Orders of the Day — Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:55 pm on 4th November 1982.

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Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire 2:55 pm, 4th November 1982

Yes. We regret the decision that the United States took, and I shall have a word to say about it later. The Government's view has been made absolutely clear to the United States Administration.

I should like to say a few words about Poland. The situation in Poland is a tragedy for the Polish people and a matter of deep concern to all those in the free world who admire them and wish them the peace and prosperity that they richly deserve. Western Governments, including Britain, want to do whatever they can to help, but the situation is enormously complicated. We all want to be sure that the policies we adopt will make it better. It is no surprise that in a Community of free nations there should have been debate and differing views about the best choice of means, but this must be kept in proportion. It would be absurd to make a crisis in the West of what is so clearly a major crisis in the East. The very reasonableness, by our standards, of what the Polish people have shown they want has highlighted once again the unreasonableness—and the fundamental instability—of a system which does not dare allow it. Our aim must be to keep alive, for the Poles and for the other peoples of Eastern Europe, the hope that freedom and democracy are not barred to them for ever.

We naturally want security for ourselves and our allies. Our interest in stability goes much wider and recognises that we will be better off in a world in which all countries feel safe and in which all countries accept the need to seek peaceful solutions to any disputes that they may have with their neighbours.

Not all countries attach as much importance as we do to stability in this sense; and, of those that do, not all have as much influence. Britain's history, our geographical position, and our traditional links with so many countries, as well as our permanent membership of the Security Council, are all part of the influence we bring to bear. They do not give us the right—or the resources—to act as a world policeman, but they do give weight to our views and opportunity to put them into practice. It is surely right that we continue to do so.

One important element in this is that, beyond our membership of NATO and the Community, we have a link with the rest of the world of unique value in the Commonwealth. This Government are wholeheartedly committed to the strengthening of the Commonwealth—and that is a view I personally have always held strongly. Fears that our membership of the Community would undermine this commitment have proved groundless. Instead, the Commonwealth has continued to grow in maturity and self-confidence, as well as in meaning and in size.