect the Christians, who were at the time losing in the civil war against the combined forces of the Muslim left and the Palestinians.
There are many complicating factors, of which one is the Syrian presence. The most important factor, however, no doubt, remains the Palestinian presence, but that stems from the fact that the Palestinians have been thrown out of their own country, and they will continue to be there until they can return to at least part of their land. That makes it all the more urgent and necessary to find a solution.
There is a logical necessity for Europe to advance quickly in its role of peacemaker, if for no other reason than that there is no one else who can or will at this moment break the deadlock.
The new American Administration are still in the process of cautiously re-examining the situation, while slowly moving away from their original position. Their assessment at first appeared to be that the basic conflict of the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict—and the tensions which it provoked could be set aside so long as a strong military posture vis-a-vis the Soviet Union was adopted. No doubt that rather simplistic conclusion had been influenced by the fact of the Iran-Iraq war. Time prevents me from going into that conflict in detail, except to say that it has become increasingly obvious that, in spite of that war, the Palestinian issue continues to hold the centre of the stage. That is why it would be a disaster to put it on the back burner, as suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion. It must be solved.
Reliance on the military option as the best way of supporting friendly regimes in the Middle East is, in my view, mistaken. It failed to sustain the Shah and would be equally unsuccessful elsewhere in the area. There should, of course, be a strong military back-up to deter aggression, but the only really effective way for the United States to support its friends is by intelligent political action. That means, in the Middle East, a sensible, pragmatic and, above all, impartial attitude towards the Arab-Israeli conflict.
It is, therefore, greatly to be hoped that the American Administration will soon reappraise their thinking and eventually formulate their policies in a way which meets the realities of the situation in the Middle East. That means accepting the fact that Western interests can be effectively protected only when a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been reached. Only then will it be possible for those moderate Arab States which are friendly and well disposed to the West to operate as they wish, freed of the constraints imposed upon them by the compelling need to give priority to a satisfactory solution of the Palestinian problem.
As a start, there should be an honest American acknowledgement of Palestinian rights. Alternatively, the same end could perhaps be approached from the opposite direction, that is to say, a forthright statement defining what Washington would regard as appropriate measures to safeguard the security of all States in the area, including Israel. That would put Israel under notice of the territorial price that it will have to pay for peace.
For too long Israel has been allowed to get away with undermining peace on the pretext of seeking security. If the new Administration were prepared at some stage to set out what they would regard as the secure and recognised boundaries envisaged for Israel in resolution 242, that would go a long way towards dispelling the profound distrust which now pervades the Arab world concerning the motives of the United States, and so open the way for a fresh start in the peacemaking process.
Although it is right that it should be a major objective of Western foreign policy to safeguard the Middle East from Soviet encroachment, it is by no means certain—in this I agree with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen)—that in the long term the West will profit from the attempted exclusion of the Soviet Union from the process of finding a peaceful settlement. Dr. Kissinger was, in my view, mistaken when he proclaimed in 1972 that an aim of American policy should be to eject the Soviet Union from the Middle East. Even if that were possible, which I believe it is not, the effect would be harmful to the prospects of a lasting and stable peace. It would merely mean that Moscow would cause all the mischief it possibly could in order to get back on to the scene in the Middle East.
Whether the West likes it or not, the Soviet Union has an important part to play in the peace process, and should be associated with it. No settlement will stick that does not command at least acquiescence from the Soviet Union. It should not be forgotten that the high point in the search for a real peace during the past 13 years was the joint American-Soviet statement of October 1977. It was a tragedy that within days the Carter Administration turned away from that hopeful initiative in response to Israeli protests and the orchestrated campaign of the Zionist pressure groups in Washington.
At the present time the Soviet Union has certainly disqualified itself from any effective leadership for peace in the Middle East by its intolerable aggression in Afghanistan. My sympathy, and the sympathy of my hon. Friends, goes to the courageous Afghan freedom fighters. But that does not mean that the Soviet Union can or should be permanently excluded from the peacemaking process for the reasons that I have given. I therefore welcome, as have other speakers, the intervention by the United States and the Soviet Union in trying to bring about a calming down of the situation in Lebanon.
A strong military and political response by the West towards the Soviet Union should be combined with flexible diplomacy and a realisation that military strength, though necessary, is not a substitute for intelligent and imaginative foreign policy. The Soviet Union should be firmly challenged and discouraged from military adventurism, but it should not be excluded from diplomatic negotiation. Such involvement would reduce and not increase its capacity to exploit political unrest.
So we come back to Europe as the best hope for real progress towards peace. It would be a mistake to overestimate what Europe, even with the best will in the world, can do. At most it will be able to influence in some degree the policy of the new Administration in America; to stake out the ground for a fair and reasonable settlement; to produce and make public its plan for a comprehensive peace and to canvass vigorously for the support of others for that plan.
A first step must be top level discussions with the PLO leadership. It is peculiarly absurd that, while it has become universally recognised and is now accepted and even conventional wisdom that the Palestinians are the key to any lasting solution, it should still be argued by some that there should be no talks with their only effective representatives. It is also fair to say that Europe cannot by itself give effect to any plan it may produce. Having laid the ground for a fresh initiative, it must look to others to put teeth into it.
It will be asked—my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) asked in a slightly different context—what should be the central theme of the proposal. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza should be placed under some form of international authority responsible to the Security Council, with a mandate to administer the territories, to maintain security, both external and internal, and to assist in setting up representative Palestinian institutions of self-government. It would remain in overall charge of the occupied territories until such time as a comprehensive settlement was negotiated between Israel and her Arab neighbours, including democratically elected representatives of the Palestinians, or, failing agreement on a settlement, until such time as the Security Council decided on the future status of the West Bank and Gaza in the longer term.
The effect would be to establish not immediate peace but a halfway house towards peace; a chance to defuse the spiralling conflict and antagonisms in the West Bank; a breathing space and a cooling-off period; time to get effective security arrangements established and into good working order in advance of the final settlement—which should go far to meet genuine apprehensions about security in Israel. This could include demilitarised zones and other defence proposals thought to be suitable to meet the legitimate anxieties on both sides.
It should never be forgotten that at the end of the day only the United States can effectively bring about a peace settlement, because it alone can apply the necessary pressure on Israel, and Arab countries will have to be prepared to use their leverage on Washington to help bring this about. Then it should be accepted that the Soviet Union cannot and should not be permanently excluded from the peacemaking process.
Finally, it should be recognised and vigorously acted upon that at this time Europe has a crucial role to play in the Middle East. In June, when my noble friend the Foreign Secretary takes over the chairmanship of the Council of Ministers, courage and imagination must be shown, and I feel confident that it will be.
I wish to take up one or two comments made by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and to call for initiatives from the Government based on mutual co-existence which are required to restore political balance in the world.
To talk about peace in the Chamber, particularly in a foreign affairs debate, is almost sacrilege—like suggesting the sale of porn from the vestry. But it has to be done, especially in view of the statements that have been made from both sides of the House.
The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said that it is technically possible to get into orbit manless nuclear weapons and target them with absolute precision. With the recent developments in United States space technology, the technical difficulties of re-entry have been overcome. Now that those nuclear weapons cannot be tracked, they are an alternative to the deep-sea basing of nuclear submarines. These are horrifying thoughts which underline the necessity of coming to a new understanding of the political balance in the world. The former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Devonport, was right to talk about matters of that sort.
I find it not strange but worrying that the Lord Privy Seal should talk almost exclusively about defence matters. In the last few years international relationships have been depoliticised. Defence has taken over from political considerations. We talk almost exclusively of the military balance in the world and never of the political relationships which are so essential to establishing good international understanding. We have moved from defence as a substitute for foreign relations and foreign policy and we have depoliticised foreign affairs to the extent that we talk about all matters in a defence-orientated fashion.
That is perhaps best illustrated by the attitude of the Prime Minister towards the Foreign Office. It may be no accident that we have the Lord Privy Seal in this House and the Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords. Lord Carrington is often described as the alternative leadership to the Tory Party. Whether he constitutes a dire threat to the political existence of the Prime Minister I am not sufficiently well informed to say, but we are informed of the attitudes taken by the Lord Privy Seal, an he is of that ilk. Therefore, it may be good political strategy to have the Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords rather than the Secretary of State for Defence. There are political connotations that can be built upon that.
In his speech the Lord Privy Seal said that defence is the bedrock upon which our international relations are based. That was an astounding thing to say. Before that he said that the main strand running through the whole of his contribution was security. So we see from all of his statements the orientation of international relations and the presence of defence matters.
The second illustration is the policy, not generally understood, introduced by the Government. There has been quite a shift, almost unique in the world. The Government say that they recognise States but not Governments. It is part of the process of depoliticising international affairs when the Government of one country say that they will recognise all States irrespective of their Government. Relations previously have been based on the consideration given by one Government to the existence of another. This Government have said that they will recognise all States and not distinguish between one Government and another.
That is demonstrated by their recognition of Turkey, although NATO is not prepared to recognise the military regime there, despite the fact that the leadership of that regime is an integral part of NATO. Again that is a curious position. None the less, NATO collectively, as I understand Dr. Luns, has said that the military junta is unacceptable to it. The Turkish military leadership says that by the autumn it will have a new assembly. I suspect that that assembly will consist of nominated people and not of elected members. There is no intention of returning to elected Government in Turkey within that time.
Therefore, to comply with the requirement of NATO, the suggestion is that Turkey ought to have a nominated assembly. That spells out a number of dangers. The Government will continue to recognise the State rather than deal with the non-recognition of the military junta and the policies it is pursuing. Recognising the part Turkey has to play, one can see that is an integral part of the whole of the Middle East strategy. More important, it is an integral part of the containment of the Soviet Union. Turkey holds the key to the Black Sea, the Bosphrus and so on. Therefore, it is an essential element in that part of the world and the way in which military strategy is designed to contain the Soviet Union.
Again, part of the depoliticising of foreign relations is SALT II and what has happened since then. Let us not forget that it is almost two years since the signing of SALT II in Vienna. We can study the various stages since. Not only should we consider Afghanistan and Poland and other events which have disrupted normal relations in the world, but there are other reasons that have distorted developments since the signing of SALT II. Now it is suggested that ratification will not take place. The Labour Party has some ideas as to how we should inject a political dimension into that. Part of our argument for unilateralism on nuclear weapons is an aspect of that injection of a political dimension into what we believe is a political impasse.
To deal briefly with Afghanistan relative to SALT II and the way in which the position of that country is used to make it impossible for Western Governments to ratify the treaty, a study of the history of Afghan events strengthens my argument for ideological co-existence. Sufficient time has passed for us to see the mistakes that were made. As I understand it, no assurances were sought from the West that there would be no military moves in Afghanistan if the military Government toppled. The Soviet troops moved in because of the weakening of the Government. They said that they were responding to a call from the Government for some sort of military cover. The Afghan Government said that they wanted military protection because they believed that insurgent forces were coming from Pakistan and elsewhere. Therefore, they called upon the Soviet Union for support.
It was from that point on that mistakes were made, particularly by the Soviet Union. They should have tried to seek assurances from the West that there would be no military moves which would weaken the existence of the Afghan Government. That was essential at that stage. Let us not forget that there had never been any elections in Afghanistan. Governments were established on the basis of political muscle. Therefore, if the Government were to be weakened by external military muscle, they would naturally seek assurances from their immediate protector. They were a Communist Government; therefore, they went to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union should have sought an assurance from the West about non-intervention to deal with the situation which was developing in Pakistan.
The Soviet Government were obviously worried that, if the West had moved in, this would have weakened the whole of the southern flank, as it is now called, of the Soviet Union. Their fear was that it would perhaps have meant the introduction of hostile weapons, even nuclear weapons, into that part of the world, trained and directed on the Soviet Union. The Soviet Government naturally stated that they would support sympathetically a request from the Afghan Government to move in troops to prevent what was seen as a threat to the Soviet Union arising. The West could have prevented that development by seeking a political solution to the Afghan question. There could have been established a political neutrality. This would have meant the recognition by the West of a Communist regime in Afghanistan. Such ideological co-existence would, however, have prevented a rupture of international relations. Progress could have been made by moving in that direction.
I wish to relate ideological co-existence to the position in Poland. It has to be recognised that the Government in Poland are based on a monolithic party structure of democratic centralism. The nature of that system makes it resistant to external pressures. The greater the external pressure that is applied, the closer and harder the structure becomes. Indeed, the result of constant and consistent pressure from external sources is that the system becomes almost impregnable. The nature of a Communist Government is never understood in the West.
These mistakes are continually made. I do not think that even now the position in Poland is clearly understood. There are those in the West who say that they want to help what they call the free trade unions in Poland. They want, perhaps, to help build a pluralistic system in Poland. They also want to do a number of other things. All post-war history shows that those applying external pressure, hoping to bring about internal changes, merely harden the situation and make the position more difficult for those in Poland who seek changes in the structure of their society.
That is not the case in South Africa. There is a different dimension to the South African situation, based on race and many other different issues. There is not at the moment a monolithic structure in South Africa. That is the great difference. One country is impervious to external influence; the other is not. In terms of ideological co-existence, both sides must recognise what is involved for South Africa and for other African States. I accept that one effect may have been to slow down the process of bringing Zimbabwe into existence. I stick, however, to my theme of the necessity for ideological co-existence.
The issue of Poland and the Polish leadership would be different if the world started to talk about political differences and ideological differences and to establish a situation based upon a recognition of the differences that exist in the world.
The Prime Minister continues to broadcast the message in which she honestly believes—that the Western world in concert could bring about changes in the Soviet Union. All experience shows that such changes will not take place in our lifetime. If the Prime Minister still harbours those hopes, she should forget them as quickly as possible. To suppose that external pressure can restructure the Soviet Union and its society is not realistic. It will not happen.
Likewise, the Soviet Union has no illusions about what will happen in the Western world. It recognises that external influence or pressure will not change United States society. It is recognised that there is no chance of converting its pluralistic society to something else. Brezhnev has made clear that the Soviet Union has no ideological ambitions of that sort. He talked yesterday about the opportunity of bringing about changes in Afghanistan if there could be discussions on the political merits and methods for guaranteeing the existence or continuation of the Afghanistan Communist Government.
The Prime Minister may contend that it is a bitter thing to swallow to ask the Government to be prepared to back the existence of a Government alien to her own philosophy. I understand that approach. Nevertheless, that is surely what international relations are about. It is what foreign relations are about. It is the only process by which the world can look forward to a time when it can start to de-escalate the arms race and the nuclear pile-up. In post-war years, not a single nuclear weapon has been dismantled by negotiation. The weapons continue to pile up. In all the international negotiation that has taken place, there has never been an agreed reduction in nuclear weapons. That is the challenge with which the world has to contend.
My hope is that the Government, assisted by Labour Party leadership, will show that this country is big enough to take initiatives of the kind I have suggested. We should aim for policies based on ideological co-existence. I do not mean simply peaceful co-existence which is the language of the peace forces of the world. We should go further and explore the possibilities for building mutual trust. That trust will come from political understanding.
My hon. Friend is right: we can learn from each other. That is the basis for making progress in the world. We should start to talk about mutuality. Mutuality in a world that is ideologically divided can succeed only if we start to explore those areas where we can achieve political agreement. That can be translated into disarmament and to a slowing down of the nuclear race. It is the positive approach to international relationships. I am grateful for this chance to make that point.
We have been treated in this debate to some magnificent tours d' horizon by hon. Members on both sides. A debate that ranges across the world is not surprising when the world, as the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) remarked, is now confronted with weapons that can be fired from any part of the world and reach any other part, and a world in which satellite communications enable messages to span the globe almost instantly. It has been fascinating to find how a foreign affairs debate can dwell so much on the subject of defence. One begins to wonder whether a Front Bench spokesman on defence should not have been present.
The speeches show how diplomacy has steadily retreated over recent years as wars have taken over from debate. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) is not now present. I was dismayed that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have discovered wars. The right hon. Gentleman recorded how many were now taking place. Herman Kahn, enunciating his escalation theory, listed the number of wars that have occurred since the Second World War. The number runs into many hundreds.
We must be aware that war is with us all the time, even if we are not directly involved. The people of Kampuchea and Afghanistan are aware of war. With respect to the hon. Member for Tottenham, his analysis of Afghanistan was naive in the extreme. To ignore the Russian gunships near Kandahar which are now killing innocent Afghans, is not acceptable in a debate in the House.
It is clear that the chance of an all-out thermo-nuclear war has receded over the last few years. That is not just because of the SALT progress, small as it was in terms of the expectations which we had, but because the threat of Russian Communism takes many forms. It will not only take the form of diplomatic offensives, but of subversion and warfare if it suits it. The total thrust is indivisible in its separate parts. When my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) referred to the possibility of a forthcoming defence review, he said that he hoped that our Foreign Office would be involved in those discussions. I endorse that thoroughly. I hope that it will be involved. The work of the Foreign Office and of the Ministry of Defence are likewise indivisible in securing our defence.
In considering where trouble could come, Europe and, above all, Poland have been tremendously lucky throughout the whole year. If it were not for the fact that, if the Russians entirely took over Poland they might suffer more by having greater threats, to their three pipelines, which supply their armies in East Germany, or—on the economic front—they would incur the responsibility for £20,000 million worth of the Poles' foreign debts, they would have been there long ago.
It is true that in terms of theatre nuclear weapons, on which we rely extensively for the defence of Western Europe, that modernisation must go ahead. We must be part of that consultation. On that wider theme to which we have all referred I should like to look further eastwards towards the area, where, in the days of John Foster Dulles, it was possible to draw a nice, neat line round most of Asia and to say that beyond that physical barrier, Communism must not pass. At that time, China was within that perimeter. Recently I have had the opportunity of travelling extensively in China, where it was fascinating to have my first sight of what is happening to a population which makes up a quarter of all mankind.
A quiet revolution is now proceeding there after all the agonies of the great leap forward and the cultural revolution. It is interesting that that quiet revolution is sponsored by young people who have great expectations that politicians will deliver something good in their lives rather than just play politics. It is interesting, too, to see how China is slowly beginning to emerge as an effective participant in world affairs.
China now presents a major barrier to Russia's expansion into south-east, and, to a certain extent, south-west Asia. That threat to Russia's expansion is something which even people like Mikhail Suslov with his dialectical materialism cannot ignore when he lectures the Poles. The back door, in Siberia, is frail to the Chinese touch if China ever decides that Russia has to be physically deterred.
It is in terms of China's military preparedness that we have to be somewhat careful in believing that it would be able to take any great military action against Russia, if it chose so to do. It has suffered a bloody nose in its defensive war in North Vietnam. The philosophy which was expressed to me in Beijing is that the Russians can come, but they would never be able to leave China.
It is worth making one or two observations about what is going on in China. It is moving slowly towards decentralisation by delegation to provincial levels, but in those levels there are populations of 100 million people or more in most provinces. Some of that decentralisation has already failed and there has been a move back to the centralisation which is indicative of all forms of Communism. There is no doubt that the Chinese are suffering from the bureaucratic rigidity which is called "discipline" in Communist terms. There is even a gentleman who is the chairman of the central commission for the control of discipline—I am sure that that would appeal to the Whips on both sides of the House. That bureaucratic rigidity is the only chance of holding together a Communist society.
I shall exemplify the way in which that system is operating to our detriment. British firms have high expectations of being able to take part in the exploration and recovery of offshore oil in China. It is difficult to contact those who make decisions. In the cause of decentralisation, one of the offshore supplies offices was moved to Shanghai. Now, because it is difficult to get through to anyone in Shanghai, a co-ordinating committee has been established in Peking. Therefore, one has to deal with two groups of people when trying to do the urgent business which China requires in obtaining energy to build up its industrial base.
I hope that our Foreign Office and all our Government Departments will encourage those British business men who have so earnestly been trying to obtain contracts in China. I congratulate those who have. One must face the fact that doing business in Communist China is never easy and often extremely expensive.
I should like to make one comment about the part that the British Government have played. I am sure that the Minister is aware that the Chinese were upset when the British Minister for Trade had to cancel his attendance at the opening of an exhibition in Shanghai recently. One vote in the House is sometimes not worth tens of thousands of jobs across the rest of the country. My hon. Friend is smiling—I see that I have at least his sympathy in that matter.
In the course of developing our trade with China, which we need to do to make certain that the Chinese understand us and that we understand their ways and build up good relationships, it is fascinating to note that the Chinese are making the first hesitant steps towards a mixed economy. I visited some factories where "profit" is a welcome word and where it is also achieved. Bonuses are paid to workers for doing well in their tasks. However, the expectation which we may sometimes have of China being able to move towards a good, rich industrial economy in our lifetime would stretch my imagination at least.
In China there are 300 million people on the land and only 100 million in factories, trying to support a population of 1,000 million. In the development of the nation, we must realise that the Chinese may easily become disheartened at the way in which their standard of living may not rise as fast as that of those with whom they are trying to deal in trade in technological products. I hope that they will not be dismayed or deterred. They still throw labour at problems, when in the West, too often we throw only money. However, the Chinese have a determination of will and a pleasant attitude which augurs well for the good relationships which have developed between this country and China.
It is a delight that the Chinese people are so keen to learn from the English and to learn the English language. My hon. Friend for Devizes (Mr. Morrison), who was with me during that visit, would agree with me on that. I hope that the Minister will consider talking to the BBC about the somewhat poor reception which sometimes deters the people in China in their eagerness to learn about what is going on. The easiest description of BBC broadcasts in China is that they are sometimes like a curate's egg.
For all the good will in China and the hope of developing our relations with the Chinese, they are looking southwards to the Russians on their southern borders, who are encouraging the Vietnamese in Kampuchea. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to consider this delicate and difficult situation, if not this evening, on a future occasion.
The Chinese have elected to support the odious Pol Pot regime, but cannot accept the awful Khmer Rouge massacres. They have made a careful and discreet decision to fight Russian aggression from across the borders in Vietnam. The horror is that Vietnam has been left a starving waste. The soldiers were expected to return to the land and to the factories, to build up the wealth of that ravished country but, instead, there is a growing desert where there should be flourishing agriculture.
In any foreign affairs debate we come back to the relationship with Russia. The Chinese are containing the threat in South-East Asia, but our diplomatic efforts in the Middle East are not recording success. The Russians have moved with military force in a pincer movement around the Gulf States. They have firmly embedded themselves in Ethiopia and Aden and are committed in Afghanistan.
Recently, a new diplomatic philosophy about the area was enunciated by Mr. Brezhnev, when welcoming Colonel Gaddafi. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) is not present after his interesting speech. Only 10 days ago Mr. Brezhnev stated:
Camp David was in fact a first step, though not to a lasting peace in the Middle East but to the knocking together of a military bloc, including the USA, Israel and Sadat's Egypt, spearheaded against the Arabs.
My hon. Friend may have missed that. When Mr. Brezhnev wants the Russians to be included in an
arrangement in the Middle East, we find them already there in theory, hoping to be there physically. The awesome fascination of Mr. Brezhnev's statement is that the Russians are clearly hoping to cut off the Arab oil States from the hope of peace that Camp David offered. I fear that our good friends in the Gulf States have not yet recognised that Russia's growing threat to their future must be faced in parallel with their wish to solve the Palestine problem.
After 1983, Russia will have to import oil, although it is at present the world's largest producer. In about 18 months, it will have to tackle that problem, or its miserable standard of living will further decline. It is advocated in the House, and it is the wish of many Middle East States, that the Palestine problem must be tackled. But to do so without realising the threat from the North could be disastrous for everyone.
In the same speech, referring to his view of past imperialism, Mr. Brezhnev also stated:
History is deciding this matter in favour of the freedom of the peoples. Two-thirds of the States in the world of today are countries who have freed themselves from colonial oppression and imperial dependence.
That is again a play for Arab favour. I cynically wonder whether he includes in the remaining one-third the people of Poland and Kampuchea.
We are witnessing the first steps of a Soviet thrust into the Middle East. The split among so many nation States in the area can only increase the danger of conflict. I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise the Russian initiative and redouble our efforts to help the Middle East to find peace, as that will benefit the whole world.
During my speech I shall pick up some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren).
A foreign affairs speech which seeks, as mine has to do, on even terms with Government and Opposition Front Bench spokesmen, but with less time to reflect a general party position, usually ends up as a kind of laundry list commenting on the most pressing international issues of the day. I may not be able to evade that, but I shall deal first with the general principles of Liberal foreign policy. If the opinion polls are any guide, in conjunction with others, after the next election the Liberal Party could directly influence the conduct of foreign affairs, so we should spell out the changes that we should like to see.
A Liberal-influenced Administration would pursue a foreign policy radically different from that of the Government or, indeed, of the previous Administration. Both have adhered firmly to what they describe as the principle of national interest. It is sometimes further refined and called the principle of vital national interest. It is an ill-defined concept, but one about which we hear a great deal, especially, and at boring length, during the regularly staged and repetitive European debates. The principle can be summed up in the classic remark of the late Dan McGarvey of the boilermakers union during the 1975 EEC referendum, when he said:
If it's a choice between French peasants and Scottish boilermakers, I know whose side I'm on.
The principle rests on the general assumption that foreigners are on the make, but that Britishers are fair and reasonable; hence, to subject Britain to a decision-making process involving foreigners will produce conclusions that lack objectivity—by which is meant conclusions that take
account not only of our needs, but of the needs of others. It is most frequently applied to specific situations. For example, failure to agree a fisheries or agricultural policy completely satisfactory to Britain is seen as a more than adequate reason for rejecting the whole idea of seeking to achieve an economically and politically integrated Europe.
In theory, and in the play-acting of political posturing, the Conservative Party is cast as the Gaullist nationalist who will go his own way, irrespective of others. The Labour party is portrayed as outward-looking and internationalist. However, looking beyond the rhetoric, the practical differences are not great.
On Tuesday a large lobby came to Parliament to urge a much more effective response to the Brandt report. It was deeply critical of the Government. The criticisms were more than justified, though in real terms the Government's contribution to overseas aid is 0·3 per cent. of GNP, compared with 0·4 or 0·5 per cent. under the Labour Administration, which is hardly an enormous difference and does not justify the morally superior attitude adopted by many Labour Members.
The Labour Party's opposition to Europe is in essence an opposition to sharing decisions with people in other countries. The Conservative Party pretends that it wants to share decisions, and, indeed, sends the Foreign Secretary to Hamburg to make melodious speeches to that effect, but it does little in practice.
The hon. Gentleman is making a very interesting speech, but does he not agree, first, that it is not about sharing decisions with other countries that Britain is concerned, but about the fact that other countries make decisions that Britain has to follow? Even if one takes the first point of view, does not the history of the Continent of Europe lend credence to the British fear of being dragged in on the heels of other countries?
I think that the history of Europe teaches us that we should try, in a way that has not been tried before, to knit together those countries and to heal the rifts between them. I believe that it teaches us the contrary of the conclusion reached by the hon. Gentleman.
Both Labour and Conservative Parties over the past two decades have failed to take any real lead in strengthening United Nations agencies. I realise that, looking at the United Nations from what might be described as a European pluralist position, the whole concept is clearly flawed by the dominance of non-democratic countries in the General Assembly. Notwithstanding that, however, the achievements have been considerable. I cite the examples of the search for reconciliation in Namibia, where I had the honour to meet Mr. Ahtisaari and very much admired what he was seeking to do, Cyprus, and beleaguered Lebanon, to which I shall return, in seeking to help the refugees of nationalism and imperialism right across the globe.
My political experience is relatively short, but it spans events such as Hola Camp, Cyprus, the early total rejection by both Labour and Conservative Parties of entry into Europe, the clinging by both panes to the concept of an independent nuclear deterrent, and to the east of Suez concept long after it ceased to have any genuine meaning. I believe that all those errors were founded on this mistaken adhesion to the principle of national interest. That principle still dominates Foreign Office thinking and I believe that it is a basic barrier to international understanding.
Peace and economic stability can be achieved only by the pursuit of general equity rather than national advantage. That means an acceptance of, and an urgency to make work, all supranational agencies. The most damning thing about the present official view of the Labour Party towards the Community, looked at from a Liberal point of view, is not its criticism of particular operations of the Community, but the fact that it does not want the Community to work at all. That I simply do not understand.
In a world which, as Brandt has told us, is spawning people well ahead of resources, thereby creating the classic conditions for totalitarianism and repression, surely the democracies must work to preserve what generations have built up.
In essence, therefore, I wish to see a foreign policy firmly committed to building international links and to strengthening them where they already exist. That means abandoning the mirage of independent deterrents and developing genuine NATO integration. That means working for more common policies within the European Community. It means taking a lead in the development of United Nations agencies.
An interesting proposition was made earlier by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) about the United Nations taking over both the Gaza strip and the West Bank, but I believe that that is asking the United Nations to do something that it has not the capacity to do. That is an example of an area in which there is a need for the United Nations to develop such a capacity, but at present it does not have it. This is where Britain should be leading. It also means giving aid more effectively than we do and giving priority to advancement of the North-South dialogue.
In other words, the Government must ultimately be as much concerned with the French peasant—or, indeed, the Ugandan peasant—as with the Scottish boilermaker. One should endeavour to work not just for selfish interests, but for principles of general equity.
I repeat the basic commitment of the Liberal Party, which I set out in the debate on 24 November last, to the Community, to the effective co-operation of the Atlantic Alliance and to the pursuit of peace and arms reduction with the Soviet Union.
I began that speech by referring to the new situation in China. I was interested to hear the comments of the hon. Member for Hastings about his visit there. My right hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), the leader of the Liberal Party, also recently visited China as a guest of the Government. I am sure that such contacts are of value, both in building up trade, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, and in developing understanding.
As I said earlier, it is difficult to get away from the laundry list. I shall conclude by referring briefly to five specific issues which I believe especially concern us at the present time.
The first is the Middle East. I shall not go into the whole question dealt with by the hon. Member for Westbury. As has been said before, the Liberal position is not very dissimilar from the Venice declaration. I should like to refer briefly to the Lebanon, where, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) rightly said, the situation is exceptionally grave.
I think that it is fair to say that the Lebanon feels itself to be deserted by the international community and that it is in some danger of total collapse as an independent sovereign State. I believe that there is therefore an obligation upon the international community to try to do something about the situation. The Lebanon has become the fighting ground for others and for the problems of others. In many ways it is a classic example of what can happen to a country that has no significant means of defending itself. The PLO is now there in force, because it was thrown out of Jordan by King Hussein. So the PLO fights the Israelis, the Israelis back Haddad, Syria the Muslims, and there is the continual interplay of forces to which reference has been made. Lebanon is the battleground for others.
I believe that the international community should give every possible assistance to the Lebanese Government to reassert their authority within their own country. I also believe that it is in Israel's interest to stabilise the situation and to give encouragement to the Lebanese President in seeking to defuse it, rather than by escalating the conflict with Syria against the background, which is always difficult in democracies, of a general election. What, if anything, are the Government doing about such contacts as they may have with the Lebanese Government, and what offers of assistance, if any, have they made?
The Minister did not refer to the situation in the Horn of Africa, where we are witnessing the most appalling genocidal conflict. Eritrea, after all, was forcibly and illegally incorporated into Ethiopia by Haile Selassie. That situation has been maintained by force, backed by Eastern arms, by a remarkably vicious, corrupt and tyrannical Administration. I should like the Minister to answer two questions. First, does he believe that there is anything that the international community can effectively do about the situation in the Horn of Africa? Have the Government, for example, had any discussions with the Soviet Union about it? Clearly, the Soviet Union's influence and its arms have an effect upon what is happening. What moves are the Government making?
Secondly, have the Government any view on any way of easing the refugee problem? Incidentally, one wonders in this regard whether even at a very informal level the Government ever discuss this with the OAU. The plain fact is that all over Africa the arbitrary borders left by the European imperialists are an active incitement to an endless succession of wars and depressions. We have left a pattern on the map which in most places bears little relationship to the spread of people in their nations and communities throughout that continent.
Can the Minister say anything about Kampuchea,? I talked last week to a Continental politician who had just returned from Kampuchea who painted a horrifying picture. The British Government have made a considerable aid contribution to Kampuchea, and many British people have given a lot through voluntary agencies. My informant said categorically that all aid was regulated and often siphoned off by the Vietnamese. Furthermore, he added that all Western aid was described as coming from the Soviet Union and that no credit was given to the West for the assistance that it had rendered. Has the Minister any information about that? In particular what happens to the aid that the British Government and people have committed to Kampuchea?
I agree with the stress given to the accelerating urgency of the Namibian situation by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. I have only one question to ask. The matter has already been developed by a number of hon. Members, and I suspect that it may be further developed by others. If the present South African opposition to settlement is founded on an objection to a United Nations monitoring force because of its commitment to SWAPO, what consideration are the British Government or the other Western countries giving to circumventing this perhaps by proposing an alternative monitoring force either from the EEC or elsewhere? In the end it is essential to get fair and free elections as quickly as possible. In order to achieve that one should not be afraid to reconsider some of the mechanisms, because in the end they are less important than the achievement of fair and free elections.
Like the Lord Privy Seal, I found both crude and offensive the remarks of the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) about the United States President. It is not at all helpful to make such remarks, but that does not mean that I feel easy or confident about the policies that are likely to be pursued by the Reagan Administration. Have the Government expressed any views to their Atlantic partner about continued aid by the United States to the junta in El Salvador? Such a policy is to be condemned. It is fundamentally misguided.
Although this is a long debate, there is no time to deal with many of the other questions about which our foreign policy must be concerned. Many other hon. Members still wish to speak. However, my essential message is that, as a Liberal, I believe that British foreign policy should be founded on a search, through strengthened international agencies for wider equity, rather than upon the pursuit of the chimera of self-interest. That is often quoted in debate, but, in reality, what do we mean by self-interest? Do we mean the car workers' self-interest, the fishermen's self-interest or the Socialists' self-interest? The only genuine self-interest is for Britain to achieve fair trading patterns and political institutions throughout the Community and the world at large.
I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston). His tours d'horizon in foreign affairs debates are always well informed and rather endearing. Like so many Liberal policies, the hon. Gentleman's remarks reminded me of the Irishman who when asked the way replied "I would not start from here if I were you". Although I am superficially attracted to the hon. Gentleman's delightful and idealistic commitment against national interest, I fear that I must range myself solidly against him, because, in my view, the national interest should be one of the primary objectives of British foreign policy. I hope that Ministers in the Foreign Office will not be deviated from that objective by the hon. Gentleman's strictures.
We should be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for the opportunity that he has given us to debate foreign affairs. However, it is not over-churlish to say that my gratitude is tempered by a sense of disappointment at the circumstances under which the House has been presented with this debate. After all, we are discussing a vitally important subject on a Thursday evening and on a motion for the Adjournment when certain democratic elections are taking place which have commanded the attention of a disproportionate number of our colleagues.
No one could accuse my right hon. and hon. Friends of underestimating the importance of foreign affairs, but perhaps the elitisms of Foreign Office traditions have dictated that the old idea that the Crown and Crown alone shall hold sway over foreign policy has persisted too long. That is perhaps evidenced by the reluctance to give the House what it undoubtedly needs—a full dress foreign affairs debate. None the less, we should unquestionably be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for allocating time tonight, because no one can doubt the supreme and growing importance to Britain of foreign affairs.
Foreign Office Ministers would like nothing more than a series of magnificent foreign affairs debates, attended by practically all hon. Members, but it never seems to work out that way.
I accept what my hon. Friend says. Equally, I am sure that he will agree that the circumstances this evening are not such as to encourage maximum attendance and interest.
The importance of foreign affairs has grown rapidly over the last 10 years. For many obvious reasons, it is a vital subject for Britain. After all, we export a higher proportion of our GDP than any other member of the OECD, including West Germany. The world is shrinking and communications make sure that we are increasingly interdependent. Over the last decade the economies of the developed world have grown at an average rate of about 3 per cent., whereas exports have grown nearly twice as fast, thereby ensuring that world interdependence on trade increases constantly and far faster than the economies themselves.
There are other reasons why foreign affairs are important. Hon. Members will not wish me to enumerate them all. However, I should like to mention two of them. First, in the past 30 years the world has never known a more dangerous time than the present. Secondly, and equally importantly, a disaster is overtaking the countries of the Third world. This week, several thousand people attended a mass lobby and drew our attention to the Brandt report's recommendations. They were all conscious of the dramatic nature of that disaster. Those two considerations are inextricably entwined.
Why is the world such a dangerous place? If I understood him correctly, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) tried to decry the Soviet Union's role in this respect. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if my note of what he said is inaccurate. He said that too often the United States of America was dangerously insensitive to local factors affecting stability, as distinct from the factors affecting stability that are influenced by Russian imperialism. I take issue with the thrust of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. In the past 30 years there has never been a danger spot or an explosive situation in which the Soviet Union has not played a leading, destructive and aggravating role. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) may shake his head and laugh. I defy him to find an area in the world in which that is not true. I accept that local factors often lead to trouble. However, there is not an area in the world in which the Soviet Union has not seen fit to interfere and make things worse.
Many well-informed people believe that the Soviet Union spends more on subversion in Northern Ireland than any other country in the Western world, with the exception of the United States of America.
There can be no doubt that the Soviet Union's dominating influence has a dramatic effect on our consideration of the developing world. Too often, we forget that Soviet aid is never constructive. The Soviet Union spends vast sums of money on supplying weapons and prestige projects and on supporting regimes that are friendly towards Russia and its ambitions. Contrary to much of Western aid, Soviet aid is not directed towards improving the education and economic capabilities of the countries concerned.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that one of the major problems is that the United States of America—frequently with the support of the British Government and of other Western Governments—has propped up corrupt, militarist, Right-wing regimes against the wishes of the people? On many occasions those who are trying to free themselves from such regimes have been attracted towards Russia for aid. If aid had been given by the West, there would not have been any need for Russian intervention.
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should suggest that there is ever a need for Russian intervention. I am sure that the phrase "need for Russian intervention" will be held against him and placed on the record.
All hon. Members will be aware of the disaster that is taking place in the poorer countries of the world. Mention has already been made of Africa and, particularly, of parts of Asia. All hon. Members will agree that on humanitarian grounds and on grounds of security it is vital to ensure that proper measures are taken to build up the nations of the Third world and to help them to build their own economies.
Brandt proposed a solution. No one could quarrel with the proposition that three things are needed if we are to avert the disaster overtaking the Third world. First, an adequate level of education is needed. An economically viable managerial and productive class must be created. Secondly, we need, above all, a period of peace and stability which is based on open trade. It is interesting to consider the Labour Party's statements on this subject.
Many Labour Members support the strictures of the Cambridge school of economists. They call for increasing degrees of protectionism in order to protect, understandably, our domestic industries. However, when Labour Members consider Brandt's recommendations they suggest, in another breath, that we should help the countries of the Third world. They ignore the fact that the most effective way of doing that is to encourage the economies of the Western world to show the openness needed if we are to welcome Third world imports. The Western world should not weaken its economies, but strengthen them. Unless we strengthen them in a way consistent with free trade, Third world countries will be condemned to heavy debts which they will not be able to get out of. We should also condemn them to increasing poverty, because they would not be able to find markets for their exports.
I have tried to bracket together two factors, namely, the danger presented by the Soviet Union and the appalling horrors of the increasing poverty of the Third world. I said that the two were inextricably entwined. There are many reasons for that. For example, Russia is willing and able to interfere in Third world countries for its own reasons. In addition, the Soviet threat has an effect on our policies vis-a-vis the Third world. If Russia did not exist as an imperialist power and if it was a peaceful country. dedicated to co-existence—the type of country that the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) spent so much time trying to persuade us that it was—we would be able to devote a higher proportion of our resources not to security but to developing our economies and encouraging free trade. We would be able to spend less on the forces of destruction and would not have to encourage the export of weapons to the Middle East, which the danger posed by the Russians makes inevitable.
In that context it was interesting that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East did not attempt to answer my question when I intervened in his speech about whether the Labour Party would support the sale of the Hawk aircraft to the United Arab Emirates. He said he would answer but he conspicuously failed to do to so. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will attempt to answer that question because I feel that the workers making the Hawk trainer will be deeply interested in what our apparent substitute Government will do their jobs.
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that in no circumstances would he seek to trade with a country because of its policies? Does he still give approval to those British companies which did much to arm Nazi Germany's army and air force, knowing the threat and what was happening?
Nazi Germany represented a considerable threat to our security. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not agree with that, but I suspect that the 50 million dead in the Second World War would, if they were able, support my contention. There are good reasons for not exporting weapons and high technology to a country which poses a threat to our security.
The friends that I knew well who were politically active in the 1930s were conspicuous for their root and branch opposition to any form of appeasement of the Nazis. I have answered the hon. Gentleman about the selling of weapons.
People talk about peace, but it is like being against sin. Everyone is for peace and against sin. It is colossally naive for those who have spoken so much about peace in the debate and in the lobby on the Brandt report to assume that if we spend less on weapons, the Russians will spend less, too. To make such an assumption is comforting to those who make it. However, it represents a misunderstanding of the nature of Soviet imperialist power.
When my right hon. and hon. Friends consider disarmament—I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal lay such emphasis on that word—they should realise that the only way realistically to achieve it is by the nations of the Western world combining against the Russians. We should say to the Russians "If you desist from your aggressive and destabilising policies throughout the world, we will disarm if you disarm. We as an alliance are united." The SALT II negotiations were full of good intentions on our side. I hope that the same is true of the Soviet Union. It seems that the Soviet Union used those negotiations as a stalking horse to lull the West into a false sense of security—I apologise to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston)—while it continued to impinge on our vital interests round the fringes of NATO.
If we say to the Russians "If you want an arms race, we are richer than you"—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) pointed out—"and if we have the will, as we have, we can outbuild and outrace you" that is a sterile option. We do not want to do that as the consequences would be appalling. However, if we have to do so we shall. We should tell the Soviet Union that there is a better alternative. We do not want to enter into an arms race. If the Russians were to desist from their imperialistic ambitions and disarm, we would follow suit. The economic benefits that we could afford the Russians are incalculable. We know that the Russian economy is in dire straits.
We know that the Russians cannot produce enough fuel for themselves, and that the only part of the Soviet industry that works is its arms industry. A united approach would yield enormous benefits for the Soviet Union.
I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to consider that a united approach by the Western allies is the only way to convince the Russians that we mean business. If they are convinced that we mean business—because of the nature of their power—we can ensure that we achieve meaningful disarmament talks which will lead to benefits not only for Russia but a more constructive and helpful approach to the disasters in the Third world.
There is nothing I should like better than to take a tour round the world calling at the various places mentioned in the debate. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) was excellent. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) that the nefarious activities of the Soviet Union are to blame for all the ills of the world. I am not starry-eyed about the Soviet Union—either its aspirations or activities—but to consider that it should be blamed for every evil that goes on in the world is to ascribe to it superhuman powers that it does not have. The Soviets are ordinary people and make the same mistakes as others, only perhaps more often.
I shall confine my remarks to the Middle East. Europe has a preoccupation with safeguarding oil supplies. One appreciates and understands the difficulties faced by many European countries. It would be more honest, however, if European leaders admitted that rather than try to justify their Middle East policies in terms of high moral principles.
Europe, including Britain, has embarked on a policy of pushing hard for a quick solution to the Arab-Israel dispute. It is imagined that the establishing of yet another Arab State—the twenty-third in the area, to accommodate the Palestinian Arabs—would get the oil exporting countries off European backs. Everyone would heave a sigh of relief and we would all settle down to a quiet peaceful life with the threat of strangulation removed.
I accept that every effort would be made to minimise the risk to the State of Israel. I am sure that almost all hon. Members agree that it would be unthinkable that the existence of the only democratic country in the Middle East should be endangered. However, if something went wrong with that nice little plan I suspect that the sacrifice of Israel would be shrugged off, not with joy in the Western world, but as an unfortunate and unhappy parallel with the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia in 1938.
It is doubtful, to say the least, whether even that disastrous outcome would result in more than a temporary respite in the turbulent turmoil of the Middle East because instability in that area is, unfortunately, the norm in the deep-rooted and deep-seated strife between and among the varied factions, groupings, personalities and ideologies that are the constituent parts of the region. At the moment, the bitter hatred of Israel is the only uniting factor, but the absence of Israel would not bring peace to the Middle East. There is a number of excellent analyses of the situation, and I do not intend to dwell on that aspect of the problem.
I wish to concentrate on British policy and the PLO. The Foreign Secretary believes that we must bring the PLO into our deliberations because, whether we like it or not, most Palestinians regard the PLO as representing their views. It is highly debatable to say that most Palestinians take that view because no alternative has been permitted to the Palestinians. Palestinian Arab nationalism has been concentrated in the military disposition, and moderate opinion has been stifled.
Earlier this year, I had several discussions with an American professor who is spending a sabbatical year in Israel. He went there with a feeling that there was something in the argument that the PLO commanded the support of the vast majority of Arabs on the West Bank, but he thought that he should try to test it out. He spent three afternoons a week for three months in the West Bank, not with notebook in hand, but as a tourist and trying to speak to as many people as possible. He said that he was surprised to find that there was not the support for the PLO that those in the West believed.
Of course, the professor did not speak to students, and some other groups. He confined his talks to shopkeepers, small business men and housewives and he guaranteed that he would not publish the information that they gave him. He complied with the guarantee and said that as time went on he received more information from the people there. His mind was changed and he concluded that there was a great deal of support for a more moderate representation on the West Bank, but that the people were afraid of offending the PLO. We know what that means, because we have seen the intimidation that takes place in Northern Ireland.
The Foreign Secretary believes that we should try to influence the policies of the PLO, presumably to soften s line, but the PLO has now had talks with representatives of a number of European Governments and still maintains that its goal is the elimination of Israel. Recent quotations show the bellicosity of the PLO. At the fifteenth session of the Palestine National Council on 15 April, Mr. Yasser Arafat said:
We are the sole legitimate representatives through the mouth of the gun, the maker of victory for the Palestinian people.
He also said:
Our rifles will create the realities in the Middle East and we will deal with the whole world on this basis.
The Foreign Secretary also says that the PLO cannot be expected to change overnight, and that we must attempt to influence it in the direction of peace. That is a fair comment.
As a parallel, would the hon. Gentleman have suggested at the time when the Zionist movements were fighting for independence in Israel that we should have talked not to the Haganah, but to some of the friendly bodies in London that took a slightly different view?
I cannot equate the Haganah with the PLO. Perhaps one or two of the terrorist organisations could be equated with the PLO, but the Haganah was not a terrorist organisation.
The Foreign Secretary's statement that we must attempt to influence the PLO in the direction of peace is a fair comment, but the question is whether recognition is the right way to proceed. Would it not be better to make the PLO's recognition of Israel's right to exist—not an unrealistic proposition—a bargaining counter before we recognised the PLO?
I would not deny the right of any organisation to play its part in negotiations, but I would deny its demand, in the absence of unintimidated evidence, to be the sole representative of the Palestinians and we should be chary of any organisation whose ultimate objective is the physical elimination of its opponents.
The Foreign Secretary does not accept the parallel between the IRA and the PLO. He is right in that even the IRA does not contest Britain's right to exist. In any case, exact parallels are rare, but there are marked similarities between the two organisations. However, in two important respects the PLO has shown itself to be even more extreme than the IRA. Its victims are always "soft" targets—women and children. Reprehensible as the IRA's campaign is, it often attacks "hard" targets—soldiers, the UDR and military installations.
Secondly, the PLO has killed many more Arabs than Israelis. For example, in the Gaza Strip between 1967 and 1972, 49 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed and 218 were injured. But 312 Arabs were killed and 1,202 injured by the PLO. Among those killed were 50 children.
What should we do about the situation? Postures and polarisation merely produce another deadlock, and slogans are worthless. It is a serious problem and it is correct to treat it with deliberate calmness and care. We are dealing with the rights of two peoples, and I accept that any group that considers itself a people has a right to a home.
However, the equation is not quite equal, because we are dealing with one group that wishes to annihilate another. However hon. Members may regard some of the policies of the Israeli Government—and I am no friend of Mr. Begin—there is a difference between a group that wishes to annihilate another and a group that, with certain qualifications, wants to live in peace.
I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Westbury, (Mr. Walters), who seems to have softened his previous position. I welcome that, and his solution is worthy of consideration. Indeed, it differs little from the measures that I had noted.
However, it is unfair of the Lord Privy Seal to say that 100 per cent. security for one means 100 per cent. insecurity for another. No one can have 100 per cent. security and Israel is not asking for that. It depends on what a nation means by security. For us, security usually means the ability to deter attack and to defend ourselves if we are attacked.
For Israel it means more than that. It means preventing its annihilation. There are those who think that that is an obsession with the Israelis, but we must accept and admit that their experience has led them to consider that the possibility exists that if they lost a war it would be the last war that they would lose because they would be annihilated.
I must disagree with the hon. Member for Westbury about the question of occupation. Every war ends with the victor occupying the other country. I know of no war in which that did not happen. The victor occupies the country until a peace process has been initiated and a peace treaty has been signed. That is the usual course of events and it is no different in this instance. Why should the Israelis be any different from any other people in this respect?
I shall outline some measures that I suggest are not very different from those advanced by the hon. Member for Westbury. First, the diplomatic deadlock should be ended and there should be instituted a developing peace process. Such negotiations take a long time. For example, how long have the troubles in Northern Ireland been continuing? There are many places in the world where situations similar to those in the Middle East have taken many years to bring to a reasonable conclusion.
Secondly, there should be self-administration and determination on a regional basis for the Palestinian Arabs. That should be on the basis of their own determination free from intimidation by the PLO. I think that that is exactly what the hon. Gentleman was suggesting. There should be a regional area of self-administration and control by the Palestinian Arabs as long as their representatives are elected without intimidation.
Thirdly, the issue of final and complete sovereignty should be left open until another day. We must allow a developing process to take place. I have made innumerable visits to Israel and I have received many indications of the feelings of Israelis towards Arabs. I have never had any great regard for Mr. Begin, the present Prime Minister, but it is significant that he chose to direct his invective against not the Arabs but the Germans. Nearly everyone who visits Israel finds that there is no vindictiveness directed against the Arabs. However, a great deal of vindictiveness is inculcated and developed by the Arabs against the Israelis.
I am convinced that the vast majority of Israelis are not interested in territory. Their interest lies in being allowed to live in peace. Of course, there are some crackpots in Israel, as there are in all societies. I am sure that the moment Israel feels that the threat to its very existence has disappeared—it must feel it and no one can tell it—there will be no problem about the sovereignty of Palestinian Arabs.
I am disappointed by the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller). I thought that he was one of the more kindly of our colleagues. It seems that he is totally insensitive to the feelings of hundreds of thousands who have been displaced from their country. My mind was made up on this issue in 1957 when I saw for the first time one of the refugee camps. I find it difficult to reconcile some of the ideas that he has expressed with some of the harder facts that we must all recognise to be true.
The hon. Gentleman gave us two quotations from speeches that were made quite recently. I offer him two back. One is from a speech of Mr. Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel. According to Time magazine of 30 May 1977, he said:
It is inconceivable"—
this is a moderate as described by the hon. Gentleman——
I am glad that that is recognised. He is far from being a moderate. I shall proceed with the quotation, which is in the minds of many Palestinians. Mr. Begin said:
It is inconceivable to us to allow a Palestinian State".
Those were firm and decisive words.
They did not exist.
In the face of such sentiments, it is not altogether surprising that so many Palestinians feel so frustrated and resort to deeds of violence.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not insensitive. Surely he must realise that the antipathy, venom and enmity of the Arabs towards Israel antedates what he is saying by many years.
The Israeli attitude continues. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as everyone else in the House that when resolution 242 was passed it had, at that time, the support of Israel. Surely he must agree that the words and the spirit of that resolution have been flouted time and again by Israel, not least with regard to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories in conflict. It may be that resolution 3236 is more to the point. It was overwhelmingly supported by the United Nations with a vote of 89 to 8. It reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine, including the right to self-determination and national independence.
More recently there has been the Venice declaration. I hope that the Government will stand firm by the words of that declaration. We have a great opportunity, now that we are to take the chair in the Council of Ministers as from 1 July, to make sure that progress is made on the lines of that declaration. However, most of us are not optimistic about progress, unless Israel is made to realise that the suffering that she has caused to so many people cannot be tolerated much longer.
For that reason, it may be necessary to warn Israel that if she persists in her attitude, other countries who otherwise would wish to be her friends may need to resort to economic sanctions. That, I am sure, would be regreted by everyone. Nevertheless time is passing, and it is not tolerable that hundreds of thousands of people who have been uprooted from their homelands should continue, decade after decade, to live in the conditions in which they do.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) spoke about the Brandt report, and I wholeheartedly agree with what he said. The best thing we could do for many Third world countries would be to open our doors to them and allow British people to buy the goods and food that those countries are only too willing to sell us. There was a time in the last century when politicians on both sides of the House used to drink to the toast of "Peace and free trade with all the world". There is a connection between the two. When countries trade freely and to their mutual advantage, the seeds of war cannot germinate. Yet protectionism is gaining ground. Inevitably, it brings friction and ill-feeling between countries that should be friends, because protectionism is a form of economic warfare.
A few weeks ago I was in a country, many of whose sons came to Europe and lost their lives. I speak of Australia. Now there is a different attitude on the part of most Australians to this country. There is a feeling of bitterness. I was saddened to hear disagreeable feelings expressed about this country and the way in which we have caused so many of its people, not least its farmers, to go out of business. In the event of a future conflict, many Australians have been made less willing to come and fight our battles with us.
That is a matter that we must all regret, but it is a result largely of having erected protectionist and unfair barriers against that country. It used to be said that when goods cannot cross frontiers, armies will. There cannot be peace and tranquillity in any true sense, unless there is free trade. History shows that when a country is willing to pursue a policy of free trade, it makes many friends and loses its enemies.
As Lebanon is very much the current focus of conflict in the Middle East it has inevitably figured considerably in the speeches of a number of right hon. and hon. Members. I, too, wish to concentrate on the unhappy situation in that country. As was rightly said by a number of right hon. and hon. Members the ramifications of that conflict are a matter of concern to everyone. It is the current reflection of the long-standing situation in the Middle East which is a danger to the peace of the world and a potential flash point.
First, I shall clarify some of the numerous misconceptions that exist about Lebanon. Anyone who heard the speech of the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) can be under little doubt about the extraordinary misconceptions that exist in his mind and in the minds of other people. The conflict in that country is not simply between Christians and Muslims, as it is so regularly represented in the Western press and as it is regarded in Western thinking generally. It is far more complicated than that, involving complex internal factors arising in no small measure from a semi-feudal society. The position has been worsened, and continues to be worsened deliberately, by the physical and political intervention of foreign Powers anxious only to further their own ends by maintaining instability in the Lebanon The situation is not helped by the bland platitudes of countries which could do much more to end the conflict.
In analysing the situation in the Lebanon, I return to the conflict between Christians and Muslims. It must be remembered that there are three main Christian groupings, which are hostile to one another, and that there is also conflict among Muslims. There are also alliances between Christians and Muslims.
The National Movement, led by Mr. Walid Joumblatt, exists to try to embrace people of all confessions—it succeeds in doing so—and is perhaps the ultimate hope for the Lebanon. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) said of the current situation that it was at the invitation of Christian factions within the Lebanon in 1976 that Syria originally intervened to protect them against attacks. It is one of the heavy ironies of the present situation, when the Syrians are being accused of deliberately attacking Christian communities, that that should be so.
It was the invitation of the Syrians into the Lebanon in those circumstances in 1976 that resulted in the brutal obliteration by the Syrian Army of the predominantly Muslim-Palestinian township of Tel al Zattar on the outskirts of Beirut. However, against that, since the 1975–76 civil war in the Lebanon, Syria has played the major role in the pan-Arab force which was established by the Arab League to try to maintain order in the country. That has proved a heavy military and economic burden upon Syria and has had its repercussions in the internal politics of Syria.
Syria has received precious little support from either Arab or Western countries and we should not be surprised if it has turned for help to the Soviet Union. That is the only quarter from which help for Syria has been forthcoming.
One of the appalling features in the Lebanon is the existence of private armies. Among the Christian faction, Mr. Bashir Gemayel has emerged as the leader of the main private army, that of the extreme right Phalange Party, which is historically modelled—it originated in the 1930s—upon Mussolini's Fascist movement in Italy. It now has the open and total support of the Israeli intervention in the Lebanon. It was that group's attempt to take military control of the town of Zahle after consultations with the Israeli Chief of Staff, General Eytan, who went to North Lebanon to consult its representatives, that was the direct cause of the present conflict.
I was interested in the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) about "peaceful Israel", because no country has a record of intervention in the Lebanon to match that of Israel.
It was shortly after the 1967 war, which was launched by Israel, that the Israeli Army landed at Beirut airport—in a country which had never been at war with Israel—and deliberately destroyed the Lebanese civilian airline fleet. The Israelis have been bombing and shelling and making incursions into the Lebanese territory ever since then, by land, by sea and by air, in a campaign of official terrorism designed to control the south of the country in their interests.
In 1978 there was a full-scale Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon. That resulted in Israel leaving its puppet, Major Haddad, to command what are, in effect, its forces of occupation. Those Israeli-backed forces of Major Haddad have been engaged ever since then—quite apart from other activities—in continuous attacks against the international forces of the United Nations which were put there after the 1978 invasion in order to seek to control the position—something that they have had a very little success in doing.
It is astounding that the world community, which has a responsibility for those international forces, is seemingly so prepared to tolerate this position, because it is not an exaggeration to say that Lebanon today is being used as a battlefield by foreign Powers to further their own objectives in the way that Spain was used as a battlefield by foreign Powers in the late 1930s. The central object of Israeli policy is to maintain the destabilisation of the country in pursuance of its own expansionist policies.
I have here a telegram which I received from Beirut, dated 2 May. It is from Mr. Innam Raad, who is the president of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which is a part of the national movement to which I have already referred—an amalgam of various groupings. I should like to quote the relevant parts of the telegram, because it is significant in drawing attention to the military intervention which has been carried on by the Israelis.
The telegram states:
Israeli air attacks on Mount Lebanon and some villages in the Boukka district is an escalation in aggression … This new aggression is taking place during negotiations held in the Republican Palace for National Reconciliation with the aid of the Syrian Minister for Foreign Affairs where all Lebanese factions were summoned for preparatory hearing. Israel is trying to destroy all political solutions for the Lebanese crisis".
I make no comment on the telegram, which comes from a man whom I have met in Lebanon, and who has very considerable standing within that country. Whether it is in Lebanon today, or in relation to some moves towards an international settlement involving the Palestinians or others, there is invariably some sort of Israeli action which is designed to prevent negotiations from being carried out.
I join in the welcome given by certain hon. Members on each side on the House to the initiative from Washington seeking to involve the United States with the Soviet Union, Syria and Israel, in trying to settle the problem. Indeed, on this very day action is taking place in that direction. What I find disturbing, however, is that in that bringing together of other Powers there is virtually no mention of Lebanon itself. It would seem that foreign Powers are to decide among themselves what is to be the future of Lebanon. That is on a par with the attitude, which has persisted for 30 years, of trying to settle the Palestinian problem without involving the Palestinians.
Amongst the many complexities perhaps the most fundamental is the presence in Lebanon of 300,000 Palestinians. They are there only because they were driven from their homeland by the establishment and the subsequent expansion of the State fo Israel. I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride once again trying to perpetuate the current piece of Zionist mythology that the PLO is not representative of the Palestinian people. Anyone who has met Palestinians in the Middle East, in European countries or elsewhere, knows that they look overwhelmingly to that organisation which they created as the expression of their national aspirations.
The appalling problem of Lebanon is inextricably bound up with the problem of Palestine. Neither of those problems can be settled separately. Until they are both settled there will be endless conflict in the Middle East and endless repercussions world-wide.
I want to suggest some principles upon which courses of action might be based. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) I was somewhat disappointed by the Lord Privy Seal's speech. In the wider context, he said that the Government's policy was to seek to further the relaxation of tension in disputes. He went on to speak at some length about the disputes in the Middle East; but he said nothing positive about any policy in connection with current events. That is disappointing because the United Kingdom historically and currently is exceptionally well placed to play a large role in seeking to relax tension and end bloodshed in the Middle East.
I put it to the Government that the United Kingdom and West European Governments should state plainly that Lebanon, which is the focus of tremendous conflict throughout the region, must be a free and sovereign country in its own right. There can be no talk of partition. The whole history of partition in Palestine, Cyprus and Ireland has proved to be a recipe for disaster rather than for the resolution of problems. Secondly, it should be stated plainly that all countries should desist from military intervention and from policies calculated to maintain a state of destabilisation in that country.
Thirdly, in so far as there is any intervention, it should only be from, and in the name of the United Nations, effectively to seek to sustain the legitimate Government of Lebanon and to allow the country to live in peace within secure borders. It is often said by protagonists of the Israeli case that all that resolution 242 and many other resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly call for is that Israel alone should be able to live in peace within secure borders, but Israel's policy has been one of constant incursion and expansion into the territory of neighbouring countries.
Of urgent and paramount importance is the need to establish the right of Lebanon to live in peace and security behind secure borders. None of that can be achieved without the self-determination of the Palestinian nation, which is inextricably bound up with the whole conflict in the area. If those two vital issues continue to be sidestepped as they have been for so long there can only be endless conflict and bloodshed and a growing threat to the whole of mankind.
I conclude by hoping that we can see something more positive. A slavish following of United States policy by Western Europe is not a solution because there are grave defects in that policy. Western Europe should be taking a more positive initiative. With this country's experience in the area it is better placed than any other Western European country to give a lead.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Watkins) will not mind if I do not follow him in talking about the Middle East and the Lebanon in particular. A debate of this kind is bound to be fairly wide in its coverage. I listened with great interest to his speech. I could not possibly speak with his knowledge and experience of the subject.
Both Front Bench spokesmen have referred to the lobby that took place on Tuesday. It seems appropriate that this subject should be dealt with in the debate. A great many Members were lobbied by people from all over Britain about the Brandt report and the Mexico summit in October. There can be few, if any, Members who were not deeply impressed by the efficient organisation of that lobby and by the great sense of concern shown by those who took part. According to The Times report there were up to 10,000 of them, far in excess of the expected number.
It is said from time to time that there are no votes in aid, but the thousands who came on Tuesday were representative of thousands more who could not come. The concern expressed represented a much wider and growing concern in the community as a whole. I trust that the lobby will have demonstrated that there are votes in aid. The fact that 117,000 copies of the Brandt report have been sold shows beyond doubt that there is a growing and informed body of opinion that will continue to demand a positive and constructive stance from the Government at the Mexico summit.
The people who came on Tuesday will not be content if we in Parliament carry on as before. Some people said precisely that to me. A colleague in the House told me that his constituents asked him what he was going to do in the light of the representations that were made. I dare say other Members were asked the same question. We have a right to expect a statement from the Government on what they will do and what extra commitment they will make in response to the lobby.
Many of the people to whom I spoke had studied the report with great care. There are parts of it that I find horrifying. I was interested and surprised—I hope that I heard him correctly—to hear the Minister of State claim at the meeting in Westminster Hall that the consequences of political breakdown and of the wars and revolutions that have taken place over the last decade were more serious than the problems identified in the Brandt report. The hon. Gentleman will correct me if I have quoted him wrongly. I agree with him.
The full horror of the Vietnam war, the Kampuchean disaster, the Uganda crisis, the situation in Ethiopia and Somalia and other conflicts demonstrate that the situation is serious. I do not underrate any of them. Nor would anyone question the importance that the Minister of State attached to the patient negotiation that takes place week after week, month after month, to minimise conflicts of that kind. All hon. Members were relieved when the Zimbabwe situation was resolved. I submit that the world crisis to which the Brandt report draws attention is far more serious. It is a contributory cause of the very instability that occurs in many parts of the Third world. The aftermath of violence, as in Zimbabwe and elsewhere, calls for similar policies to those needed to deal with poverty and distress arising from other causes.
What are the facts? The population of the world, we are told, will increase by 2 billion in the last two decades of this century to over 6 billion. The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) illustrated in a debate last year the enormity of this increase by stating that the total population of the world was about 2 billion at the beginning of the century. The increase means, in short, that there will be 2 billion more mouths to feed. They will need clean water, homes and supplies of energy. Above all, hundreds of millions of extra people will need employment. It is not as though the world as a whole is anywhere near solving the problem associated with the present population of 4·3 billion. According to the chairman of the World Bank, 800 million people are
below any rational definition of human decency".
Millions of children die every year, many as a consequence of diarrhoea contracted from polluted water. I believe that unless Mexico begins the process, pretty quickly, of tackling those problems we are heading for a major world calamity. Nothing less than a major shift of policy will do. The Government have shown no sign of making such a shift of policy yet. It is vital that they should do so.
What sort of initiative should Britain take? The lobby briefing, produced by the World Development Movement, which deserves the congratulations of the House for the skilful organisation of the lobby, says:
The Brandt Commission report saw no more important task before the world community than the elimination of hunger and malnutrition in all countries.
Many people are struck by the extravagant expenditure by the world as a whole on weapons of destruction compared with the sums spent on official development aid. As the House knows, $450 billion is spent on arms, compared with the miserable sum of $20 billion spent on official aid. There is no logic in that balance of expenditure. It pays no attention to the dangers that, the world faces. I believe that I am right to ask the Government to make a practical gesture to show that they recognise this situation.
I am calling, in effect, for a unilateral gesture—only a modest one—that will show that we in Britain believe that the balance between expenditure on arms and on aid needs to be changed. I propose that we cut our defence ependiture by a token 1 per cent., making that 1 per cent. available for a crash programme to stimulate food production in developing countries, especially in the poorest food-importing countries.
The sum that Britain would offer by such a gesture would be about £120 million. That is not an enormous sum in relation to the totality of our defence expenditure. It could, however, be a sum of great significance when transplanted into developmental work. In his introduction to the report Herr Willy Brandt indicates what could be done by diverting defence expenditure to developmental purposes. He says:
One-half of one per cent. of one year's world military expenditure would pay for all the farm equipment needed to increase food production and approach self-sufficiency in food-deficit, low-income countries by 1990".
Herr Brandt also states:
For the price of one jet fighter (20 million dollars) one could set up about 40,000 village pharmacies.
A modern tank costs about a million dollars: that amount could improve storage facilities for 100,000 tons of rice and thus save 4,000 tons or more annually: one person can live on just over a pound of rice a day".
Such a lead as I am proposing would give the Prime Minister, and the representatives of those developed countries that followed us, the moral authority to ask that developing countries make a suitable response. They will need to devote a much larger part of their development effort to increasing food production, particularly for the poorest groups in those countries. They will need land reform designed to raise productivity and the purchasing power of the very poor. Both developing and developed countries will need to make a significant investment for such policy to have any chance of success.
The Prime Minister is fond of religious quotations, as the House knows. I shall suggest one to her:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah.suggests—and I suggest—the title of a worldwide campaign that could start in this country in preparation for the Mexico summit in October—"Swords into Plowshares". There is no doubt that the hundreds of people who came to lobby the House on Tuesday, and many more who could not, would support such a campaign.
Mention of disarmament at the lobby and in the Grand Committee Room was met with applause. The world disarmament campaign, started by Lord Noel-Baker and Lord Brockway, leading up to the special session of the United Nations on disarmament in 1982, is gathering strength. World disarmament and world development are linked. To what end should we have disarmament? It should be so that they shall not learn war any more, but also so that they can develop the resources of the world for the good of all as well.
I have made those suggestions because I believe strongly that that was the message from the lobby last Tuesday. It is the message of thousands of people who came to the House and thousands more who, for one reason or another, could not be at the House as well.
I shall not follow my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) on his topic of overseas aid, not because it is unimportant, but because it has been well covered. I hope to meet some representatives from my constituency on Saturday who wisely decided not to spend the fares of six people to come to London. They decided to save that money as they could see me in my constituency.
The three points that I shall raise are concerned with South Africa. I wish to recall the recent visit of Bishop Desmond Tutu, the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. He met many people, including Foreign Office Ministers. He is a brave man, speaking for his people inside his country and outside it. Everyone who has met him recognises that he is a man of no bitterness. He is a remarkably moderate and charming man. However, his gentle demeanour should not mislead people. Bishop Tutu is a man of great principle and of resolute character, who will not be silenced.
Immediately after his return to South Africa, Bishop Tutu's passport was withdrawn. It could have been withdrawn by the South African Government only because they were afraid of the message which he was carrying outside South Africa. South Africa likes to pretend that those who oppose the apartheid system from within are either Marxists or extremists, or both, and that they seek only to overthrow the State by violent means. Therefore, they cannot afford to have Bishop Tutu and all that he symbolises outside the country, because that would give the lie to what is happening, in South Africa.
Bishop Tutu is to have an honorary degree conferred on him by Aberdeen university in recognition of his remarkable work as a church leader. I appeal to the Government to intercede so that he may be allowed to come here to receive his degree at the normal graduation ceremony. The Prime Minister takes up the cause of Soviet dissidents and the fact that they cannot travel freely, but if she does not intercede to allow Bishop Tutu to have that high honour conferred on him she will deny the cause of freedom and human rights, which she sometimes espouses with great eloquence.
Secondly, where do the Government stand on the United Nations mandatory arms embargo? In the past week or 10 days there has been evidence of military equipment going from Plessey to South Africa. From photographic and other evidence available to the Anti Apartheid Movement, of which I am chairman, it is clear that the equipment loaded on to the South African aeroplane was Plessey's AR 3D radar system, which is military equipment. The company's document, "Plessey in Air Defence", states:
the system's AR 3D mobile control and reporting units (MCRU) can be geographically arranged as needed to operate under command of the strategic HQ—the air defence operational centre. Mobile radar stations are also suitable for use as tactical sector operations centres, with capability for autonomous control of individual weapons systems allocated to them from the chief operations centre.
That demonstrates that the system is purely military.
The Plessey contract was licensed in about 1976. In 1979, I raised the matter with the Foreign Secretary, who stated that the system would be used by South Africa for combined civil and military air control. Even so, I would argue that it should not be supplied, but that was a reasonable defence and perhaps in such circumstances the equipment did not fall within the mandatory arms embargo. The Government were concerned about what was happening at Plessey. When we raised the question of the licence, we also pointed out that South African military personnel were being trained at Plessey. A letter from the Foreign Secretary of 3 September to Abdul Minty, the executive secretary of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, stated:
Though I do not regard the presence of the SADF personnel as having constituted a breach of the Government's policy of non-collaboration with the South African Government on military matters (since they were here as part of a private arrangement directly between the Company and their customer), to remove any possible misunderstanding we have advised the Company that it would be preferable if in future SADF personnel did not come to this country in connection with the contract.
I understand that no more SADF personnel will come here, but now we have clear evidence, which has been submitted to the Foreign Secretary, that the company is possibly misleading the Foreign Office. I see the Lord Privy Seal shakes his head. I hope that there will be a full investigation and explanation of the facts, because other
deliveries will be required. We have submitted details not only of the company carrying the equipment but of the specific plane.
I hope that if it is clear—and I believe that it is absolutely clear—that this is purely military equipment, we shall uphold the arms embargo and that if, as is implicit in the Foreign Secretary's letter, the Government intend to uphold the embargo, they will stop all future shipments.
The Government should not underestimate the damage that will be caused if they fail to act in this matter. If Britain decides that it cannot uphold international law, applied unanimously in the Security Council, tremendous damage will be done to the future standing of this country in international affairs. People will say—and who can blame them?—that they saw from the Bingham inquiry that British Governments could not be trusted. People put their hands on their hearts and said that such things would not happen again. But if the Government do not uphold the mandatory arms embargo, it will be said that the word of the British Government is worthless. In no set of negotiations in any part of the world where there are difficulties could the British Government expect to be trusted by anybody who might seek their assistance.
My third point concerns Namibia. I was disappointed by the Lord Privy Seal's speech. On this occasion, in contradistinction to the previous foreign affairs debate, he did not say that he would tell us what is the Government's policy on Namibia. He made a rather anodyne statement that things were much brighter than they had been with regard to negotiations for a settlement. I do not know whom he was trying to fool. He certainly does not fool me. I do not believe that anyone concerned with Southern Africa believes that the future for a negotiated settlement in Namibia is brighter than it was before.
In the context of what is happening in Namibia, it is worth recalling and putting on record the fact that only last month we celebrated the first anniversary of the independence of Zimbabwe. We should also recollect, and be proud of the fact that the many fears expressed about what might happen in Rhodesia after independence have not been borne out. It is instructive and relevant to the debate to recollect and to state clearly that the way in which Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo have behaved since the country of Rhodesia became an independent Zimbabwe has been exemplary. It has been a lesson to all who believed, that after many years of UDI and of bitterness, there could be only a slaughter of innocents and of whites. That has not happened. The spirit of reconciliation that is abroad in Zimbabwe is a lesson to everyone who believes that one cannot move from a position of domination into one of independence.
It is also worth recalling, because we heard echoes of it today from the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), what Conservative Members were saying during the years of UDI. There were those who came back from that country and told us incessantly that in their experience the people waging war in Rhodesia had no support inside the country. They told us that within the country the Smith Government or the interim Government or whatever it might be called were really on top of the situation. They said that the real popular support of Africans in Rhodesia was for Bishop Muzorewa, Mr. Sithole and Chief Chirau, that they were the real leaders of African opinion in Rhodesia and that we should listen to them and not take into account the views of those whom they described as terrorists and Marxists.
Not for the first time, and I dare say not for the last, I remind the House that if successive Governments had only listened to some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself and taken our advice, the future of Southern Africa might have been very different. If only they would listen to our advice even now, the future of Southern Africa could be different. There would have been less loss of life, less maiming, less chaos and less difficulty and disruption had they only listened to us instead of listening to the siren voices of the Right which told them everything would be all right.
The Government refused to take our advice on Angola, and the Angolans won freedom from Portugal. They refused to take our advice on Mozambique, and again the force of arms prevailed. They refused to take our advice on Zimbabwe and are still refusing to take our advice on Namibia. Their failure to do so is due in part to the subservience of British Governments to South Africa.
It is now 15 years since the United Nations General Assembly terminated the League of Nations mandate on South Africa. It took ten years before we had resolution 385 on the withdrawal of South Africa and for elections under United Nations supervision. But because things did not seem to be moving, the so-called contact group of the Western Five was established, which launched its initiative in 1977 with the aim of implementing resolution 385.
Those of us who take a special interest in Southern Africa warned even then that that initiative would come to nothing. Indeed, we are now further away than we were in 1977 from achieving a peaceful solution and proper elections in Namibia. Since 1977, South Africa has become even more aggressive against the surrounding countries. I give one example. In 1978, the South African defence forces went into Angola in a raid on Kassinga, when 800 refugees were killed and hundreds left injured. Recently, almost as part of the South African election campaign, there have been further raids into Angola and Mozambique. The soldiers who went into Mozambique attacked an African National Congress house, cut off the ears of the black Africans and took the ears back to prove that they had done their job properly. That is the sort of country which has been given all kinds of support throughout the years. The situation is even more dangerous now because of the activities of the Reagan Administration and the way in which the British Government appear to be following their sway.
Indeed, South Africa has now completely reversed the position it held in 1977. It is worth while quoting from a document called "South Africa: History", which is the official year book of the Republic of South Africa. It is published and compiled by the South African Department of Foreign Affairs and Information, and printed in the Republic of South Africa. It is the authoritative historical document put out by the South African Government. Page 25 states:
an agreement between South Africa and the five Western powers for a settlement of the South West Africa/Namibia problem was negotiated. It was accepted by South Africa on 25 April, 1978. The agreement provided for free elections in South West Africa/Namibia under United Nations supervision. The purpose of the electoral process was to elect representatives to a Constituent Assembly which would draw up and adopt a constitution for an independent and sovereign Namibia. Authority would then be assumed during 1978 by the Government of South West Africa/Namibia.
That clearly states that the object of the electorate was a constituent assembly which would then draw up a constitution. But that is not South Africa's position now. South Africa is now saying that it wants a constitution settled before elections.
There is a further astonishing statement on page 26. After referring to the Security Council's adoption of Resolution 435 on 30 November 1978, it goes on to say:
Following consultations between the Constituent Assembly,
South Africa arranged elections for that Constituent Assembly in the interim period. Members were not elected under the supervision of the United Nations but under that of South Africa. The quotation continues:
and the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, the Secretaary-General was informed on 22 December that South Africa would co-operate in the speedy implementation of Resolution 435. The Special Representative was requested to visit South-West Africa at the earliest opportunity to complete consultation on outstanding matters concerning the implementation of the settlement plan.
The following sentence takes the biscuit:
With regard to the election date, South Africa declared its absolute commitment to a date which would not be later than 30 September 1979.
The Lord Privy Seal told us that hopes for a negotiated settlement of the Namibian problem were brighter than ever before.
The hon. Gentleman should have listened to what I said. I said that as a result of the veto prospects for a settlement were brighter than they would have been if we had tried to get a settlement through sanctions or through economic or military pressure.
I am sorry that the Lord Privy Seal feels that I have misquoted him. If I did misquote him I withdraw what I said. I accept that he says that he believes that the prospects for a settlement are brighter as a result of the veto. However, that does not make things any better.
He has exposed the weakness and bankruptcy of his thought. Since 1977 there have been intense negotiations and discussions. I hope that I am not misquoting the right hon. Gentleman when I say that he was forced to admit that the recent Geneva discussions failed because South Africa did not want an agreement. Therefore, I do not know how prospects can be brighter.
South Africa has always believed that when the crunch came the British, French and American Governments would put their self-interest first and would not seek a proper solution. Year after year South Africa has become more aggressive and confident in its approach. It rightly recognises the underlying weakness of the Government's position. It knows that Britain would never impose sanctions beyond the mandatory arms embargo. I have received information that has also been reported in the press. I cannot verify it, but apparently the African countries were willing to compromise yet again. They were willing not to have a vote in the Security Council. Until the last minute they were prepared to let hope triumph over experience and to give the Western group of five another last chance to resolve the issue by direct negotiations with a recently elected South African Government.
There is a difference of opinion as to whether resolution 435 was a dead letter or in dead water. However, it comes to the same thing. It is clear that the American assertion that resolution 435 was no longer of importance provoked the Africans to insist on a vote in the Security Council. The way in which the veto was cast demonstrates that the British Government have learnt nothing from and forgotten nothing about their experiences in Africa. All three Governments are obsessed with the idea that Soviet intervention and influence are responsible for the difficulties in Southern Africa. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) is not in the Chamber. He gave us a litany. He said that the Soviet Union was responsible for every trouble spot. I remember reading a book recently which was published in 1919. It said exactly the same thing. Every bit of trouble in China, Ethiopia or anywhere else at that time was caused by Moscow. We still hear the same phrase trotted out now. It is clear that in East-West relations the way in which foreign policy is regarded by British and American Governments means that no sacrifice by the people of Namibia or South Africa will be too great to satisfy American policy. Those countries are paying the price for the delusions concerning the South African Government's serious intention to have proper independence and proper elections in Namibia.
The interests of the indigenous population should be of paramount importance. We have never recognised that in the past. We have always regarded foreign policy either as an arm of defence or an arm of self-interest in economics. For once we must take a different course. The House knows where I stand.
I continue to give my full support to SWAPO, the African National Congress and other liberation movements in their fight for freedom. I gave my support unstintingly in the years of UDI when those groups were forced to fight. I would do the same now. Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau have shown that if the ballot box is not available, freedom will be won by armed revolt despite the odds. People will fight until they win. Zimbabwe has shown that people will fight until the opportunity of the ballot box is available. As soon as it is they will take the opportunity and cease fighting.
Those are the two lessons. First, people will fight until they win if nothing is left for them. Secondly, given the opportunity, they will take the peaceful solution. Zimbabwe has shown that peace and reconciliation are prizes worth achieving. The triple veto in the United Nations Security Council can only be seen as a decisive shift by the Western Powers towards South Africa. That was argued strongly by the right hon. Member for Pavilion.
That veto has set back for a long time the possibility of a peaceful solution in Namibia. South Africa has delayed the possibility of a real change. As the years go by with continued massacring by South African troops, people dying and the refugee problem growing, I hope that the Prime Minister, the President of France—whoever he may be after Sunday—and the President of the United States will recognise their responsibilities. They will be unable to sleep easy in their beds because, as in the past, they will be directly responsible for grievous loss of life. History will not forgive them if they continue along the path which has produced such disasters.
I stand somewhere between my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). The South African system is as near the Soviet system as any so-called Western country can be. The vast proportion of the population of South Africa can live only where the Government allow them to live, they work where the Government tell them to work and, in general, they have as small a chance of voting or making political choices as have the population of the Soviet Union.
I was telephoned by a South African newspaper and asked about my reaction to the South African elections. I said that my first reaction was that it was an election in which most of the population played no part. That must change, and it will change. In the meantime, it may follow the lines that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North suggested. I hope that it does not.
Before the last general election in this country and the election leading to independence in Zimbabwe there was a letter in the Washington Post, which ended:
The election in April"—
that is the election in 1979 in Zimbabwe—
will not end Rhodesia's escalating war and will not provide the basis for a stable and democratic society. That can only occur when all political and population groups participate freely in elections based on a democratic constitution.
That letter was signed by Bruce Grocott, Lord Avebury and myself. Anyone who suggests that every Conservative Member was arguing dogmatically for recognising Bishop Muzorewa or lifting sanctions is wrong.
It is important that there should be the opportunity in more countries for all political groups to participate and for all the people to vote. That is a common theme for the countries behind the lion Curtain, and in the rest of the world it links the West Bank, El Salvador, Namibia and Angola.
The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) mentioned the Brandt report. When I talk about the report I always refer to the missing chapter—the fact that most refugees are displaced because they come from countries where it is not possible to change the Government, the political system or the economic system without war or famine. Most refugees are the result not of wars between countries, but of internal conflicts. If we are to give attention to the reasons behind the Brandt report and the talk of trade and aid, dialogue and interdependence, we need to make sure that democracy is not a luxury that only the industrialised West can afford.
A reasonably democratic election in El Salvador in 1972 was overturned by the military Government. We cannot except much help from the Eastern world, but if the West had forced the military Government to allow Napoleon Duarte to become President—and the people of El Salvador had voted for him—the growing distress and misery in El Salvador would have been vastly diminished. Not all the problems would have been solved, but it would have been a great step forward. We should aim to get elections in El Salvador as soon as possible.
I disagree with the Labour Party, which says that Dr. Ungo is the only person to support and the EDR is the only group to support. That is not our choice. We should encourage the de facto Government and the democratic parts of the opposition groups to come together and recognise that whatever happens the extreme Right must not take power and that the only way to dampen down the violence from the extreme Right, the extreme Left and Centre is to give people a choice that is relatively acceptable to all, even if some parties will lose.
How can that solution be achieved without supporting one group at the moment, so that we can get elections? It appears that the Americans are determined to support Duarte and the junta, to the exclusion of everyone else.
It does not matter too much what we see the Americans as trying to do, because they are occasionally two-faced. I go no further than that. Many groups in the United States believe that it must be seen to be in the interests of the groups in El Salvador for them to come together and hold elections in which each runs the risk of losing.
We must also aim for that process in Namibia. I do not believe that United Nations resolution 435 has all the answers. Both SWAPO and the DTA must recognise that whatever the results of the elections to the constituent assembly neither side can be excluded even if one side manages to get more than 50 per cent. of the vote.
I believe that the South Africans have been doing their best, deliberately or otherwise, to turn every nationalist into a Marxist. That is not because black nationalists want to be Marxists. However, they will receive help from that quarter if they are forced away from democracy and are not given the democratic option.
The change in South Africa will come about from within South Africa, and it will not be helped by the imposition of sanctions. South Africa will regard sanctions as a one-way street. They will say that sanctions will not be lifted whatever changes are made along the road towards independence for all the people of South Africa. Sanctions will be counter-productive, especially at the moment.
I visited South Africa in the autumn of 1980. I was impressed by the number of young white South Africans, both Afrikaaner and English-speaking, who were working with young blacks and helping their education. These are informal groups which should be supported and which show some sign of hope for the future.
I do not want to build too much on the results of the recent elections in South Africa. However, in the next two or three years South Africa will be able to get rid of the Namibia problem by having elections, which SWAPO may win. That requires South Africa to be willing to accept a SWAPO win. There would then follow about 10 years when there would be little outside help for incursions into South Africa by the black nationalist groups of South Africa. The South Africans have everthing to gain and nothing to lose by substantial economic development in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia.
We do not help ourselves by always criticising all South Africans. If the reality is that change will come from within South Africa, and in the main from within the Nationalist Party, we need to maintain contact with its members, provide encouragement and use what influence we have. At the same time we must remember that they are the ones who have the power and that we do not.
There are others who have more expertise in Middle East affairs than myself. However, I shall report on my visit to the West Bank and to the refugee camps in Jordan and the Lebanon. It was clear to me that the Palestine Liberation Organisation represented the political wishes of the Palestinians. I do not say that all Palestinians support armed struggle. I do not think that the PLO stands only for that. However, it must be said that the PLO represents the Palestinians. Until there is time for the Palestinians to participate in elections, when another group may say "We think that we can represent you better than the PLO", we must accept that the PLO is the main group that represents the Palestinian interests, ambitions and points of view.
Britain has enormous influence throughout the world. In part that is because of the successful settlement in Zimbabwe, for which I pay a great tribute not only to the British Foreign Office, but to the neighbouring States which played their part in the resulting conference, which led to a constitution and elections, which in turn have led to a far better situation in Zimbabwe than even I was willing to predict at the time of the elections.
In addition to the Foreign Office, we have the BBC World Service, which conveys a balanced portrait of what is going on in the world. It divides news from comment. I 'hope that it will make its world service audible in most places throughout the world. At present it is often inaudible, whether in Central America, Southern Africa, the Middle East, or the Far East. Many other countries that broadcast world services in English are copying the style, format and pattern of programme of the BBC World Service. They are even copying its voices. It is sad that most of the other world services are far more audible than is the BBC. There is no excuse for any Government to tolerate the low level of transmission power that makes the World Service difficult to find and to hear.
We have an important role to play as a Government and a country throughout the world. It is important that we maintain our traditional role of giving hard information and making informed comment. In that respect we are world leaders. When I go abroad next, I should like to be able to hear the voice of Britain more loudly than I did on recent occasions.
I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate. I shall concentrate on the Middle East and, in particular, on Lebanon and the plight of the Palestinian people. Historically, we have a responsibility to the Palestinians, and our Presidency of the Council of Ministers this year will give us an opportunity to seek to redress some of the wrongs that we have done to those people.
Like many hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in the debate, I have made many trips to the Middle East. With the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley), I visited the Middle East recently. I want to refer to a comment that he made. One thing that becomes glaringly obvious to anyone who visits the West Bank, occupied Palestine, is that the Palestinians there are living under a very harsh occupation by the Israeli forces. Despite that occupation, they support the Palestine Liberation Organisation as their representative. In fact Palestinians throughout the Middle East recognise the PLO as their spokesman.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Watkins), I shall say a few words about Lebanon. We all hope that that country will return to normality. However, once normality returns, difficulties will remain, and it will be for the people and the forces of Lebanon to decide how to deal with them.
One thing is clear, and that is that the Syrian Arab deterrent force is there by invitation of the legally elected, democratic Government of Lebanon. On a number of my visits, I had the privilege of meeting President Sarkis of Lebanon, who emphasised that the Syrian peace-keeping forces are there at his request, and he insists that they stay there. That is why I welcomed the comment of Lord Trefgarne, the Under-Secretary of State for Trade, in answering questions in another place. He made it clear that the Government of Lebanon are urgently seeking a political settlement of the present crisis. He said:
We believe the role of the international community should be to support them in these endeavours and to uphold the authority of the legitimate Government."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 6 May 1981; Vol. 420, c. 131.]
Clearly, the Syrian intervention is at the request of the legitimate Government of Lebanon. The British media, in suggesting that the Syrian peace-keeping force is attempting to annihilate a small Christian enclave around the town of Zalhe, are misleading the British people. Gemayel and his Phalangist forces are attempting to draw a curve round Beirut itself and join up with Major Haddad's forces in the south. If the Syrian peace-keeping forces had not intervened, instead of the Christians being pounded, the Lebanese and the Palestinians might have been pounded by the Phalange and the Haddad forces.
The comments of American Secretary of State Haig that there was an urgent need for a force to bring peace to Beirut because of his concern about the fighting between the Phalange and the Syrian peacekeeping force was a serious attempt to mislead people throughout the world. He made no effort to condemn the daily raids by United States Phantoms the Israeli military forces in Southern Lebanon who, with their artillery and air power, were themselves attacking Christian Arabs. Everybody seems to be concerned about the Christian Phalangists but not about the Christian Arabs or the Palestinian and Muslim Lebanese who are being attacked and brutally murdered in Southern Lebanon. It would be dangerous to support the comments by the United States Secretary of State without drawing such points to the attention of the world.
We must distance ourselves from the comments by the United States Secretary of State on his recent visit to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia made it plain that it could not agree with Washington's view on joint security proposals for the region. It made it clear that there can be no direct military co-operation without significant progress towards an Arab-Israeli settlement involving, as it must, Israel's withdrawal from Arab lands and self-determination for the Palestinians. The Saudis argued, rightly, that the Palestinian question must have priority and that the Soviet threat was a remote possibility. On the other hand, they believed that the Israeli occupation of Arab land was a living reality, sustained in no small way by United States military and financial support.
In the last few days we have seen the other side of the sick and distorted mind of Israel's leader. It is distressing that someone with such a sick and distorted mind should be Prime Minister in an area which is so volatile. Premier Begin attacked not only Chancellor Schmidt but the German people, according to media reports. In a radio interview he said:
I have never forgiven the German people as a whole. I will never forgive them because they bear a collective responsibility.
I hope that no hon. Member will suggest that we should agree with that statement. Whether or not all the Nazis have been rounded up, we cannot demand that the German people should keep on paying for something which happened 30 or 40 years ago. The efforts of the German people must be recognised.
People of my age do not expect young Germans born during the war to bear any responsibility for what happened to the Jews under Hitler. Everybody will wish to dissociate himself from Begin's comments. However, they give us some understanding of the mind and thinking of the Zionists in Israel. They are also a warning that if we do not do something soon that area could bring the world into conflict. I am talking not necessarily of nuclear conflict but of a conflict which would not assist people striving to further detente and relations between countries.
I wish to concentrate on the Palestinian people and the initiatives that I hope that Britain will take when we have the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. I welcome the Foreign Secretary's statement that he is willing to meet Mr. Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee. The PLO has responded to that statement and has advised the Foreign Office that it considers that such a meeting will be a useful and constructive step by Britain and the EEC. I hope that such a meeting will take place as soon as possible.
We should be less than honest if we failed to express some reservations which many, including the PLO, have about the trend of the European initiative. We all recognise the Venice declaration as being a first step forward by Europe, which has traditionally supported the Zionists, but we are disappointed that the EEC failed to match the general principles which have been put forward in the United Nations General Assembly with regard to the Palestine question. Nevertheless, we had hoped that the Venice declaration would lead to a more positive position being taken by the EEC. The Palestinians, and those of us who have worked with them, expected that the EEC would formulate some concrete proposals.
The continued failure of the EEC to make a firm commitment to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and to recognise the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, can only serve to give heart to the Israelis and to appease their intransigent position.
The Prime Minister's statement in Washington, in which she assured President Reagan that Britain will not recognise the PLO, was not helpful. By her statement she is placing limitations on the EEC initiative. The adoption of the position expressed by the Prime Minister must make us question whether the European initiative is to be genuinely independent of the Americans. That is the point that I wish to stress to the Minister, and I hope that he will deal with it in his reply.
If the EEC initiative is to have any chance of success, it must be seen clearly to be independent of the United States, and certainly independent of the Camp David accord. I should like to express some comments concerning the direction in which the European proposal is developing. Although the contents have not been published, they have been made available to various sources, including the press, and the PLO have been made aware of them.
Part of the EEC proposals centres on holding a referendum of the Palestinians, but I am bound to express certain reservations. The EEC is proposing that a referendum should be held among those Palestinians Living under occupation in the territories seized by Israel in 1967—the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
I should like to make four points in respect of a referendum. First, we are entitled to ask why the EEC feels that it has a right to raise in the referendum such matters as the federation with Israel or Jordan, as options to Palestinian self-determination in an independent sovereign State.
On 2 February King Hussein of Jordan graciously granted an audience to a delegation of hon. Members from each side of the House. He stated specifically to the delegation that the Jordanian option was a non-starter, and that any association or federation with any Palestinian State would first have to be discussed and decided by that independent State, before being raised with the Jordanians or any other State with whom it wishes to form an association. It is not right for the EEC to suggest that that should be part of a referendum.
Secondly, we must be concerned that the EEC is seeking to remove the PLO from the equation. In the EEC plan, the PLO is not to provide the transitional authority from occupation to independence, nor is the PLO to supervise the referendum. Instead the Palestinians are viewed in a colonial fashion as being incapable of making their own referendum or transition.
I do not need to remind the House that the Palestinians are among the elite of the Arab world in terms of high-level manpower and responsibility. Palestinians throughout the Arab world hold some of the most responsible and influential posts, yet the EEC seems to believe that they are incapable of determining their own future.
Thirdly, I question the suggestion from the EEC that the referendum should be supervised by a force which includes the Israelis and the Egyptians. Far from removing the prospect of intimidation, who is more likely to intimidate the Palestinians than the Israelis and the Egyptians? That is certainly not a position that we would have accepted in regard to Zimbabwe. We could play a role in the referendum, and the United Nations would be the most suitable body to conduct it. Certainly the Israelis and the Egyptians could not be allowed to play a leading role in such a referendum.
Fourthly, we must have strong reservations about the proposal to divide the Palestinians. The proposal is that there should be a division between those who live in territories which were occupied in 1967 and those who were exiled from their homeland in 1948. I see this as a move designed to divide the Palestinians. The Palestinians are one people; they have common rights and common problems which unite them. The future of their homeland is of common interest to all Palestinians. The EEC proposal for a referendum for Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza seems to be intended to set Palestinians against Palestinians.
I welcome the Minister's intervention. He must be the only person who does not believe that the EEC' had and still has proposals. Whether he is prepared to discuss them during this debate, I do not know. Anyone who has been involved in the Middle East feels that there are proposals and that a document was circulated. If the Minister says that there is no such document, I shall have to accept that he is being honest with the House. Certainly, the Palestinians and those of us who are involved with the Middle East believe that there were proposals. I am trying to suggest that those proposals, if they exist, would in no way assist the settlement of the Palestinian question. I should be happy to know that they did not exist.
Proposals have been put forward by the Palestinians for resolving the question and moving towards a settlement within the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians have said that one way of resolving the question would be for Israel to withdraw from all occupied Arab territory, including Jerusalem, and entrust it to the United Nations for six to 12 months. During this period the United Nations would co-ordinate with the PLO to prepare the ground to enable the Palestinians to practise their right to self-determination, which includes the right to establish an independent Palestinian State.
Secondly, the Palestinian people could decide on national independence by establishing their own independent State, and the United Nations could announce its formation and take the necessary steps, in collaboration with the PLO, to establish the State and accept it as a member of the United Nations.
Thirdly, the United Nations could convene an international conference under its supervision and auspices with the following participants: the Governments of the United States and the Soviet Union; representatives of the EEC countries; the concerned parties in the Arab-Israeli dispute, including the Government of the Palestinian State. The objectives of the conference could be the resolution of any major problems which were pending and, to ensure no disagreement as to who would take the chair, it has been suggested that the Governments of the United States, the Soviet Union and the EEC countries could take turns at chairing the conference.
The problems which the conference is unable to solve could be referred either to the United Nations General Assembly or the International Court of Justice for a decision binding on all parties. I suggest that those proposals, if pursued by the Foreign Secretary, could be a means towards establishing a Palestinian State which would bring peace and security to the Middle East.
In establishing that State, it also has to be said that there are certain things which are paramount. There are legitimate rights which are usually summed up as follows. There is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to return to the homes and property from which they have been displaced. This principle should not be limited by time. It applies without distinction to the refugees of the 1948 Palestinian war and the 1967 Middle East war. It applies to the thousands of Palestinians deported from their homeland between and after the wars. It applies to their right ——
It applies to their right to return to their homes and property, wherever they may be in Palestine. The second right is that of self-determination in a sovereign independent State without external interference. There can be no room for negotiation on matters such as autonomy and what it means. The principle of self-determination and the concept of a sovereign independent State are beyond discussion. There can be no compromise on this. It is the right of a free and democratic Parliament and a Palestinian Government to determine the internal and foreign policies of the independent Palestinian State, not for the United Nations, the EEC or anyone else.
Thirdly, the Palestinian people themselves have the right to choose who will represent them. The Palestine Liberation Organisation is the choice of the overwhelming majority. It has been recognised by the United Nations General Assembly as their sole, legitimate representative. Those hon. Members who have visited the area will confirm that the PLO is supported by the rank and file of the people, whether they live under occupation or in exile. Therefore, the status of the PLO must be recognised, particularly by the EEC.
We also must accept that the EEC and the British Government have placed certain conditions on the Palestinians prior to recognition. The EEC demand, first, that the PLO should recognise Israel and, secondly, that it should recognise the right of the State of Israel to exist in return for Israel's recognition of the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. I am sure that the whole House would agree that the first condition requires that the problem should be put upside down. It requires the Palestinians, who have been the victims of aggression, to recognise their aggressors, Israel. How would PLO recognition of Israel advance the cause of peace when conflict is the result of the Zionists' refusal to recognise the Palestinians' rights in Palestine?
With regard to the second condition, mutual recognition is surely the last step in the solution rather than the first. The relations of a Palestinian State with all the States in the region must be determined by the Palestinian State itself. That is the essence of recognising the sovereignty and independence of a Palestinian State. The subject of mutual recognition should not be the first item on the agenda. Good relations between States can be only the end result following the resolution of all outstanding issues.
All hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, particularly on the Middle East question, will be interested to hear from the Minister that when the Foreign Secretary becomes President of the European Council of Ministers he will meet the chairman of the PLO, Mr. Yasser Arafat. Already the Foreign Ministers of Italy, Austria, Luxembourg, Holland, France, Switzerland, the Vatican and Spain have met the acknowledged Palestinian Foreign Minister, Mr. Farouk Kaddoummi. Mr. Arafat has had official meetings with Heads of State or Foreign Ministers of Luxembourg, Holland and Austria. He met Chancellor Kreisky of Austria two days ago in Saudi Arabia.
I would urge that the meeting between the noble Lord and Chairman Arafat should take place in London. Our historical role in Palestinian affairs means that a meeting anywhere else would be regarded as a meeting of no significance in the sense of a move by Britain towards recognising the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I hope that the Minister will impress upon his noble Friend that any meeting should take place in London.
Any initiative by the EEC must be seen as an independent initiative. We must be seen to be distancing ourselves from the American Camp David accord that has clearly failed. I am sure that the majority of Arab States have made clear that they expect the EEC initiative to be independent and that there will be no need to wait for the United States to make up its mind. The first priority must clearly be a recognition of the Palestinian question and the rights of the Palestinian people.
I hope that the Minister will confirm that there is a commitment to resolve the real problem of the Middle East, which is the Palestinian problem.
I am aware that many hon. Members are anxious to be in other places for other purposes. I shall make my speech as brief as possible. I apologise to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, who is not at the moment in his place, and to the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) for not attending the opening of the debate. My presence in another part of the building was unavoidable. I had not intended to speak, but I have been provoked to make what I hope will be a constructive intervention on the Brandt report and to reply to what I can only describe as a most provocative speech by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) on the subject of Southern Africa.
Anyone listening to this interesting and broad-ranging debate will realise that all hon. Members operate from different maps of reality. The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) operates from a detailed, almost half-inch ordnance map of the Middle East and Lebanon, a subject on which he is obviously a great expert. My map of that area is very different. It was formed from the cockpit of a Spitfire in 1945. It is obviously out of date. I shall therefore not attempt to challenge the hon. Gentleman's observations or conclusions.
Every hon. Member, I believe, has been lobbied by well-informed, earnest and idealistic people who have expressed the view, heard again in this debate, that we live in a most imperfect and unsatisfactory world in which the developed nations and many others spend a vast and most undesirable proportion of their wealth on armaments and that it would be a better world if that was not the situation. I am sure that this proposition would find unanimous support on all sides of the House. The question that arises is whether it is realistic. I do not think that it is realistic.
All hon. Members who have heard the debate on this subject know that it is one thing to say "Let it be done". It is a very different thing when the world is divided into nation States, all immensely suspicious of each other, or, as the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), who made an interesting speech, remarked, so concerned with narrow interests that they wear spectacles that reveal only those narrow interests. As nations, individuals and groups, we have the greatest difficulty in seeing the general interest, the equity and the world interest. For that reason, nations rich and poor, the makers of armaments and the squanderers fo armaments, have the greatest difficulty in saying that they will make 1 per cent. of their armaments budget available for the purposes that Mr. Brandt has so eloquently described.
It seems to me from what I have read in the Brandt report that it relied heavily on a better report—the OECD inter-futures report. Much of Brandt's thinking is derived from that report. I suggest to hon. Members who are interested in that subject, as well as to many others who lobbied us, that they should get hold of that report and read its brilliant, perceptive and profound analysis of the problems of wealth and its distribution. In that report, we see some of the problems which are facing our society and which we are not solving. No Governments, of any party, in virtually any part of the Western world, have satisfactorily solved those problems. That was the conclusion of the OECD report, which was rightly and brilliantly drawn.
By a stroke of fortune, I had the opportunity recently to visit one of the world's poorest countries—Nepal. I was the guest of its Government, through the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia with a per capita income of about £60–£70 per annum. About 97 per cent. of the population is engaged in agriculture. When flying into the country, one looks down on a mountainous region with hills so steep that one would almost imagine that one would have to use mountaineering equipment to go up and down. However, every inch is cultivated and every square foot is terraced. That is how such a country endeavours to feed its population.
Nepal has a university which is obviously desperate for resources. It has one main secondary school in the Khatmandu area which is helped and sustained by British aid. Much British aid is going to Nepal, but, of course, it is nothing like enough.
Nepal's elementary schools are so poverty-stricken and desperate for lack of resources that most of the classrooms have no roofs. A blackboard is a luxury. In a school which I visited with colleagues from the House, there were 500 children and four or five teachers. That is the level of poverty.
Brandt is aware of those facts, and many of those who came to lobby us are aware of them. However, they are not aware of one factor, which I put forward in all seriousness. At the moment, we are giving approximately £9 million to Nepal annually in aid. If we made that sum £900 million, we would not begin to scratch the surface of the problem of taking the standard of living of a nation of about 9 million people to a point remotely comparable to that of even the poorest country in Western Europe. Perhaps even £9,000 million would not be enough.
It is interesting that in Nepal there are hydroelectric resources comparable to those in the whole of the North American continent, because the Himalayas are on its frontier. Who will develop those resources, and what will it cost? One can quantify the sums and one reaches astronomical figures. However, one still does not get anywhere near to a sufficiently practical increase in resources transfer as being likely to be able to be made by the West either to a country such as Nepal or to any other in a similar situation.
We must be realistic when we consider that subject and advise our constituents who say that we must give more. We must be more generous and Christian and accept that their idealism has its worth, but for heaven's sake let us at the same time be practical and realistic and not suggest that we can achieve miracles.
There is great danger and arrogance in suggesting, as we do when we transfer technology and wealth-creating and wealth-distributing institutions largely and inevitably in the Western pattern, that that is what those countries must have and that they must have it in the way in which we give it to them and use it because we give it to them. Many of the recent problems, of which Iran is perhaps an outstanding example, have arisen because the resource transfer mechanism has been operated too intensively to be absorbed by the country concerned.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He rightly stresses the quality of the aid that the West gives, but that in itself is not an argument against increasing the quantity.
Quality and quantity are both important, but I believe that the ratio of quality to quantity should be 10:1. As chairman of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) frequently speaks in the House on apartheid. As one would expect, he takes a critical view of all things South and Southern African. I do not know why he has such an avid and strenuous dislike not only of apartheid, which one can understand, but of everything associated with South and Southern Africa.
We make a grave mistake if we follow the hon. Gentleman's line in our relations with South Africa. He appealed to us on the ground that the arms decision was a United Nations decision. Nearly 100 of the member countries of that great authority on moral issues do not know one end of a ballot box from the other. Countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Cambodia and Kampuchea have the temerity to cast their votes in the United Nations and expect South Africa—I admit that it has many faults—virtually to commit suicide, as the hon. Gentleman would wish. He would like to see 5 million Europeans, many of whose forebears have been in South Africa since the sixteenth century, swept into the sea.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman intervened because the whole of his speech seemed to imply that he wanted to see 5 million people swept into the sea. He suggested that the South Africans were conducting aggression across their borders. Until about 10 years ago, there were virtually no South African attacks across the border, and I defy the hon. Gentleman to give me chapter and verse to disprove that. There was hardly even an isolated incident.
Let us consider what the South Africans face. There are about 36,000 Cubans in Angola, about 4,000 East Germans in Mozambique and 1,500 trained Marxist terrorists on the Witwatersrand. I am told that one shipload of arms a week comes to Mozambique, including heavy tanks. MiG fighters are being introduced into South Africa by the Russians or their surrogates. If the hon. Gentleman can prove that I am wrong here or on another occasion, I shall be happy, but if what I say is true neither we nor the United Nations have the right to ask South Africans to lie down and let their country be invaded and their system and wealth-creating capacity be destroyed. It is disgraceful for the hon. Gentleman to come here time and again to make attacks that can seldom be answered—but I intend to answer him tonight.
Virtually the whole South African sub-continent, including Botswana, Mozambique and the grand new Zimbabwe, is being sustained through South African aid. That is a fact.
He does. Then I do not accept his denial. He could not prove it for one moment. If he denies it, why would it be necessary for them to do that? Why would they have taken the risk? Whom would they be helping?
This is the essence of the argument. We will riot look at reality. Time and again we try to escape from reality because it is fashionable to say that because South Africa is associated with apartheid, which we do not like, we therefore condemn the whole of that country. That condemnation is inequitable and grotesque. I say that and I shall say it again.
The United Nations has asked us to impose an arms embargo. The hon. Gentleman waxed eloquent about the fact that some radar was supplied by Plessey. Even if it is civil and military radar, as I have no doubt it is, I cannot for one moment conceive how civil and military radar can be used to support a repressive regime. Certainly, it can be used to defend South Africa, to defend Southern Africa and to defend those elements in Southern Africa which are constructive and good. Those elements are many and they are necessary, and if they are not defended we in this country shall be the first to feel the effects.
In my humble opinion, radar and a great deal else is justified. I do not give a damn what the United Nations has voted or moved or said. I believe that in this context we must look not only to our own interests but to the interests of the West. I do not believe that the United Nations, as it is presently constructed as an organization—indeed, I would call it again almost a regime—is all that concerned for the interests either of this country or of the West. Possibly it ought so to be. Perhaps in a more ideal world it would so be. At the moment, however, looking at the situation realistically, we can reach only one conclusion—that it is not.
I therefore ask the House to make its own judgment about the real state of affairs in South and Southern Africa, warts and all. I am the first to admit that apartheid is a detestable doctrine and that its practice is often ludicrous in its application and its consequences. I share one thing with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North. The day that it disappears, the happier I shall be. But we shall not bring on that day in the right way or any earlier by following the line of total, dramatic, unfair, critical opposition to every single thing that is done in South Africa.
I had not intended to say anything about Southern Africa at all, but having heard the remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) I shall say a few words.
I have not been a Member of the House very long, but some of us heard exactly the same speech made about Zimbabwe before the constitutional talks which took place more than 12 months ago. Precisely that type of speech was made, saying that we must defend Ian Smith and his regime. Then it was Bishop Muzorewa, and then it was every other last person who might somehow bring relief to the whites in Zimbabwe. What has happened is that we now have a peaceful settlement. There has been a year of peace in Zimbabwe.
My hon. Friends and I are saying that if the South Africans are not prepared to concede and to give independence to Namibia and eventually—very quickly, I hope—to give votes to all the people of Southern Africa, of course there will be bloodshed. That is the inevitable consequence of the blindness of their actions. It will lead inevitably to bloodshed that we do not wish to see. That is why we urge the Government to find a solution in Namibia by any and all means to prevent that kind of bloodshed and to prevent the divisions between white and black in Southern Africa, which are too deep already, from becoming so deep that the whites inevitable will be washed away in the flood of blood which must follow if they are not prepared to concede anything. We do not want to see that.
My first instinct was to ignore the speech of the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne). It was remarkable in its ignorance and arrogance. As it came from a scion of a family which has produced Foreign Secretaries and Prime Ministers since the age of Elizabeth I, its ignorance was even more remarkable on foreign policy aspects. If that is an example of how that family has ruled the country for about 300 years, it is no wonder that we are in the state that we are in today.
I was frightened by the hon. Gentleman's statement that essentially every international problem and incident for the past 30 years has been caused by the Russians and Communism. If it was only the hon. Gentleman expressing that view, we might not worry too much about it. I appreciate that some Conservative Members do not think in that way but look at foreign policy more rationally. However, the feeling expressed by the hon. Member for Dorset, South lies deep in the psyche of many Conservative Members and lies even deeper in the psyche of many Conservative supporters in our counties and suburbs. It is even more deeply felt by many people in the United States, and it is represented in the present United States Administration.
Such people believe that Communism and what Russia does are not only politically wrong but evil. I have no sympathy for the regime in Russia or for other regimes in Eastern Europe. I believe that they are politically wrong and that they are making political mistakes, both at home and abroad. However, the attitude of some Conservative Members and others is that Communism and Marxism are evil.
That frightens the life out of me. If that is what Conservative Members believe, there is no hope whatever of finding peaceful solutions to world problems, particularly to the problem of an increasing arms race. If they believe that the Russian regime is evil, there is no way in which they will trust the Russians if they come forward with proposals to reduce arms. They will always think that the Russians are evil men who cannot be trusted. I despair if that sort of attitude is voiced by Conservative Members and others.
I thought that I could exclude the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) from that condemnation. Having listened to his speech, I assumed that he was a more rational and thinking man than that.
I cannot answer that question. The hon. Gentleman must answer it for himself. However, if Conservative Members believe that Communism is evil, we shall find it extremely difficult to work with the Russians to achieve peaceful solutions to world problems.
I believe that the Soviet system is as evil as the system in South Africa in the way in which it deals with most of the population. I am perfectly prepared to deal with the South Africans, and I would be prepared to deal with the Soviet Union. However, I recognise that one of the reasons why the Russians have been crying out for world grain is that their system not only requires spending more on armaments than most other countries but also leaves their population on shorter commons than most of the Right-wing regimes that I detest as well.
I also condemn the Russian build-up of arms. However, I have some understanding of the historical reasons for it. From the beginning, the Russian revolution was threatened by the West. Russia has always felt threatened by the West. The Minister may laugh and smile, but that is a historical fact.
The comments of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West and of the hon. Member for Dorset, South are interesting. Those hon. Members seem to believe that the Russian economy is collapsing and that the Russians cannot feed their own people. They believe that the system cannot work. However, they still feel that the genius of that nation is sufficient to corrupt the world. The hon. Member for Dorset, South certainly believed that Russian influence could spread throughout the world and distort everything. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. No one believes that such an efficient military and propaganda machine can exist if Russia's economy is on the verge of collapse.
In a sense, the American attitude towards Communism has resulted in a frightening build-up in El Salvador. The situation may not yet be on the scale found in Afghanistan. Some months ago I was invited to the American embassy to have lunch with Ambassador Cohen and two—I shall be polite—associates of his. They wanted to discuss American policy in El Salvador. It was a little insulting that they should invite me to that lunch. If they had been prepared to discuss their policy, I would have felt able to argue about it with them. However, that was not what they wanted me for. They wanted to give me an apologia for their actions and ask me how they could best get their message across to the British people.
I am sure that the Minister has met those men and has discussed this issue with them. One of Ambassador Cohen's aides said that America had support in its campaign against Communism and against the Russian and Cuban threat to El Salvador from nearly every Central and South American state. He said that America had the support of Chile, Argentina and Brazil. He then added that it also had the support of Venezuela. One of the ambassadorial staff turned to him and said that if he was the aide he would stick to mentioning Venezuela and would not talk too much about the other regimes.
The American regime strongly believes that it must combat the evils of Communism. As a result, it is prepared to do anything to support the Duarte regime in El Salvador. The Minister may say that there is no threat of American intervention in El Salvador. That was not the impression that I received from Ambassador Cohen and his two aides. They said that they had documents that had been captured in El Salvador which showed that there was a threat of a Russian or Cuban presence in El Salvador. We had a drink before lunch and they promised to give us the documents. However, after lunch they knew where I and another hon. Member stood on this issue and the documents were quietly forgotten. They did not give them to us because they feared that we might investigate too closely their contents and where they had come from. They are using that sort of technique.
As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, it is the classic case of a build-up. It is not dissimilar to the build-up of the Russian intervention in Afghanistan. It is the same type of thing with the inward movement of aid and the propping up of a regime that no longer has popular support. Duarte has no popular support in El Salvador.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, West may say the same as the Americans, that Duarte was elected in 1972 by the people, but he did not come to power by election. He has lost nearly all the civilian members of his Government in the months between taking power and today. Now he is essentially on his own, a civilian supported by the military junta in El Salvador.
The Government must make it clear publicly that they will not support American military intervention in El Salvador because they will lose what credibility they have left in taking moral stances on foreign policy. They condemned the Russians for intervention in Afghanistan not because it was a Russian or Communist intervention but on the ground that they condemn all military intervention. They do not believe that that is the way we should conduct world affairs. I hope that they will make it clear that they will not support the Americans and that if the Americans intervene militarily they will condemn that as strongly and with the same sort of measures—I hope that they will be supported by their Back Benchers—as they condemned the Russians when they intervened in Afghanistan. The situations are remarkably similar. The Government must make clear tonight that that is what they are prepared to do. I hope that the Americans will not intervene, but if they do and are still there when the Olympics are held in 1984 in Los Angeles I hope that British athletes will be told that they should not take part because of American involvement in El Salvador. If that happens, we shall see whether the morality expressed by the Conservatives on Afghanistan is as true as they made it out to be.
My last few points concern the developing world. I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo. It is an immensely difficult problem. Even if we pour massive sums of aid into those countries, we shall not suddenly, overnight, lift the conditions of the starving millions around the world to the level of even the poorest Western European country. It will be a slow, gradual process of raising their standard of living by giving a little more income. When such countries have more income to spend, some will be spent in this country, some elsewhere in the Western world and some within developing countries. It will take time, but we must start that process.
I was present at the lobby and, perhaps alone among hon. Members, heard eight out of the 10 speeches made throughout the day in the Grand Committee Room. I chaired five and heard three others. I heard both Ministers trying to defend the Government's attitude towards the aid programme. Like other hon. Members, when I was on the floor I could make my disagreement felt to the Minister, but was unable to do so when the Minister for Overseas Development spoke. The Government have dramatically cut the aid programme to the Third World.
The hon. Member for Dorset, South claimed that Russia never gave any assistance to anyone without strings. The Government have made it clear that what aid they give will in future be tied to political considerations. That appeared in the Government paper that was issued before the lobby.
If I said military aid, I withdraw that. I meant to refer to aid tied to political considerations—the attitude that the hon. Member for Dorset, South was condemning the Russians for adopting—and aid tied to what one considers the best political regime, regardless of the poverty of the country involved.
The Government have an appalling aid record. They are wrong economically, because unless we raise the level of wealth in the poorest countries it is doubtful whether the West will survive economically in the long run. If we put money into the Third world, we shall become increasingly wealthy. But that should not be the argument.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said that 10 million people have died in developing countries as a result of wars. UNICEF estimates that 15 million children under the age of five die of starvation every year in the developing world and that 800 million people live below the poverty line and suffer from malnutrition. It is not a question whether we depend on them or they depend on us. It is a moral question. If we can save one child by increasing our aid, that is morally right. It is time that we started looking at foreign policy from a moral point of view and not always from a self-interest angle.
We have had a long and full debate, as befits the importance and seriousness of the subject. As has been said, we have seen over the past few years a considerable increase in world tension, particularly between East and West, an increasing polarisation of attitudes and the virtual collapse of attempts at arms limitation and disarmament.
Perhaps we are witnessing, as was suggested in the debate, one of the most dangerous phases for world peace since the end of the Second World War. There are many reasons for the increase in tension, and I am not equipped to present them all, but one can be traced back to the sudden and substantial increase in the price of oil in 1973. The instability created by that upheaval was considerably exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the election of the new Government of the United States whose main foreign policy objective seems to be a simplistic anti-Communist crusade, which has not contributed to a lessening of tension.
The increase in the price of oil may have been the catalyst which led to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Islamic revolution in that country. It made the Gulf even more important because it quadrupled the value of its assets. The changes in Poland, though welcome, have created more instability and their catalyst may have been the economic recession in Western Europe caused by the events of 1973.
The position in Western democracies has been made worse. There is greater instability, tension and intolerance because of the lack of growth. The less developed countries, especially those without oil, have found themselves deeper in debt and the prospect of hauling themselves out of grinding poverty has been made even more remote. That has created tension which we see in the attempts at a North-South dialogue, the recommendations of the Brandt report and, we hope, attempts to solve the problems at the conference in Mexico in the autumn.
One of the most profound effects of the oil crisis on the foreign policy of the West may be the realisation forced on the United States that it was no longer self-sufficient in oil and other resources. It realised that it had ceased to be the dominant world economic power that it had been during the first 20 years after the Second World War.
The Pax Americana, if one may so describe it, of that period was to a great extent sustained because the American President was much less constrained than the leaders of most other countries in pursuing a global foreign policy by domestic economic considerations. Under President Carter and President Reagan we have seen more and more that American foreign policy initiatives are now determined largely by the need to secure Congressional support for domestic economic policies. The royal prerogative of the President in foreign policy has become increasingly limited. That is understandable because America is not the economic Power that it was. Foreign policy is being limited by the need to secure domestic programmes. Whatever the merits or demerits of the decision on the sale of wheat to Russia, I do not believe that the issue was raised for foreign policy reasons. The intention was to secure the votes of the farming lobby in Congress and to get the budget through. American policy in the Middle East, and especially towards the Gulf States, seems often to be determined primarily by the price of gasoline in Winnetka, Illinois or Boise, Idaho.
The lesson for Britain and for the Prime Minister, judging by her attitude, remarks and trips around the globe, does not seem to have been learnt. The lesson is that it is not very often right or sensible for us slavishly to follow the foreign policy poses of an American President, especially when his actions are increasingly determined by domestic economic factors, many of which have little relevance to our own position. With our self-sufficiency in oil and in energy we are now in a better position than at any time since the war to pursue a more independent foreign policy throughout the world.
The danger of the present attitude of the Reagan Administration and the support seemingly given to it by the Prime Minister is that it is based on a view of the world as it was in the 1950s and the early 1960s, when American power was bolstered by economic self-sufficiency. During the Prime Minister's visit to Washington she went out of her way to give support to this rather simplistic view of the world, a world which has changed considerably since the 1950s. She accepted quite symbolically something called the Wild Bill Donovan award, which I am told is named after a gunslinging American ambassador in Guatemala in the 1950s. We should remind the Prime Minister—perhaps the Lord Privy Seal will do so—that the world of Wild Bill Donovan has been dead for a long time, even though it seems that for the Prime Minister his prizes go marching on.
The change in the world economy that was caused by the world price rise has meant that the international monetary system and the international financial institutions that were set up after the war are not now adaptable enough to deal with the new problems. This is referred to in the Brandt report. That applies especially to the less developed countries. The Government have made a belated response to the call to try to recommend some of the proposals in the Brandt report. I hope that when the Prime Minister goes to Mexico the Government will make some constructive proposals. I hope that the right hon. Lady will not hector and lecture the poor countries of the world about their PSBRs, their monetary policy and about the need, as she puts it, to put their own houses in order and to cut their cloth according to their means.
The one area in which we can put forward constructive proposals is that of the structures, the statutes and the accountability of the International Monetary Fund and of the World Bank. Whatever contribution they may have made in the first 20 years after the war, they are now not relevant to the problems of the 1980s. I hope that the Government will try to advance some constructive proposals. The world of Wild Bill Donovan is dead and so is the world of Bretton Woods. Unless the countries of the South are given a greater say in the organisation of the international financial institutions, they will become increasingly alienated from the industrialised northern countries. The best guarantee that the countries of the developing world will remain non-aligned, both economically and ideologically, is if the Western democracies are not only sympathetic to their problems but are genuinely and sincerely prepared to share some of our economic and financial power with them and give them a stake in international economic order.
The second reason for the increase in tension has been the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. That invasion has cast severe doubts on the intentions of the Soviet Union. I do not know the reason for the invasion—perhaps even the Kremlin is not quite sure—but, whatever it was, there is no justification for it. Afghanistan may be a feudal country and large sections of its population may be illiterate, but that does not justify the invasion of a small country by the might of the Soviet Union when the Soviet Union was not threatened in any way.
Many reasons have been given—or guesses made—for the invasion. Some suggested that it was an attempt by Russia to secure bases close to the Iranian border in case the Americans invaded Iran. Some say that it was because the Government of Afghanistan had lost control at the time and was deeply unpopular. Some said that it was the fear of Islamic revolution. Some believed—I think, not many—that it was part of a deeply-thought-out plot to take over the oilfields of the Gulf. Whatever the reasons—and they may be more than one—the invasion shows that Russia is prepared to act with total ruthlessness in what it considers to be its own interest, even though that action may appear to the rest of the world to be morally reprehensible. Despite that invasion, I still believe, as, I think, do most hon. Members, that it is in the interests of Britain and the West to maintain a dialogue with the Soviet leaders.
I understand from press reports that when the NATO Foreign Ministers met this week the American Secretary of State, General Haig, gave the impression that the United States Government might, some time this year, have preliminary discussions with the Soviet Government about a form of arms limitation. That was the impression that was given, and that is the impression one gets from
reading the British newspapers. If that is so, we welcome that small movement. However, one gets a different impression from the New York Times yesterday. Its headline read:
NATO hardens view on Soviet activities. Questions detente. Allies move towards Reagan".
The article said:
The North Atlantic Alliance moved today towards a harder view of East-West relations presenting an analysis that de-emphasised detente and cast the Soviet Union as a force increasingly lacking in restraint or responsibility".
I realise that, for political reasons, there are lobby briefings of one kind in the United States and another kind in Europe, but that is not what I understood from reading the newspapers. I hope that the Minister of State will tell us whether the British accounts are closer to reality than the account that I have just quoted from the New York Times.
There is also the problem that the American Administration do not always speak with one voice. The Secretary of Defence, Mr. Caspar Weinberger, does not always seem to be entirely in accord with General Haig, although I was pleased to read in the newspapers that there has been a peace offering between the two whereby Mr. Weinberger presented General Haig with a signed and autographed copy of the United States constitution. We do not have a constitution, but perhaps the Prime Minister could present the Lord Privy Seal with a signed and autographed copy of the complete works of Milton Friedman, and the Lord Privy Seal could reciprocate with a signed copy of his Cambridge weekend speeches. The possibilities are limitless, especially for this Cabinet.
There is another reason for having a dialogue with the Soviet Union. I do not accept, as was suggested by one or two Conservative Members, that the Soviet Union is completely evil and is entirely bent on world domination, and that it is such a powerful force in the world that it cannot be resisted and will march on to world domination. That is not a correct analysis of the situation. If our foreign policy were based on that analysis, there would be serious repercussions for world peace.
The Soviet Union, with a gross national product of only 65 per cent. of that of the United States, spends 12 per cent. of its GNP on defence whereas the United States spends 5 per cent. of its GNP on defence. Despite the Soviet Union's virtual self-sufficiency in oil and raw materials, its economy must have suffered in the world recession. Its agriculture is in a mess. Its satellite States are also suffering economically. It is worried about the security in Eastern Europe and on the Chinese border. It has 80,000 troops in Afghanistan. Its attempts to extend its influence in developing countries have not been successful, despite the panics. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, there is bound to be a change in leadership in the Kremlin. Despite the highly centralised and undemocratic nature of the Soviet Union. The Russian leaders must be worried about their domestic economy and their external security. We should negotiate with them on that basis and try to reduce international tension.
Out of the invasion of Afghanistan was born the rapid deployment force. The Prime Minister has endorsed that force with, perhaps, too rapid a deployment of thought—although other members of the Government do not appear to have done so. One of these days, because apparently there will be a British contribution, however small, we should be told the thinking behind the establishment of that force. We should be told what it is about. We have not had arty answers. Is the intention to stop a conventional Russian attack on the Gulf or to rescue a national Government who are under internal threat? Alternatively, is it intended to revive the old Dr. Kissinger idea of an intervention to secure the Gulf oilfields? The House should be given an answer to such questions because we are to contribute to the force.
Another question is perhaps even more important: what is the basis on which the force will be used? I assume that it will not enter another country unless it is invited. However, the Russians, who know a thing or two about rapid deployment forces, have said that their rapid deployment force entered Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan at the invitation of the internal Government. Who in a country where there is no parliamentary democracy decides to call in the rapid deployment force? Will the force go in at the invitation of a corrupt, crumbling regime which has lost the people's confidence? Will British troops enter another country at the invitation of a regime whose popular base has disappeared? We need answers to such questions.
Tension between East and West has not been lessened by the statements and attitudes of the new American Administration. The main policy of the United States seems to be anti-Communist throughout the world with little regard for human rights and dignity. Apparently, if a Government or country is anti-communist it is on our side, despite its being oppressive, corrupt and showing little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick, the new United States ambassador to the United Nations, proclaimed her support the other day for "moderately repressive autocratic Governments" which are friendly to the United States. She did not define "moderate" in that bizarre context.
The Spectator of 28 March reported a United States State Department spokesman as saying that United States policy was to frown on the violations of human rights which were committed by what he described as "totalitarian regimes" because they were committed in secret, while similar crimes committed by what he described as "authoritarian regimes" such as those in Latin America were less unacceptable because they murdered their citizens in the open.
That is the type of tortuous reasoning or rubbish that results from basing policy not on the principles of the rule of law and human rights but on trying to provide a spurious justification for supporting regimes which we in the Western democracies should not support.
I am sorry to say that President Reagan, in an interview on television with Mr. Walter Cronkite on 3 March, when asked about South Africa, said rhetorically:
Can we abandon a country that has stood beside us in every war that we have ever fought?
The right hon. Gentleman shouts "Hear, hear". That quotation was from a transcript provided by the United States embassy. Perhaps I may remind President Reagan and the right hon. Gentleman that the present lot in charge in South Africa would have been very happy if they had been allowed to stand shoulder to shoulder with Adolf Hitler in the last war and not in the defence of Western democracy.
The hon. Gentleman should listen more carefully. I said "if they had been allowed". The heirs and successors of those people are now the party running South Africa. That is the point I was making.
If the security of the West, of Western civilisation, is dependent on this racialist regime in South Africa, we are in a very bad way.
Whatever the policy of America outside the NATO area, it is very likely, in the world in which we are living, to affect our NATO allies. Therefore, we have a right to look at American policy in other parts of the world, because it might have repercussions in the NATO area.
It is not possible to treat Poland, Afghanistan and Berlin today in isolation from South Africa, Namibia and El Salvador. The differences in the attitudes of the United States and the European nations can be clearly seen in many cases. For example, there is some discrepancy between the American attitude to the Middle East—which appears to be based on anti-Communism and on using Saudi Arabia, especially, as the bulwark against Communism in the Middle East—and the European initiative, which seems to be based on the need to secure justice and rights for the Palestinians.
It is not a difference of emphasis, for if policy is based on anti-Communism the Americans have to arm the Saudi Arabians and are arming them to the teeth, with British support—doing exactly the same as was done in Iran. But the arming of Saudi Arabia, in pursuit of that policy, is not likely to inspire confidence in the Israelis to get them to move in favour of recognising the rights of the Palestinians. So there is some discrepancy between the two policies.
Perhaps the Minister of State will tell us what is the main priority of the British Government. Do we subscribe to the view that the first priority is to stop Communist expansion in the Gulf, and to use Saudi Arabia especially and other countries to do so? Or do we subscribe to the view that the real problem in the Middle East, the real cause of the instability, is the Arab-Israeli conflict and the need to secure rights for the Palestinians?
We saw recently—and this is not likely to convince the Israelis—a British Prime Minister quite unnecessarily hawking weapons of destruction around the Gulf, selling more and more arms in an area where enough arms have been sold already. I wonder what the Israelis thought of that, especially when over the next six months the Foreign Secretary will seek to convince them that they should subscribe to the European initiative.
The hon. Gentleman raised that question in his speech and it is very flattering that he should ask me, at this Dispatch Box, to tell him what a Labour Government would do. But certainly, from our experience in Iran, one would think that it is not a very sound basis for our industry. We traded with Iran and sold equipmemt to Iran. It is not a very sound basis for our industry to be seeking to sell arms in large quantities in unstable parts of the world. I should have thought that our first aim should be to bolster our domestic manufacturing industry, instead of trying to save our economy by selling arms all over the world.
The third area in which there has been this conflict is El Salvador. That the United States should have chosen El Salvador as the place "to teach the Commies a lesson", as it is elegantly put, has appalled many of its friends in this country. I find it extraordinary that the United States, with all its history of domestic tolerance and sense of justice and its respect for human rights at home, should have failed to recognise that the real problems of that small country lie not in Communism but in poverty, injustice and the ruthless suppression of human rights. The United States should leave it alone to solve its problems, as Nicaragua is doing successfully.
In regard to Southern Africa and especially Namibia, last week or the week before the British Government joined four other Western nations, known as the contact group, in vetoing at the Security Council African resolutions calling for sanctions against South Africa for its illegal occupation of Namibia. The Government should not have vetoed those proposals. By doing so they badly misjudged the mood of the African nations. We and the other Western countries have lost a considerable amount of credibility in black Africa.
The Government have failed to understand that, while most African countries abhor extreme political ideologies, especially ideologies born far from the continent of Africa, they abhor much more racialism and apartheid. Who are we in this House to say that they are wrong? So the Government have badly misjudged the mood of the Africans. Countries like Zambia are prepared once again to suffer the consequences on them of sanctions. The Minister of State should talk to some of these people. They are prepared to suffer as they suffered before because their first priority is to get rid of racialism and apartheid in South Africa.
As a result of the veto, it has been said apparently that the Western nations will always be soft on South Africa when it comes to Namibia. It has been said that, because of our mining interests in Namibia, there will never be enough pressure put upon South Africa to solve the problem. This may be wrong and unfair, but it is being said as a consequence of the action taken by the five Western countries.
What is also disturbing is that apparently Mr. Crocker, the United States assistant secretary for African affairs, has said that United Nations resolution 435 is a dead letter or dead in the water. Perhaps the Minister of State will confirm or deny this. May we be told by the Minister of State whether that is the view of the British Government? Also, is it the case that the Western nations are working on a plan to impose a solution in defiance of the United Nations resolution and that that plan would have to be policed in some way by forces from the five contact nations? If that plan is to be put into effect, and if it is contrary to resolution 435, clearly the United Nations will not be prepared to police it. Are we then to see British troops as part of a force in Namibia trying to provide a solution which is contrary to the United Nations resolution and to the views of the African States?
We can only hope that over the next 10 years there will not be similar upheavals to those of the last 10 years and that the world economy and world affairs will be more stable. No doubt there will be crises, but we shall be more able to withstand them if we reject the view which seems to be prevalent that the world is a simple place and that problems are always capable of instantaneous solutions. Just as the economic debate between the Keynesians and the monetarists is today sterile and irrelevant, so is the view of the world as a battleground between two conflicting ideologies.
The foreign policy of Britain and the Western democracies should be based on the principle of human rights and respect for human dignity. It is not in our interest or that of the Western countries to support tyranny, whether totalitarian or authoritarian, or whatever other rubbish one uses to describe it, in any part of the world. If we believe that the traditions and values of our society are worth preserving, then the only real safeguard for their preservation is that we should practise what we preach not only at home but abroad.
This has been a long and wide-ranging debate. It has not, on the whole, been well attended, although many of the speeches have been interesting. I think personally that the debate calls into question the manner in which the House debates foreign affairs. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne). It might be better to have brisk debates, lasting three or four hours, from time to time on the Middle East, Southern Africa or arms control. That approach might produce a better debate to which more attention would be paid.
The Minister replying to today's type of debate is placed in a difficult position. To attempt to answer all the points, or even the more important points, would require a speech lasting longer than the House would support. My task, however, has been eased by the number of hon. Members who have sent me a courteous note explaining, for one reason or another, that they are not able to remain to hear my reply. It would be discourteous if I replied in their absence to the points they made.
Much of the debate has rightly centred around issues of defence and arms control. A statement was rather reluctantly drawn from the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that he supports NATO's strategy of deterrence. The right hon. Gentleman, I believe, was not present when the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), also speaking for the Labour Party, spoke of the merits of unilateralism.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East, as he developed his theme, raised an interesting point about the policy of the new United States Administration. He criticised that Administration for slowness in working out policies.
I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman's criticism is entirely just. There is some merit, if one is running the most powerful country in the world, in deciding to wait a bit, to listen a bit and to consult a bit. It is too early to become impatient for lack of a precise policy. I believe that the friends and allies of the United States have welcomed a period during which we have been asked for our advice. From time to time our advice has been taken.
A prime example, perhaps the most important so far, is the Rome decision of the NATO Ministers. The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) questioned that. It is a statement of fact, not interpretation, that NATO Ministers welcomed the announcement by the American Secretary of State that the United States intended to resume negotiations with the Soviet Union on theatre nuclear forces by the end of this year. That is a definite statement. It is the statement for which the European allies have been asking. It is what we got. I think it is satisfactory from the point of view of the natural anxieties and concerns expressed.
That was a commitment by the United States taken after listening carefully to the views of its European allies. It is a satisfactory outcome that puts into better perspective some of the criticisms developed by the right hon. Member for Llanelli about United States policy.
Hon. Members, if they are in touch with their constituents—I am sure that that is the case with all hon. Members who are present—will feel a certain anxiety about arms control and the appetite of people for disarmament that is taking shape in this country. It seems to me natural that people should feel anxiety about nuclear weapons. It is natural that they should feel strongly. It is, however, important that they should think straight. I agree with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) that the forming of committees, the signing of petitions and the holding of meetings will not themselves bring about disarmament and arms control. It would be a pity if the Labour Party gave an opposite impression.
Arms control and then disarmament, if they happen, will be brought about through hard, tough negotiations, resulting in balanced and verifiable agreements. That is the only way. If it is not done that way, it will not happen. Anything that re-creates the soft, intellectual mood of the 1930s and makes one feel that disarmament will be achieved if enough nice people in the West sign petitions is a trap that should be avoided.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) has left the Chamber, so I need not deal with the speculative structure on defence policy which he erected. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence referred to that matter yesterday. He will be saying more about it to the House when the Government have completed their decisions.
There has not been such discussions about Europe, but one point has come out of the debate. Much expectation is being placed in Europe by the Labour Party and in other parts of the world on the influence which European countries will exercise on the United States. That theme has run through the debate in connection with El Salvador, South Africa and so on. It has been said that it is up to Britain and the Europeans to make this and that point to the United States.
We accept that that is part of the role, and we believe that the United States is ready to listen. However, we should be much more effective in doing that if we did it through political co-operation and co-operation among the Ten. The point which I wish to make was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) in an earlier intervention. It is no good expecting Europe to exercise together that political weight with the rest of the world and at the same time propose that we should go hammer and tongs for the Community to which we belong. There are many things which we need to do, such as restructuring the budget and refashioning the CAP, as was mentioned in the debate.
However, it is no good supposing that we can play the part written for us as 10 countries of Europe acting together in a dangerous world if in Britain we are at the same time doing the same things which could bring about the disintegration of the Community. One cannot have effective political co-operation in Europe without coping successfully with the problems of the Community. The two things go together and cannot be separated.
There has been much discussion of the Middle East. I listened with care—as I always do—to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and all the other hon. Members who discussed the matter. My right hon. Friend was unfair to say that we were lukewarm about the reconciliation of Israel and Egypt. This has been a major step in the history of that area. We did not believe—we have been proved right in the matter—that the Camp David agreement by itself would lead to a general settlement. It was clear to us that something more was needed. That simple thought was the basis of the Venice declaration.
I was glad that during the debate the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, the right hon. Member for Devonport and the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), speaking in slightly different terms on behalf of their three parties, all endorsed the balance which was struck in the Venice declaration. I hope that that is noticed in Israel, in the Arab countries by the PLO and elsewhere.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion concentrated, as he usually and refreshingly does, on the military analysis. He is right to draw attention to the Soviet threat, as was my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South. It is refreshing that the United States, the French and ourselves are considering the matter in a realistic frame of mind. However, a military response is not much good if politically the atmosphere and the conditions are wrong.
One fact that Secretary of State Haig found during his visit to the area, and which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister certainly found, was that many of those on whom one must rely if there is to be a successful counter to Soviet influence in and penetration of the Middle East say in private as well as in public that such successful countering of Soviet penetration is impossible in the absence of progress on the Palestinian question. That is a familiar point. I shall not labour it, except to say that I believe that it is true. It is not a question of giving priority to one over the other. The two are linked. One will not get anywhere on the strategic side unless there is perceived progress. That is one reason why we believe that it is important to press ahead with what we have started.
Changes are needed in the PLO and the Israeli attitude. The point is made by both sides, but those who say that Israel must change her attitude do not accept that the PLO should change, and vice versa. Only when both are brought to make the necessary concessions will negotiations have a chance of success. The problem should not be put on the back burner. It will not be solved quickly, and a solution cannot be imposed. It can only be negotiated. However, as the matter splutters on unresolved and as tensions rise—for example, as a result of the Israeli settlements policy—it becomes more dangerous and difficult.
There is an opportunity—not over the six months of the British Presidency, which is too short a time, but over, say, the lifetime of the American Administration—to push the peace process to a stage where it will progress to final settlement. If we Europeans and the Americans miss the opportunity, it may not recur on anything like such satisfactory terms. For strategic reasons and reasons of justice and because of our natural concern for stability in the area, we are right to push ahead and to assess later in the year, after the Israeli elections and after the United States has defined its policy more clearly, how we Europeans can pursue the start that we have made.
The hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Watkins) analysed the situation in the Lebanon. We must not forget the Lebanese Government or the Lebanese people. Jostling between super-Powers must not take place without regard for the Government or the people of the Lebanon.
We are in close touch with them and with the other parties involved. Many people are taking a hand, but if we see an opportunity to take a hand we shall do our best.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East mentioned the Gulf. I saw the visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at first hand, and the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman about the visit were a little ungenerous. My right hon. Friend was wrestling with the belief in the Gulf that has grown up since the right hon. Gentleman said "Out"—and I have seen it in the past two years—that Britain has not been taking a friendly and intelligent interest in that part of the world. We have let it slip. Commercially, others have come in and snapped up the big opportunities. Politically, we have taken it for granted. We have not kept in close touch with the rulers, who have done a remarkable job in difficult circumstances. My right hon. Friend wrestled with great success to correct the feeling. She was received with enthusiasm. I do not doubt that the effect of the visit on those to whom she spoke will be substantial. It is an example of a timely and successful visit to a part of the world that is enormously important to us
A good deal of discussion has concentrated on South Africa and Nambia. The Labour Party's policy on sanctions which was rather dragged out of the right hon. Gentleman, is difficult to understand—"Yes" to sanctions on Namibia but not on apartheid.
So there could be a situation in which sanctions were first on and then off, and so forth. I do not see how anyone could suppose that that approach to sanctions is in the least bit fruitful. It seems to have been mooted simply in an attempt to avoid giving offence to African countries, but one really must look at the matter a little more deeply. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman looking back over his historical knowledge and his recent experience of sanctions in Spain, China, Rhodesia and so on, really believes that the answer that he gave me a few hours ago is a sensible definition of the policy of an Opposition.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's questions, but he might just as well put them to himself and to his right hon. Friend. They asked the House to adopt sanctions against Iran, not in order to bring the Ayotollah down but to produce changes in Iranian policy related to the single problem of the hostages. He also supported sanctions against the Soviet Union in the Olympic Games, not against the Soviet system as a whole but, as he thought, to get the Soviet Union to leave Afghanistan. The Foreign Secretary himself made it clear the other day that he was quite prepared to contemplate sanctions against South Africa. We questioned the right hon. Gentleman many times on the Foreign Secretary's statement, so he clearly envisaged the possibility of sanctions for a certain purpose, but not against apartheid as such.
But the right hon. Gentleman has not defined that purpose. We are in the middle of a diplomatic situation, about which I shall say something in a moment. I cannot think that it would have been sensible at this particular moment for Britain, France and the United States to go along with a resolution of that kind. I cannot think that, on reflection, the Labour Party would really feel that a major decision of that kind for economic sanctions against South Africa could be taken in that way.
A good many questions have been put on the subject of Namibia, to which I shall briefly reply. The United Nations plan, resolution 435—I think that the right hon. Gentleman said 235—remains the only agreed basis for a settlement. The Foreign Ministers of the Five—the contact group—agreed in Rome last week that resolution 435 provided a solid basis for a Namibian settlement. As the United States was associated with that, there is no reason to suggest that the United States has abandoned resolution 435. The Five went on to agree that resolution 435 needed to be strengthened if agreement was to be reached.
That is, therefore, a negotiating position. We have not abandoned the efforts that we have been making for a long time with the other four. We have not abandoned resolution 435 as a solid basis for possible agreement. It means that we are still in a diplomatic effort and that we have not abandoned hopes of reaching a settlement through diplomacy, through agreement with the South African Government, on the basis that I have described. We have made it clear to the South African Government that they should not take what happened in the Security Council as meaning that we have abandoned the effort and the pressure to achieve a settlement on Namibia.
The questions put by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) I shall deal with in correspondence.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about Cuban troops in Angola. Our estimate is 18,000, a figure which we believe has remained reasonably steady in the past 12 months.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) asked a number of questions, three of them important ones, relating to Ireland and Northern Ireland. I am sorry that I was not present when he spoke, but his speech has been reported to me and I hope that I have it right.
The first question related to the terms of reference of Father Magee on his visit. Our dealings with Father Magee were on the basis that his visit from the Vatican, at the request of the Pope, was a purely spiritual and humanitarian undertaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, which was naturally concerned for members of its faith. We do not believe that the Vatican considered the visit to be political. Father Magee met Mr. Sands, other hunger strikers and other members of the Roman Catholic community. He expressed the Pope's concern for peace in Northern Ireland, but he did not negotiate between Her Majesty's Government and the hunger strikers. We welcomed the Pope's appeal to the hunger strikers to end the hunger strike and we regret that that appeal was not heeded.
That is certainly not a matter for me.
The second question of the hon. Member for Antrim, South related to the European Parliament's debate on Northern Ireland. Under its rules of procedure, the European Parliament can decide what it will debate. As I understand it, it is not breaking any article of the treaties or any part of its constitutional framework by holding that debate. However, its resolutions or opinions on These matters are not binding, either on the Council or on individual member States.
We would rather the debate did not take place, but, as the efforts of some British Members to resist it were not successful, we hope that all British Members of the European Parliament will take the opportunity that has been forced upon them to convey an accurate understanding of what has occurred and to dispel the misunderstandings and misrepresentations that are all too rife.
I was sorry to have the hon. Gentleman's third point reported to me. He suggested that in some way the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service were reluctant to clear up the misunderstandings and misrepresentations on the Government's Northern Ireland policy. That is not so. At present, an important part of our general effort is the need to put across to the world an accurate and favourable impression of Britain. It is important that our friends—and, indeed, our enemies—should clearly understand our Northern Ireland policy and why it is that way. In many posts throughout the world, particularly in the last few days, our representatives have done just that. The hon. Gentleman need have no fears on that score.
There has been much discussion on El Salvador and a good deal of criticism directed at the United States Administration. I need not reply to that in any detail. We wish to see a political solution to the conflict in. El Salvador. The amount of killing and suffering taking place must distress everyone with any sensibility. We are willing to support any realistic initiative that may bring that solution about. We have no direct information about mediation efforts by Venezuela and Mexico, but if those efforts were acceptable to the parties concerned, we would naturally wish them well.
The hon. Member for Inverness asked a number of questions. Perhaps he will forgive me if in the interests of brevity I do not deal with them at any length. They were important questions about aid to Cambodia and the situation in the Horn of Africa. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman on those points.
I was in agreement with the right hon. Member for Devonport until the last few minutes of his speech. Up to then, he had not picked a quarrel with the Government. Obviously, he thought that his speech would not be complete until he had done so, and he chose the Brandt report. However, in his wish to be angry with us he allowed himself to go beyond the bounds of accuracy.
It is inaccurate to say that Britain was threatened with not being invited to the Mexico summit. That suggestion was never made. It was always clear that we would be asked.
The right hon. Gentleman made a more important mistake, which was followed by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett). I do not think it is true that our standing with the Third world depends as narrowly as they supposed on the amount of official aid that we give. The Third world knows that although that is part of the story, it is only part and not the most important part. Our recycling of surpluses and the future course of international financial institutions are more important. The developing countries understand that we have made cuts. They would obviously like more official aid. It is inaccurate to suppose that, because of that situation, our reputation has dwindled or our influence has diminished. They understand the situation perfectly well.
I agree with what has been said about the lobby on Tuesday and the people who came to see us. I was very glad of this occasion because it gave us an opportunity which we have not had as a Government. It enabled us to put across directly to thousands of people who are personally concerned about this just what is happening—which is very different from what many of them had been led to suppose.
I had the impression, listening to them on several occasions, that those people were not, on the whole, partisan. They had not come representing one political party or another. They were not interested in partisan treatment of the issue. They were not interested in people who used this issue as a stick with which to beat the Government. Nor were they particularly impressed by people who came before them with a great many fancy promises about what would be done, stating what percentage would be reached within a particular period. I did not feel that that approach was going down well. Of course these people would like us to do more. Of course they are anxious. The occasion provided us with an opportunity to show them that a great deal is going on in all these areas of activity, much more than some of the more simplistic pamphlets had supposed.
The right hon. Members for Leeds, East and for Llanelli were scornful about the international financial institutions. The World Bank decided to double its capital last year. Is that negligible? Is that why the right hon. Member for Leeds, East is muttering and saying that nothing is being done? The lending of the IMF is now three times what it was in 1979. Is this the sign of an unresponsive and stagnant institution?
The hon. Gentleman must be aware of the facts. The increase in IMF lending is due to the increase in quotas that I helped to negotiate as chairman of the interim committee in 1979. This is the fact and the hon. Gentleman should know it. If he does not, let him consult the Treasury and he will find that it is so. On the question of the International Bank, he should be aware that his Government, the Government on whose behalf he was speaking to the Brandt lobby on Tuesday, were criticised in terms and explicitly singled out by Mr. McNamara, the president of the International Bank, for making cuts in aid which Mr. McNamara regarded as profoundly damaging.
It is no good the hon. Gentleman trying to ride off on the recycling argument when the poorer countries, the non-oil developing countries, are carrying 90 per cent. of the burden of the deficit counterpart of the OPEC surplus this year because no initiative has been taken by the Government or, I agree, any other Western Government for the last two years to make proper provision for this problem.
The right hon. Gentleman is riding off on a completely different point. I was making the point that the international financial institutions had moved a long way in the past two years. I am not saying that this Government were responsible for that progress. I am not denying the right hon. Gentleman's part in that. I am saying that it is wrong to accuse the institutions of being stagnant and unresponsive, because they have moved a substantial amount. There is a lot more change in the pipeline, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, because he studies these matters carefully. The Brandt report has acted as a spur to this change. No doubt the Mexico summit will do the same. To say, for partisan reasons, that nothing is happening and that these institutions are unresponsive and static is inaccurate.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to hark back to the point about our official aid programme, which has been endlessly discussed in the House. I was making the point that it was wrong to suppose that our reputation in the Third world has suffered, because people see perfectly clearly that we have made certain limited cuts, that we still maintain a substantial aid programme and that, if we consider trade, investment and aid, our record in these matters is pretty good. That is widely understood.
I am sorry to have spoken for so long. However, we are entering a period of intense activity in foreign policy. The burden will fall on this country because of the six-month Presidency of the European Community in the second half of this year. That will coincide with the different strands of American policy coming to a head. That process is not yet complete, but I believe that in the next six months it will reach completion step by step. As has been constantly pointed out, it is also a period of great danger for Africa and the Middle East and of major problems inside the EEC. As the debate has illustrated, we live in an increasingly disorderly world, where the dangers and the turbulence are great and where man's inhumanity to man represents just as great a threat to the happiness of individuals as the problems of underdevelopment.
During this period of opportunity for Britain and of danger for the world, we must concentrate on strengthening and defending our interests and on building up and reinforcing the defences—political, economic and military—of the West against Soviet subversion. However, the debate has also shown that it is our job as a British Government to what we can, where we can, to help to forge a settlement of as many of the poisonous disputes as we can which prevent us from attaining a saner and more orderly world.