HC Deb 30 March 1977 vol 929 cc388-90
5. Mr. Sproat

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what latest discussions he has had with EEC and NATO allies on the Belgrade review conference.

Mr. Luard

Intensive discussions on preparations for the Belgrade review meeting of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe are continuing in the political co-operation machinery of the Nine and in NATO. This subject will be considered at ministerial level on 18th and 19th April in the EEC political co-operation context and on 10th and 11th May in NATO.

Mr. Sproat

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House when it is expected that the main part of the Belgrade review conference will begin? Will he assure us that Her Majesty's Government, together with our allies in NATO and the EEC, will be pressing that the meeting, contrary to what the Soviet Union wants, is held at top political level and mainly in public, and not merely between officials and mainly in private?

Mr. Luard

The preparatory meetings of the conference will be held at the end of June and in July. It will then be decided exactly when the main conference will take place and how long it will last. At that stage the procedural matters that the hon. Gentleman has raised will be decided. I think that the House as a whole hopes that at least a part of the conference will be in public, when the strongly-held views of all members of the conference can be expressed, including opinion about all aspects of implementation of the Helsinki Agreement. However, most of us would also accept that more useful progress would probably be made if at least a part of the conference consisted of confidential discussions.

Mr. Blaker

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most important objectives for the West at Belgrade is to make it clear to the Soviet Union that an interpretation of détente that enables it to go on subverting our societies and supporting change by violence throughout the world is not acceptable to the West?

Mr. Luard

One of the main purposes of the meeting will be for all the Western members in particular to express their views about their interpretation of détente and the ground rules, for example, for peaceful coexistence between the two halves in Europe. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's view will be expressed on that occasion. Most of us accept that detente is a complex process, which involves a number of aspects. The question of human rights is by no means the only aspect of concern, but it is one that many people will feel to be of the greatest concern to many Western countries.

Mr. John Davies

Will the Minister use his influence, and encourage his right hon. Friend to use his, to ensure that the House is consulted on the preparatory steps for the Belgrade conference? Many Members on both sides feel that the House will necessarily have to be involved in the matter before the initial conference starts again.

Mr. Luard

I understand the concern that must be widely felt in the House and that has been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, that the House should be involved in this process. I understand that there are some who feel that there should be a debate in the House. That is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I shall draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the views that have been expressed.

Back to