USSR (Ministerial Visit)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East 12:00 am, 2nd March 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent discussions with the Soviet authorities during his visit to Moscow.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

My right hon. and learned Friend had full and wide-ranging talks with Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Shevardnadze and others covering bilateral matters including trade, arms control, human rights and regional issues. He also met human rights activists and was able to put our views direct to the Soviet public in their press and on television. The visit was a further contribution to our active dialogue with the Soviet leadership and to the improving atmosphere of East-West relations.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

On the assumption that my right hon. and learned Friend's successful visit also included talks on middle east peace prospects, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is no good the United States objecting to the Soviet and Syrian presence in a possible future international peace conference, and it is no good us repeating that we think that the Jordanian cum Palestinian option is the best way forward, if, quite manifestly and clearly, the Jordanians object to the Palestinians being included with them rather than having their own independent and legitimate position in the negotiations?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

Perhaps I should explain to my hon. Friend the inhibiting factor in some of the earlier answers. While Mr. Shultz is still active—as he is and there is no question of his mission having come to an end—it is difficult for us to comment on the substance of it when it is at the heart of Mr. Shultz's efforts that the substance should emerge as a result of his careful negotiations. However, in private we advise Mr. Shultz with all candour about the ways we think things should move forward. Let me correct my hon. Friend on one point. I was in Jordan yesterday, and I can assure him there is no question of the Jordanians objecting to a mixed delegation. It is their policy to press for one.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

When the Foreign Secretary was in Moscow, did the Russians raise with him the question of human rights in the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

There was a full discussion on human rights and I am delighted that one of the consequences of my right hon. and learned Friend's visit was that Mrs. Sosna has been permitted to leave the Soviet Union. It was also true that, largely as a diversionary tactic, questions of human rights in the United Kingdom were raised by the Soviet side. From the smile on the hon. Gentleman's face, it appears that he associates himself with those observations, and I think that it is a jolly bad thing that he does.

Mr. John M. Taylor:

Did my hon. and learned Friend, in the course of his discussions, give as part of his appreciation of the middle east situation the view that Israel is entitled to secure frontiers, but not to occupy all the territory up to those frontiers?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

I think I understand the point that my hon. Friend is making. Israel is entitled to have internationally recognised borders, but those are not the borders that are taken as a result of war, and the occupied territories are not part of Israel. It is the view of the British Government and, I believe, of the world community as a whole, that they should not remain so. Nor will that secure peace, so long as the Israeli Government fail to recognise that the principles of territories at peace will be the crucial element in any future discussions.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had in Moscow on arms control during the recent visit.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

My right hon. and learned Friend had extensive discussions with the Soviet leadership on issues covering nuclear, conventional and chemical arms control.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Did Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Shevardnadze express their concern about Britain's role in the foot-dragging on conventional and chemical arms talks and on the compensatory build-up of arms in the wake of the intermediate nucler forces agreement? Did they urge the Foreign Secretary to show common sense and abandon dangerous dogmas? Will not the proclaimed friendship be superficial unless the Government show the political will for arms reductions instead of arms expansion, which is what the Prime Minister is arguing for at NATO today?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

I am glad to welcome the hon. Gentleman's return, but he might have marked it more appropriately than by acting as a voice and echo of what the Soviet Government officials said to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State while he was in Moscow. The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that the Soviets have their position on these matters. They would like to see a denuclearised Europe, which would further entrench the massive and overwhelming power of their conventional weapons. It should not be the business of any British parliamentarian, from whatever side of the House he comes, to associate himself with those ideas.

The other thing that Opposition Members should recognise is that the Soviet Union respects strength. It was the strength of purpose of the NATO Alliance that led to the INF deal and that will lead to further deals, whereas the weakness of Opposition Members would simply allow the Soviets to roll over by default.

Photo of Mr David Madel Mr David Madel , South West Bedfordshire

Was there any recognition in Moscow that tension can be reduced in Europe only if there is a substantial and permanent reduction of Soviet conventional forces in Eastern Europe?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Why have the Soviets spent 15 years at the mutual and balanced force reductions talks and failed to agree a mandate on these issues? They do not even tell us exactly what their conventional strength is, but it is clear that they have 51,000 tanks pushed forward, many of them 600 miles from the border of the Soviet Union, and last year they produced some 3,400 tanks, 30 per cent. more than in 1983. That is the reality of the build-up of Soviet conventional forces. Until they are prepared to tackle that seriously and to bring about a reduction there can be no security and no reduction of tension in Europe.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs)

Is the Minister not aware, when he tells my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) that the NATO Alliance must demonstrate strength of purpose, as is being shown in the NATO summit, that there are different views among the NATO Alliance, that the Prime Minister, to her great discredit, wants to step up the nuclear threshold, whereas Chancellor Kohl of West Germany seeks to negotiate away the battlefield nuclear weapons which would turn Germany into a radioactive desert? Will he, therefore, tell the Foreign Secretary that it would be much better for this country to support the Germans in wishing to bring about a nuclear-free Europe than to go with the Prime Minister, the last nuclear dinosaur?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

The right hon. Gentleman, I am sorry to say, is wrong. Perhaps on his next journey overseas he should go and see Chancellor Kohl. He has distorted Chancellor Kohl's position. The Chancellor is not in favour of the third zero. It is true that some elements, representing quite a lot of people, in German politics are in favour, but Chancellor Kohl is not, because he realises as much as the rest of us that if there were to be a denuclearised Europe, what the Soviets mean is a denuclearised Western Europe, which simply builds in the superiority that they possess.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

Before the right hon. Gentleman says "No, no", as if he were at the latest Manchester pantomime, coming in, as he does, with a fresh mind to the Labour party's conduct of foreign affairs, surely he should realise that if we had followed the principles that the previous Labour spokesmen laid down with equal dogmatism and certainty that they were right over INF, and failed to deploy Pershing 2 and cruise, we would not have these agreements at all. The right hon. Gentleman would do well to realise that it was the firmness of purpose of the NATO Alliance, led by the Prime Minister, that got us into the good position that we are in today.