§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Francis Pym)
This is the first opportunity to debate foreign affairs on a comprehensive basis since I became Foreign Secretary and I welcome it. I hope that the House will bear with me if I make a rather longer speech than is my habit.
In my view, the need for a positive and effective British foreign policy has never been more important and it is right that the House should have the time to consider the issues that face the world today.
The Gracious Speech began by stressing the priority that the Government attach to the security of the nation and the preservation of peace. This should be self-evident, but looking at much of what is currently said about defence and security from the benches opposite, I am not so sure. I will come back to the theme of security and peace in a moment.
I also want to address in turn the two other fundamental objectives of our policy—international stability and prosperity. Our foreign policy as a whole is founded on the conviction that Britain cannot flourish in isolation, either politically or economically. If it could, we would have little need for a foreign policy.
The stability of our democratic institutions is the foundation of our freedoms, freedoms which we share with our European neighbours. It is worth noting that in Western Europe during the parliamentary recess, new Governments came to power in Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark—evidence enough that the democratic institutions are in good repair.
We have to face up to the reality that an unstable world could eventually endanger those institutions which we and our friends value so highly. Beyond that, of course, we all want to prosper, and we must remember that the fortunes of this country rest on free trade. They depend also on the smooth working of the international financial system, which in current circumstances is under strain. The sort of little England approach which is often urged upon us would do grave damage to our political and economic interests.
The Government do not shrink from the challenges of the outside world but measure up to them firmly and resolutely. We do not seek simply to protect what we have. 120 That is not a sound basis for security or stability in a changing world. Nor is it a sound basis for prosperity in an increasingly competitive world. We aim rather to make a positive contribution to international peace and co-operation to the maximum of our capability.
Security must be the starting point for foreign policy. The first duty of any Government is the provision for its people of lasting security. There can be no chance of achieving stability and prosperity without it. In an uncertain and dangerous world, we must be certain thai: our security rests on solid foundations. We must live in the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.
Europe has enjoyed peace for more than 35 years. There is a tendency now to take this for granted, but those of us who saw the human misery and vast destruction of the Second World War can never do this. We know that war must not be allowed to happen again in Europe. The first objective of Her Majesty's Government is, and will remain, the prevention of war in Europe.
Peace with freedom—that is an aim which has been pursued by all British Governments since 1945. We see it as the right of every citizen, but it is a right that always has to be worked for and can never be taken for granted. Our efforts for peace have been concentrated in our great alliance of free and democratic nations, an alliance in which all members voluntarily and freely subscribe to the same set of principles. No decisions are imposed. There is no dictatorship. We have pursued successful policies to prevent the scourge of war and we have done so by working together, through consultation and co-operation.
This is not an easy course. There are no easy options. The Soviet Union has developed an arsenal of military power which goes far beyond the reasonable needs of self-defence. We have to face the fact of Soviet military power. That fact cannot be wished away. We cannot base our policy on comfortable guesses about Soviet intentions.
Our security and the measures that we must take to ensure it are now the subject of widespread debate, which I welcome. It is right that Parliament and public should have every opportunity to consider these difficult and dangerous issues, but I regret that all too often the debate is marred by hypocrisy and humbug—by a refusal to face the hard, unpalatable realities. We cannot afford to forget the lessons of history. If we have learnt nothing else from the 1930s, we should at least have retained two lessons—that a foreign policy founded on wishful assumptions about the intentions of a potential adversary is a recipe for disaster, and that inadequate preparation and insufficient defence are no service to the cause of peace.
The plain fact is that we have had peace in Europe all these years because we have been able to deter aggression. We live in an age of nuclear weapons which cannot somehow be made to disappear at the stroke of a magician's wand. We have been able to deter aggression by making it clear to any potential aggressor that the risks of any military adventure in Europe are so great that they far outweigh any conceivable gain.
The readiness of our American allies to extend to their partners in NATO the protection of their own deterrent forces is the linchpin of our security. Successive British Governments have willingly made their contribution. This Government will not shirk their duty. We will maintain an independent British deterrent as a crucial part of our commitment.
I cannot accept that this is in any way an immoral position, as some suggest. Of course I understand the 121 public concern about nuclear weapons. I share exactly the same concerns, and I recognise the sincerity of many who take a different view. If at a stroke the world could be changed, no sensible person could wish things to be exactly as they are today, but in the world as it is our overriding aim is to prevent the outbreak of any conflict and in my view that is the greater morality. In a world where our potential adversary is armed with nuclear weapons and is building more and more, this means for the West a policy of nuclear deterrence. What claim to higher moral principles can be made by those who would willingly shelter beneath American nuclear protection while refusing to provide the bases in this country from which that protection can operate? I see no morality there. I see only hyprocrisy and wishful thinking.
I am not arguing for a blind adherence to the status quo. On the contrary, our entire purpose is to work for major reductions in the arsenals of East and West and to preserve the peace at far lower levels of cost and armament.
This can be achieved only through painstaking negotiation. I tell the House this afternoon that between East and West there is now a dialogue on arms control and disarmament of a more comprehensive kind and across a wider spectrum than at any period since the war. The United States has our full support in negotiating with the Soviet Union in Geneva for major reductions in strategic nuclear armaments. The United States proposals, which we endorse, are radical and far-reaching. If accepted, they would bring about vast reductions in the arsenals of the Soviet Union and the United States, and that is what we all want.
In full and detailed consultations with their allies, the Americans are also negotiating in Geneva about intermediate range nuclear forces. Here the American proposals are no less radical. Their objective is the complete elimination of a whole class of nuclear systems. The Russians have yet to demonstrate that they are prepared to work seriously for a balanced outcome to these talks. Propaganda is no substitute for hard work at the negotiating table. Nor will propaganda divert us from our commitment to the second part of NATO's decision in 1979—that is, to deploy, in the absence of a satisfactory negotiated solution, new United States systems in Europe.
In the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna we are working with our allies to bring about major reductions in conventional troop levels in Europe. Time and again the alliance has put forward new proposals to overcome Soviet objections, and in spite of the fact that success has evaded us for nine long years we shall go on working for reductions.
We want also to see sensible and practical measures taken to create greater military confidence in Europe. That is part of the process of the conference on security and cooperation in Europe. We hope that when the review conference in Madrid resumes next week it will be possible to reach a balanced outcome and that as part of that balance there will be agreement to call a conference on security building measures in Europe. It remains to be seen whether it can be achieved, but that is what we are working for.
In the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva, we put forward earlier this year proposals for key elements in a convention to ban chemical weapons. Our objective is to remove once and for all this horror from the arsenals of the world, but this can be done only if the Soviet Union 122 accepts provisions on verification adequate to establish genuine confidence. We want to do it. Does the Soviet Union?
It is sometimes said that all these disarmament negotiations take too long and are ineffective. No one would be better pleased than I if effective agreements could be reached more quickly, but it takes both sides to make agreement possible. With major questions of security at stake it is not surprising that the process is difficult, but the prize is worth all the effort and more. Her Majesty's Government will not be deterred by the setbacks. We shall continue to strive for arms control agreements with all our strength.
We will not be tempted by short cuts leading to unsound conclusions. Let there be no doubt about our patience and our resolve.
We offer the Soviet Union a choice. The alliance has put forward bold and imaginative proposals which can open the way for a more stable and open military relationship, for a more secure future for all. We have demonstrated our readiness for an open dialogue on these proposals. We are ready to talk about other things too, but we are not willing to talk about empty propaganda gestures or about commitments which are going to be cynically ignored.
It is up to the Soviet Union to show that it is willing to respect human rights and to apply in their entirety the provisions of the Helsinki final act. It is up to the Soviet Union to show greater restraint in its international behaviour, and greater respect for the sovereignty of other countries, whatever their social systems. If the Soviet Union will choose the path of restraint, of arms control, and of respect for human rights, Her Majesty's Government and all our allies will welcome that choice. The initiatives that we have already taken make it absolutely, unmistakably clear that we are ready to respond.
§ Mr. Eric Deakins (Waltham Forest)
How will the sale of subsidised butter from the Common Market to the Soviet Union, which has just been announced, help to convince the Soviet Union that we are serious about the objectives that the Foreign Secretary rightly puts forward?
§ Mr. Pym
I am about to come on to the economic aspects, but before leaving the subject of East-West relations I should like to call the attention of the House to another important aspect of the work of the alliance. Economic relations with the East are clearly an integral part of our comprehensive strategy, yet until now they have not received enough attention or thought. Over the past few weeks, Britain has played a leading role in helping to shape a more comprehensive Western strategy which, among other things, includes the wisdom or unwisdom of selling subsidised goods to the Soviet Union. Good progress has been made with those talks.
The pipeline dispute itself gives us no joy, but I believe that we shall have strengthened our ability in the West to handle East-West economic relations on a more rational and agreed basis than before. The extensive discussions we have had with our friends over the last two months have established a large amount of common ground. We shall also have given the lie to those who claimed that NATO was in some fundamental disarray. It is not. The alliance is sound and in good heart. There is no disagreement 123 between us on the fundamental issues of war and peace. Membership of NATO for us remains at the heart of our foreign policy.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
Would it not have been in the spirit of the alliance had the United States taken a different attitude on the Falkland Islands question now before the United Nations?
§ Mr. Pym
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.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great damage that has been done to the Commonwealth by the Government's policy on overseas students' fees? Will he take note of the strong feeling on the Conservative Benches and others that it is high time that we had a more enlightened approach to that problem?
§ Mr. Pym
I am indeed aware of the concern that has been expressed on that score. My hon. Friend will know that the Overseas Student Trust has undertaken a major review which for some months has been under active consideration by the Government. Whereas it would be wrong of me to indicate that more resources will be available, we intend to make a further announcement in due course as a result of that study.
The support which so many Commonwealth countries gave us during the Falklands conflict was impressive testimony to the value and strength of our Commonwealth links, but it goes deeper than that. The Commonwealth operates at all levels and in virtually all areas. We shall do all we can to foster and enhance its potential.
This country has made a special contribution to international stability this year. We have shown the world that aggression need not pay. We have defended the weak against the strong. We have stood by our responsibilities and our commitments to a small and distant people. Our response to the unprovoked, unlawful and totally unjustified Argentine invasion of the Falklands was widely respected. I do not believe that its full impact on international habits of thought and action has yet been felt.
The subject is now being debated at the United Nations. Argentina had first produced a draft resolution which was a blatant attempt to get the General Assembly to endorse the position which the junta had failed to achieve by the unlawful use of force. Many countries throughout the world saw this draft for what it was, and made it clear that they would no support it. Needless to say, we actively encouraged them in this view.
The Argentine campaign managers took fright at the prospect of failure, as well they might, and were forced to alter their draft. In the world of the United Nations, their new version now has a certain superficial attraction, since some of the most obviously one-sided features have disappeared, but it remains totally unacceptable to us. We cannot accept a call for negotiations on sovereignty after an unprovoked attempt to force the issue by invasion—an invasion which made abundantly clear the extent of Argentine disregard for the rights of the Islanders.
We know what the Argentines mean by negotiation—a discussion of the procedures whereby sovereignty might most quickly be passed to them. References which have been introduced into the new resolution to the non-use of force are cynical and hypocritical in the extreme, coming as they do from a country which launched aggression six months ago. The text—by what it contains and what it omits—continues to prejudge the substance of the issue on sovereignty.
The whole idea of Argentina introducing a draft United Nations resolution calling for negotiations is absurd, after her flouting of the United Nations charter and her defiance of the Security Council. We have made our views very clear to our friends and allies. The vote at the United Nations may go against us, but such a result will bring little credit to those whose memories proved so short.
§ Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)
If that is so clear to all right-thinking people, why is it not clear to the American Administration?
§ Mr. Pym
It is for the American Administration to form their own judgment—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh] Of course it is. Every Government must take their own view. I have made our view very clear to the American 125 Adminstration. The vote has not yet taken place, so we shall have to wait and see. I think that I covered the point the hon. Gentleman raised in my reply a few moments ago.
§ Mr. Pym
I must continue, or I shall take too long.
Our policy will continue to be based in the real world. There, we are busy with the difficult and unglamourous work of rehabilitation in the islands. Infrastructure is being put back in place. Essential services are being restored. Lord Shackleton's recommendations on development are being studied urgently, with the benefit of the islanders' own views. We intend, of course, to encourage economic development.
There is much still to be done, not least on the psychological front. The invasion is only a few short months behind the people of the islands. Time is still needed, but in due course we and they will be in a position to discuss the political and other conditions in which they wish to lead their lives in future. That is the right approach, not an Argentine-inspired United Nations charade. We are committed to the future of the islands and we shall not let the islanders down.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the unique position of Britain in many international organisations and our influence in the world. Does he agree that our influence would be enhanced rather than diminished if we abandoned certain nineteenth century and even eighteenth century colonial positions which we seem determined to hang on to indefinitely?
§ Mr. Pym
I believe that the conversion of the British Empire into the Commonwealth is perhaps the most remarkable achievement of our entire history. We have recognised the rights of self-determination of the peoples concerned and have brought 50 members to the United Nations as independent nations in their own right. It is incredible to me that the idea that Britain is a colonial power should be fostered anywhere in the world. I never expected to hear such a view expressed in the House.
The Gracious Speech referred to a number of international problems—the Middle East, Afghanistan, Namibia and Cambodia. These are all areas where we must use our influence, together with our friends and allies, in the interests of stability and peace.
In the Middle East, the problems remain immense and fomidable, but they are not insuperable. An immediate priority must be the reconstruction of an independent and strong Lebanon, and the restoration of the Lebanese Government's authority in the wake of the unjustifiable and disastrous Israeli invasion.
President Gemayel has made an impressive start and he has our support, but one vital key to further progress is the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the Lebanon. The United States Administration are working urgently to that end and have our full backing.
Stability and peace within Lebanon in the longer term will depend crucially on progress towards a wider Middle East peace and a just solution to the Palestinian problem. Here, too, there is some room for hope.
§ Mr. Foulkes
Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the United States Government have asked the United Kingdom Government to join in assisting the training of Lebanese armed forces? Will he tell the House what the response of our Government has been and why it has been negative?
§ Mr. Pym
There has been some discussion at official level, but no formal requests have been received. If they were received they would be given active and immediate consideration.
On the Palestinian problem President Reagan has taken a bold initiative, which we warmly welcome. His policy is not the same as ours in all respects. We believe that Palestinian self-determination is an essential principle for any lasting settlement, but the President's approach has come much closer to the European approach and it offers a realistic way forward.
We and our partners in the Ten will continue to encourage all concerned to respond constructively, whatever their doubts and fears. It is too easy in the Middle East for those in conflict to stay in the trenches of their long-established positions. That is no use. It is time for both sides to get out and step into the middle ground, as President Sadat and Mr. Begin had the courage to do over Sinai. Otherwise there can be no useful dialogue and no progress.
The Arabs put forward their proposals for a negotiated settlement at Fez. The emergence of a united Arab approach is a welcome step forward. It is encouraging that they and the Americans have discussed their respective views in a constructive spirit. We look forward to welcoming an Arab League delegation to London later this month. We shall be making clear to them our belief that both Israel's undoubted right to a secure existence and Palestinian rights are equally vital elements of a settlement. Both must be accepted by both sides for an effective dialogue to begin.
We have said that the PLO will have to be associated with negotiation. We stick to that, but if it were to state its unequivocal acceptance of a negotiated settlement and the principles on which it must be based, including the abandonment of violence, it would be much better placed to achieve a decent future for the Palestinian people.
I have recently visited Syria and Egypt and go to Jordan shortly. I have also met the Israeli Foreign Minister in New York. My talks have revealed many differences of perspective and substance, but I have not been discouraged unduly by them. The seeds of peace are there. We in Britain have a role to play in nurturing them, and this Government will play it to the full.
In the same part of the world, two other military conflicts continue. There seems no solution in sight to the war between Iran and Iraq. The fighting flares occasionally, but a decisive military advantage has not been gained by either side. This is a conflict over which we can claim little or no influence, but it is still a potential threat to our interests and to the security of some of our friends in the region. It has a still greater potential threat. If there is a way in which we can help to halt the war, we shall not hesitate to act.
A little further to the east, in Afghanistan, the resistance to the Soviet occupation has not been crushed. Far from it. Despite an enlarged Soviet military presence, the people of Afghanistan continue to reject the Soviet attempt 127 to subjugate them. The absurd Soviet pretext of an invitation to help them has been proved the hypocrisy that we all knew it was.
The Soviet interpretation of events in Afghanistan finds no echo in the great majority of countries in the world. Afghanistan has not been forgotten, and it will not be forgotten by us.
In Asia, too, a country is occupied. Cambodia is occupied by Vietnam, with Soviet support. Again the international community has refused to acquiesce in this occupation. We welcome the coalition that has been formed. It is a step towards a much-needed political solution. We hope that a chance will eventually come for the long-suffering Cambodian people to run their own affairs as they wish, free from outside interference.
Southern Africa is another region which craves greater stability. The successful bringing to independence of Namibia, to follow up the Zimbabwe settlement, would be a major contribution. Much time and effort has been spent on this during the recess, and much important progress has been made. The next few months may demonstrate whether negotiated independence is attainable in the near future. The crucial question is not whether the so-called linkage between Namibian independence and the Cuban presence in Angola is justifiable, but whether a further reserve of political will on both sides can be found to clear away the remaining obstacles.
As to South Africa itself, we shall continue to impress upon the Government there the vital importance of peaceful evolution towards a society acceptable to all its inhabitants. That is the way to avoid violent confrontation in the future. I must, however, tell the House that I remain unconvinced that sanctions and unnecessary ostracism and vilification will lead to progress in the right direction.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Before the Secretary of State leaves his tour of danger spots, does he intend to say a word about the Horn of Africa? What are his views about the behaviour of Ethiopia particularly towards Eritrea and other neighbouring territories?
§ Mr. Pym
I shall within my speech deal with as many issues as I think the House can stand from me at one time. I might be content to take the entire time allocated to the debate but that might not be very popular.
I must also, in the context of international stability, make clear our commitment to a stable and prosperous future for Hong Kong. As the House knows, the Chinese agreed during the recent visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Peking that this would be the aim of talks on the future of Hong Kong. Our target is a settlement with China which is acceptable to this House and to the people of Hong Kong. I believe that this is a realistic target. Meetings in Peking to follow up the Prime Minister's visit have already begun. The future of Hong Kong is a difficult and sensitive subject, but the issue cannot be ducked and 1997 is not all that far away. We are tackling the issue with vigour and resolution.
International security and stability are necessary conditions for national and international prosperity, but they are not by themselves sufficient conditions. The pursuit of prosperity is as important and distinct a goal of foreign policy as it is of domestic policy. This is particularly true of this country, which has traditionally 128 thrived on international trade and international financial co-operation. World recession and unacceptable levels of unemployment, especially among the young, provide a particularly dismal background to our current efforts. In this hostile environment, I think it right to put into proper perspective the role played by the institutions which bind the international community and the strength to he drawn from them.
In the 1930s equivalent strains led to panic. "Sauve qui peut" was the cry, and many were crushed in the rush for the lifeboats. Today, we have kept our nerve as an international community, and we have kept faith with our central institutions. We are now beginning to reap the fruits of that patience.
The steel dispute is an example. Through the Community, Britain was able to fight its corner with the strength of the Ten. We have successfully maintained our full share of Community exports to the United States. Without the Community agreement, the British Steel Corporation stood to lose a market which was worth over £50 million last year. As it is, we have maintained our full share of Community exports to the United States. The agreement proved better both for us and for the other countries involved than any of the likely alternatives.
The international framework held. There was no collapse into a national free-for-all. Internally, too, the Community has proved its worth in recent weeks. On the vexed question of the budget, it remains our joint task—and an urgent one—to find a lasting solution to the problem. We have now for a third year negotiated with our partners a satisfactory refund which means that a total of approximately £2,000 million in refunds has been agreed for the last three years. It is certainly a much better result than would be obtained by unproductive grumbling and threats to withdraw, which come, among other places, from the Opposition Benches. I remind the Opposition that they did nothing to negotiate refunds when in office. I hope that they will maintain a discreet silence on the subject.
Fisheries are another example of the Community reconciling national interests. We are on the brink of a common fisheries policy which the industry in this country accepts as preferable to continuing uncertainty and turmoil. These successes give us confidence to push ahead with efforts to develop the Community in other ways. The fundamental principles of the common agricultural policy are sound but it is wasteful in practice. The Commission knows this and accepts the need for change. We shall continue to press for it. [HoN. MEMBERS: "When?"] As soon as possible.
The further enlargement of the Community must not be allowed to hang fire for too long, despite the difficulties. In our view, Spain and Portugal should be admitted with the least possible delay. Both countries have successfully joined the European democratic family. The vigour of Spanish democracy has been shown once again by last week's election. The addition of both to the Community will consolidate these welcome gains for democracy.
§ Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)
I accept that the Gracious Speech reveals the political objective of Her Majesty's Government to have Spain within the Common Market. Will my right hon. Friend confirm once more that there is no question of the 129 accession of Spain to the Common Market so long as restrictions are maintained on the border and the people of Gibraltar?
§ Mr. Pym
I have made it clear on earlier occasions that it is unthinkable to us that the accession could take place while the border remained closed.
A strong Community is vital if we are to preserve the world trading system through GATT. A major theme at the ministerial meeting at the end of this month—in fact, I think next week—will be the need for a fairer balance of access to overseas markets in which obligations and benefits are properly matched. I do not minimise the difficulties, and I am well aware that there are sometimes real problems in ensuring that other people abide by the rules, but there can be no question of the importance to Britain—a country which exports some 30 per cent. of its output—of maintaining, and indeed strengthening, the framework in which the open trading system can flourish.
Where problems arise it is important to look for solutions which offer as much scope as possible for the development of trade. There are provisions within the GATT rules for arrangements to take account of special circumstances. They have proved their worth, and will no doubt continue to be necessary, but what we must strongly resist is the temptation to believe that the creation of barriers, the retreat into isolationism, could ever be the right answer to our problems. That path, by reducing efficiency and the ability to compete, will make us all—producers and consumers alike—worse off in the long run.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
How can my right hon. Friend make that proposition when many countries with which we compete have far higher tariff barriers than ours, which operate against our goods, while we offer minimal tariff barriers against their goods? How can that situation make our industry more competitive which is the Government's intention? Surely it will lead to greater unemployment and drive many of our essential industries out of business?
§ Mr. Pym
The Government want that problem solved not by increasing barriers all round but by reducing them. The reduction of barriers is a high priority objective of the Government.
On the broader financial front, where we have seen so many recent shocks, it is important to make the point that the Bretton Woods institutions have served the world well since their establishment after the war. They have adapted to meet the changing circumstances of the world economy. In the present atmosphere of uncertainty over international economic prospects, they have a vital role to play.
Now is not the time to pull up the roots of institutions that have served us well in the hope that something more vigorous and more adapted to today's world will spring up in their place. Neither must we assume that the institutions can best tackle the problems of tomorrow with the methods of yesterday. They must be constantly reviewed. They must be reinforced as necessary.
We shall uphold the competence and political independence of the International Monetary Fund. We shall work for a constructive and orderly evolution of the international monetary system. The Government believe 130 that the institution must be effective and have the resources necessary to carry out their tasks. Their integrity must be respected. They must remain non-political.
The rich countries cannot remain islands of prosperity in a sea of poverty. I do not shy from the word "interdependent". It expresses a truth. We are not, and cannot be, indifferent to the plight of the developing countries. The present world recession has hit them very hard. Their debts now amount to over £300 billion. Developing countries, especially the poorest, need help more than ever to adjust to the difficult circumstances that they face. Eight hundred million people in the world still live in absolute poverty and Britain remains determined to help them. Our aid programme—(Interruption.] I am absolutely astonished that Opposition Members do not wish to help them. Our aid programme is substantial. It is a vital part of our foreign policy. We are playing a full part in the common search for solutions to the concerns of the developing countries. We want a dialogue between rich and poor countries, between North and South, that addresses real-life problems not on the basis of sterile rhetoric but by recognising the realities of interdependence.
Despite the length of the time that I have taken, I have not been able to deal with some important problems fully, and have left others untouched. Perhaps I may summarise what we have achieved in foreign policy in recent months and what we are aiming to achieve in the future.
We have a sound and very positive alliance policy towards security. That involves the maintenance of a fully capable deterrent force while we work with all our own strength and with our allies towards arms control. We have made good progress towards an agreed Alliance position on economic relations with the East. We have settled a satifactory budget deal in the Community for this year. We have strengthened our Commonwealth links. In the Middle East we have remained actively involved in the search for lasting peace. In southern Africa, we have made progress towards a Namibia settlement.
That is a good base from which to go forward. I take a positive view of the future. We want to see real progress in arms control; the end of the pipeline sanctions and an agreed approach to East-West economic relations; reaffirmation and greater acceptance of the basic principles of the open trading system; greater international financial stability; real movement towards a stable Lebanon and a wider Middle East peace; a lasting solution to the Community budget problem; a Namibia settlement; agreement with China on the safeguarding of the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong; and in the Falklands, a full return to normality and further economic and political development, and normality in our relations with Argentina.
That is a heavy agenda, and progress will have to be worked for with patience as well as determination. But those objectives are not beyond our reach if we base ourselves, as the Government do, on a concept of Britain's role in the world which is free both of illusion and isolationism.
We shall not shut ourselves away from reality. Our national interests will be resolutely defended, but in co-operation, not confrontation, with others. Britain can achieve security, stability and prosperity in the long term only in a world that is itself, so far as possible, secure, stable and prosperous. The Government have the will and 131 the policies to make that contribution which the world expects of Britain. I assure the House that the Government will play their full part.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
As the Secretary of State said in opening his speech, there has always been a tendency in these general debates on foreign affairs on the Loyal Address to be so overwhelmed by the infinity of particular issues as to lose sight of what is happening in the world as a whole. The Foreign Secretary drenched us in details, but I thank him for his attempt to provide a general framework of the Government's thinking on policy as a whole. However, if the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so, in the last quarter of an hour of his speech the Foreign Office word processor seemed to be working overtime.
There is much in what the right hon. Gentleman had to say in the earlier part of his speech with which I generally agree. However, his perspective was slightly skewed. I start by putting some general considerations to the House, against which to look at some specific problems with which we have to deal:We live today in the presence of a chilling and unprecedented phenomenon. At the peak of world power there exist enough nuclear weapons to destroy life on our planet. It seems evident that nothing worthwhile would survive such a holocaust, and this fact, above all else, contains the nuclear confrontation—for the time being at least.In the middle level of world power there exist vast quantities of sophisticated conventional weapons. Indeed we have seen some of them in devastating action this very year. These weapons are, by comparison with those of former times, immensely destructive, and they are actually being used. They are also the objects of a highly profitable international trade.At yet another level we have the poverty of a vast proportion of the world's population—a deprivation inexplicable in terms of the available resources or of the money and ingenuity spent on armaments and war. We have unsolved but soluble problems of economic relations, trade distribution of resources and technology. We have many ideas and plans as to how to meet the growing needs of the large mass of humanity but somehow, such human considerations seem to take second place to the technology and funding of violence and war in the name of national security.It is for these reasons that our peoples, especially the young, take to the streets in their hundreds of thousands in many parts of the world to proclaim their peaceful protest against the existing situation and their deep fear of the consequences of the arms race and nuclear catastrophe. Who can say that these gentle protesters are wrong or misguided?
There is a significant difference between the perspective offered by this description of the world's problems and that offered by the Secretary of State. The description that I have quoted is that of Mr. Perez de Cuellar, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in the opening of his report to the General Assembly a couple of months ago. Most of us who had the privilege of meeting Mr. Perez de Cuellar would agree that he is the most able and dedicated Secretary-General since Dag Hammarskjöld. His report this year was the most sombre and realistic for many years.
I wish to address myself to the three major problems that the Secretary-General described and with which the Secretary of State also concerned himself—the nuclear arms race between the great powers, the growing violence of conventional conflict in the Third world and the steady deterioration in the economic prospects of the world as a whole—which risk plunging large parts of humanity into mass starvation and civil war.
132 I remind the House that the revolt against the nuclear arms race is not confined to the young. The referenda held on Tuesday this week in towns, cities and states all over the United States of America came out overwhelmingly in favour of a bilateral freeze on the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union. It is extraordinary that the British Government should have chosen this moment to commit themselves to spend $10,000 million to buy a brand new American missile system with a destructive power equal to the whole of the Soviet SS20 forces, and to do so at the expense of the possible improvements in our conventional capabilities which could, as the NATO Supreme Commander pointed out the other day, make it unnecessary for NATO to rely on the first use of nuclear weapons as a threat to deter conventional aggression by the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, negotiations on the intermediate nuclear forces and the reduction of strategic arms seem to have run into the sand. I fear I cannot share the optimism expressed by the Foreign Secretary in his references to the current arms negotiations. There is clearly a dialogue of the deaf and there are growing signs that the Soviet Government are contemplating abandoning talks altogether. I hope that all hon. Members on both sides of the House would regard such a decision as inexcusable, whatever provocation the Soviet Government may believe that they have suffered.
However, it has become increasingly clear that it is not possible at present to negotiate in Madrid strategic arms reductions, theatre nuclear weapons reductions, reductions in conventional forces and measures against surprise attack, all in completely separate compartments, above all because it is not possible any longer to pretend that the British and French nuclear forces are irrelevant both to the talks on strategic arms limitation and to the talks on intermediate nuclear forces.
As I pointed out, the planned Trident purchase by the British Government would, of itself, provide Britain with a destructive capacity equivalent to the whole of the SS20 forces that the West is currently trying to negotiate away in the talks on intermediate nuclear forces. We must face the fact that the British and French forces must be included in any negotiations with the Soviet Union that are to have any chance of success, and that will have profound implications for British defence policy as well as for British diplomacy.
There are two other technological possibilities now opening in front of us which make it desperately urgent to stop the arms race before it goes much further. Many experts believe that the cruise missile, when deployed, will not be able to be detected by satellite photography, which is the only type of inspection technique that the Soviet Union has so far been prepared to accept. Moreover, the possibility of fitting conventional warheads as well as nuclear warheads—and indeed, the United States' intention to do so in regard to both the cruise aid the Pershing missiles—will enormously complicate the task of monitoring the deployment of nuclear weapon systems which include those missiles. It will make it even more difficult if we have to rely entirely on satellite photography.
Therefore, it seems to me that there is much justification for the growing demand on both sides of the Atlantic for a pause in nuclear developments in the East and the West, combined with a search for a new and more comprehensive approach to the problems which are involved in strategic and conventional arms limitation. 133 The right hon. Gentleman rightly referred to the entrenched positions of the parties to the Middle East conflict, but there is no doubt in my mind that the positions of the Soviet and Western Governments on arms control are similarly entrenched. The fact that the major negotiators on both sides have been in the business for a long time—in the case of Mr. Nitze for at least 30 years—suggests that there is need for pause for thought, and during that pause it would be desirable that no further developments took place, if it were possible to negotiate that.
I totally agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the unity of the Western alliance is essential to the success of negotiations with the Soviet Union, but I fear that he was somewhat starry-eyed in his description of the alliance as it exists today. It is in disarray. It has been in disarray ever since I have been involved in its problems, since 1949, but in some respects I think that the threats to the unity of the alliance are greater today than I can ever recall them, if only because the United States is now trying to dictate to its allies on major issues of allied policy in ways which are immensely damaging to allied unity.
It is not true to say, as the right hon. Gentleman did in his speech, that no decisions are imposed inside the Atlantic alliance. President Reagan unilaterally imposed sanctions and an embargo on supplies for the Soviet pipeline, and in doing so he hurt not the Soviet Union but his allies. There is no evidence whatever—and the Americans have never produced any-that, even if sanctions against the pipeline were universally imposed, they would lead the Soviet Union to change its policy towards the West for the better, or even to change its policy or its attitude towards events in Poland.
To many of us, as I said in the House the other day, it is quite unacceptable hypocrisy for President Reagan to impose sanctions against firms in allied countries for breaking a unilateral embargo on supplies to the Soviet pipeline which he has imposed, and simultaneously to offer to sell the Russians three times as much grain as ever before and to offer them the inviolability of contract which he is punishing his allies for observing. I was glad to recall that, when I made that assertion in the House the other day, the Foreign Secretary said that he agreed with me, and hastily added "up to a point".
§ Mr. Tapsell
While I agree with the point that the right hon. Gentleman has just been making, ought we not also to bear in mind that the buying of gas from the Soviet Union will provide the Soviet Union with hard currency that it can spend on armaments, while the sale of grain to it will drain it of hard currency and therefore have a much less damaging effect?
§ Mr. Healey
The Wharton group in the university of Pennsylvania, with which the hon. Member is familiar—and so, I believe is his lookalike, to whom you so incautiously referred, Mr. Speaker—produced an extensive study a few months ago which showed that even in these terms, if we think through the consequences on Soviet activity of having to produce more grain rather than 134 to make good the shortfall in mechanical and electronic equipment which is now provided by the West, it would cost the Soviet Union more to make good the loss of grain sales by the United States than to make good the loss of technology provided by the West for the pipeline. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman asked me that question, and I have no doubt that he is equally pleased with my answer.
I hope it is true, as the newspapers report today, that President Reagan now wants to climb off the hook on which he has impaled himself, but I hope that will not be at the cost of persuading his allies to impale themselves on another hook. I felt that there was some risk of that in some of the phrases used by the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that my points will be answered when he replies to the debate.
There has been a great tendency in the United States in recent months to try to persuade the allies to embark on economic warfare against the Soviet Union in a concerted campaign to damage the Soviet economy, in the belief that thin Russians are in some sense less dangerous than fat Russians. I believe that any policy based on such an assumption is likely to prove profoundly mistaken.
I accept the argument—perhaps this is what the right hon. Gentleman was hinting at—that it is ridiculous for Western countries to provide the Soviet Union with goods at interest rates lower than they offer to one another when they make sales, and that in that sense some restriction of credit is highly desirable. But to go beyond that and to attempt—as so many Americans argue we should—to embark on a course of trying to weaken the Soviet Union by increasing its economic difficulties is, in my view—and, I think, in the view of most of us on the official Opposition Benches—to embark on a profoundly dangerous course which is more likely to destabilise the world situation that to increase stability.
§ Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)
Many of us listen to these arguments with a degree of sympathy and are becoming increasingly sceptical about sanctions of all sorts. Why is the right hon. Gentleman more sceptical of sanctions on countries such as the Soviet Union, whereas he perhaps would not be sceptical about them in regard to South Africa and, not long ago, in regard to Rhodesia? What criteria did he apply then, and what criteria does he now apply?
§ Mr. Healey
The quick answer is that the hon. Gentleman would do better to address that question to his master, who came out very hot and strong against sanctions on South Africa but appeared to contemplate the possibility of some form of economic sanctions against the Soviet Union. There are few cases where general sanctions have produced the general result that was intended. There have been cases where economic action directed to securing a specific change in policy on a vital issue has played an important role. I believe that that was the case, for example, with the unfreezing of Iranian assets, which was an element in securing the release of the American hostages. Sanctions against South Africa to ensure a change in its policy towards Namibia might be successful, but I am much more sceptical about the chance of general sanctions against South Africa producing a general change in its attitude towards apartheid.
I must refer to one matter to which the Foreign Secretary did not refer at all, and that is the law of the sea treaty. He will know that 130 countries voted to accept that 135 last April. The United States of America was one of only four countries that rejected it. The United Kingdom has probably a greater interest in that treaty coming into effect than many other countries, partly because it is deeply involved in international shipping but also because of its involvement as an oil producer, not only in the North Sea but in many parts of the world. When the Minister replies I hope that he will assure the House that it is the Government's intention to ratify the law of the sea treaty despite the pressure from the United States of America not so to do. It is an example of a comprehensive treaty on a matter of immense and growing importance to the world. We have an interest as British people and as citizens of the world to see that treaty in force.
May I turn from the East-West problem and the dangers of global nuclear war which are, as the Secretary-General said—I agree with him—deferred for the time being by the risk of a general holocaust, to the reality of a conventional conflict in the Third world. It is a conflict that grows in scale and horror almost month by month. The Middle East is the area of by far the greatest danger. I should like to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary in referring briefly to two aspects of the Middle East conflict—first, the Israeli-Arab conflict.
There seems to be no doubt that the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon and its role in the massacres in the Palestine refugee camps have not only awakened the conscience of the world but have also provided, ironically, some opportunity for progress. There is an opportunity in two respects. First, few people will now deny that the Palestine people have a right to a homeland of their own. The Foreign Secretary described it as a State during his Middle East visit. Until they have a State then, like the Jews in an earlier diaspora, they will be subject to persecution and pogrom wherever they may settle. That is one of the lessons to be learnt from the tragedy in Beirut.
Years ago, some of my Israeli friends said that Israel should erect a statue to Ernest Bevin in the main square of Tel Aviv because, without knowing it, he was probably responsible for the establishment of the State of Israel. Many of us would feel now that by the same argument a statue of Menachim Begin should stand in the main square of the capital of a new Palestine State. What happened as a result of his actions in the Lebanon in the past few months has put the establishment of a Palestine State irrevocably on the international agenda.
The shift in American policy towards a more evenhanded approach has been a second gain from the tragedy in the Lebanon. The United States has now proposed the "Jordanian option"—as it used to be called—in a form close to what the Labour alignment in Israel has favoured for a considerable period, and which seems to be compatible with the attitude taken by the Arab States at their recent conference in Fez.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that, whatever reservations we may have about one aspect or another of the Reagan plan, it is in the interests of Middle East peace that we should press on as fast as possible to engage both States in negotiations on that basis. We must accept also that it is impossible to find representatives of the Palestine people who do not include the PLO. With the Foreign Secretary, I hope that the PLO will make it clear that, included among the objectives of any negotiations, must be the recognition of the State of Israel inside secure frontiers by all concerned. If some means could be found by the PLO leaders to make such a commitment—even a 136 contingent commitment as I suspect it would have to be—I believe that nothing would more successfully open the way towards fruitful negotiations.
I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary one question about the Lebanon. The internal position of the Lebanon is still immensely unstable. I understand from the newspapers that the American Administration has decided to strengthen substantially its contribution to the international force. Is the Government prepared to do so? I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to reply "We have not been asked formally." I know, as well as the Foreign Secretary, that soundings are always made before formal approaches are made. I hope that he will say, as was made clear earlier during the story, that the British Government would be prepared to accede to a request to provide forces if necessary.
It seems to me that it would be much better to provide a British contingent in an international force than for us to involve ourselves—as has been suggested—in providing military instructors for the Lebanese forces. I believe that that would be an extremely unwise commitment with a Lebanese regime as unstable as the present one.
Meanwhile, as the Foreign Secretary said, a few hundred miles to the east the war between Iraq and Iran continues unabated. However, it is worth reminding the House and the country that often during the past year more people have been killed in a single day in the war between Iraq and Iran than in the whole of the recent fighting in the Lebanon. There is one bit of good news attendant on that fighting, and that is that the Shi-ite population of Iraq does not seem to have risen to support its sectarian brothers beyond the eastern frontier, because, I suspect, the atrocities of the Khomeini regime forbid anybody to support it who is not an Iranian Muslim fundamentalist. The problem of Muslim fundamentalism will continue to worry us. In the past few days we have read of hundreds of people being killed by Muslim fundamentalists in riots in Northern Nigeria.
There are two further areas of importance to the world in which Great Britain has a major responsibility, to one of which for some reason the Foreign Secretary has made no reference, although I know that he was perhaps short of time. That is Central America. It seems to me that the dangers in Central America are now immense. Economic developments in Mexico—I shall have a little more to say about that in another context later—risk throwing the largest and most stable democracy in southern America—a State on the United States' immediate southern border—into civil war and conflict unless they are well handled.
Meanwhile, conflicts in other parts of Central America continue their savage course. Venezuela still poses a threat to Guyana. Can the Minister tell us when he winds up whether Brazil is now offering certain military assistance to Guyana? I believe that the Opposition would welcome that if it were the case.
The threat by the Right-wing dictatorship in Guatemala, whose treatment of its own population produces more horrifying reports almost every day, is as serious as ever. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can assure us once again that the British Government have no intention of appearing to signal the green light to Guatemala by reducing our available forces for the defence of Belize. 137 The civil war in El Salvador seems to be reaching a climax once again, but at least now there seems to be some prospect of talks. When other European Governments supported the request for talks made by Senor Ungo, the political leader of the revolutionary forces, the British Government refused to align themselves with them. But I understand now that, under Mr. Shultz's influence, the American Administration takes a more favourable attitude towards negotiations to end that civil war. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will now bend all their efforts to try to secure such negotiations and to do everything possible to ensure their success.
Most disturbing at present in terms of urgency is the armed threat to Nicaragua from terrorists based in Honduras who are armed and organised by the American Government. I have raised this matter with the Government on several occasions, both privately and in the House. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell the House something about that. In response to a story of an imminent armed invasion of Nicaragua from Honduras in Newsweek the other day, there was a denial by the State Department, filled out by an interview, it appears, with CIA representatives in the New York Times in which they accepted that America was training terrorists for action in Nicaragua and that this armed action against a friendly Government was continuing all the time. That is absolutely inexcusable, especially from a Government who never cease to make speeches about terrorism being one of the cancers in world society and speak of terrorism being organised exclusively from Moscow and Communist States in Eastern Europe.
I was deeply depressed to discover when I had the rare pleasure of reading the briefing material prepared for the Foreign Secretary as he left for Toronto—I regret that it was due not to his kindness but to the fact that someone got hold of it and published it in a magazine called City Limits—that Britain was the only country in Western Europe which supported the United States in opposing international aid to Nicaragua. Yet Britain supports the United States in offering IMF aid to South Africa despite the fact that the South African Government are in the process of attempting to torpedo the talks on Namibia.
I hope that, even if argument will not persuade the right hon. Gentleman, he will be influenced a little by the kick in the teeth that he got yesterday from the United States over the Falklands resolution. Fawning can be carried a little too far. It seems to me that the time has come when the British Government should stand on their own feet and align themselves with our European allies in opposing this attempt to subvert, by violence if necessary, a friendly Government in Central America whose record on human rights, although by no means perfect, is a great deal better than that of most of the Governments who surround them.
I make only a brief comment about the Falklands. I do not believe that this is a good moment to take up direct negotiations between the United Kingdom and the Argentine on the future of the Falklands. The Argentine Government do not appear to be significantly more stable or more democratic than the junta of General Galtieri. Moreover, it is too soon, as I concede, to ask the inhabitants of the islands to take a considered view about their future. But nor is it right to reject the good offices 138 of the United Nations, and the United Nations Secretary-General has made it clear that he is prepared to make his good offices available at any time the British Government want to make use of them.
I think that the best answer in the long run to the problem of the Falklands will be, as I have thought for a long time, as have other hon. Members, some form of United Nations trusteeship. There is no doubt that the full cost, not only in diplomacy but also in cash, of attempting to maintain Britain's position in the Falklands without support, logistic or diplomatic, from any Latin American Government is likely to be quite disproportionate to the issues at stake. The Shackleton report would resolve the problem by throwing money at it, which it has always seemed to me was not exactly the rhetoric for which the Conservative Party had been notable on other issues. It seems to be proposing that we should spend 100 times more per head on helping the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands than on those who are without work within our own borders in Scotland, Wales, Northern England and the West Midlands. I must confess that I am not surprised that there is a growing request from these areas to the Prime Minister to contrive to invite the Argentines to invade their regions so that they may enjoy the treatment being contemplated for the Falklanders. However, I was glad to see that, during his recent visit to the Falklands, the Under-Secretary of State appeared to pour cold water on the Shackleton report. He took a decidedly sceptical view. As I recall, his only positive recommendation was that some entrepreneur on the islands should set up a fish and chip shop to supply the British forces there. That seems to be an admirable idea, though even I feel that it might not, by itself, be a wholly adequate response to the problems.
Before I pass to the third main area with which the Foreign Secretary dealt, I want to ask one question about one of the many dogs which did not bark in the Gracious Speech. There was no reference to co-operation with the Republic of Eire in trying to create a framework in which it would be easier to deal with the problems of Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister made a great deal of this idea some time ago, and I think there was much merit in it. But her love affair with Mr. Haughey seems to be one of the shortest in recorded history. I understand that the Prime Minister seems to recognise, nevertheless, that Northern Ireland is a problem with international as well as national dimensions. I even heard it said—and perhaps we shall have some comment on it—that the Irish Committee of the Cabinet had been abandoned and that the Irish problem in future would be dealt with by the Overseas and Defence Committee, which I suppose puts it fairly and squarely in the Foreign Secretary's lap.
Have the Government really given up the hope of developing a framework for helping to resolve the Irish problem through Dublin as well as through Stormont? It would be very sad if that were so, though I am delighted to see that the Prime Minister has finally given the lie to such disloyal voices as that of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow)—I believe that he is known on the Conservative Benches as "Supergrass"—who claim that she did not support the proposals of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for an Assembly in Northern Ireland. All those Back Benchers who were misled by the hon. Member for Eastbourne about the Prime Minister's position in this affair now have it from the mare's mouth in the Gracious Speech drafted by the right hon. Lady. 139 I pass briefly to the third area with which the Foreign Secretary dealt. It is what the Secretary-General of the United Nations called the unsolved but soluble problems of economic relations, trade, distribution of resources and technology. It seems to me that here is where there lies the greatest and most dangerous failure of Western policy. It is a failure of policy for which the Government carry a heavy responsibility. That failure of policy was reflected in the extremely narrow and perfunctory way in which the Foreign Secretary dealt with the issue in his speech.
What are the facts? The central fact is that the world is moving remorselessly into deeper despair. There is no chance of stemming the remorseless increase in unemployment anywhere in the world under present policies. Every forecast produced by national and international bodies in the past 18 months has been more pessimistic than its predecessor. Only this week we read of the report of the Commission of the European Community, which forecast that there would be no improvement of significance in any area of economic performance in the Community over the next five years unless there were fundamental changes in policy. The Prime Minister regularly boasts that she blazed the trail into this slough of despond. She takes pride in the fact that she persuaded others to follow her, apart from occasions such as her speech yesterday, when she tried to throw the blame for our appalling performance on to the policies of countries that she says have taken their policies from her.
The plain fact is that it is no longer possible to deny that the problems facing the industrial world are the inevitable consequence of attempting to follow the lead set by the Prime Minister and that the growing threat of trade restriction is the inevitable consequence of the failure of her policies. One aspect of that problem, with which we should be deeply concerned, is the consequence for the Third world of the developed world's failure to adopt intelligent policies. I am glad to see the Foreign Secretary nodding in agreement.
For the past 10 years countries in the Third world have been encouraged by the West to borrow from Western banks in order to recycle the OPEC surpluses, but the policy of Western Governments has led to a recession in which it is impossible for the Third world to earn enough money through exports to service their loans. As a result of the world recession, commodity prices are lower than they have been for 30 years. The private banks have at last woken up—far too late—to the fact that they are dangerously overexposed. Their balance sheets are now overloaded with a growing burden of provision for bad debts; provision stemming not only from lending overseas but often, also, from lending to large and important companies within their respective countries.
The private banks are now caught in Morton's fork. If they refuse to continue lending to the Third world, world trade will fall even further and faster, there will be mass starvation in many Third world countries, political revolution and, without question, some of the debtors will default on their debts and so bring down the private banks. However, if they take the other course and continue lending to bad debtors they will become even more exposed and are liable to go bust. The enormous volume of international inter-bank lending that has grown over the past 10 years uncontrolled and unmonitored by Governments or international organisations means that if some banks go bust in Germany or the United States of America—as any reaction is more likely to start there than 140 in this country—there is a risk that a chain reaction will spread all over the world in a way that would make the catastrophe of 1929 look like a storm in a tea cup.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)
I do not, for one moment, dissent from what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, but will he not admit that the policy that the Labour Party clamours for of greater protection against imports, particularly those from the Third world—[Interruption.] The Labour Party is clamouring for restrictions on imports from developing countries such as Brazil and Korea. Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that that constitutes a great threat to world trade? Will he not use his enormous authority within his own party—which I freely acknowledge—to convince his colleagues of the self-defeating nature of the proposals that they put forward?
§ Mr. Healey
It is no good the hon. Gentleman acknowledging my enormous authority within my own party. It is the members of my party whom I want to acknowledge that. However, if I pursue the right hon. Gentleman's point I shall have to go into the details of domestic policy. I should be delighted to do that another time, but I do not want to overburden a speech which, I fear, may already be a little too long.
The only answer to that international problem is to give the official international organisations the resources to take over responsibility from the private banks—because the private banks are no longer capable of handling it—and to save the Third world from the consequences of the way in which the developed countries have failed to manage their affairs intelligently through soft loans and aid not only from the international banks but from the IMF.
However, I was staggered by the complacency with which the Foreign Secretary referred to the need to reinforce the international organisations and to revise the way in which they work. The problem has been staring the Government in the face for three and a half years and they have failed to do anything about it. Even when they met in Toronto the other day, under the imminent shadow of an international bank collapse, the best decision that they could reach was to defer dealing with the problem of expanding IMF resources for another six months. That really will not do. The performance of the Government and the United States' Administration has been appalling. The Government have done nothing to support those who wish to increase the resources of the international organisations and have done everything to discourage them. The United States of America—especially as long as Mr. Sprinkel had influence—was even worse.
The Foreign Secretary and the Gracious Speech talked about increasing aid, particularly to the poorest countries. What are the facts? This year the Government cut their aid programme by 11 per cent. in real terms. They cut the British contribution to the International Development Association, although it is by far the most important source of international aid to countries that cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps. As an act of policy they have given priority not to the poorest countries but to the interests of British exporters. Even in a debate a few months ago the Minister for Overseas Development had to tell the House that he was prepared to spend 0.15 per cent. of gross domestic product helping the least prosperous countries only on the condition that he could be satisfied that it would not damage our ability to give the bulk of our aid to much better off countries in the Third world. 141 I know that the Foreign Office agrees with us about the Government's handling of overseas students, because the Government have taken an incredibly short-sighted step. We have already lost more exports to Malaysia alone as a result of that decision than we have gained from the reduction in grants to overseas students. I assure the Foreign Secretary that he will have our full support if he puts pressure on the Treasury in that respect.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)
On the subject of the Government's attitude to overseas aid to poor countries, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will recall that the British Government were one of the two Governments who virtually sabotaged the proceedings at Cancun.
§ Mr. Healey
Of course, I recall that and we debated that a few months ago.
I do not think that the Foreign Secretary will disagree with me about the problems of the world as a whole. There are two overwhelmingly important tasks for international statesmanship. The first is to maintain the military balance between East and West at the lowest possible level of cost and risk. The second, which is often ignored by Foreign Offices, is to maintain the balance in the world economy at the highest possible levels of growth and employment. All Western Governments seem to have ignored that second task, to our common cost. It is desperately necessary that Governments address themselves to that task, preferably at a summit conference.
The Secretary of State spoke eloquently about his objectives. He made a vigorous and well-constructed speech, but the picture that he drew of Britain's current reputation in the world is different from the perception of the country's foreign policy across the Channel, across the Atlantic and in the Third world. We must ask ourselves how it is that Britain, which has been famous for centuries for its skill and wisdom in handling international affairs and which played the leading role in the years after 1945 in establishing a framework of world order to give us a quarter of century of unparalleled peace and prosperity, now cuts such a poor and negative figure in international affairs.
I am afraid that the responsibility lies in large part with the Prime Minister herself. She entered office with little knowledge or experience of external affairs. She is not to be blamed for that. For some time she was content to leave most of the more difficult and important issues to Lord Carrington who, as I said at the time, did a good job on the tasks allotted to him. He did a good job in controlling the Prime Minister's extravagances and repairing the damage that she caused.
The Prime Minister's relations with the present Secretary of State seem to be a little less comfortable. She seems increasingly to be tempted to arrogate to herself responsibilities which should be his and, simultaneously, to reject the wisdom and experience of his professional advisers in the Foreign Office. Her general motto seems to be, as it always is, "Please do not confuse me with the facts."
For the first year or two the Bank of England was the institution most at risk from that attitude, but recently the Foreign Office has moved into the firing line. For the last few months the Prime Minister has been barging about like 142 some bargain basement Boadicea leaving dismay and disruption wherever she goes from Peking to Berlin. Thank God that she has not yet gone to Gibraltar.
The Prime Minister's visit to the Far East was an unmitigated disaster. I think that the Secretary of State will agree. The right hon. Lady completely failed to make any impact on the attitude of the Japanese Government. The way in which she handled the Chinese Government brought Hong Kong close to disaster—a disaster from which I hope that it may soon recover. Now the Prime Minister is behaving increasingly like Catherine the Great and surrounding herself with favourites. If she cannot install them at the head of the relevant Department, she puts them inside No. 10 and ignores the Departments altogether.
This may not work out as well as she hopes, or as badly as we fear. It was one thing to staff No. 10 with bizarre interlopers from academia, such as Professor Walters, the Dr. Who of economics, or Sir John Hoskyns, the rich man's Frances Morrell, but now she is recruiting from a different source. It is just possible that a skilled diplomatist such as Sir Anthony Parsons may be able to put the realities of world affairs to her more effectively from inside the portals of No. 10 than from across the road.
It is fascinating to see how the right hon. Lady has begun to pluck people out of retirement. In diplomatic terms Sir Anthony is probably the George Smiley of the Foreign Office. Maybe he is a double agent and works just as well for the Foreign Office as he does for her. I know that that is the Foreign Secretary's hope. I wonder where the right hon. Lady will find the next of Smiley's people. Unfortunately, Sir Nico Henderson has already pre-empted the role of Sir Toby Esterhazy.
It is dreadful that Britain's reputation in the world is now so much at the mercy of one woman's imperious caprice. The only hope is that those are right who interpret the Gracious Speech as meaning that the period during which we shall suffer from these dangers may be over before we assemble for next year's Speech.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
It would be churlish not to admit that the House has enjoyed the speech by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). Its most endearing characteristic was that in all its points of substance it bore no relation to the policy or resolutions of the party that he supports.
The debate should concentrate on some serious issues. I believe that what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said about the state of the world and the state of our alliances was closer to the truth than the Foreign Secretary's description. I understand the Foreign Secretary's problem. He has to put as brave a face on the world as he can. He has to try to present the British Government's role in the most positive light. The Foreign Secretary is an honest man and he knows that East-West relations—and, more importantly, relations within the NATO alliance—are fraught. That is not new. When one looks back at what has happened in the one and a half years since the Polish problem began its decline, the response of the NATO allies has been divided, incompetent and incoherent.
Today the Soviet influence in Poland is naked and growing. We must remind ourselves that in Europe 10 months ago people misguidedly talked about General Jaruzelski as if he were a Tito-like figure. The present 143 position is unprecedented in NATO's lifetime. The most powerful NATO State—America—is taking sanctions against firms in other NATO countries. That is not a good position. It would be foolish to continue the debate on the basis that the alliance is continuing reasonably.
In the past 10 to 15 years there has been a growing discontinuity in the way in which Europe sees its relations with the Warsaw Pact countries and the way in which the United States sees them. It has come to a head in the last two or three years because the new United States Administration thought that they could turn back the clock and reassert their leadership role, forgetting that that role comes from their ability to persuade their European partners. The old automatic leadership role for the United States within the alliance is over permanently. The United States must now move to a different relationship with Europe. That is not helped by the divisions in Western Europe.
There is much in the American case that all too frequently, when the American Government ask for a European view, they receive a divided view. There has been a divided European view on how to respond to the Soviet invasion, which is what happened when the military clampdown in Poland was masterminded by the Soviet Union. It is folly to pretend otherwise. Europe's voice was divided on that. Consequently the Americans acted on their own, talking tough. NATO has also sounded tough and has used strong rhetoric, but its action has been weak and ineffective.
We do no credit to the alliance if we do not look back on the past year and a half with a degree of shame. Solidarity is now banned entirely. People are still interned without any form of trial. We see people being arrested, and the West seems powerless to do anything about it. All the time we say "We must not take any action for fear that it will make things worse". The action that we were able to take was always limited, but we led our own people to believe that we had far more effective power at our disposal than we really had. When we eventually used sanctions, they were bound to be ineffective from almost the day that they were introduced. There is a lesson to be learnt from that, and there are lessons to be learnt from the divisions among the allies over Afghanistan. I still believe that it was a great tragedy that only the United States and West Germany did not send their athletes to Moscow. That was the start of the break-up of a united response to an overt aggressive act.
Despite the differences within the alliance about economic and trading links, which to some extent owe their origin to geography, we must hope that the sanctions on the pipeline will be lifted. The Americans were right from their point of view to argue against the pipeline back in 1978. There is nothing new about the argument. President Carter expressed the American view to his allies. It was a legitimate point of view. The Americans said that it was wrong for Europe to put its energy resources so much in hock to the Soviet Union. However, the member States having taken national decisions which they felt to be in the interests of their countries, it made no sense for the United States leadership to flout that decision-making. They should respect it. It was a profound error of judgment to apply the pipeline sanctions.
Europe, however, must recognise that we have tended to have it all ways. That can be said especially of the Federal Republic of Germany. Not much is said about the fact that the Federal Republic, under the Treaty of Rome, 144 is allowed to trade with East Germany as though it were a fellow member of the European Community. Vast and extensive trade is taking place. This trading link has been exploited by other East European countries. They have used East Germany as a channel for trade.
There is a discontinuity within what the Western democracies are saying about defence and security and how they are acting in the economic and trading spheres. There must be a closer relationship. It was folly to pretend after signing the Helsinki final act that we would suddenly see the emergence of free and independent nations in the Warsaw Pact. It was folly to believe that we would see massive and immediate changes in human rights. We put much too much pressure on the human rights part of the Helsinki agreement in 1977 and 1978. It was always a much longer term provision. However, there is now an urgent need for the Western democracies to start to think afresh about how they deal with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. We must bring our policies on defence, economies and trade more into line and adopt a rather longer time scale for the changes that it is reasonable to expect to occur in Warsaw Pact countries.
We face an added problem because there is disagreement about our own defence and security posture. I do not think that the Foreign Secretary gave sufficient weight to the growing opinion not only in Western Europe but in the United States that we must question the role of nuclear weapons in NATO's deterrent strategy, which is one of the basic defence strategies of the West. Those who take this view can no longer be dismissed as pacifists or neutralists. There is a serious body of opinion that is questioning this role.
Given the world as it is, I am convinced that NATO has to have a deterrent strategy that is based on conventional deterrence and nuclear deterrence. The rhetoric of President Reagan and Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger has, however, increasingly given grounds for believing that they are not merely aiming for nuclear superiority or sufficiency to deter others from embarking on a war but that they are arming for a nuclear war, which they believe they can win. They are constantly using language about nuclear war fighting strategies and limited nuclear war.
It is true that battlefield nuclear weapons have existed for some time in Europe. It is true that the strategy has been around for over 15 years. However, for at least 10 years most people have believed that it could never be used. It was a strategy that was on the books, so to speak, but it was not really believed to be a serious part of the overall strategy. Over recent years a battlefield nuclear war fighting strategy has come to be believed in by at least some United States politicians. This raises serious questions for the West. We must start right at the front of the nuclear weapon strategy and question the strategy of the early use of nuclear weapons.
With respect to those who argue for no first use, the first question is whether we can end a strategy that is based on early use. The only way in which we can introduce a strategy that is based on no early use of nuclear weapons is to have sufficient confidence in our conventional forces in Europe. That may mean that we shall have to pay a price to maintain the conventional balance. It would be preferable to have the conventional balance at a lower level as a result of successful negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions. It may be that that can be achieved. After more than nine years of negotiations it is 145 high time to achieve a breakthrough. The attitude of the Federal Republic of Germany on the data question is remarkably rigid. It should now be asked to come forward with a more realistic negotiating framework to overcome the problem of data on which MBFR is locked.
It is clear that 1983 will be a difficult year for nuclear issues in Western Europe. It will be extremely difficult to hold the alliance to the double decision in 1979 to deploy cruise missiles and to negotiate. There are too many people in the United States who think that it was only a single decision to deploy cruise missiles. There is now not the same confidence as there was a few years ago that the negotiations over cruise missiles, SS20s and Pershings will be conducted in a real and constructive frame of mind on the part of the United States negotiators.
It may be necessary for the Western allies to continue to make preparations for deployment all through 1983 to ensure that the Soviet Union comes to the negotiating table ready to give and ready to concede some of the major points which are the concern of the West. But against that background it is necessary for NATO itself to take some initiatives. As part of any initiative, I urge the Foreign Secretary seriously to consider the possibility of a battlefield nuclear weapon-free zone. I concede that it will be difficult to verify. I accept that it will not be a massive measure and that nuclear weapons could still be targeted in from outside. However, it is the most tangible way of demonstrating that NATO is pulling back from a strategy of early use and is endorsing a strategy of no early use. It would have a considerable psychological impact in Europe, especially during a difficult year when we must hold firm in our negotiations over cruise.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the West has extracted the maximum advantage from the zero option initiative and that it has to move forward from there?
§ Dr. Owen
When negotiating with the Soviet Union one of the greatest dangers is for us all to start getting into different negotiating positions. We can all rejig the negotiations, but the fact is that they will take place in private. I think that, broadly speaking, we must leave the details of the negotiations to the negotiators. We will expect a constructive negotiating position. That is a good opening bid, but I do not believe that one has to fix on one's opening bids.
I agree with those who have always argued that the INF talks must be linked to the SALT talks. One cannot put oneself into a narrow negotiating box in which one discusses only SS20s, cruise missiles and Pershings. It is necessary to have a wider framework of reference, taking in strategic arms and also the MBFR negotiations. There is a seamless robe to deterrence. One must look at all the negotiations. It is folly to say that we should leave battlefield nuclear weapons until after we have dealt with strategic weapons or intermediate missiles. They are all linked.
The Foreign Secretary should not underestimate the difficulty of holding public opinion over the next year or two. He should not underestimate the necessity to hold centre Left opinion. It has never been enough in NATO for its solidarity to come just from an agreement between Governments. It is not enough for it to come just from agreement between the parties of the Right. Until recently 146 the strength of NATO was that it had wholehearted support for its strategy from all parties in this House and from all parties in many other European democracies. It is extremely important that the United States should be made to realise that it has a heavy responsibility—that it must listen—to some of its own people.
I now leave the issue of Europe, which is serious enough, and come to the other central question, which is North-South relations. There is no doubt that the world is facing a dangerous problem over its economic, financial and trading arrangements. The Government spend a great deal of their time explaining the problems of the domestic economy by reference to the world recession and the international situation. Even if we take all their arguments at face value, they must give a higher priority to trying to do something about the world economy. In that area there has been absolutely no leadership from the United Kingdom.
In 1978, at the Bonn summit, a serious attempt was made to reach a co-ordinated approach to expansion. I see that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the then Prime Minister, is present. I pay tribute to what he tried to do in that Bonn summit. It encountered serious trouble because in 1979 there was the second oil price rise. We ran into inflation. Expansion, which was undertaken by the Federal Republic of Germany—although I suspect that it now somewhat regrets it—was undermined because of the inflationary pressures coming from the oil price rise. We are now coming to 1983. With inflation coming down all over the world, the chances of a co-ordinated approach to expansion will be much greater, particularly if that were coupled with an attempt to achieve greater exchange rate stability.
The summits of the economic seven have a disappointing record. Britain will not be the most powerful voice in that summit. If the European community could co-ordinate on a position for the next economic summit and if we could bring Japan, the United States and the EMS countries together in terms of exchange rate stability, then for co-ordinated expansion that would be the most effective grouping available. Of course, there are things that can and should be done in the IMF, the World Bank, and other institutions. However, if that grouping of the seven could unite and co-ordinate its activity, it could spread out to involve the OECD countries and countries further afield.
Let us look at Nigeria. It is the most important trading nation for this country other than the European Community countries and the United States. It is facing severe financial difficulties and is locked in negotiations with the IMF, in which the conditionality demanded of it makes it impossible to accept. I could add many countries other than Nigeria. We have a direct and important trading interest with many of them, too. It is not sufficient just to allow the present philosophy to continue. The IMF has saved Mexico, but only because the United States has such a strong political interest that it was prepared to intervene and insist on new and special arrangements. The honest answer is that where politics matter to the United States it is prepared to use its influence in the IMF. We must take account more of some of the political consequences in the world financial situation.
I shall not go right round the world. Two long speeches have already been made. However, I shall mention three or four small issues. The first is sovereignty. I know the 147 difficulty with the present Prime Minister. I urge the Foreign Secretary not to get the Falkland Islands issue hung up on sovereignty. The House was very nearly united at various stages in its determination to resist aggression. That is why we agreed and why there was a great deal of support for the Government's action in the Falkland Islands.
I believe that the United Nations was foolish to have had this debate in the General Assembly. The resolution was at the wrong time and was made in the wrong place. It should have gone to the Security Council, not to the General Assembly. We should not get into a flap about the United States. It paid a heavy price for giving us unequivocal support when it mattered, which was during the war in the Falklands. Any Government would say "This is not the right time to open negotiations. We have barely buried our dead. The wounds are still not healed, both metaphorically and physically." There is no doubt that we shall have to build up trust and understanding with the Falkland Islanders before we go into negotiations.
What has been missing in the United Nations is any clear statement from the British Government that in the fullness of time they will enter into negotiations. That is what we should have. That is what must come out of the debate. All hon. Members know that there will have to be negotiations over the Falkland Islands. We are not prepared to be pushed into them by General Assembly resolutions. We shall do so in the fullness of time and at the right time. Let us have no nonsense about the fact that we will do so.
The Prime Minister's visit to Hong Kong was disastrous. She should never have gone to China. She had made so many commitments on sovereignty and self-determination that she could not grapple with the issue as sensitively as was required.
All I can say to the Foreign Secretary is that he should keep the Prime Minister well away from those issues now. He should take them into his own hands. I say to him in great friendliness that, if Sir Anthony Parsons is to accompany him, he could not get a better person. The Prime Minister must not be allowed near Hong Kong. That is the almost unanimous view of the 5 million people who live in Hong Kong. This is a resolvable problem on which action must be taken.
I shall mention two other major areas. The first is Namibia. It is regrettable that the contact group of the five countries did not tell South Africa when it came to it for a loan from the IMF that it was practising not just institutional apartheid but economic apartheid. It should have said that South Africa cannot continue to do this and ask it to agree in the IMF that it should have financial support. There is merit in the IMF not having too great a political involvement in its financial decisions. That is one of the reasons why the IMF has lasted as long as it has. It has been broadly insulated from that.
But South Africa must be told clearly that Namibia is a test case and that no obstacle can legitimately be placed in the way of UNTAG supervising independent elections there. The South Africans should have been told that before the IMF loan was given. From now on they should be told that there will be no subsequent support from the IMF while they continue to block progress on Namibia. There is distinction between sanction for independence in Zimbabwe, Namibia—
§ Mr. Hughes
I was saying not that it was too late for independence for Namibia, but that it was too late for the IMF to attach conditions to the loan in relation to Namibia.
§ Dr. Owen
I apologise for misrepresenting the hon. Gentleman. I made representations to the Foreign Secretary about the matter. I have little hope that there will be a change now, but I suspect that, given the problems that confront the South African economy, it will be back for more. It should be made clear to the South Africans that there will be no more IMF support while they are blocking progress in Namibia. I know that the Foreign Secretary is prepared to say that it is South Africa that is currently blocking progress in Namibia.
I have been somewhat critical of some United States policy in the past. Nevertheless, I pay tribute to President Reagan's courage in putting a multilateral force into Lebanon. We would not even be in the present uneasy circumstances if that force were not there. I also pay tribute to George Shultz. I have far more confidence in him as Secretary of State than I have had in the United States Administration's policy of the past few years.
I give the Foreign Secretary a word of caution about the Middle East. Since they have been in office, the Government have managed to lose influence in Israel. That is dangerous. It is possible to be a candid friend of Israel while criticising her, as President Mitterrand has shown. He still has a dialogue with Israel. I regret some of the statements that even the Foreign Secretary has made on the issue.
To talk about a Palestinian State without qualifying the circumstances in which a Palestinian State is possible only fuels those who have an unrealistic view of what a Palestinian State should be. I do not object to the wording, but I tried to restrain the Foreign Secretary on this matter at Question Time recently.
In any serious negotiations, a Palestinian State would have to be demilitarised. It is unrealistic to propose a Palestinian State on the West Bank that has the missiles and weaponry of modern warfare. That is one of the reasons why President Reagan was right to state that a link—some federation—between the West Bank and Jordan might be the right solution. He said that that was his favoured position, not the only possible one. In that case, the new State would be armed. It is difficult to expect people to accept a State, the territory of which is totally demilitarised. That is one of the real problems that must be faced. The Americans are right to state that that is their preference, but to admit that a solution must be negotiated.
The PLO should not be made the sole exclusive voice of Palestinian opinion. That UN form of words was a great problem when it was given to SWAPO in Namibia. I am reluctant to give it to any organisation, let alone the PLO. Nevertheless, we must all be anxious to find a way of getting the PLO to negotiate. Without the PLO, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a solution that will stick. Such a solution will require a great deal of skill.
The one country with which Britain has much influence is Jordan. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary intends to visit it shortly. It is always difficult to persuade King Hussein to take a risk and to push him out too far in such negotiations. The time is fast coming when it would be 149 reasonable to expect Jordan to involve itself in negotiations about a Palestinian homeland and an autonomous arrangement—which I believe will be the transitional step—for the West Bank.
The world at present could hardly be a more depressing place. The arms race continues, the United Nations special session on disarmament was a disaster and the follow-up to the Brandt report at Cancun and elsewhere has been a series of disappointments. One of these days, the prophets of doom in our midst, who grow ever more strong, will have their doomster predictions justified. That could be horrendous for us all. We live with great perils of nuclear weapons. We live with the horror and dangers of a world economy that is out of control.
I advise the Foreign Secretary, in a spirit of friendliness, that he might carry the House a little more if he were more frank about the serious problems that the world faces. I know that he knows about them, but he must articulate them in the next year or two. If we back off or try to pretend that all is well, we shall not be able to achieve the new thinking and co-ordination between nations that is vital if we are to overcome the massive problems that confront us.
§ 5.4 pm
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
It would be wrong for the House to stage a major debate on foreign affairs without considering and recognising the worrying circumstances that confront the people of Hong Kong. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to Hong Kong in his opening speech. It has been referred to in every speech so far.
"Economic miracle" is a phrase that has been much overused to describe countries that have enjoyed unusual growth. For no territory is it more apt than for Hong Kong. Hong Kong emerged from the last war devasted by Japanese occupation and with a population of 600,000. Now, less than 40 years later, its population is more than 5 million and, with no natural resources, the people have attained a higher standard of living than any other country in the Far East except Japan.
Hong Kong is also a social miracle, in that, despite the sometimes almost overwhelming flood of immigrants from mainland China, the British administration has succeeded in constantly raising the standards of health, education and housing, to the astonished admiration of the rest of the world. Much of the credit for those great achievements can be attributed to the inspired governorship of Lord Maclehose, who retired recently.
In addition to being a major manufacturing and trading area, Hong Kong is a great financial centre. The opening up of China should even further ensure its prosperity. Nevertheless, we all know that the people of Hong Kong are deeply worried about their future and their relations with China. The matter has been brought to a head by the negotiations that are going on between China and Britain.
In present circumstances, those negotiations should be successful. Never have relations between China and Britain been better. The present arrangements have brought great advantages to the people of China, Hong Kong and Britain. The negotiations started in Peking with a friendly meeting between the two Prime Ministers concerned and a joint commitment to future prosperity and stability for Hong Kong.
150 I do not agree with either the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) or the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) that the Prime Minister's visit was a disaster. The right hon. Member for Devonport was in Hong Kong just before the Prime Minister arrived there. I was there just after she left. I was busy questioning those whose opinion I respect and who know both China and Hong Kong well. Their verdict was very different. It is obvious that they could not be euphoric, but they were satisfied with the progress so far. Their attitude was "So far, so good." That is as much as can be expected at this stage.
Nevertheless, as the future of Hong Kong depends on the outcome of the negotiations, the people who have made their homes there are worried and will remain so until the talks are completed. In my view, the Government have done everything possible to reassure them in a difficult situation. Our genuine commitment to Hong Kong has been demonstrated by the fact that the Prime Minister herself initiated the talks with the Prime Minister of China. They could not have been conducted at a higher level.
The Prime Minister has gained general admiration in Hong Kong for the trouble that she has taken and for her thoroughness in consulting a wide range of Hong Kong people. I am pleased to hear that the Foreign Secretary is taking a personal interest in the negotiations.
When I was in Hong Kong I was frequently asked whether the people there would be kept informed of how the talks were going. That is not easy, because negotiations must be confidential, but it would strengthen confidence in the territory if progress reports could be issued from time to time, and in particular if some indication could be given of how long the talks are likely to continue. I hope that in stressing the concern of the people of Hong Kong about the present political situation I have not given the impression that all life there has come to a halt—far from it. Having heard the robust address to the legislative council by the new governor, Sir Edward Youde, one can only be impressed yet again by the bustling activity of the place, the Government's ambitious social programmes and the plans for the massive development of the infrastructure.
However, as the busy life of the territory continues, so do the problems of the day-to-day relations between Hong Kong and Britain. One of those problems, which might be classed as a festering sore that needs to be healed soon, is that of overseas students' fees. Here I agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. In this area Britain has achieved the worst of all possible worlds. Having been almost over-generous in the expansion of our population of overseas students, we suddenly, indiscriminately, and without consultation drastically raised their fees, thus causing offence to many of our oldest friends and allies and, indeed, to countries to which we have a moral obligation. Furthermore, as the right hon. Gentleman said, in areas such as Malaysia we have actually lost heavily in economic terms as a direct result.
I raise this matter in a foreign affairs debate—as no doubt the right hon. Gentleman did-because it is, naturally, the Foreign Office that is most conscious of the damage that has been done, and it is the Foreign Office on which we rely to use its pressure to put these matters right. I know that the Foreign Secretary himself is very interested in this subject. The more he travels, the more it will be brought home to him. 151 Over the past few years, those of us who pressed the Government on this subject were told that it was too early to know what the effect of the increased fees had been. Then we were told to wait for the report of the Overseas Students Trust, which would be a guide to Government policy. The report turned out to be a brilliant document. If, in general terms, the Government were to follow the policies put forward in the report, I should be well pleased. After that, following an early-day motion signed by no fewer than 150 right hon. and hon. Members, I understand that the Government set up an inter-departmental committee which has been meeting during the summer and will report shortly to Ministers.
I shall be glad if, when he winds up the debate, the Minister of State will tell us when the Government will be able to make proposals and when we shall be able to debate them in full. Among the recommendations of the Overseas Students Trust is the suggestion that students from British dependent territories should be treated as home students. This arrangement would be very much welcomed in Hong Kong.
To ease the passage of such a reform the Hong Kong Government have offered to meet some of the cost. In the course of his address to the legislative council the governor said:On the basis of the proposals contained in the report of the Overseas Students Trust, the Government hopes to reach agreement with Her Majesty's Government for joint funding of the difference between home and overseas student fees. If arrangements can be agreed, Hong Kong students in Britain will, subject to a means tests, pay the same fees as home students.The Hong Kong Government are clearly doing their very best to be helpful. I sincerely trust that Her Majesty's Government will take the same attitude.
It is now absolutely clear from the latest figures that Hong Kong students are being diverted from this country to other countries, particularly to Canada and America. A good general guide to the trend of overseas student destinations is provided by the visas issued to first-time students by the immigration department in Hong Kong. These show that of students in all categories 45 per cent. went to the United Kingdom in 1979, 25 per cent. to Canada and 26 per cent. to the United States. In 1981, 21 per cent. went to the United Kingdom, 51 per cent. to Canada and 21 per cent. to the United States. In the category of first-degree students, 651 settled for the United Kingdom in 1979 and 342 in 1981. That is a very sad trend. I only hope that it is not too late to reverse it. It is important that Her Majesty's Government reach a conclusion on this very soon. Otherwise, whatever changes are made will not be operative this time next year, when the next education year commences.
I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a promise made by the Prime Minister when she was in Hong Kong. In his speech to the legislative council the governor said:During this Session, members will be invited to consider amendments to Hong Kong's emigration and other legislation as a consequence of the coming into force of the British Nationality Act on 1st January next year. An important related question which still needs to be resolved is the nationality description to be used in passports. The Government continues to urge on Her Majesty's Government the importance we all attach to a satisfactory resolution of this issue.
Referring to this question of the nationality description to be used on passports, the Prime Minister said at a press conference on 27 October: 152I do not think the Nationality Act changes Britain's commitment to the people of Hong Kong, and I do not think we can change it now, but I understand there is a passport problem which I will look into when I return.
I am sure that the Prime Minister will be as good as her word. I shall be glad to know whether the Minister of State has anything to report.
Finally, as the multi-fibre negotiations are now grinding to a halt, I ask the Government to look again at the question of imports into and exports from Hong Kong. Because of the multi-fibre arrangement, Britain and Europe have restricted the importation of various categories of Hong Kong garments, greatly to Hong Kong's disadvantage. Hong Kong is a territory which is free of all restrictions, and we take great advantage of that freedom. We export more to Hong Kong, with its population of 5 million, than to Japan, with its population of 100 million. We have that great advantage, and yet we put restrictions on Hong Kong. This might make sense, albeit harsh sense, if it preserved employment in this country, but the gap left has been filled not by poor developing countries but by rich European countries and by the Americans, who do not hesitate to keep out our goods. The arrangement is not even working. It is now time to start again.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I am aware that the proposed pattern of debate on the Queen's Speech is for foreign affairs today, and I will touch on aspects of that subject, but I hope that I may make some comments from a Scottish viewpoint. In seconding the motion on the Loyal Address, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) said:We are a United Kingdom, and those of us who live north of the border look to Westminster to ensure that in economic. as in constitutional, matters we remain one community.People in Scotland who look to Westminster for help will look in vain. Indeed, in his next sentence the hon. Gentleman said:In the North, we suffer from the same economic and industrial ills as the rest of the country, only more so." [Official Report; 3 November 1982, Vol. 31, c. 10.]Yes, indeed—and that is despite the fact that without the oil from Scotland the United Kingdom would file its petition in bankruptcy, and that even with the oil the Government have gone a fair way towards achieving that end.
The Gracious Speech reads:My Government will maintain the monetary and fiscal policies necessary to achieve these ends, including continued restraint in public spending.That is a chilling message without vision or hope. There are no prospects of anything being done for the unemployed, yet the Government claim to bedeeply aware of the anxieties and distress caused by unemployment.Had those words any genuine content, they would have led to action to remedy the Government's appalling record.
As is her custom, the Prime Minister blames everyone else. She claims that world recession is the cause of it all, although she is extremely selective in the countries she names and the statistics she uses. For example, the very low levels of unemployment in Norway, Sweden and Austria are never quoted. Yesterday she had the nerve to blame the local authorities for not reducing unemployment and attacked them for not spending enough, yet the 153 Government have devastated local authority spending by reducing grants, which in turn has forced the curtailment of essential services.
When Conservative Members complain, as some did yesterday, about the dangerously high level of local rates, they should place the burden where it belongs—on the shoulders of the Government. To keep even truncated services going, many local authorities have been forced to raise rates to an exceptionally high level.
The Queen's Speech also refers to the economic development of the Falkland Islands. It has not gone unnoticed by the nurses and the Health Service workers that the Government, who cannot find the money to increase their depressed wages, will now meet a bill for £1,600 million for the Falklands war. The assistance to the islanders is welcome, but one wonders why the modest aid for which a number of us have asked in past years was not forthcoming. It also pinpoints the empty rhetoric of the Prime Minister about kith and kin that a substantial number of the islanders were excluded from British citizenship by the mean standards of the Government's legislation.
The Government talk about negotiations. Undoubtedly, those will have to be held somewhere along the line, but it is ridiculous to think that the events of the last few months can be washed clean at the request of Argentina, which must have known that its aggression would not pay as soon as the war was concluded.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the Health Service dispute and drew an unfortunate comparison between the money which in the long term we must spend in the Falkland Islands and on the replacement of lost vessels and the money that has been offered to the nurses. Is he aware that the Secretary of State for Social Services has on the table a package totalling £1,100 million and that he is prepared to talk to the representatives of the Health Service trade unions about a two-year package involving that money? That is not very different from the £1,600 million that we shall be spending on the Falkland Islands over the next few years.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am aware that the Secretary of State absolutely refuses to go anywhere near the Health Service workers' claim, which I believe to be very modest in view of their weekly earnings.
The Gracious Speech includes an undertaking to bring forward measuresto permit private investment in British Telecommunications".If passed, such a measure will lead to severe problems for scattered rural areas such as the one I represent, where the need for a telephone is vital and, in many cases, literally a matter of life and death. I place no trust in Government assurances that the private firms will be obliged to maintain rural lines and services. They will be in it for the money, and the areas of loss or insufficient profit will be for the chop.
The Queen's Speech also reaffirms the Government'sstrong commitment to the European Community.Once again, they promise to work for fair solutions—a point that was emphasised today by the Foreign Secretary. Those assurances never seem to get anywhere. The butter mountain still exists for the benefit of the Russians, which ought to be unacceptable to Conservative Members. The common agricultural policy has not changed in any 154 material aspect, but every time the matter is raised we are assured that the Government will see that that is done. The common fisheries policy is a disaster. A majority of the public is opposed to membership. The trade balance is hopelessly wrong. In spite of all that, the Government remain committed to the EEC. They ought to draw the logical conclusion.
The Gracious Speech refers to Bills thatwill be introduced … to improve the control of subsidies to public transport in the conurbations.I leave the implications of that to the hon. Members concerned, but I regret that the Government have decided against a road equivalent tariff system in the Scottish islands. I accept that the Conservative election promise was to move towards RET, and I also accept that the Government have given substantial aid to the shipping companies that serve the islands, but it is a serious blow to development in the islands that they have not had sufficient concern to go the full way on RET, as recommended by an all-party Select Committee.
It is tragic that in this Queen's Speech, which one imagines will be the last before a general election, nothing has been said about Scottish government. During the referendum on the Scotland Act, the Conservative Party was quite definite in its advice to the Scottish people. A newspaper headline declared:No vote will not kill devolution, pledges Thatcher".It was suggested that the people of Scotland should vote against the Scotland Act on the ground that they would get better legislation from the Conservatives. They trundled on Lord Home, who advised the people of Scotland to vote "No" and said that he would produce a better Bill. It probably does not matter much to the Government's reputation, but I would have expected that by now Lord Home would have produced the Bill that he promised.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is present. One of the great arguments during our discussion on the Scotland Act was the West Lothian question, which the hon. Gentleman used to great effect. I am sorry to note that since that time, when Scotland has been devastated by a Government who have no mandate, the hon. Gentleman does not seem unduly perturbed. I give him full credit for attacking the Government as a Conservative Government, but he seems in no way put out by the fact that the effects on Scotland have been produced by the West Lothian questions in reverse.
§ Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Is it not the case that the Scottish National Party has abandoned devolution as a policy and now believes in root and branch independence and nothing else?
§ Mr. Stewart
We believe in total independence, and that has always been our position. We would never again support anything like the Scotland Act. If such a measure came along, we would examine it, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that SNP Members will not support such a measure in the future. The Gracious Speech promises an amendment tothe Scottish law on mental health".That will no doubt be a useful measure. The only other Scottish measure mentioned in the Queen's Speech is a divorce Bill. The view of the people whom I represent—I agree with it—is that what Scotland needs is a divorce from England so that we in Scotland can right the wrongs that now affect us.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdeen)
I shall not follow the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), who made a wide discussion. We are primarily debating foreign affairs.
I do not believe that Scottish problems can be solved simply within the country's own borders any more than English or Welsh problems can be solved internally. Nations should be internationally minded. Mankind's greatest curse today is narrow nationalism, the belief that one's nation is right and that all others are wrong. All Parliaments should realise that we are one humanity and seek to break down the boundaries that divide nations, as we have succeeded in doing within these islands.
We may look to a distant future with a world authority, where the United Nations will be given far greater powers, but today we must confine ourselves to the affairs of nations. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition referred yesterday to a part of the Queen's Speech that was taken up today by the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey).
The Queen's Speech said:My Government consider the security of the nation and the preservation of peace their highest priority.Security is vital but the preservation of peace is paramount and should take precedence over all other subjects debated in the House. We shall have important debates on unemployment and the way in which the Government are privatising large sections of public industry that have worked well for our country. We shall discuss the Government's vandalism as they try to take industries out of the public sector and hand them over to the Conservatives' financial backers. But above all such important debates, the preservation of peace is paramount.
The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday:The Government must also deal with world-wide disarmament. The best way to use the resources that are being squandered in order to alleviate the present appalling position would be to provide a much more imaginative and energetic attack on the nuclear arms race.
The Government are not providing such an attack. The Prime Minister is a nuclear warrior and she appears to enjoy being one. She said yesterday:We shall maintain our commitment to plan for 3 per cent. annual increase in defence spending in real terms, and we shall provide funds for the Falklands on top of that.
When the Government talk about help for pensioners, the unemployed, industry or the hospitals—all the things that people want—they say that they lack the resources. The Prime Minister said that total public expenditure next year would be the same as it is this year—although there is to be a 3 per cent. increase in real terms in defence expenditure. Although inflation is coming down worldwide, we shall be spending less on some services next year than this. But although we are already spending a tremendous amount on arms, the Prime Minister wishes to spend more. She said:We shall implement NATO's decision to install cruise and Pershing missiles from late 1985 onwards if the talks in Geneva on the zero option are not successful."—[Official Report, 3 November 1982; Vol. 31, c. 16-25.]
A Pershing missile crashed in Germany as the right hon. Lady was speaking. Fortunately for those in the vicinity, the missile did not have a nuclear warhead. All we get from the Prime Minister and her Cabinet is 156 complacency when terrible fears afflict mankind. Nuclear weapons and the arms race are the major issues that confront the House.
Also while the Prime Minister was speaking the Pope was addressing academics and intellectuals at Madrid university. He urged scientiststo work to help all human beings achieve their rights and dignity.He said that it wasa scandal of our time that many researchers are dedicating themselves to perfecting new armaments which could one day be fatal in war.That warning by the Pope has been echoed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and religious leaders throughout the world.
The Church of England has recently made an important contribution to our consideration of the subject through the report of the working party chaired by the Bishop of Salisbury, a former Speaker's Chaplain. The report "Nuclear Weapons and Christian Conscience" is to be debated by the General Synod and I believe that it is right that the Church should take an interest in the subject.
Like some of my hon. Friends, I have been a member of the CND for a long time and it is interesting to see the increasing support that we are receiving.
§ Mr. Critchley
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, of the six clergymen who were responsible for that document, one is a former vice-chairman of the CND and two were not even members of the Church of England?
§ Mr. Evans
Expertise was involved; I believe that one member of the working party came from the Society of Friends, which has concerned itself with international issues for a long time. Instead of arguing about who served on the working party, hon. Members should read the report and its conclusions. Anyone who reads the book with an open mind will conclude that it is a major contribution to the discussion about the dangers of nuclear weapons.
The book says:Pressure should be brought to bear on the Government to make the debate on defence and disarmament a real one. We welcome the recent increase in the availability of information. It must be said, however, that the Government's counteroffensive against the peace movement, however understandable, has often not improved upon the level of some peace movement propaganda. MPs should be encouraged for more accountability on defence and disarmament in Parliament.I say amen to that. Under successive Governments we have not had enough information about what has been spent on nuclear weapons. It is essential that in future we be kept fully informed about what is being done.
Others in the Church of England take a different view. The Bishop of London said yesterday that nuclear weapons could be morally acceptableas a way of exercising our moral responsibility in a fallen world.I do not know how the bishop can live with himself after having made such remarks. If nuclear bombs fall there will not be much of a world left. The bishop seems to be living in another world.
There is no justification for the use of nuclear weapons. Those who possess such weapons say that they never want to use them. That seems to be a strange argument for keeping them. Once nuclear weapons are used we shall be 157 finished. That must be agreed. If we start a nuclear war, civilisation will end. The idea that one side will use nuclear weapons and the other side will not retaliate is ridiculous. If nuclear weapons are used, the chances of retaliation and of the reduction of this planet to a cinder heap are tremendous.
I do not believe that the United States or the Soviet Union will deliberately set out to use these weapons. The danger is that there will be a war by accident. There is a danger of the recurrence of the incident that occurred in Germany only yesterday when a Pershing missile was railroaded—although it did not possess a nuclear warhead. It is known that technology can fail. It could happen that before very long a weapon will be dropped and explode somewhere where it will cause tremendous damage. Who will then admit that such an incident is his mistake?
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
As one charming and articulate Welshman speaking about another, is the hon. Gentleman saying that Nye Bevan was wrong?
§ Mr. Evans
Nye used a phrase with which many of us disagreed at the time and following which the party conference reached a decision that he had once suggested. Nye was right on many things but even those who are right on so many things can be wrong on others. I believe that his wish as Foreign Secretary would have been to have a trade-off in negotiations. It was, I believe, a wrong analysis. The problem needs to be examined in the same manner as the study carried out by the Church of England working party and numerous other groups in the world.
I recently attended the Rome conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union where representatives from the four corners of the world met together. The one issue that dominated everything else for those representatives was the danger facing humanity from the use of nuclear weapons. The words of the Bishop of London remind me of a cartoon that appeared a number of years ago at the time when the atom bomb was dropped on the Bikini atoll. The bomb threw up a mushroom of dust and created the shadow of a cross on the seas of the world. The caption underneath the cartoon read:Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.
We have to recognise the immense dangers if a tremendous proliferation of nuclear weapons takes place. The first atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 37 years ago. The world now has 50,000 nuclear weapons, with a destructive power of one million Hiroshimas. The Government have announced today that they are spending £1,000 million to modernise Polaris. They have already announced their intention to spend £10,000 million on the purchase of Trident which possesses a destructive power exceeding that of all the destructive power of the Soviet Union's SS20s.
It has been estimated that the explosive force of a one megaton bomb is equivalent to the amount of TNT that would fill a freight train 300 miles long. One can imagine a freight train stretching from London almost to the Scottish border loaded with TNT. That is the destructive power of a one megaton bomb. Now there is talk of 10 megaton and 100 megaton bombs. The human mind cannot appreciate the destructive power now in the hands of East and West.
It has to be recognised that 98 per cent. of nuclear weapons are in the control of the United States and the 158 Soviet Union. With our own independent nuclear deterrent, we, along with France and China, are in a very small league comparatively. We should ask ourselves whether it would be a major contribution to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons if we abandoned our individual position. If the Government maintain that we are fully justified in having our independent bomb, what is to stop Poland, Hungary, Romania, East Germany and other countries in the Warsaw Pact having it?
§ Mr. Evans
Or India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq and countries of the Middle East? Is it suggested that if they possess nuclear weapons the world will be a better place? What we should be seeking is a reduction of the existing number of powers that possess these weapons. We should aim for mutual reduction by the United States and the Soviet Union. It is nonsense to argue that we would be dependent upon the United States if we were to abandon nuclear weapons. There are about 150 countries in the world, and only five possess nuclear weapons. We are involved in massive and unnecessary expenditure. The Labour Party says that it will not proceed with the production of Trident because the nation cannot afford it. The Government always seem to find money when preparing for war but cannot find money for the purposes of peace.
There is massive arms expenditure throughout the world. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for 1982 says that during the past four years world military spending has been following an upward trend at a rate of about 3 per cent. per annum in volume. This is rather faster than in the previous four years in spite of the deteriorating performance of the world economy. So the burden measured as a share of the world's total output has probably been rising. It is difficult to get a meaningful measure of the world total. For what it is worth, the current dollar figure in 1981 was about $600 to $650 billion.
There has been reference in the House today to the problems of world poverty and the 800 million people who live on the border of starvation. Yet this Government lead the industrial nations of the world in increasing arms expenditure year by year. We have to call a halt to it. I believe that the people will call a halt to it. In the United States a million people demonstrated against nuclear war. Throughout the world, people are saying that we have our political differences and our economic difficulties but that we have to settle them by peaceful means and that war has become obsolete.
The Government have done little to implement the findings of the Brandt Commission. The Government talk about doing something for underdeveloped countries and help for the world's poor. When the small fraction of expenditure that they are prepared to devote to underdeveloped countries is compared to the massive expenditure on arms, the figures show a diminuation of the help going to developing countries.
The world's poor get less from this Government. The arms manufacturers get much more. When returned to office, a Labour Government must give a great deal of attention to world poverty. We created the Ministry of Overseas Development and separated it from the Foreign Office. We must recreate that Ministry and give priority to methods of dealing with the problem of world poverty.
The Prime Minister is now converted to capital expenditure. She apparently now wants local authorities to 159 spend more, whereas in the past local authority spending has been curbed. They have been putting them in a straitjacket. They have prevented them from spending money. Now the Prime Minister comes along, a very late convert a year before the election, and tells the local authorities that they should have spent more on capital expenditure. Of course there should be more capital expenditure, but there should be more capital expenditure on aiding people in the developing countries.
Many people are unemployed in this country in the steel industry and the manufacturing industries who could be manufacturing products. For the peace of the world it would be better if we gave those products to the under-developed countries rather than pouring the money down the arms drain as the Government do.
We have had a tour of the smaller territories around the world. There has been mention of the Falkland Islands, although there seems to be an embargo in the House on talking about the islands until we have the Franks report. We should have an early debate on what is to be the future of the Falkland Islands. We had a recent contribution about the future of Hong Kong, and that is something to which we must turn our minds.
Only yesterday, the Prime Minister was asked about Gibraltar. These smaller territories were the imperial outposts when we had a British empire and this House governed a quarter of the people of the world. However, we must now examine the real position in the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and the other smaller territories.
§ Mr. Foulkes
My hon. Friend may be interested to know that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee has agreed, once it completes its study on the Falklands and the future of British foreign policy in relation to the Falklands, to look at all British dependent territories. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome that, and I hope that the House will follow on from the recommendations that the Select Committee might make.
§ Mr. Evans
I welcome my hon. Friend's intervention, and what he has to say is constructive. The Select Committee is doing a good job, as those of us who might have had reservations about it have concluded. I look forward to reading that report.
We must examine these problems in advance—we cannot just wait for things to happen, which is what we did in the Falklands. I remember speaking in the foreign affairs debate on the Gracious Speech last year, and the speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby). He had been to the Falkland Islands and he warned the House about the dangers 12 months ago, long before the Argentine invasion.
To imagine that when the Argentines invaded the Prime Minister did not know of the fact until she read it in the newspapers is beyond belief. The Foreign Secretary did the gentlemanly thing and went, and the Secretary of State for Defence, who was told to wait and get the war over before going, is now retiring. However, the problem is one of co-ordination between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. That is where something went wrong and the Prime Minister's office is responsible for that. This might be the reason why the Prime Minister now has her own foreign affairs adviser. We should have looked more closely at the problems of the Falklands.
It is now suggested that we have the tremendous expenditure of £1 million per family on the island. For a 160 Government who do not believe in subsidising anybody, it seems strange that this is accepted without argument. We have to realise that if these people want to raise sheep there must be a more cost-effective way for them to do so than in that part of the world. We must examine all these factors.
There is also the problem of Gibraltar, which could become worse in the not-too-distant future. We must have a policy for the smaller territories. We should examine the possibility of creating some sort of United Nations trusteeship. I know that Conservative Members disagree with much of what is done by the United Nations, but it is the only organisation we have and we must make it work.
It is deplorable that South Africe should be given an IMF loan. This was an opportunity for the world powers who can influence the decisions of the IMF to obtain undertakings from South Africa. Not only should it end its illegal occupation of Namibia, which has gone on from the time of the League of Nations, but since the formation of the United Nations there has been a demand that South Africa leave that territory. There should be pressure on South Africa about Namibia, and to make it end the evil apartheid system.
Another issue that has been raised in debate is that of giving assistance to overseas students, the importance of which is recognised by both sides of the House. The Government are acting in a penny wise, pound foolish fashion. Many people who have taken leading positions in Governments in Africa, the West Indies, India and other parts of the world were educated at Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics, Ruskin college and elsewhere in this country. They remember that attachment, but the Government are breaking it off. The students are now finding that it is less costly for them to go to the Soviet Union, the United States of America or somewhere else to be educated than to come here. I hope that the Government will look at this again; assistance to overseas students is a method of giving aid to developing countries that is beneficial to us as well.
The paramount issue that faces us is that of peace. The people of this country would be better served by a Labour Government than by a Tory Government led by the present Prime Minister.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) spoke with passion and at some length. I shall not follow him in many of the issues that he mentioned, but he spoke of the Falklands. It was refreshing to hear the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) say that this was not the time for direct negotiations with Argentina. However, he was a little premature in the way that he dismissed Lord Shackleton's report without discussing its merits, although I understood what the right hon. Gentleman was saying.
There is one aspect of that report to which I shall refer, and that is the question of having a runway on the Falkland Islands capable of taking civilian aircraft. On page 14 the report says:The establishment of regular civil air communications with the Islands is an absolute priority. Without it, little or no development would take place, the economy would decline further, and the sense of isolation would probably be unacceptable to the majority of Falkland Islanders.
Lord Shackleton goes considerably further later, when he says on page 99: 161A regular air service with the Islands must again be introduced if the Falkland Islands are to have a future beyond the short term. This is true for reasons of economic development and social welfare. For most of the development possibilities considered, particularly concerning natural resources and tourism, an air service is essential, and if one is not provided the morale of the Islanders will suffer.
That theme runs through the whole report, and the need to provide an air strip capable of taking civilian aircraft is extremely important for tourism. The Falkland Islands will never have a vast tourist industry, but Lord Shackleton suggests that it could be expanded from 200 to 300 people a year to 2,000 to 3,000 a year. This could bring more jobs, andIts attraction is that it offers organic growth of the economy which could be combined with and help to sustain the existing sheep farming activities on the Island.
There are two problems raised in this connection. The first is that the extension of the runway in its present form is neither long enough nor broad enough to accommodate civilian aircraft according to the strict and stringent regulations of the Civil Aviation Authority. The parliamentary answer from my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) last week stated that civilian aircraft would need a runway of 8,500 ft. The existing runway is merely 6,100 ft. It would therefore have to be extended, and Lord Shackleton estimated that the cost would be between £30 million and £35 million, and that if the existing runway were not extended another runway would cost about the same.
The second difficulty—apart from the considerations of cost and extension or of having a different runway—is that mentioned by the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), when he said that there would be the problem, in cases of emergency, of diversion to other airfields in other countries—and, of course, the Civil Aviation Authority would not allow in-flight refuelling of civilian aircraft.
It is my contention that the problem can be solved. The French have a problem exactly like it in relation to the Austral Islands in the Southern Pacific. The French have what they call an island diversion scheme. The aircraft has the capacity to take more fuel, and with it the capacity to circle for more than 2½ hours until the weather clears so that it can get down. With modern navigational aids and weather forecasting now being so advanced, and with the capacity to circle for an extra 2½ hours with more fuel, there is no problem for the French in establishing a civilian air link.
Naturally, if the island diversion scheme were applied in the Falklands, a longer runway, or a different runway, would be needed. Without it, aircraft could not take off or land with the extra fuel required to enable them to circle for 2½ hours in the event of an emergency. If the French can do it in relation to their islands in the Southern Pacific, surely we could do it in relation to the South Atlantic. That is the simple point that I wish to put to the Minister. I ask him to look very carefully at the French experience in relation to the Austral Islands.
If we had the capacity to do it—and I believe that we could have—is it necessary and is it desirable? Having established that it can be done, I would argue that it should be done, for three reasons.
First, if the United States is to vote that the Argentine and Britain should have direct negotiations over 162 sovereignty, that will represent a weakening of resolve to take the interests of the islanders fully into account in all circumstances, since the resolution, as I understand it, makes no mention of the rights and freedoms of the Falkland Islanders. If that is to be the position of the United States, it is all the more important that the islanders and the Argentine should be in no doubt of the weight of the British commitment to the Falkland Islanders.
There is reason to believe that the islanders and the Argentines see the full development of the runway, or of a new runway, for civilian aircraft, as a test of the strength of the British support for the islanders. A full development of the runway, or of a new runway, would be seen as an assurance of intent for the future. I hope that the Minister will regard it as of fundamental importance as an assurance of our intent.
Secondly, it will not have escaped the notice of the Ministry of Defence that a fully lengthened runway would also be of benefit in increasing the possibilities of reinforcing the islands with a brigade at very short notice, through the use of VC10 aircraft flying direct from the Ascension Islands in the event of any future potential threat. Although the existing runway has been slightly developed, the VC1Os cannot use it, and the islands are dependent on supplies from the sea, supported by flight-refuelled C130s. I contend that the use of VC10s, which could land on an extended or new runway, would be much more rapid and efficient and have much military advantage. The full extension of the runway, or a new one, would not only assist the economy of the islands; it would enhance the security, very much on the basis of the words of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), that an ounce of deterrence is worth a ton of defence.
The third reason for developing the runway is that from 1951 to 1973—more than 20 years—the outflow of funds from the Falklands to the United Kingdom was considerably greater than the inflow of funds to the Falklands. The Shackleton report, on page 33, states:One of the major findings of the 1976 Report was that there had been a continual outflow of funds over the years from the Falkland Islands to the United Kingdom, largely in the form of company dividends and undistributed profits which were not reinvested locally … It was pointed out that the United Kingdom Exchequer had gained substantial amounts from taxes on the outflow of funds and it was estimated that for the 1951 to 1973 period the United Kingdom direct tax take (about £1.9 million) on dividends and profits from this flow of funds was approximately twice the amount given as United Kingdom aid to the Falklands (£0.9 million).
Because more funds were taken out of the Falklands than were put into the islands over the years, we owe it to the Falkland Islanders today to redress that balance, so that neither they nor anyone else should be in any doubt as to our resolve and intent.
When Lord Shackleton's first report was published relatively little was done about it, and I hope that the publication of his second report will, at the least, lead to the runway being lengthened or to an alternative runway being built, in the interests of the islanders. Such a development would, I believe, be in accord with the spirit of the Queen's Speech.
I was delighted and proud that during the Falklands crisis some of my constituents, in the Ferranti factory in my constituency, worked literally round the clock to make certain that Royal Air Force Harriers would have the capability to fly off aircraft carriers with the most advanced avionics equipment in the world. We do not 163 often have to work 24 hours a day ourselves. My constituents—and, I am sure, many others—believe that we owe it to the Falklanders, and to those who died for them in the Falklands, to do everything that we can for their well-being and their security.
§ 6.6 pm
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)
I should like, first, to make one or two comments arising from the observations of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton). He told us that over about 20 years there was a net inflow to the United Kingdom from the Falklands of a little under £2 million. Over this year and the next three years, we shall be spending £1,600 million on the Falklands. That is very nearly £1 million for every man, woman and child on the islands.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, we must try to develop some sense of proportion about the Falklands. We have a problem with the Falklands, but we also have other problems. There is a place called Ulster. If we were to spend money on Ulster in the same ratio, we would be talking about the ludicrous figure of £1,500 billion. For a tiny fraction of that sum we could revive Ulster's economy, get rid of its unemployment and, hence, of many of the problems that create much of the unrest there.
We could give Ulster a gas pipeline under the straits, so that the people of Ulster would not have to pay more than we do for their fuel, either for domestic use or for industry. We could do good business with the Irish Republic out of it. But we do not do those things.
The Falkland Islands have a population no greater than that of a not very big English village. What is meant by the independent existence of the Falkland Islands? There are just about enough Falkland Islanders to maintain a not very good primary school. There are not enough to maintain any sort of secondary school. There are not enough to maintain any sort of further education, or any medical services beyond general practitioner services. There are not enough of them to run a television station or a cinema, or even, when the troops move out—notwithstanding the efforts of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow)—a fish and chip shop. We are talking about devoting a major slab of the resources of the United Kingdom to a single village.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West talked about taking fully into account the views of the islanders—the Foreign Secretary and other hon. Members have made the same point—but I have to admit that I do not know what is meant by the phrase "taking into account the wishes of the islanders." There are only two possible views to take about that. One is to give the islanders a veto by saying that "taking the islanders' wishes into account" means that as long as they want and say they wish to remain British subjects—those who have not been robbed of their British nationality by the British Nationality Act 1981—we shall ensure that they remain with us at a cost of £300 million a year—that is, about £180,000 a year for every man, woman and child. That is a tenable definition of what is meant by "taking their views into account". Their views are made paramount. If that position is not taken, I do not know what "taking their views into account" means.
One will judge this country's relationship to the Falkland Islands either on the basis of what is good for the islanders, or what they think is good for them—that is 164 1,800 or 1,400 people, as 400 have lost their nationality—or on the basis of what is good for over 50 million British subjects, in which case the islanders do not have the veto. What does "taking their views into account" mean if one stops short of giving them the veto? That is the dilemma that no British Government have yet faced—not only the present Government, but their predecessors.
We have spent years trying to talk the islanders out of their veto. We failed. There is no prospect that we shall talk them out of their veto now. If we have a referendum—Gibraltar is an example—we cement their veto in concrete. We fossilise it for all time and make it immutable and unbreakable, and we are still in a mess. What do we do about it?
I understand the strong feelings for the islanders of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West. Those feelings are shared by many hon. Members. Goodness knows, they have had a rotten experience. Does any hon. Member seriously believe that the relationship between the Government and the Falkland Islands will be the same in 1990 as it is today? If the answer is "Yes", does he still believe that it will be the same 10 years after? Nobody does.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East that this is not the moment to start negotiating. It is much too soon. The wounds are too fresh. But sooner or later we shall have to come to it. When we do, why do we not grasp the nettle and say once and for all that a small community—however worthy it is and however devoted one is to it—cannot be given a veto over the policy of a Government trying to run a country of nearly 60 million people?
§ Mr. Deakins
Does my hon. Friend accept that one way of overcoming the logjam, or grasping the nettle—if I may mix my metaphors—would be to adopt a much more flexible immigration and settlement policy for the islands so that people who wanted to go there from Latin America and elsewhere might be allowed to do so? That might be the time to check the majority opinion of the islanders.
§ Mr. Mikardo
My hon. Friend is right. That is one solution that may arise once we admit that we have to think out something fresh, which is the essential prerequisite. When we start thinking that, we can think of all sorts of possibilities. Some people believe that there is a possibility of a United Nations trusteeship or a condominium, as we had with Egypt in the Sudan.
We could set up all the Falklanders in a more amiable climate, in palatial houses with 50 acres each, for a fraction of what we are spending now. There must be all sorts of possibilities—political, economic and social—but we cannot explore them because we have a logjam—as my hon. Friend said—of refusing to think whether the phrase "taking the islanders' views into account" means an absolute veto.
I was diverted by the remarks of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West, but I am grateful to him for launching me on that subject.
I want to say something about the Middle East, which is an area I know well, in a wider context. The Foreign Secretary referred to the tiny bit of the Middle East which consists of the southern half of the eastern littoral of the Mediterranean—that is all that the Lebanon and Israel put together is—and said that he wanted to think about it in 165 a wider context. The inter-relationships in the Muslim world generally and the Arab world in particular are so close and complex that one has to look at the whole picture.
The Middle East stretches from the Atlantic coast of Morocco to the border between Pakistan and India and the borders between Turkey and Greece and between Turkey and the Soviet Union. The Middle East consists of all the Arab States plus the four large contiguous Muslim non-Arab States of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey. The whole area is one of potential danger, because it is unstable from east to west and from north to south.
I do not see the third world war arising in Europe. The fear of it arises in the North African and Middle Eastern area. Look around the area from Morocco through to Iran and Afghanistan—leave out the little sliver that is Israel—and one sees that every country in that area is de facto either a feudal kingdom or a military dictatorship. Outside Israel there is not one genuinely free, sovereign and omnicompetent multi-party Parliament like ours in the whole area. There is not one Government in that area on which any prudent man would bet 10p that it will still be in office in three years.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I wish the ruler of Oman a long life, but bullets are cheap in that part of the world and there are a few people who do not like him. I pray that he will still be there, and I hope that the others will still be there, in three years' time. I do not want to see Governments overthrown by violence. There is no stable Government in that area. After all, Oman is not a big part of that area, is it?
The Middle East is full of rivalries. There is the traditional rivalry between Syria and Egypt for leadership of the Arab world which has gone on for a long time and still goes on. There are dynastic enmities. There are political enmities from extreme Left to extreme Right. There are religious enmities not only between Muslims and Christians but, even worse, between the Shi'ites and the Sunni—two brands of Muslims who treat each other rather like the two brands of Christians in Belfast treat each other. The enmities are very grave.
Syria has never really abandoned her long-time goal of a Greater Syria. She looks upon Lebanon—we must remember that she has never had an ambassador in Lebanon and has never recognised Lebanon—as a province of Greater Syria, as she does Palestine and Jordan.
There is a Soviet army in Afghanistan. There is a Syrian army as well as an Israeli army and some remnants of a Palestinian army still in Lebanon, with- the Syrians occupying two-thirds of that country. Until recently, there was, and could well be again in the very near future, a Libyan army in Chad. There is a war between Iran and Iraq. There is a war between Algeria and Morocco, the Algerians using the Polisario Front as surrogates for their own army.
My guess is that the next war in the Middle East will be not between Israel and one of her neighbours, but between Egypt and Libya. There are many good judges of the Arab scene who believe that one of the late President Sadat's principal motivations in his trip to Jerusalem was 166 to secure his eastern border so that he could turn to deal with the one that he really looked upon as his enemy to the west of him.
Moving to the northern part of the area, there is a Turkish army in Cyprus, against our guarantee which we did not honour. We gave a guarantee to prevent that. We did not honour it.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Yes. I am not making a party point about it. I was very critical of that Government. The hon. Gentleman cannot accuse me of being slow to criticise Governments of my own party. We dishonoured that obligation, so we have partition not only in Lebanon but in Cyprus as well, and bad feeling between Turkey and Greece because of it, in addition to the bad feeling between them because of the sea bed of the Aegean and the rest of it.
Important and serious as are the happenings on that eastern littoral of the Mediterranean, important and serious as are the wars between Israel and the Arab States and the conflict between the rights of the Israelis and the rights of the Palestinians, important and serious as were the Israeli and the Syrian invasions of Lebanon and their consequences, important and serious as are the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and what was the PLO military occupation of southern Lebanon, what worries me is that so many people take the view that if that little bit only shut up and got out of the way there would be no problems in the area. They say that if only we could wave a magic wand overnight and stop Mr. Arafat and Mr. Begin from being such awkward customers or get Israel to disappear into the Mediterranean, there would be no war between Morocco and Algeria or between Iran and Iraq. People do not do what the Foreign Secretary urges them to do. They do not look at that bit of the world in context.
I have always been an advocate of the rights of the Palestinians and of their rights to a State of their own, so long as it did not threaten other people. But people forget that there was a Palestinian State for six months. The United Nations resolution of 1947 set up two States divided by boundaries not very different from Israel's pre-1967 boundaries which the Arabs now say that they want. They had it. It was given them. The United Nations gave them that State with those boundaries.
It is commonly assumed that that November 1947 resolution of the United Nations set up the State of Israel. It did not. It set up specifically a Jewish State and specifically an Arab State. That is why those who talk about a unitary secular State of the whole of Palestine having some writ of international law are talking nonsense. There were specifically set up a Jewish State and an Arab State.
What a difference there would have been in history if the Palestinians had taken their State in May 1948. On 15 May of that year, when the Israelis took their bit, what would have happened if the Palestinians had taken their bit? There would now have been a Palestinian State for 34 years, and I bet that it would have been a good one, because the Palestinians are very talented people. One has only to go round the Middle East to see the large extent to which some of the most difficult and responsible jobs in all the countries of the Arab world and some outside it contain Palestinians in their top echelons. I am quite sure 167 that if the Palestinians had taken that State 34 years ago, it would have been a very good one. I dare say that there would have been frictions between that State and the Israeli State next door, but I cannot conceive that those frictions would have resulted in anything like the mayhem that there has been since 1948.
By now, we might even have had a Middle East economic community. We might have seen the operation of the Reagan plan of its own volition decades ago if the Palestinians had taken their State. But, clever as they are, the Palestinians were misled by the Mufti of Jerusalem, their then religious leader and the war-time ally of and spokesman for Adolf Hitler, who said "Do not let us take this State. Let us all clear out, and then we shall march in behind seven Arab armies and take over the lot—including the bit allocated to the Jewish State." That is where it all went wrong. It is one of the great tragedies of history. History is full of "if onlys"—if only this or that had happened. In my view, this is one of the biggest and one of the saddest "if onlys" of history.
I welcome the Reagan initiative. I have some reservations about it. It is a bit obscure. Everyone who talks about that area gets confused. Lord Carrington got confused. He got that Venice crowd together and thought that he would get a declaration. He knew that the Israelis would reject it, but he thought that the Arabs would welcome it, throwing their caps into the air, and he thought that the Palestinians would hoot with joy. He issued his pro-Palestinian Venice declaration. Predictably, the Israelis rejected it and, two hours later, the PLO rejected it in terms much more condemnatory than the Israelis, because he had got it all wrong.
The Labour Party also got it wrong. At our recent party conference, we approved four statements about the Middle East. There was a passage in "Labour's Programme '82". There was a statement rather similar to it but worded rather better which was put forward by the national executive committee. There were two resolutions, one a composite resolution and the other an emergency resolution. They say four quite different things and all were carried. Therefore, there is no monopoly of confusion about the Middle East.
The trouble is that people think with their hearts instead of with their heads. I hope that I do not sound big-headed, but the complexities are so great that few people have had the time or have given enough thought to understanding them. Therefore, there is great confusion and a certain amount of obscurity.
Ultimately, relations between whatever entity exists on the West Bank and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will have to be settled by the peoples of those two areas, not by Mr. Reagan or by the Foreign Secretary or by me. Eventually it will come to that. However, we have a starting point if only people approach it intelligently. I am delighted that there has been a great upsurge of popular support for the proposals in Israel. There is probably some support for the plan among the PLO as well. However, the problem is that the PLO is not a unitary organisation but a coalition. It is even more disparate than the Social Democratic—Liberal alliance. It consists of people from either end of the political spectrum. There are those who would not hurt a fly and those who would take a dozen lives without batting an eyelid.
As soon as one element in the PLO wants to be moderate, an extremist comes along to outbid him. The funniest thing was the argument that the PLO had about 168 whether Mr. Yasser Arafat should speak at the United Nations. Some in the PLO wanted him to go there and some did not. Ultimately, they reached a compromise. He would be allowed to go to the United Nations provided that he carried his revolver into the chamber. That demonstrates the differences within the PLO. However, among the PLO there is an element of good will that is sufficient for the Reagan proposals to form a beginning.
Of course, progress will take a long time. Sometimes it will be two steps forward and one back, and sometimes one step forward and two steps back. There will be an argument about the interim period of autonomy, its length and the nature of the autonomous powers. However, we have a starting point and the basis for some hope. There will have to be some changes in leadership in Israel, the Arab world and perhaps elsewhere before those plans can come to fruition. I speak as a very old gent, and they may not come to fruition in my lifetime, but I believe that they will succeed in the lifetime of most hon. Members.
It behoves us all not to say or do anything that would raise the tiniest obstacle to that progress.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Many hon. Members will be disappointed and will not be called if speeches continue to be as long as they have been.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) will forgive me if I do not take up his remarks in depth on the Middle East and the Falkland Islands. I would like to be pro-Israeli, but the trouble is that the Israelis will not let me.
I should like to raise a constituency point, which also has wider implications. Those of the bereaved who wish to go to the Falkland Islands to visit the graves should perhaps go in January or February next year, which would coincide with the 150th anniversary of British rule. More importantly, the Ministry of Defence or the Government should be willing to place a cruise ship at their disposal, which would allow them to sail from Ascension Island to Port Stanley. The ship could then be used as a floating hotel and could bring them back. Clearly there is no question of sending the bereaved in a Hercules that would take 14 hours to get to the Falkland Islands and 14 hours to return and which would have to be refuelled in the air twice on each leg. Therefore, perhaps the responsibility falls on the Government to do as I have suggested.
There is a reference—albeit brief—to NATO in the Gracious Speech. It is a message of support which, although welcome and important, is not especially interesting. Three things have happened recently with respect to NATO that are particularly interesting. First, a series of leaders is currently appearing in The Times. Secondly, a speech was made in Bristol by the sage of Wolverhampton—that is how I like to think of him, although I am fully conscious that he now lives in exile in Northern Ireland—about the future of the deterrent. As interesting and perhaps more important, there have been a couple of speeches made by SACEUR, General Rogers. One of those speeches was made in Brussels and the other in London. As a result of making them, he found himself in hot water.
The Times leaders appear to be in a sequence of four, of which the third appears today. They are entitled 169No end of a lessonand have been presumably written by the editor, Charlie Douglas-Home; at least, when he has been able to find space in his great newspaper that is not being used by Mr. Bernard Levin. The series is fascinating and foreshadows the great debate on strategic policy that will begin to take place as part of thefundamental defence review of the mid-eighties"—an exercise that must follow the re-election of this Government.
In his four pieces Mr. Douglas-Home seems to prefer the "blues" to the "browns", or a maritime to a continental strategy. He wishes to divert the emphasis of Britain's defence effort away from NATO. However, he has not yet faced the effect upon the European will to self-defence if a British withdrawal—even a small withdrawal of forces from the Rhine Army—were to bring about, first, a reduction in the number of United States forces in the Seventh army and, secondly, a reduction in the German Army. Indeed, there are already all sorts of pressures in the Senate to reduce the number of American forces in Europe.
The return of the legions would lower the nuclear threshold in Europe. By severing—if we wait a little longer—the nuclear link between Europe and America, it could bring about an end to deterrence at a time when smaller European conventional forces are facing superior Soviet conventional and nuclear forces. It is extraordinary that we should have just completed the process of withdrawal from Empire only to begin all over again the process of adopting global responsibilities. Yet that must be the theme of the debate on defence policy that will take place later in the 1980s.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), whom I described as the sage of Wolverhampton, is never dull. In the brief lull between the end of one Session and the beginning of another he has spoken out against the independent nuclear deterrent. It is a little curious that someone who is so strongly nationalistic and whose beliefs owe more to Hegel than to Home—Charlie Douglas-Home, that is—should be against the State's possession of what has been described by others as the ultimate means of self-defence. But he may be right.
If the NATO alliance endures for another 30 years there will be no need to take out additional insurance. However, if it were to disappear or fragment, the argument for national nuclear forces as the safeguard for national independence might become overwhelming and bring with it the inevitable spread of an independent nuclear capability to other countries in Europe.
That brings me to SACEUR. General Rogers is not the sort of American soldier who carries a pearl-handled revolver on his hip. He is a scholar—a Rhodes scholar. His most recent speeches have got him into hot water. To all intents and purposes he was summoned before the NATO council last month to explain the burden of his two most recent speeches. What was the message that Bernie Rogers attempted to put across? It was to stress once again the vital necessity of strengthening Europe's conventional defence not only to raise the nuclear threshold, which is important in itself, but to make the alliance more acceptable to public opinion at a time when the so-called 170 "peace movement" presses hard upon NATO's contradictions. I refer to the uncertainty of an American nuclear response to Soviet attack and the necessity within Europe to rely upon the threat of first use.
Theatre nuclear rearmament will make the first appear more likely. It will strengthen the credibility of extended deterrence. A 4 per cent. increase in real terms in defence spending might purchase us, thanks in part to new weapons and technology, an effective conventional defence.
I shall be interested to learn the Foreign Secretary's reactions, not only to the series of leaders in The Times and to the views of the sage of Wolverhampton, but to General Rogers' two speeches. The Secretary of State was once in charge of defence. Some of us look back on that time as a golden age. Is he now in favour of a 4 per cent. increase in real terms in defence spending?
§ Mr. David Young (Bolton, East)
Last evening at this time I and nine of my colleagues were flying back from the Falkland Islands. One must endure that journey and experience the conditions to appraise the difficulties involved. I pay tribute to the men and women of the British forces in the Falklands who have a tremendous task to perform, not only in clearing up the debris of war but instituting the infrastructure which should have been instituted as a result of the Shackleton report. We now have not only a military commitment that could be continuing, but a strong economic commitment. The Government would be ill-advised to ignore the consequences. They must recognise that all issues demand deep concern and care. If the economic nettle had been grasped before the invasion we might now face difference circumstances.
I shall not criticise the Government for what happened before the Falklands war because that will be dealt with elsewhere. However, the forces were sent there as a result of a political decision. Our men did a magnificent job. I pay tribute to those who died in the conflict. One of the most moving parts of our trip was when we visited the cemetery at San Carlos. I say to the relations of those who died that we felt that had it been our relatives we should have liked them to be buried there.
The press has been unfair in some respects. Much worry and concern has been caused to relatives who have not been able to visit the graves of those who died in the Falklands. The journey by Hercules would be impossible for women and children. It involves 13½ hours, or a return journey of 27 hours, on an aircraft. Each aircraft flying from Ascension must be prepared to turn round and go back. It sometimes takes two or three flights to put a Hercules down on the Falklands. That, with the inadequacy of toilet facilities and the dangers of refuelling, would be unacceptable.
Travelling by boat for 12 days would also be out of the question. Accommodation is in short supply. Many troops live in tents. I hope that we shall soon have a statement. The relatives have a right to know what can be done to permit a visit.
Until I arrived in the Falklands I was not aware of the Falklanders' deep economic reliance on Argentina and other South American countries. We must recognise that there are no simple, glib economic solutions. The main industry was agriculture, but that has declined. It may be necessary, as Shackleton suggests, to get rid of the 171 absentee landlord and ensure that investment goes to the islands rather than finding its way back to Britain, but that will not resolve the problems.
Shackleton makes various proposals, but they are proposals and nothing more. Many depend on the results of surveys and investigations. We must recognise that there are no glib solutions. Because of escalating costs, the House must carefully assess the investment necessary. There is no glib solution to the problem of providing an alternative airport. It is not simply a question of lengthening an airstrip under peacetime conditions. While the airstrip is being lengthened, the defence capability will be removed, but one cannot be sure that the present runway will carry the necessary aircraft weight.
There are many technological aircraft difficulties. We must recognise—it is difficult to do so unless one has visited the islands—that weather conditions change from minute to minute. There are strong side winds, for example, and the aircraft that operate in the area must be able to land in those difficult conditions. Port Stanley experiences some of the worst weather conditions on the island. We must receive estimates before we commit ourselves to building another airport. I have heard estimates ranging from £30 million to £500 million. There is no guarantee that what is suitable for civilian aircraft will be suitable for military aircraft.
We must recognise that we have commitments other than those to the Falkland Islands. We have massive commitments in the United Kingdom as well as abroad. More is involved than collating a few pieces of paper and initiating a few simple schemes. If the necessary economic resources had been present before the invasion took place, it is possible that the issue would not have arisen. If the islands return to economic dependence on Argentina or any other South American country, their position will be the same as that which obtained previously.
Having visited the islands, my colleagues and I did not return with any simple solutions. We are concerned about the economic road that has to be travelled. There are 4,000 troops on the islands and the natural inclination of the islanders is to look for economic activity based on that potential market. There are two soldiers for each civilian. A temporary market of that sort would be all right but what would happen when the force level was reduced? There is no doubt that at some stage a reduction must take place. If any market is created that is based on the present number of troops stationed on the island, their removal in part will damage that market.
The islanders might think that there was a role for them in supplying a "permanent" force of 4,000 soldiers. That would be dangerous. Over-dependence on Argentina should not be replaced by over-dependence on British armed forces. When requests have been made for supplies of bread, for example, our forces have been careful to encourage the islanders to provide the initiative to meet their own needs. Unless this is done, we shall have a continuing military commitment to guard very little else than a military presence.
The medical service on the islands consists of virtually no more than a general practitioner service. Before the invasion, an islander went to Argentina if he needed glasses or any form of surgery. There was a general practitioner on the islands who did some surgery. The King Edward VII hospital was built by the British in 1914. The Churchill wing was added in 1953. The establishment is little more than what we would call a village hospital.
172 The operating theatre is now used for civilians and military personnel and is not adequate for the sterility that is required for operations. If bone operations have to take place, there are extreme difficulties to be faced. It is not unusual for unexploded bombs to explode suddenly or to be exploded by the bomb disposal squad. There is much live ammunition flying around, and many minefields, and there are showers of plaster from the roof when they explode. There is a serious risk of infection, and it is not satisfactory either for the civilian population or for our soldiers to face these dangers because of inadequate hospital provision. These shortcomings must be attended to urgently and effective means of sterilisation must be at the top of the list of priorities.
Before the invasion islanders requiring surgery went to Argentina. They now have to be flown to the United Kingdom. They are flown here on Thursday of every week. There may not be many of them, but when serious cases have to be brought here a complete medical team must fly with them. Medical teams must fly to the islands from here or they must be sent from the islands. This means that medical costs are out of all proportion to the size of the population.
If we are to have a continuing commitment, are we to provide one hospital or different hospitals for military and civilian use? I should think that one hospital is the key but the economic costs must be borne in mind. If civilian doctors are to work in the hospital, we must recognise that an island doctor will be paid much less than someone who goes to the islands from the OECD. If the islanders are to look after themselves, we must encourage them to do so.
There is an education problem, because outside Port Stanley most of the teachers are unqualified. Many are untrained and many alternate between teaching and storekeeping. There is a tremendous problem in achieving continuity. There is a need for a hostel in Port Stanley so that children from other parts of the islands can receive education at Port Stanley.
My colleagues and I returned with a conviction that the House must urgently debate the economic future of the Falkland Islands. If we fail to recognise the implications of actions and decisions taken now, we shall find ourselves with a continuing commitment that may exceed our commitment in Ulster. When the troubles started in Ulster in 1969 we thought that they would be over in a few months. There is still no solution in sight. If we take the same attitude to the Falkland Islands, we shall condemn ourselves to an open-ended commitment and our children as well as ourselves will have to pay the cost of our failure to debate and appreciate the dangers that face us on the Falkland Islands.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
There have been a number of interesting and provocative, if long, speeches. I hope that mine will be fairly brief. I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Young). I hope that he will accept that I do not necessarily agree with the conclusions that he has reached, although I was glad to hear about his personal knowledge from his recent visit to the Falkland Islands.
I am much more in tune with the views that were articulately expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), who rightly urged the Government to implement the Shackleton report and the recommendations contained in the updated 173 Shackleton report. I do so for a number of reasons. To the world, what happened during 1982 in the Falkland Islands is a matter of great importance and high principle. This country, in making sure that unprovoked aggression did not succeed, has set the example that the world required.
Countries such as Belize, which is threatened by Guatemala, and Guyana, which is threatened by Venezuela—those overbearing neighbours—will be greatly encouraged by the example set by the United Kingdom when it sent the task force and reoccupied islands which historically and legally are part of Britain. For 150 years the people have stated that they wish to remain a dependency of the United Kingdom.
I shall correct some of the remarks that were made by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), who made a fascinating speech. His understanding of the Middle East enthralled me and many hon. Members. I hope that what he said will be heeded carefully by the Treasury Bench and the Foreign Secretary, because I was in considerable agreement with much of what he said. However, on the Falkland Islands the hon. Gentleman and I will beg to differ.
The hon. Gentleman talked of a figure of about £1,600 million. I hope that he is prepared to accept that that figure includes not only assistance that is to be given to the Falkland Islands and the Falkland Islanders, in reconstruction and extension of the facilities there, but the replacement of the ships and the aircraft that were, unfortunately, lost, and the replacement of other armaments lost during the campaign. I am sure that he will accept that much work and employment will be provided in this country because of the replacements. The contracts are being placed with builders and contractors in the United Kingdom.
I was greatly reassured to see early in the Queen's Speech that the Conservative Governmentwill be concerned to encourage the economic development of the Falkland Islands. An appropriate defence force will be maintained there".
I am concerned about the future. For a moment I shall tempt the House and be provocative. I recall the Monroe doctrine. Some of us know what that is all about. It relates to American foreign policy that goes back over many decades. If the Fulton commission on the Civil Service had been heeded when it published its report 16 years ago and action had been taken on that report, the Franks committee would not now be sitting and there would not have been the Falklands campaign. Unfortunately, our Ministers are not always apprised of information that they should be given by those who serve them in their Departments. That goes on in many Departments, not least in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Minister of State winds up the debate he will say whether it is true that the Americans were negotiating with Argentina six months before the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina, that the Americans urged upon Argentina the desirability of an Argentine-American military base in the Falkland Islands and that the person chosen for that work in Buenos Aires was General Walters, a former head of the CIA.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I wrote a letter to The Times saying exactly that, but it was never answered by anyone. It is true.
§ Mr. Winterton
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will answer that point, because it is important. It relates to a logical step in the determined history of American encroachment, at first—whether or not now is another matter—invited by the British Foreign Office, and the steps which were intended later, which were proven by State Department documents which have long since been published in Washington. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will comment on the matter.
We have a great deal at stake in the South Atlantic. I remind the Foreign Secretary that the Prime Minister has stated from the Dispatch Box that the Falkland Islands act as a gateway to the South Atlantic, which is an increasingly strategically important area of the world. They also command the sea lanes to the South Atlantic. Bearing in mind the instability of South America—I am sure that all hon. Members will agree with that—I believe that it is important to have a secure military base, which could be the Falkland Islands. I say to the hon. Member for Bolton, East, who has just returned from the Falkland Islands, that that is one way in which the future economy of the Falkland Islands could be assisted.
The views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West are mine. We should continue to help the people of the Falkland Islands. We fought to preserve their freedom and their democracy. The islands are precious to us, whether they are 8,000 miles away, 18,000 miles away or 80,000 miles away. Irrespective of the islands' distance, we have a commitment to the people there. If later we need to enter into an arrangement with the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Chile on providing a South Atlantic defence force based on the Falkland Islands, I hope that the Government will consider that with great concern and urgency. That is also a way of conserving the democracy that exists in the British dependency of the Falkland Islands. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) has been muttering during those last few remarks. Would he like to live in Argentina under such an Administration?
§ Mr. Winterton
I do not wish to condemn the 1,800 people in the Falkland Islands to live under an Argentine Administration against their will.
Namibia is also mentioned in the Queen's Speech. I recently visited that part of the world, in which I have taken a great interest for many years. The Foreign Secretary will know that I am highly critical of the fact that in the negotiations that have taken place in the move towards independence and our involvement with the contact five group the British Government and other member States of the group have had little meaningful negotiations and discussions with the internal parties in Namibia. That is strange. It goes against all the principles of democracy.
Whether those internal parties form part of any Administration after independence is irrelevant. They are representing the people in Namibia at this time and they are doing an extremely good job. There is a close tie between Namibians and South Africa. The Council of Ministers and the other internal parties are doing their best 175 to separate themselves from South Africa, but we are not helping them to do so. Why not? Because we are negotiating with South Africa about the future of Namibia and its independence, because we are negotiating with the front-line States, many of which are dictatorships and bankrupt to boot, and because we are negotiating with SWAPO External, whose leader, Sam Nujomo has not set foot in Namibia for more than 20 years.
Will my right hon. Friend re-examine our representation in Windhoek and ensure that Mr. Jeremy Varcoe, who has recently gone there as a representative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, establishes meaningful contact not only with the Council of Ministers under the dynamic leadership of Mr. Dirk Mudge, for whom I have the highest respect, but with the other internal parties that are not involved with the Council of Ministers such as SWANU, the National Independence Party and the SWAPO Democrats under the leadership of Andreas Shipanga.
Those internal parties, which go from the Right of politics to the extreme Left, are all critical of the contact five group because it will not enter meaningful discussions with them. It will send an official from our embassy in Pretoria every five or six weeks—a junior official at that—to tell and advise them what is happening but not to discuss with them how they envisage the future of their country.
The hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) looks pregnant with words and as though he wishes to speak. I shall give way in a moment. If we can settle Namibia correctly we can hasten progress in South Africa. I am sure that we all want to achieve that result.
§ Mr. Deakins
Does the hon. Gentleman believe that there are no lessons to be learnt from our experience of Bishop Muzorewa in Southern Rhodesia?
§ Mr. Winterton
My goodness, it is interesting that the hon. Gentleman wants us to follow the example of Zimbabwe in Namibia. Is he aware that despite all the assurances that were given in the Lancaster House agreement—quite by chance I have them with me, but I shall not detain the House by reading them—they have gone by the board? Mr. Mugabe is moving rapidly towards creating a one-party State. Black politicians who do not agree with that move and want to meet to decide how to prevent it are imprisoned without trial and without any charge being made.
In that context, I could refer at length to the case of Mr. Wally Stuttaford, the Republic Front Member of Parliament who was detained for almost 12 months. He was finally tried, found innocent and released, but only after three black politicians who the State thought would turn State's evidence decided not to do so and spoke on behalf of Mr. Stuttaford. Subsequently, those three black politicians were put back into detention without charges being made against them. Perhaps that is what the hon. Member for Waltham Forest wants to happen in Namibia. I do not.
Moreover, the hon. Gentleman should talk to black or white Zimbabweans about the deteriorating infrastructure—education, medicine, roads, security and even tourism. Tourists are now being murdered. Mr. Mugabe has tried to imply that the Matabeles are turning against the whites and vice versa. That is untrue. White Zimbabweans and the Matabeles have a long-standing friendship. That is 176 merely an example of the methods that Mr. Mugabe is using to cover up the rapid deterioration of his country. Why does he need the North Koreans to train a crack Fifth Brigade, which is to be his special armed guard? Is that what the hon. Member for Waltham Forest wants in Namibia?
Will my right hon. Friend assure me that, as a member of the contact five group, we will have more meaningful consultations with the internal political parties—not only the Council of Ministers, but the Namibian Independence Party, the SWAPO Democrats and SWANU—so that they can participate in the development of their country? I hope that that will lead to peaceful independence and set an example that will enable Mr. Botha to continue with his liberal and progressive policies in South Africa.
It may not have been noticed, but virtually all forms of separate development that lie within the power of the Council of Ministers have been abolished and are now illegal. The only discrimination remains within the second tier authorities under AG8. The Council of Ministers and I and others have urged the South African Government and the Administrator General to abolish AG8 to enable Mr. Mudge and the Council of Ministers to make the progress that will give them credibility when elections are held, and they want elections.
My right hon. Friend knows that I am interested in the clothing and textile industries in Britain. He also knows that he has some responsibility for their future, although major responsibility inevitably lies with the Department of Trade. I hope that in the negotiations during the GATT meeting that is likely to take place soon he will appreciate that there is much unfair competition for many of the traditional and vital British industries. It does not only come from the Third world. My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) was right to point out that, if anything, we are discriminating unfairly against Hong Kong if we expect it to take such a large reduction in quotas as are contained in the new MFA III.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the market in Britain is not a self-regulating mechanism, because of the substantial involvement of the State, and that Britain's competitors for nigh on 100 years have relied on a protected home market to support their manufacturing base? It is all very well for us to talk about free liberal trade, but there is no point in our doing that if we have no manufacturing industry left and if we are the only people playing the free liberal trade game.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a strong manufacturing base is essential for a sound economy and that British banking, institutional and financial systems are not well geared to medium and long-term financing of manufacturing as are those of our competitors, especially Germany, France and Japan, where the banking system and manufacturing are much more closely tied together? I am highly critical of the way in which our institutions have foreclosed on so many of our manufacturing concerns.
On Tuesday I spent three-and-a-half hours at the Northgate Group factory in Wardle Street, Macclesfield. That factory is to close on 14 January 1983 with the loss of at least 100 jobs. Why is it closing? Not because it is inefficient, not because it has not made sufficient new investment—it is part of the Courtaulds group—nor is it because of a bad work force or because of strikes or a bad 177 history of industrial relations, but because of grossly unfair competition—not merely from the Third world but from developing countries.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will assure the manufacturing sector that our industries will be safeguarded from unfair competition before it is too late. If we do that, the other achievements that we have notched up—inflation and interest rates being reduced—will stand us in good stead in the approach to the next general election. I am confident that if we are seen to have tackled the problems of Britain, including unemployment, we will be swept back to power to follow up these policies, which will ensure a sound and prosperous future for Britain.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
It is scarcely appropriate at this hour to embark on a general thesis about the change in attitude and emphasis that would characterise a Liberal foreign policy. For one thing, the world-wide scale of horror is so vast that it is hard to know where to begin and on what to concentrate.
We know, for example, that at least 70 of the States that signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights practise torture as a settled policy rather than as an occasional abuse. Incidentally, it seems that in some cases we are selling them useful equipment to aid them in the task.
We recognise that we live in a world so violent that the total number of deaths, both Argentine and British, in the Falklands war amounts to an average day's killing through politically inspired violence since the end of the Second World War.
The global population increases every day, but we are wasting agricultural land at the rate of 200 acres per minute. Everywhere there is prejudice—not just between black and white in this country, which is relatively mild, but between tribes in Africa, religious sects of Islam, Chinese and Malays in Asia, castes in India, and between the white majority and non-white minorities of both super-powers, particularly the Soviet Union.
Twenty-five million children die of hunger and its attendant diseases every year, while most of the Governments theoretically responsible for protecting them eagerly buy at vast expense the weapons that West and East, Socialist and capitalist, are so eager to sell to them.
I shall confine myself to suggesting just a few areas in which I believe that the Government could do rather better. I begin with the subject of arms sales. The Queen's Speech refers to arms control, which is a different issue. It is now more than two years since the German Foreign Secretary and leader of the German Liberals, Herr Genscher, proposed that there should be a register of arms sales at the United Nations to make a start at least on identifying the problem. What have the British Government done, or what do they intend to do, about that? Have they taken or do they intend to take any initiative in the European Community, which collectively is an enormous supplier of arms world-wide? That is not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, but it is unquestionably a very great issue on which we could give both a practical and a moral lead in seeking workable solutions.
The Queen's Speech devotes quite a long paragraph to the European Community. Rather than burying the Government's policy in such a long paragraph, it could simply have said: 178My Government re-affirm their strong commitment to … work with determination within the Community to sustain British interests".
That sums up the Government's approach to the Community. I should like to see a British Government learn that the most effective means of developing in the Community an understanding of our problems is to demonstrate some will to improve the working of the institutions and some interest in and understanding of the problems of other members. In this context, I should be interested to know what the Government would regard asa satisfactory outcome to the reviews of the Community's Regional and Social Funds.Unless the Foreign Secretary regards this as no more than a cosmetic exercise, if the funds are to have any genuine economic impact throughout the Community it is essential that they be given greater resources, and that can only be achieved through an enlarged budget. There is no baulking that. There may be arguments against an enlarged budget. That is a different matter, but let us not be told that we must have effective regional and social funds while at the same time denying the means for their achievement. The Community as a whole will never succeed or be seen by its populations as a worthwhile and hopeful enterprise unless there is acceptance of a significant redistribution of resources. The United Kingdom Government could take a lead in promoting that, but, despite much rhetoric to that effect, successive Governments have made no attempt to do so.
Both in our own policy and in taking a lead in the Community, Britain could make a constructive contribution to working out a more enlightened approach to the underdeveloped world. I shall not dwell on this as other hon. Members have dealt with it, but doing something to relieve the misery of refugees in places such as Uganda, Eritrea and Kampuchea is surely better than supporting, supposedly for technical reasons, the IMF decision to lend large sums of money to South Africa. It may be said that those two things are not strictly comparable, but many people certainly regard them as such. In that context, I strongly support the comments of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) about the law of the sea conference. If the Government are genuine in their assertions of internationalism, one would have expected them to press far more strongly against the United States' view and for the international solutions.
The Foreign Secretary lauded democracy in the Community, but said nothing about the Government's response to the European Parliament's proposals for a common election system in 1984. The proposals are very close to those of the Labour Government in 1977, so they could be speedily implemented. The present system is not only grossly unfair, but it gravely distorts representation in Strasbourg. The Foreign Secretary knows this. What does he intend to do about it?
I welcome the Foreign Secretary's remarks about the Middle East. I press him strongly on just one point. We should not hesitate in any way in being prepared to assist the Lebanon to emerge from its prolonged tragedy, although I take the point made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East about the dangers inherent in engaging in the officering of Lebanese troops. I was one of the three hon. Members who observed the first Lebanese presidential elections in mid-August and I had the pleasure on that occasion of meeting the now President Amin Gemayel. I was struck by his dedication and his belief in 179 reconciliation. Those qualities were not necessarily generally attributed to his brother, whether or not they were merited, but that is certainly the general view of Amin, and he deserves all the help that we can give him.
Understandably, perhaps, the Foreign Secretary's references to the Falklands were brief. Most people have expressed agreement that we require a certain amount of time to consider the situation, not least to consider the Shackleton report which should certainly be debated in the House.
I wish to put three brief points to the Foreign Secretary. First, there is an increasing number of reports of tardy and rigid treatment by the Ministry of Defence of Service men who died in the conflict with regard to pensions, financial support and the like. I know that some hon. Members have already raised this distressing matter and I may not have observed the Government's response. However, it is worth repeating that this is causing great concern.
Secondly, can the Foreign Secretary say anything about the major problem of minefields? Are there any maps? Have any approaches been made to the Argentines to establish where the mines are, or did they simply strew them indiscriminately all over the place? That would seem an extraordinarily barbarous way to behave. Can the right hon. Gentleman make any prognostication about how long the problem will continue and whether there is any information in existence that would accelerate its solution.
Thirdly, I hope that the Government are undertaking discussions quietly but vigorously at the United Nations to see how a secure peace can be guaranteed. Incidentally, although the right hon. Member for Leeds, East made a pretty good speech, he gained no credit from me for his rather clumsy jokes on this subject. We all know that it is a major dilemma, that one cannot make any open-minded commitment, and so on. Nevertheless, it should never be forgotten that the position in which the islanders find themselves was not of their own making any more than was the responsibility of failing to anticipate their invasion.
There is another area where the Government should give a different lead. A number of hon. Members have already said that if we buy Trident it will be an enormously expensive folly that will not improve either our own or world security, but will weaken our capacity to develop and support more constructive policies. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) stressed, the cohesion of the Western democracies and the need to re-examine their defence, disarmament and trade policies is much more important. It is quite obvious that negotiations on arms control are at the core of East-West relations, and without some positive progress in this regard all other problems may well become irrelevant.
The Western alliance should engage in constant and uninterrupted negotiations on arms control, regardless of difficulties and conflicts of interest elsewhere. The prevention of nuclear war is an interest that East and West share. Therefore, the concept of linkage, which at times has been put forward by the Americans—who argue that all aspects of co-operation and agreement with the East should depend on Soviet good behaviour in all matters—should be firmly resisted.
Any attempts to unleash a trade war against the Communist countries would soon defeat its own purpose. Obviously, exports of strategic materials are perhaps in a different category. However, at all costs the West must avoid any strengthening of a siege mentality in the East, 180 for that not only helps to underpin the position of the most intransigent elements in Moscow but contains unpredictable dangers for world peace. Western policy must therefore be more closely co-ordinated. The Europeans must develop a greater understanding of American concerns. The United States Administration must respond by adopting consistent policies that can be understood in Eastern and Western Europe.
That does not mean that I am suggesting that we close our eyes to the ethical issues. The West can never approve of the Soviet system of repression. The courageous men and women in the East who dissent from the nature of the regime that governs them deserve all the practical encouragement that we can give them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Such as?"] That is exactly the point. I do not think that our response should be to reinforce the siege mentality of the men in the Kremlin, because that makes the task of the brave men that much more difficult.
The basic characteristics of Leninism have not changed that much, but limited progress towards a more reasonable way of life in the East is possible. The USSR today is a very different place from Stalin's Russia. This is a process that must be assisted by constructive patience. It cannot be advanced by trying to bludgeon the Soviets into changing their ways.
I do not agree with the Reagan thesis that one of the most effective ways of undermining the Soviet system is to engage in an economic war upon it. On the contrary, if there is a measure of economic success within the Eastern system, there is a much greater chance of political change and advancement.
All this calls for strong and humanitarian leadership from the Government. I am not confident that we are getting it to the extent that we should or to the extent that meets the challenges we face.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. The winding up speeches will begin at 9 pm. A considerable number of hon. Members have been waiting all day to take part in this important debate. If hon Members limit their speeches to not more than 10 minutes, it will be possible to call nearly all of them.
§ Mr. Eric Deakins (Waltham Forest)
I support a number of the things mentioned by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), particularly his comments on the arms trade and the law of the sea treaty. It was encouraging to hear him speak in this vein, because it shows that at long last the Liberal Party is beginning to regain that sense of genuine international commitment which many of us felt it lost when it supported our entry into the Common Market more than 10 years ago.
My criticisms of the Gracious Speech stem from the view that Britain should pay much more attention to its role in the world, particularly to the problems facing the Third world. I shall concentrate my remarks on those aspects of the Gracious Speech that bear on this topic.
The Queen's Speech talks about overseas development and helping the poorest countries, but that is not strictly correct in the light of the Government's policies on overseas aid in the past few years. After all, this Government in the last three-and-a-half years have cut overseas aid in real terms at a time when the problems 181 facing the Third world have been getting worse. Those problems have stemmed from the oil price rises and from the fact that commodities are now fetching the Third world producers less in real terms than they were 21 years ago. In addition, the Third world countries have an enormous debt burden, which will gradually suck more and more of them into a maelstrom of economic chaos and confusion. That will undoubtedly react on the United Kingdom and our own economic prospects.
The Government's aid record is bad in terms not only of the amount of aid that we have given—we should have given much more—but of the direction of that aid. When they came into office, the Government changed the direction of British overseas aid policy. They moved away from the policies of the Labour Government, which saw aid to the poorest countries as a top priority, and said that far more priority would be given to political and commercial considerations. That is going in completely the wrong direction. If the Government want to use taxpayers' money for political and commercial considerations overseas, so be it, but let not that money come out of the overseas development budget. It should come from the Ministry of Defence or some other Department.
By their increase in the use of funds under the aid and trade provision, which was recently severely criticised by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the Government are increasingly using our reducing bilateral capital aid to developing countries for commercial purposes that do not necessarily pass the proper test of developmental soundness and viability.
The Gracious Speech refers to support for the United Nations. There has been precious little sign of that in the past few months. For example, there has been the Government's lack of sympathy for the very concept of the law of the sea treaty. It would be appalling if, at the end of the Government's review, we were to align ourselves with the United States and West Germany as three rich countries alone against the rest of the world merely to preserve the so-called interests of certain commercial firms in the United Kingdom, Western Europe and North America. We must work towards a world in which new resources are shared for the common benefit of mankind. If we do not sign the treaty, we shall do ourselves great damage in the Third world and in many other OECD countries that intend to sign that treaty for the benefit of mankind.
At the time of the Falklands dispute, the Government went to the United Nations and secured a Security Council resolution condemning the aggression. However, we did not go back to the United Nations and make use of its peacekeeping machinery to try to get the Argentine troops out without our having to invade with the task force at a cost of so many lives and so much money. It might not have succeeded, but as a founder member of the United Nations and a permanent member of the Security Council we ought to have set an example to the rest of the world and tried to make use of the peacekeeping machinery, particularly the article in the United Nations charter that deals with economic sanctions. We know about the bad state of the Argentine economy, and it would have been worth at least trying economic sanctions through the United Nations to bring about changes in that country and the withdrawal of troops from the Falkland Islands.
182 The Gracious Speech refers to more military expenditure within the context of NATO. The Government cannot be aware of a subtle change of policy in the United States. The United States Defence Secretary, Mr. Caspar Weinberger, reported to Congress in July this year on burden sharing within the alliance. He said:Non-military economic assistance to underdeveloped countries is not included in the NATO definition of defence spending. Nevertheless, it is a contribution to world security and stability … If official development assistance … is included as a contribution to international security, the apparent disparity between US and allied contributions is reduced … These factors temper somewhat the larger GDP percentages spent for defence by the US than spent by its NATO allies".That is an important shift in American thinking on burden sharing in the alliance. I was surprised to hear no mention of it in the speeches of the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), although my right hon. Friend may not be aware of the statement. It means that within any given total we could, as I wish, reduce our defence expenditure to the average level of our NATO allies in Europe and increase our development assistance to the Third world. If we added the two together we might be able to satisfy the criteria laid down by Mr. Weinberger.
Mr. Robert McNamara, at a seminar at the Brookings Institute in July, said:at the margin … I believe the US buys more security by spending a dollar for development assistance than for military hardware. Economic advance will not guarantee political stability, but long continued economic stagnation will assuredly lead to political disorder.Those are surely words of wisdom, and there should have been some recognition in the Queen's Speech of the value of development assistance, as distinct from military spending, in terms of stability and security for us and for those in the Third world.
The Gracious Speech refers briefly to arms control, and the Foreign Secretary made some good points about the negotiations that are taking place in various parts of Europe to limit nuclear and conventional weapons. But why can we not do something to try to get a first limitation of the arms trade, particularly between rich and poor countries? About 80 per cent. of arms are produced in rich countries and about 75 per cent. are bought by developing or poor countries.
The arms trade is surely an obscenity in the face of the degradation and misery that confront so much of humanity. I know that it takes two to make an arms trade—the buyer and the seller—but it is up to us, as a founder member of the United Nations, to get together with our allies and other arms suppliers and try not to stop the trade—we will not do that overnight—but to start restricting it. At present it is expanding fast, in almost geometric proportions, and, rather than bringing peace to the Third world, it is creating increasing instability. As the Brandt report said, more arms make mankind not safer, but poorer. Most of us would endorse that.
The Gracious Speech also refers to the possibility of reducing nuclear arms, particularly in Europe where most of them are situated, and among the super powers. We could make a start at home by getting rid of our independent nuclear deterrent. I will not go into all the arguments, but Polaris and Trident are the world's most expensive toys. I use the word "toys" advisedly, because they are the things with which our generals and admirals can play to their hearts' content without ever having to make serious use of them. They are expensive and will 183 distort the pattern of our defence spending over the next few years. I do not believe that NATO would be weakened if Britain gave up its nuclear weapons.
The cruise missile is likely to be arriving on these shores some time next year. Even though it has not been fully tested and is not fit for active service, we are likely to get it. The NATO military planners say that we need cruise, but I do not believe that we need the missile in Britain or in NATO.
There is a growing movement in the United States for a freeze on nuclear weapons, because both sides have enough to kill everyone in the world, let alone knock each other out. In view of the present state of negotiations in Geneva and elsewhere, it would be wrong of us to go ahead with the deployment of cruise. There is a prospect that the negotiations will succeed and we must avoid distorting or undermining them by taking a drastic step such as the installation of cruise missiles in this country. It could lead to the whole edifice of arms control negotiations crumbling.
Our so-called commitment to the Common Market is certainly a commitment of the Government, but it is not a commitment of the majority of the British people, as public opinion polls constantly show.
Many of the policies pursued by the EEC, purportedly in the interests of the people of Western Europe, are not in the interests of those in the Third world. I refer particularly to the protectionism of the common agricultural policy, the dumping of subsidised surpluses on the rest of the world, which distorts the agricultural trade of many developing countries, and a number of other areas where Common Market policies do not tie up with the needs of the poorest people in the poorest countries. That is certainly true of food aid, which has been severely criticised by economic and social experts who know about these matters as being a means of dispersing aid which is not in the interests of most developing countries, because it distorts the pattern of agricultural prices and production in developing countries and makes those nations too dependent on surpluses for the future.
On all those issues, the Gracious Speech was extremely disappointing. It is a narrow-minded speech on those issues, and I look forward to the time when we have a Government who will produce a Gracious Speech that does not think in terms of narrow nationalism, but looks at the needs of one interdependent world in which Britain still has an honourable and great part to play.
§ Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) finished his speech with those words. This country has shown considerable honour in the past year, not only in respect of the Falkland Islands, but in our attitude to many world problems, including aid.
I understand the sincerity of the hon. Gentleman's wish that we should help other countries. We should all like to do more to help other countries, but there is no reason to assume that, given the state of the world economy and, more particularly, the state of our economy, we should be expected to do more than we already do. We all know that we are in a difficult position. The Government have a far better record than the hon. Gentleman has given them credit for.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that security is the starting point for his foreign policy, and he 184 added that membership of NATO remains at the heart of our policy. The North-Atlantic Treaty Assembly, of which I am a member, will be meeting in London later this month and will debate in full plenary session a rather clumsily worded motion entitled "Consensus, public support and the future of the alliance. Is NATO still valid?" Clearly, in the view of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, it is still valid.
However, some aspects of NATO's work give cause for concern and I should like to put down two markers about the implications of our foreign policy for some of the ideas on defence that will undoubtedly be discussed at the NATO meeting of parliamentarians later this month. The first marker relates to the role and disposition of conventional forces and the second relates to the role and future size of nuclear forces.
The extent to which we should commit almost all our conventional forces and most of our military effort to NATO has been subjected to renewed controversy and debate in the light of the Falklands experience. There have been other reasons. There has been the instability of the Gulf. The growing dependence of Western Europe on oil from the Middle East has led to the feeling that this is perhaps an area in which we should take more interest. There is the Iraqi war, the second oil crisis, the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon and, lastly—this has caused great concern—the growing knowledge that the Soviet Union has already developed an international trans-ocean nuclear fleet capability, a submarine capability, of great power and strength.
The United States has responded by forming a rapid deployment force. Its problem is finding suitable bases. We have added, I understand, a small token force of our own. This poses the question—we should hear much more from Ministers on the issue—whether the threat to the security of NATO powers lies increasingly outside the well-established NATO area. Are we wrong, especially this country, to concentrate so much of the resources in the NATO area and also on the central front? If we perceive that there is a threat outside the NATO area, should we reduce our force levels in the NATO area itself? Or should we extend our military commitment by increasing our military expenditure and changing the size and balance of our forces?
If we were to reduce our commitment to Europe, as has been advocated by hon. Members on both sides, we should be careful about the repercussions in the United States and Germany. I believe that it would be difficult for us to convince the Germans in particular that we could be relied upon wholeheartedly, in the face of a Soviet land attack, to be an effective ally. We would need to have important discussions with them and important military consequences would flow were we to adopt a policy of withdrawal of conventional troops from the mainland of Germany to carry out other tasks outside the NATO area.
To what extent does the Foreign Office believe that our international political priorities and obligations have changed? There will be a considerable debate on this issue, I feel, in the next few months. Is NATO to be regarded in such a way that our military defence posture cannot be changed, or are there other areas that the Foreign Office considers of growing importance as a threat to the security of the nation? The Foreign Secretary says that he believes that NATO is the linchpin, the cornerstone. Some other voices have, however, been heard saying that there is a possible need for change. 185 The other marker that I should like to put down is the nuclear marker. I do not wish to rehearse the arguments for the nuclear deterrent. I use the word "deterrent" because I believe that the nuclear weapon has helped to deter war. So long as we have a nuclear deterrent, the Soviet Union will be deterred from attacking us. It goes without saying that I wish to get rid of nuclear weapons provided that the Soviet Union gets rid of them. There is no short cut.
A wide-ranging public debate is about to arise over the political implications of a defence policy that results in a Europe with a greater dependence on conventional weapons or a Europe that might persuade NATO that it could provide its defence purely on conventional grounds under an overall strategic nuclear deterrent from the United States. This means discussing to what extent we can keep intact an alliance that says to the United States "We have no cruise missiles, no Pershing. So far as the British contribution is concerned, we are scrapping the lot." To take those steps may sound, on military grounds, reasonable to some people, certainly to Labour Members. It is the Opposition's policy to get rid of the British nuclear deterrent.
I wonder to what extent people have thought this issue through in relation to its political impact. Let us suppose that the conventional strength of this country was raised, that we were subject to attack by the Soviet Union and that a conventional response was insufficient. What happens then? Does anyone really think that the Soviet Union, faced with a stronger conventional response from the West, with all the latest technical wizardry that we are capable of producing, would gamble on winning the war conventionally? All the intelligence that we possess suggests strongly that in such circumstances the Soviet Union would do what it has always done: it would attack ruthlessly, relentlessly, with the strongest weapons it has. That would mean the tactical nuclear weapon. I do not believe that we should take that sort of risk. If it does happen, it will have an important effect on the Soviet Union's judgment of how it conducts its future diplomatic relations with the West and particularly with Europe.
The United Kingdom nuclear deterrent has one important impact on Soviet diplomacy. I assume that it has been the thinking of successive British Governments that, looking at Western Europe, the Soviet Union could be tempted to believe in a time of crisis that the American perception of what was or was not a legitimate method of solving a dispute differed from Europe's. The Soviets might calculate that in some set of circumstances the United States would not intervene or use its nuclear arsenal to defend Europe.
There can be legitimate differences between the United States and Europe. They exist right now. We have differences over the Falklands. There are differences over our attitude to trade with the Soviet Union. There are different preceptions in strategy. In the scenario that I have assumed, the possession by Britain, a European power, of nuclear weapons would have to be taken into account by the Soviets. They would have to decide whether to pursue their objective by peaceful means, by conventional military means or by nuclear weapons.
The Soviet Union in this whole issue of the possession of nuclear weapons would have to make up its mind not by calculating whether the United States could threaten the 186 use of the nuclear deterrent in defence of a cause which they, the Americans, did not wholly believe in, but in the knowledge of a determination by Europe to resist Soviet aggression backed by the threat of a British nuclear capability. The roles of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons and the balance and disposition of our forces are matters to be discussed not simplyin military or even moral terms, but in the context of the effect on the conduct of international diplomacy.
I hope that the Government will encourage the debate on these issues. It is a debate that for too long has been dominated by proponents of unilateral nuclear disarmament and those who oversimplify the nature of the military, political and ideological threat from the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Predictably and predicted, foreseeably and foreseen in April by critics of the Falklands war, Latin American countries have now gone to the United Nations in the aftermath of a British military victory in and around the Falklands. No less predictable and no less predicted, the United States, where its long-term interests in hemispheric relations are concerned, is supporting its southern neighbours. It is far too glib of the Foreign Secretary to dismiss these events at the UN. He talked abouta discussion of procedures by which sovereignty might most quickly be passedand anArgentine-inspired United Nations charade".Ministers have never looked at what the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) called the other side of the hill, or the South American viewpoint.
I wonder how the Foreign Secretary thinks that his word "charade" will go down with Tom Enders and George Schultz. They might not be pleased to be told that they were voting for a charade. It is unreal, petulant and childish of the Foreign Secretary to talk in those terms.
Those who put their faith in the United Nations cannot pick and choose their resolutions and will have to support the call for resumption of immediate negotiations on the question of sovereignty. That remark is addressed, as well, to my own Front Bench.
The more blood spilt, the more money expended, the more politically embarrassing such a course is. I heard the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) say that we have just buried our dead. I know all this, but the Foreign Secretary also talked about "normality" in relation to Argentina. Ministers must understand that, like it or not, there can be no normality until the issue of sovereignty is at least tackled, and probably resolved.
What is the alternative for any of us, whether or not we believe in the United Nations? If Britain refuses these negotiations, it is the spinechilling prospect of revenge strikes on the Falklands. The right hon. Member for Devonport talked about getting round to it in the fullness of time. Are we sure that we have time or that time is on our side? I am not scaremongering. Let us consider the facts. For what other reason is Argentina scouring the face of the world to get more efficient, longer-range Etendards with deadly Exocets?
I wish to raise particular matters with the Foreign Office, about which it has had warning. For seven hours there was a conversation between the French technicians who were turned back at the airport and their colleagues 187 under the leadership of Monsieur Herve Colin in Argentina, saying exactly how an Exocet should be fitted to the wings of an aircraft. Engineers can understand instructions from their technical colleagues.
I quote from a letter that the Foreign Office has received from Isobel Hilton about the work that she did in Buenos Aires. She said, about some articles in The Sunday Times:The subject under discussion in our articles was the fact that, after the announcement of the weapons embargo by France, a French technical team actively assisted the Argentine navy with the final and crucial preparation for combat of its Super Etendards. Without this work, it is highly unlikely that the Arentines could have used their AM 39 missiles and the lives lost on the 'Sheffield' and the 'Atlantic Conveyor' would have been spared.Miss Hilton was very specific:To remind you of the evidence which is 'unavailable' to you: on Friday, July 9th, I travelled to Bahia Blanca, in Argentina, where I visited the Base Espora aeronaval base to talk to Commander Jorge Colombo, leader of the 2nd Attack Squadron of the Argentine Fleet Air Arm. This is the squadron of Super Etendards responsible for the Exocet attacks (AM 39) on the British fleet. I was researching a book The Sunday Times was preparing and hoped to discover the answer to a number of outstanding questions. Amongst these questions was how had Argentina managed to complete the outstanding technical work on her Super Etendards and Exocets and with what assistance?In the course of a three hour interview with Commander Colombo—which, with his permission, I tape recorded—he told me that the French technical team, which had arrived in November 1981 for a year's technical assistance, was still in Bahia Blanca. He further told me that, after the cancellation of the Aerospatiale team, the work they had been due to carry out had been done by the team already in Bahia Blanca, led by Herve Colin of Dassault. They had continued to work, as he put it 'like professionals' after the announcement of the French government embargo, installing and testing the missile launchers of the five Super Etendards delivered the previous November. As soon as that work was completed, the squadron flew south to their operational bases to continue training in the weather conditions of the South Atlantic and to wait for their targets to present themselves. As you know, the squadron flew south on April 19th and 20th. In the south, technicians from the Argentine navy slotted the Exocets into the launchers—a relatively uncomplicated task.
These are the French people who are still merrily supplying Argentina. She continued:Under the circumstances, I considered it unlikely that the word of an Argentine naval officer would be deemed sufficient to publish such serious 'allegations'. We therefore drove to the house in Bahia Blanca where Herve Colin was living with his family in order that he could confirm Colombo's story. We were cordially received. In the course of an hour long interview—also tape recorded"—these tape recordings have been offered to the Foreign Office, and I hope that the Foreign Office will study them—with permission, M. Colin confirmed Commander Colombo's statements and added further details of his own. He described in detail the technical difficulties the team had overcome—which included the repair of three missile launchers found to be defective—and added that, even after the squadron had flown south, the French team had volunteered to accompany them in order to ensure that no technical difficulties impede their operation. This offer was declined by the Argentine navy who preferred that the French remain in Bahia Blanca on call. This they did.We were struck by the omission from the French government statement of any denial by M. Herve Colin of the facts presented above. M. Colin further assured me that at no time had he been asked by his government or his company to leave Argentina. M. Colin, I understand, was recalled to France when our articles were published and remained unavailable to the French press. Surely not unavailable, though, to a French government inquiry.188 The tapes are there, and I ask that tonight, or on some other occasion, the Foreign Office give a reaction. It is this kind of evidence that makes the possibility of a revenge strike all too real.
Second, there is the question of nuclear policy. It is clear from the National Union of Seamen and other evidence that ships, including the Royal Fleet Auxiliary "Fort Austin", were ordered from Gibraltar to the South Atlantic on 28 and 29 March. It is also clear that some of these ships then, or at a later stage, were carrying nuclear warheads, dummy and real.
Did the Prime Minister, as elected leader of our country, know at the time that the nuclear weapons were being deployed to the South Atlantic? If the Prime Minster had that knowledge, that would make her answer on Tuesday 26 October that the Falklands crisis came "out of the blue" on Wednesday 31 March an untruth to Parliament.
On the other hand, if the Prime Minister did not know that nuclear weapons were being deployed to a potential theatre of shooting war, such a situation raises infinitely grave problems for every hon. Member on the political control and deployment of nuclear weapons. Have we an independent deterrent so independent that the Prime Minister does not know where the nuclear warheads are? If that is the definition of independent deterrent, it is a serious matter for all of us.
Alas, these questions are not theoretical. The circumstantial evidence points overwhelmingly in the direction of HMS "Sheffield" having gone down with nuclear weapons on board. It may be that the "Fort Austin" was in the process of collecting nuclear weapons from the fleet but had not yet reached HMS "Sheffield". However, if HMS "Sheffield" did not have nuclear weapons, for what other reasons do commanders ask their men to hazard their lives by trying to board a molten ship on tow, other than to salvage something that is desperately important? I put it to the House that the only thing of that importance was nuclear warheads.
The British have to come clean and tell the world that there are nuclear devices on the bottom of the South Atlantic, not in the kind of canister or steel and concrete casks of nuclear waste which may or may not give relative safety. Physicists that I have talked to have made various guesses about the level of danger arising from the emission of radio-nucleides. Some say that there is not much danger from pollution, but others say that the danger of radionucleides being emitted from the tomb of the Sheffield would be serious. It would be much better for a public statement from the Government to clear up this problem and at least tell the truth. Having allowed the conditions in which nuclear weapons were sunk, we ought to make a clean breast of the matter. Therefore, I ask the Government to notify the world of the details and the depths of the nuclear weapons sunk in the wreckage of HMS "Sheffield".
I also ask the Prime Minister why it was impossible for those ships carrying nuclear weapons during routine exercises in the Mediterranean to offload nuclear devices in Gibraltar before being ordered to the South Atlantic on 28 and 29 March. I associate with that question Mr. Jim Slater of the National Union of Seamen. It was possible to offload at Gibraltar, just as some of the ships that left Portsmouth were carrying nuclear weapons, and some of those nuclear weapons, if not all, were offloaded. 189 It is not sufficient to say "Ah, but they would never have been used." We have only to look at page 158 of those moving published letters of David Tinker, the young Service man who lost his life in "Glamorgan" two days before the end of the war. He wrote:If they are sunk, they will have nothing to stop us from bombarding Buenos Aries.One of his senior officers even said:Drop a big white job"—that is a Polaris—on them".David Tinker said:Thank God he's not in command.
I simply say to the House that if one is being "Exoceted", there is a tremendous temptation to knock out the bases from which those Exocets come. If there are rules of engagement and one has nuclear weapons, how can any of us be sure that those nuclear weapons will not be used? Furthermore, as we know from the orders given to the "Conqueror" in the sinking of the "Belgrano", the Prime Minister is in command of these matters. I simply say to the House that a person who was capable of giving the orders to sink the "Belgrano" because she was faced with a compromise that was politically unacceptable at home, and could not easily refuse the offers of compromise that were coming from Peru and from the United States, is certainly capable of ordering the use of nuclear weapons.
I turn briefly to the veracity of the Government. In answer to my hon. Friend Lord Jenkins of Putney, the Minister responsible, Viscount Trenchard, said:My Lords, I can state categorically that there is no question at all of our using nuclear weapons in this dispute. It has been the long standing practice of successive Governments neither to confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons in any particular place at any particular time."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 27 April 1982; Vol. 429, c. 778.]The impression given at that time was that there were no nuclear weapons with the task force. We now know that to be untrue.
The Defence Secretary ought to be asked what orders went out from Ministers to the task force from 5 to 8 June 1982 to the effect that politically the Government were unwilling to hazard "Intrepid" or "Fearless" but that they were willing to hazard smaller but less prestigious landing ships. That was the question posed by Mr. Max Hastings in The Observer on 31 October 1982. That question has to be answered.
There is one final question that the Foreign Office has to answer. It arises from a report in The Times of 25 October. I ask the Foreign Secretary what investigation he has initiated in his Department to ascertain the source of the Department's claim recorded in The Times of Monday 25 October 1982 that the Prime Minister's office was informed of the imminent invasion of the Falkland Islands earlier than 31 March 1982.
Some of us have had the good fortune to be called before the Franks committee to give evidence. I believe and I hope that sooner or later—later or sooner—the truth will emerge. It will be much better to tell the truth at an early stage rather than to have it come out, as it assuredly will, over the months and over the years in dribs and drabs.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
I doubt whether the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) 190 expects me to follow his remarks. As he said, the truth will come out, and I am not sure that the truth will endorse his statements tonight. However, we shall have to wait and see.
I want to concentrate my remarks on three lines in the Gracious Speech—those that relate to national security and peace. The first is:My Government consider the security of the nation and the preservation of peace their highest priority.The next is:They will work for balanced and verifiable measures of arms control.The last is:They strongly support both the United States proposals for significant reductions in nuclear forces and the other Western proposals on conventional forces.Needless to say, I wholeheartedly support the sentiments in each of those sentences and the order in which they are listed.
I should like, first, to say a word about the security of our nation. Lord Carrington, in his Churchill Memorial Lecture in October 1981, on "The Foundations of Peace in Europe", stated:The price of freedom is untiring vigilance. The first duty of the State is to ensure protection from external assault.
I would argue that the Government's willingness to increase expenditure on our defences has given weight not only to our belief in a strong national defence policy but to the need to modernise and re-equip our forces if they are to be able to play a proper part in deterring any would-be aggressor. That our forces are capable of doing that was brilliantly illustrated by the Falklands campaign. For me the frightening aspect of that campaign lay not in our ability to meet the aggression that we found but in the fact that a supposedly friendly country such as Argentine should, out of the blue, and with little, if any, sign of increasing tension between Buenos Aires and London, launch a full-scale invasion of British sovereign territory and, having done so, attempt to absorb that territory within its own frontiers.
Some of us may like to believe that before any outbreak of war there will usually be a period of tension in which defence forces can be deployed. The Falklands campaign should make us think again and realise that defence must be of the moment. But then, of course, history has shown us through the ages that dictators can and do take arbitrary action, as democracies do not, and that nations living alongside dictatorships have to expect to live dangerously.
That is one reason why the preservation of peace in Western Europe since 1945 has been an uneasy living together of two armed blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Yet, despite that uncertain peace, half the people living in Western Europe today have been born since a shot was last fired there in a war, and we should all give thanks for the 37 years of peace that we have enjoyed since 1945.
When, therefore, I am confronted with a women's peace camp in my constituency, or am told that there are to be marches for peace, or that some strange creation called a cosmic peace festival is to be held outside the gates of Greenham Common RAF base, or more generally that there is a growing peace movement in Western Europe, I sometimes wonder what is the peace about which the campaigners demonstrate which is or will be so markedly different from that of the past 37 years.
No doubt the answer from the peace campaigners is that it will be peace that is not secured by dependence on nuclear weapons. Certainly the nature of those weapons 191 makes the case against them persuasive. But if parting from nuclear weapons were to increase the probability of conventional war, we might all ask ourselves where would be the gain. None of us should forget that since 1945 about 10 million people have died in conventional wars, of which there have been 140.
Those who talk about getting rid of the nuclear deterrent, as if in some magical way that will make the world a safer, more peaceful, place, should ponder on those statements and ask themselves whether those precious 37 years of peace since 1945 in Western Europe may not owe rather more to the nuclear deterrent than they are prepared to give credit for.
As the Prime Minister said at the United Nations special session on disarmament in June:We believe that wars are caused not by armaments but by the ambitions of aggressors, and that what tempts them is the prospect of easy advantage and quick victory.To that extent, temptation would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons by our enemies against us simply because we had forgone our nuclear weapons—any more than the Americans refrained from using atomic weapons against a conventionally armed Japan when a quicker victory seemed possible.
It may be argued that the Soviet and United States nuclear arsenals have reached world-shattering proportions and that with 7,000 nuclear weapons with a destructive power of 50,000 megatonnes jointly owned by those two great countries they have reached the point of overkill which must make us all pause for reflection. To be told that in TNT terms there is now the equivalent of 15 tonnes of TNT for every man, woman and child in the world locked up in those nuclear weapons, should make us ask whether such vast arsenals are necessary to preserve the peace of the world.
If Great Britain and France together have approximately 500 separate nuclear weapons—either as missile warheads or bombs—and have an independent nuclear deterrent which, to quote President de Gaulle's description of the French deterrent, ispowerful enough to tear off a limb from the Russian body politick.and the British view is that we could inflict unacceptable damage on an enemy, why should the United States of America and the Soviet bloc continue with such a massive overkill? It seems to me that proposals for arms limitation in those terms alone would make sense. Surely we must hope that the negotiators in Geneva involved in START will recognise that that sort of overkill does not add to the defence of either East or West and that they could safely reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons without weakening their national security.
I welcome the comments by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at the beginning of the debate about the current round of nuclear arms limitation talks in Geneva between the Americans and the Russians. He described them as being a dialogue of the most far-reaching and comprehensive kind. I suspect that all of us in the House hope that there will be a successful outcome.
Purely in terms of the INF talks, I know that the West European members of NATO, through the special advisory group, can and are making an input into those talks, and that the United States is not only negotiating on its own account for the reduction of the theatre of nuclear weapons, but is speaking for Europe.
192 As I have said before, I should have liked to see a higher European profile in those talks. If that is not possible, I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State that we should remember that, while diplomacy, by its nature, is a secret busines, and therefore the talks will have to be carried on behind closed doors, in East-West relations there is a propaganda dimension which can sometimes be more important than the actual outcome of such talks.
Whether the INF talks reach a satisfactory conclusion, and whether a zero option is attainable, or merely a reduction in the number of theatre nuclear weapons, I hope that we in the West will not lose sight of the opportunity to win that propaganda war at least by explaining to our people and those of the East the difficulties put in the way of the negotiators by the Soviets.
I end my speech by quoting Mr. Eugene Rostow, the United States negotiator at the INF talks at Geneva last week. He said:We in the West should not expect any Soviet move until just before the deployment of the missiles.I believe he meant the cruise and Pershing missiles, the first of which are to come in December 1983. He continued:If they"—the Soviets—should make a move, that would be politically important. If they don't, it would have other implications. It would be very serious evidence indeed that they are determined to maintain their present superiority in this category of weapons for obvious purposes of political blackmail.
Mr. Rostow is warning us of what the INF talks can lead to. God willing, they will lead to a reduction of theatre nuclear weapons. Whatever happens, let us ensure that we have told people the truth about the negotiations and have shown our willingness to reach agreement with the Soviets, and that our efforts, if they are thwarted, have not been thwarted by our wish.
§ Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)
The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), with apparent eccentricity, referred to the absence of devolution from the Gracious Speech. Perhaps it is not such an eccentric point of view, because, if the domestic affairs of Scotland were transferred, as they should have been, to an assembly in Scotland, we should have had more time to discuss the important subject of foreign affairs. It is an appalling indictment of Parliament that the Foreign Secretary should state that this is the first time he has participated in a full-scale debate on foreign affairs since he became Foreign Secretary.
The Gracious Speech talks about looking for solutions to problems in the Middle East. I am glad that the debate has not disintegrated into the sort of Israeli-bashing session that we sometimes see at Question Time. None of us would defend those who condoned the massacres in Beirut. An inquiry is investigating that matter. We should be careful to direct our criticism at the Government of Israel, not at the State or the people who, in their tens and hundreds of thousands, are protesting more vociferously than anyone here against the actions of their Government.
Israel is a unique democracy in the Middle East because its people are able to express dissent. I was pleased that the Foreign Secretary and the Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for 193 Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), spoke about finding a solution in the middle ground and about the recognition of Israel within secure frontiers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), in an eloquent and touching speech, talked about the Palestinian people. His recognition of the needs of the Palestinian people is the kind of constructive discussion that we should welcome.
It is unfortunate that the understandable problems and demands of the Palestinian people have overshadowed the fight of the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara. I see the Minister nodding with immediate recognition. Morocco has illegally taken over part of the Western Sahara and holds the capital and part of the territory, although the Samrawi Democratic Republic has been recognised by the United Nations and the OAU as the legitimate Government of the Western Sahara and controls much of the land mass of the Western Sahara. It represents the people of the Western Sahara. Since the Minister responsible is to reply to the debate, and since I detect some degree of sympathy in what he has said on previous occasions, I hope that he will give some positive indication that the Government are at least looking at the situation with a view to joining other countries in the United Nations in recognising the SDR as the legitimate Government of the Western Sahara.
Further south in Africa, there is another struggle for independence. The Gracious Speech talks about a lasting solution in Namibia. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) is not present, because his account of what is happening in Namibia was a travesty of the facts. He talked about the legitimate representatives of the people, but they are the puppets of South Africa in Namibia. He did not mention that the South Africans are not only in military control there but are making incursions into Angola.
How do the Government reconcile their wish for a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the situation in Namibia with their decision at the International Monetary Fund to support a major loan to South Africa which inevitably will be used for funding the purchase of oil for use principally in weapons of war against the people of Namibia and Angola? It is impossible to reconcile that with the sentence about Namibia that appears in the Gracious Speech.
Her Majesty says in the Gracious Speech that she looks forward with great pleasure to various visits, including one to the Cayman Islands. We still have 13 pieces of Empire dotted round the globe, and they are not areas of which we should be proud. Some of them are playgrounds for the Royal Family from time to time, but they are not areas about which we should be too pleased, especially the Cayman Islands.
I have spoken on a number of occasions about the tax dodgers on a number of islands, including, nearer to home, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The responsibility for the Cayman Islands is quite clear. It is a dependency. How do this Government and, for that matter, how did previous Governments tolerate the fact that there are many people dodging United Kingdom tax and that we provide havens for those tax dodgers and for many other undesirables on one of our dependent territories? There are problems in maintaining the infrastructures of small 194 islands, as we see in the Falklands, but one solution is not to provide havens to which people can go to set up hundreds of companies, as they do in the Cayman Islands.
Talking about small islands and countries under threat, the hon. Member for Macclesfield compared the Falklands with Belize and Guyana. Two better parallels are Gibraltar and Hong Kong. The Government should be warned that if they do not learn some lessons from the Falkland Islands they will have very serious problems in both Gibraltar and Hong Kong. The new Socialist Government in Spain have made no secret of the fact that, like their predecessors, they have a claim on Gibraltar. In my view, there is much more legitimacy in that claim than there is in the Argentine claim to the Falkland Islands. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow said about the Falklands, we cannot give a veto for ever to the people of Gibraltar and say that we shall never negotiate some kind of arrangement with Spain. I know that discussions have been suspended because of difficulties over the Falklands, but I hope that the Government will get back speedily to the negotiating table and find a negotiated solution for Gibraltar.
Similarly, I was horrified to hear the reports of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East described as a "bargain basement Boadicea" sailing her way through China, Hong Kong and Japan. The right hon. Lady's comments about Hong Kong showed a remarkable lack of understanding of the difficulties that we face. We have a lease which is due to expire in a few years, and the hours are ticking away. We do not seem to be tackling with any sense of urgency the real problems which will arise.
I was talking to some of my colleagues about Gibraltar and Hong Kong recently, and I remember saying that the one action that the present Prime Minister was unlikely to take was to send a task force to deal with difficulties in either place. The quizzical looks that I received in return made me think twice. Perhaps the "bargain basement Boadicea" is the very person who would think of sending a task force, even under such circumstances.
My main point refers to the Falkland Islands. The Government have still not come to terms with reality. First, there is the geographic reality. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Young) referred to the difficulty of reaching the Falkland Islands and of getting the injured out and so on. He well illustrated the geographic realities and the difficulties that the Government face in garrisoning and supplying the Falkland Islands in future. Indeed, the Government responded on 21 October 1982 to a written question from my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer). They were asked about the provision of a longterm ferry service between Ascension Island and the Falklands. They said that they hoped to provide one and hopedto use a British company provided it is not too expensive."—[Official Report, 21 October 1982; Vol. 29, c. 198.]That does not demonstrate any great commitment to the Falkland Islands. After all, essential links used to be provided through Argentina. No British company is likely to be able to provide an economic form of communication with the Falkland Islands. The Government will have to face the fact that a sensible link can be provided only through Argentina.
Sooner or later, the Prime Minister will have to swallow her pride and start negotiating with Argentina. From the Falkland Islanders' point of view, it would be better for 195 that to be sooner rather than later. I have read all the proposals for oil development, but that cannot be carried out when the situation is unstable. The proposals about fishing are impossible as long as there is a constant threat from Argentina. The development of alginate is also impossible and Alginate Industries and those who know about it have said as much.
The Government are in severe difficulties when it comes to enabling the Falkland Islands to develop properly. They must come to terms with the political reality. The Foreign Secretary put up a brave defence of our position in the United Nations. Despite that brilliant rhetoric, I wanted to ask the Foreign Secretary—although he did not allow me to do so at the time—how many of our allies he had convinced to vote with us in the United Nations. He does not seem to have convinced our European allies and he has certainly not convinced our supposedly staunchest ally, the United States of America. Ultimately, we must accept the political and geographical realities of the Falkland Islands and it would be better sooner than later.
My next remarks may not please my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I have great respect for him and he is one of the most thoughtful of hon. Members. In all sincerity, I wish to ask him about the Labour Party's commitment to withdraw from the EEC. I am no great supporter of its present bureaucracy. I have many criticisms to make and they are sometimes much more stringent than the criticisms of those who dislike the overall structure of the European Community. However, how does my hon. Friend answer the arguments put forward by those, such as Barbara Castle, who now realise that our future is inextricably tied up with our partners in Europe? How does he answer the arguments put forward by Francis Cripps and Terry Ward who argue in the New Socialist magazine that a more positive attitude towards the EEC would weaken our link with the United States of America, which, they say, is responsible for the world recession? What about other people, such as Bob Rowthorn who writes in Marxism Today—not one of the publications that I read regularly, although the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) obviously does, because he quotes it in The Guardian—and states:Traditionally the Left has seen the EEC as a body with the independent power to block a Socialist advance in Britain, and this is often used to justify the demand for our withdrawal. Such a view is wrong.He outlines the potential of France and Britain working together for Socialist objectives which would transform European politics and alter the whole direction of European economic development. That is what we should be looking at.
At a fringe meeting at the Blackpool conference a member of the Socialist Party in France said that membership of the European Community had been no barrier to the implementation of Socialist policies. Conservative Members have more reason than we to worry about European countries becoming increasingly Socialist. I hope that we follow the examples of France, Spain and Greece. If an election took place in Germany, I think that a Socialist Government would be returned.
We can unite and transform Europe. That is the challenge. My hon. Friend the Member for Walton has the ability to deal with that. He will agree that our future lies inextricably with out colleagues in the wider Europe. If cooperation is not through the European Community, what 196 structure will we use to co-operate with our colleagues in Europe? If my hon. Friend the Member for Walton can tell me that, I shall support him in his constructive alternative.
I have been accused of being the most unpopular Scottish Member. If I continue, my reputation will spread beyond Scotland.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
The debate has been so wide-ranging and fascinating that it requires superhuman control to speak shortly about only one subject. I shall try to confine my remarks to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.
I do not agree with everything that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his predecessor have done, but I thought that my right hon. Friend's speech today was impressive and commanding, and, above all, had the obvious support of a united party. It contrasted starkly with the speech by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) whose knockabout remarks, belittling the undoubted contribution to world leadership by the Prime Minister, were as wide of the mark as they were unrelated to his party's policy. I do not wonder that he yearned for recognition from his colleagues. He is as likely to get that as he is to get recognition from the Government side of the House. If ever there was a man whose future lay behind him, it is the right hon. Member for Leeds, East.
I hope that the Secretary of State and the Minister will not mind my saying that they should reassess their position on the Middle East. I believe that Lord Carrington was beginning to do that when he resigned. Of course there must be recognition of Israel's right to exist behind secure borders. There is nothing between the Government and me on that. Of course we must recognise that the Palestinian Arabs have rights to self-government. There is nothing between us on that. But it is no use talking about Israel's unjustifiable invasion of Lebanon, as my right Friend did today, about the need to have dialogue with the PLO before it renounces terrorism or the idea of the destruction of the State of Israel, or about an independent Palestinian State on the West Bank—as fewer people are now doing. It is no use because Israel simply will not talk to its would be murderers. It will not have a PLO Marxist State on its borders. Why should it? Israel will not pay the slightest regard to what Britain advises if its people are led to think that we are unsympathetic and unfriendly to them.
My right hon. Friend is going everywhere in the Middle East but to Israel. Why does he not go to Israel? Lord Carrington's visit did a world of good to broaden mutual understanding and to strengthen our credibility with Israel. But since then there has been talk of an independent State, talk of support for Fez, opposition to Camp David and talk about the Lebanon invasion being utterly unjustified when we now know that the PLO and the Syrians can have been planning only a large-scale invasion of Israel. Why else in that tiny area should 500 missile launchers and other artillery be found intact and goodness knows how many destroyed? That compares with 876 guns belonging to the entire British Army. For all these reasons Britain seems to be slipping back in the regard in which it is held in Israel.
Everyone except the PLO wants peace. How are we most likely to secure a "just and lasting" solution, which is referred to in the Gracious Speech? The Lebanon conflict was an horrific episode but it seems to have removed a log jam that was frustrating peace. Let us consider what has been achieved. First, there was the 197 destruction of the PLO army and the dispersal of its soldiers to secure accommodation out of harm's way. Its leader is now strutting the world stage like King Lear after his world collapsed and with about as much real power. Secondly, there is the realisation of the wider Arab community that Israel would rather go to war—and it would go successfully—than accept armed Arab forces on its boundaries. The Arabs are beginning to talk about something less than an independent Palestinian State on Israel's border. Surely that is the most encouraging development.
Thirdly, world reaction against Israel was so strong that it may have weakened its determination to lay claim to all of the West Bank. That may have led to the conviction that to achieve peace there will have to be some compromise. Fourthly, there is the Reagan plan, which nobody seems to like very much. However, nearly everyone seems to like it better than the alternative of doing nothing. It is a move in the right direction, rather like the rocket booster which falls away once the peace vehicle moves into orbit.
Fifthly, there is the move, by Arabs and Jews and Western Governments, towards a Jordanian involvement in the peace process, an option which appeals especially to the Israelis. They see it as a logical development of the Camp David process, which has already brought peace between Israel and Egypt.
All these developments give us much more hope for peace in this part of the world than ever we could have had when Parliament went into recess at the end of July. However, the ember of peace has not yet become a flame. It is my plea that Britain should do nothing to blow it out. Let us not forfeit any reasonable influence that we may have by alienating one side, Israel. Let us not blunder again with our European partners by fanning the self-importance, the hopes and the ambitions of the PLO by backing its claims to discussion, to recognition and to an independent State. For one school of thought is convinced that if the PLO had not been encouraged in its aspirations by the Venice initiative it might have settled peacefully some time ago before so many lives had been lost.
Israel and Egypt were miles apart at the start of their negotiations but they came eventually, by delicate discussion, to achieve peace. Let us not condemn or interfere with the Israelis in their wish further to pursue Camp David and with their wish to resume autonomy talks, to give the Palestinian Arabs more and more control over their everyday lives and to leave the final outcome of a full settlement until a five-year transitional period of autonomy has mellowed and cooled everyone's anger and extreme postures.
In five years, the Reagan plan may appear very different, the settlement policy of the Israeli Government may appear very different and the Palestinians may be less hostile to the existence of the State of Israel than they have been under PLO leadership. Israel has promised talks with no preconditions; let us support them. Let us help, not hinder, the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs to peace in their section of the Middle East. I seldom agree with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) but, as he said, if the sort of stability that a democratic pro-Western State could alone provide does not come to this part of the world soon the other Middle East conflicts and wars may spread and a third world war could be the inevitable result.
§ Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)
Had I not been fortunate in being selected to be part of a delegation to the Falkland Islands, I was going to speak on the theme that democratic Socialism was not necessarily incompatible with a viable defence policy. I was the instigator and joint author of the minority report on nuclear weapons by the Select Committee on Defence. I am opposed to Trident, but I do not regard the corollary of that as a drift towards pacifism and neutralism. Many Socialist Governments do not regard being in office as the cue to disarm. I hope that there will be a Labour Government after the next general election. If we renounce nuclear weapons, I hope that we shall still play a major role in NATO and not spark off what could be a disintegration of the alliance by a policy that would benefit the Soviet Union.
I propose to talk about my visit with nine other hon. Members in a delegation, amiably and ably led by the hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck), to the Falkland Islands. The Select Committee on Defence is going in February. We did not intend—unlike that Committee, of which I am a member—to produce a report, but we had discussions with the military and civil commissioners, we met members of the legislative and executive councils and we spoke to troops and ancillaries about their conditions and morale. We considered the future defence of the Falkland Islands and spoke to people about future economic development and whether the Shackleton recommendations that were produced would be properly implemented.
I must declare an interest. I was not one of the greatest devotees of the sending of the task force. I expressed my views clearly. I regarded the Argentine claim as nothing other than spurious. I thought that our contribution to NATO would be diminished and that we ran a grave risk of being hammered. In the Falkland Islands I saw the incredibly strong Argentine positions that were thrown away, although the Argentines were better armed in some cases than we were and had two months to dig in. My original diagnosis that we were at a grave risk may have been wrong. Our losses were much fewer than most people feared. I was wrong about the risks and I admit that. However, it was a damned close thing. Had luck gone against us, the task force would have returned humiliated and the consequences would have been disastrous for this country. I expressed my views clearly at the time. One can see my analysis of the Falkland Islands in that perspective.
When we arrived at Stanley we could see, even stepping out of the plane, that the islands were not in a normal post-war phase. The Falkland Islands are very much a war zone. Before we reached the centre of Stanley, three miles of rocky road away, we knew that it was a war zone and that the economic costs of rehabilitating the islands after the war and starting economic development, in some cases for the first time, would be high. We are aware of the high costs and problems of maintaining a garrison and fortress on the Falkland Islands indefinitely. We are aware of the high cost in international terms of our policy. However, we are in the Falkland Islands. The public support us, and it is obvious that we shall remain there for the foreseeable future.
The British people will, however, have to pay a high price for the continuation of a Fortress Falkland Islands policy. If they are prepared to do that, any Government 199 will have to recognise that fact and act accordingly. We must recognise that the cost of maintaining a garrison and of following the Shackleton report will be high.
No Government would survive any immediate negotiations with Argentina. The time may come, not in the immediate future when there is a democratic Government in Argentina, tempers will have cooled in the Falkland Islands and the British public will perhaps say that within the supervision of the United Nations, and not under Argentine terms, there is an agreement possible that is of benefit to all. It must be with the consent of the islanders.
I admire not just the soldiers, sailors, airmen and ancillaries who fought in the war. Everyone expressed admiration for and belief in the high competence of those who fought. War tests political, social and economic institutions. If one loses the consequences can be disastrous. The adrenalin may not flow as freely when one is operating a forklift truck, building a house or repairing a road as when one is fighting, but I have great admiration for those who are doing what in some cases are humdrum but vital jobs in appalling circumstances and without the praise that they deserve. People ought to pay tribute not only to those who fought, but to those who stayed behind, came after, or will go out to the Falklands in the future, probably for some years to come, to develop the infrastructure and to perform normal garrisoning duties. That is my overwhelming impression. It is the one that I want to pass on to my colleagues here.
There are important military lessons to learn. I am a member of the Defence Committee. We have begun and will continue our investigations. No doubt some of the findings of the Ministry of Defence's own inquiry will be published. Some of the lessons have been learnt and old lessons have been relearnt. I visited HMS "Brazen" off the Falklands this week. It is quite remarkable that many of the lessons that we have learnt were obvious 25 years ago. HMS "Brazen" not only had missiles on board, but the sides of the ship were filled with machine guns, just as they were in the Second World War. If an aeroplane approaches, more than sophisticated missiles will be fired at it.
I shall not deal with the events that led up to the war or with what I believe was Government ineptitude. I should like to ask what many people on the islands asked and I shall pass my comments on to the Franks committee. Is it true that an attache to the Argentine embassy purchased 500 copies of a map of the Falklands last November from either the Stationery Office or another Crown agency? If that is true, was that information passed up the system, or is it yet another example of a bureaucracy receiving information but being unable to process it? Perhaps the Franks committee will shed some light on that matter.
I return to my original theme of the professionalism of the troops. They are doing a difficult and unglamorous job. Before one reaches the Falklands in a Hercules one is aware of the expertise of those who perform in-flight refuelling. When one arrives at Stanley airport, one sees that there may be 800 people extending and defending the airport. An incredible task is being accomplished. The Sappers, who tend to be forgotten, ought to be commended.
I shall not say where the Rapier units are, but on the Falklands the personnel are out in the cold, living in tents, to defend the buildings and areas that we fought so hard 200 to regain. We should also commend not only those who fly the Phantoms and Harriers, but those who are responsible for keeping them in the air. They are operating in such low temperatures that it is impossible for them to do their jobs as well as they should.
The Logistics Battalion should also be complimented. There are 35 bakers. One of the ovens that they use was brought out from the Royal Corps of Transport Museum. Apparently it is their best oven. The infrastructure that the armed forces may find elsewhere is simply not there on the islands.
I also pay tribute to the professionalism of the sailors. I visited HMS "Brazen" out in the firing line. Those people are doing a difficult job. They are not as appreciated as they should be. We also met such people as Pat Short, who is from San Carlos and tends the beautiful graveyard there. These are examples of some of the unsung heroes. We should remember them as well as those who fought and died.
We were eager to examine the accommodation problem. There has been much criticism of it, much of which is justified. I visited the "Sir Tristram" and tent cities around the island. I am sure that next winter will be less uncomfortable than this one, because of the Portakabins that are being erected. I hope that the Government develop as good a housing policy in my constituency as in the Falklands. The "Coastel", which is a floating hotel, should arrive by Christmas. That will alleviate some of the problems.
Morale is important. It is a function of housing, salary, role and the way in which one is perceived and appreciated. At present morale is reasonably high, but men are working very hard in extremely difficult circumstances in accommodation that is not really satisfactory, though better than portrayed, and with entirely inadequate entertainment. Thank God for the Japanese. Hon. Members may ask why I say that. Without the video revolution, our people out there would have virtually nothing to do. It is important that the Ministry should recognise the need to provide proper entertainment. I shall not go into a sexist argument, for which the women's liberation movement would chastise me, about getting women out to the Falklands to keep the troops happy. That is not the purpose of women in the Armed Forces.
Once the runway has been extended and the airport completed, it is important to build squash courts and football pitches. Otherwise, a tour of duty in the Falklands will be regarded as purgatory, morale will drop and once people come home and tell their parents what it is like people's willingness to cough up the necessary money will diminish. Therefore, proper housing, which I believe is on the way, and proper facilities are absolutely essential, to efficiency and morale.
On economic development, I hope that the Shackleton report, unlike the last report, will be speedily implemented. There are 1,800 people on the islands. By the time one has subtracted the number who are economically inactive—the elderly, the youngsters and the disabled—there are not many left to undertake the task of resuscitating agriculture and developing tourism and a fishing industry and the other things that Shackleton proposed. It is amazing that an area surrounded by the sea has such a small fishing tradition. If money is to be spent, as it must be, we must try to bring into the islands people 201 who can supplement the limited expertise that is there. In this regard, Shackleton's recommendations about a Falkland Islands Development Board are very important.
The considerable amount of captured equipment on the islands includes a Bell-Huey helicopter which has been serviced and is ready to fly but cannot do so because the Civilian Aviation Authority says that it does not meet civil requirements. I hope that an exemption can be made for the Falklands so that some transport can be provided for the islanders, because without that mobility their economy will be dead.
My visit had a profound effect upon me. I have great admiration for the people operating there in adverse conditions. Certainly I should have no desire to live there. One thing, however, is vital. Whether or not it is popular to say this, for that economy to be sustained and for our military presence to continue there must be negotiation of some kind at some stage in the future. It will not be undertaken in the foreseeable future, but unless it is eventually undertaken and is acceptable to all the alternative must be a Fortress Falklands policy, which will drain our economy and be of no long-term benefit to the islanders.
§ 9.3 pm
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
It would be impossible to refer to all the interesting points that have been raised. I have found the debate absolutely riveting. Like the Minister of State, I have been here for almost the entire debate, slipping out only for a cup of tea. I have therefore heard the comments of almost every hon. Member who has taken part.
I found the contributions of those who have just returned from the Falklands extremely interesting. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) about the affair of the maps going to the Franks committee should certainly be taken on board. That should certainly be done, as this is a very interesting effort, and we should look further into matters of this kind.
Hon. Members may wonder why my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) is not present in the Chamber. There is nothing sinister about his absence. He has informed me that he has a long-standing engagement, but that he will return as quickly as he can. I hope that no one will try to make any political comment on his absence.
The Labour Party's objective is to ensure that Britain has a foreign policy that helps to bring about conditions that free the world of poverty, inequality and war. Britain should work within the United Nations, the Commonwealth, NATO and other international organisations to strengthen detente, reduce tensions between States and create a Europe free of all nuclear weapons. In time, we hope to see both the Warsaw Pact and NATO dissolved.
The question of nuclear weapons has been the central part of the debate, and that issue featured strongly in the Foreign Secretary's speech. The right hon. Gentleman welcomed widespread debate on the issue, but could not accept that it was a moral issue. By saying that, I assume that the right hon. Gentleman was rejecting the interesting report of the Church of England working party which says that it is a moral issue.
202 The right hon. Gentleman also said that the debate on this issue was marred by hypocrisy and humbug. He cannot have it both ways. One cannot say that it is an important issue and debate and that sincere people hold differing views, and at the same time talk about hypocrisy and humbug. The fact is that the question of nuclear weapons has created many divisions in this country.
The Labour Party's position was made clear at this year's Labour Party conference, as, indeed, it has been at previous conferences. We believe in multilateral nuclear disarmament, but also that we must make a start by getting rid of nuclear arms in this country. In saying that, we are in no way in disagreement with the fascinating Church of England document.
The hon. Member for East Grinstead (Sir G. Johnson Smith) made an interesting speech on the question of nuclear weapons. I should like to quote one sentence from the Church of England document:If the deterrent is to work, you have to convince an enemy that you are willing to use it; but if you have to use it, it has failed.
We ought to take note of that statement. The recommendations of that working party state:The present balance of terror is plainly not a secure way of keeping the peace. It becomes more precarious month by month, and will become more difficult still if horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons proceeds. There is a need for new disarmament strategies which care about security and stability, but which will also break the log-jam in which we seem to be caught.
The Labour Party believes that the time has come for us to break the log-jam in respect of nuclear weapons.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) asked some powerful and important questions, in particular whether the Prime Minister knew about the nuclear weapons on board the ships. If not, why not? Where does it leave us if the Prime Minister is not aware of the position? We need an answer. If the Minister cannot give us an answer tonight, we nevertheless deserve one to be given in the House. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian will receive the answer.
Labour Party objectives include a new world economic order and a fair system of world trade. We are therefore deeply concerned about the plight of the Third world. That is why the Labour Party wishes to see the Brandt report taken off the shelf and positive action taken to put it into effect. Brandt suggests an aid target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product. We should like to see the figure reach 1 per cent. of GNP.
Since May 1975, the Government have persistently cut back the aid budget. One of the Chancellor's first acts was to lop a gratuitous £50 million from the aid spending programme—a cut of 6 per cent. In August the Government published the aid figures for 1981. Total overseas development aid disbursements were only 0.43 per cent. of GNP. In 1980, our overseas aid was 0.35 per cent. of GNP, which was abysmally low. Consequently this year the figure for aid appeared better, yet that figure was still very low. Unlike the Chancellor, we believe that we should be ashamed of those aid figures.
The Labour Party believes that the world's resources should be used for the benefit of the people of the world, not for a small powerful minority group that dominates Western society.
The Opposition want more progress towards international agreement, a strengthened North-South dialogue and a just and fair distribution of resources. Our policy is 203 truly internationalist. At the same time, we must concern ourselves with the true national interests of the British people within an international context.
It is my firm belief that if one is to be a true internationalist in foreign affairs, one must begin from the position of loving and respecting one's own country. That is the basis on which we build our internationalist approach. That is why the Labour Party is so firmly in favour of Britain's withdrawal from the Common Market.
There has been press speculation that the Labour Party is weakening its position on withdrawal from the EEC. It is not. Labour's programme was overwhelmingly carried at this year's Labour Party conference, and it reiterates what the two previous conferences had agreed:The Labour Party and the Labour movement in general is firmly committed to Britain's withdrawal from the EEC … we shall put the issue to the British people in the Manifesto; and if elected on that basis, we will take it as a popular mandate for withdrawal.
The Labour Party is not saying that withdrawal from the EEC will take place a day, a month, six months or possibly much longer after a Labour Government take office. Withdrawal will take time and there will need to be proper negotiations. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, at the Labour Party conference, said:We are committed as a Party to come out of the Common Market — We are also committed as Socialists to our international obligations both in our own interests and the interests of other countries … we must carry through our commitments in a manner that is in proper conformity with our international obligations and our obligations as Socialists to other people in other lands.My right hon. Friend made it clear that the second commitment—to do our duty as international Socialists—does not weaken the first commitment. I do not believe that there is a contradiction between the commitments.
§ Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith
How true is it that some important sections of the trade union movement disagree profoundly with the concept of our withdrawal from the EEC?
§ Mr. Heffer
If important trade unions had wanted to table resolutions at this year's Labour Party conference to reverse party policy, they could have done so. They did not do so, and the party programme was overwhelmingly carried. Therefore, the trade unions must have voted for it.
I wish to make it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) that when we argue for coming out of the EEC we are not turning our backs on Europe. I should be the last person to agree to such a policy.
I welcome the fact that a Socialist Government have been elected in Spain—I was at the Spanish Socialists' conference last year—and I welcome the fact that there are Socialist Governments in Greece and France. However, we must remember that there are Socialist Governments in other countries that are not members of the Common Market and do not appear to wish to join the Common Market. As internationalists and Socialists, we have to look beyond the Common Market if we are to mobilise the forces of all those in Europe with similar views to try to deal with the problems of Europe on a much wider basis.
In rejecting the Treaty of Rome and the institutions of the EEC, we are not denying that we are a European country with European interests and perspectives. We say that the treaties and institutions are not a suitable 204 framework within which either to create the sort of Britain that we want or to carry out our obligations as international Socialists.
§ Mr. Lawrence
Will the hon. Gentleman explain what effect he thinks coming out of the Common Market will have on jobs in this country?
§ Mr. Heffer
I should not have given way to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I was intending to mention jobs.
We have been a member of the EEC for 10 years and we have not particularly gained from our membership. The promises made by the Conservative Government who took us into the EEC were false. Their 1971 White Paper said that they wereconfident that membership of the … Community will lead to much improved efficiency and productivity in British industry, with a higher rate of investment".The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), who was the Government's negotiator with the EEC, said:the result of our entering the Communities — will be a positive and substantial contribution to our balance of payments, and will not result in any deficit at all."—[Official Report, 20 June 1972; Vol. 839, c. 318.]
The reality has been very different. Industrial output in Britain has dropped by 16 per cent. since we entered the EEC. We have a massive trade deficit with the other EEC countries and unemployment has soared to over 3 million. At the beginning of the 1970s real national income per head in Britain was equal to the EEC average. By 1979 it was 6 per cent. lower and would have been 10 per cent. lower if North Sea oil had not been propping up our economy. According to the logic of pro-Marketeers, none of this should have happened.
We are not saying that all unemployment has been caused by our entry into the EEC. It has been helped along considerably by the policies of the Government whether we were in or out of the EEC. No one denies that there is a crisis throughout the Western world. Certainly, however, our membership of the EEC has not helped.
The Government's attitude towards the EEC has always been consistent. Unfortunately, it has brought consistent failure. In the first Queen's Speech of this Government in May 1979, hon. Members were told of the Government' sstrong commitment to the European Community"—almost the same words that are used in the Gracious Speech now before us. The Government were going to playa full and constructive part in its further development and enlargement, and in the co-ordination of the foreign policies of member States.We were told that the Government wouldseek to make significant improvements in the operation of the common agricultural policy in the interests both of the United Kingdom and of the Community as a whole.
On fisheries, mentioned again in the Queen's Speech now before the House, the Government were going towork for an agreement on a common fisheries policy which takes account of the need to conserve stocks in the interests of our fishermen.
We were also going to geta fairer pattern of budgetary and resource transfers in the EEC.
What have we seen over the past three and a half years? In agriculture, this Government, in marked contrast to the Labour Government, have pursued a dear food policy. The common agricultural policy is heading for record surpluses. This year £2.8 billion will be spent on dumping 205 surplus production on to the world market and £1.4 billion on disposing of surpluses internally, while administration and storage costs will absorb another £1 billion.
On fisheries, the Government's recent sell-out will be fresh in the minds of all hon. Members. It was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie), when we were discussing the matter recently, say how much he approved of the Government's policy. He has since been home for the weekend. He has met the fishermen. I noted that his attitude today was somewhat different from the attitude he took the other day. He is an extremely chastened individual. The reality is different from what we were told.
The Shetlands Islands council has put its views before hon. Members. The council and the Shetlands Fishermen's Association have voted unanimously to reject the so-called new policy. I believe that their views are the views of the majority of British fishermen.
I do not wish to bore the House with all the problems connected with the budget. I should, however, like hon. Members to read an excellent publication entitled "The budget problem" which the Government have circulated in Brussels. What does this document say?
§ Mr. Heffer
That is right. It blows the gaff.
The document states:The cost of Community policies to Britain is more than just its net budget contribution. Britain is a net importer of food. It buys food from other member States at Community prices which are higher than world prices because of the price support mechanisms of the CAP. The resulting cost to Britain is not matched by equivalent gains on the industrial side because the Community does not have a comparable system of price support for industrial products. Britain is, in any case, a net importer of manufactures as well as food from the rest of the Community.
The steel workers know that very well when 67 percent. of steel imports come from the EEC. I should like to say much more about the EEC, but I feel I should move on to other points that should be mentioned.
First, the Middle East. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) made a first-class speech. All hon. Members listened to it with great interest, even if they did not entirely agree with every aspect of it. He stressed that the Labour Party had four points of view about Israel and the Middle East—one statement, one programme and two resolutions—and that they were all different. They are different in certain aspects, but they are not different in one important aspect.
The most important of these points of view was the national executive's statement, which was carried unanimously. The others were not carried unanimously, and therefore showed up the divisions. The national executive's statement became the policy of the conference, and in it we state two things. One is that the people of Israel and the State of Israel have a right to live in peace within secure borders. Secondly, the Palestinian people have a right to a State of their own.
That has meant a slight shift in our point of view, because in the past we talked in terms of self-determination. However, the one thing that we have learnt is that, unfortunately, the State of Israel, no matter how much we support it, does not always have wise political leaders.
§ Mr. Heffer
Exactly. However, some of us thought that the State of Israel always would have wise political leaders. Perhaps we were asking too much of them.
We now have a Government in Israel, led by Begin, who have made the position in the Middle East far more difficult because of their policies. In attacking that Government, we are not attacking the people of Israel or suggesting that they ought not to have secure borders and be able to live in peace guaranteed by the rest of the world.
Equally, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East said, the Palestinian problem will never be solved until the Palestinian people have a State of their own. I agree with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) that saying that in itself does not solve the problem, because we then have to discuss what sort of State and the question of militarisation. However, unless the people of Palestine have a State of their own, there will not be a solution to the problems in that part of the Middle East.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow was right in saying that that was only one aspect of the Middle East problem. Another aspect that was not discussed today relates to Turkey, which is a member of NATO. However, it is a military dictatorship. It is true that there have been changes there, but anyone who has looked clearly at the new constitution knows that there is no real change. Why are the Government not prepared to put pressure on Turkey, through NATO, to change its attitude?
A genuine Labour and Socialist foreign policy means working consistently for peace in the world and for the freedom of people, irrespective of the part of the world from which they come. Our party conference was unanimous in its condemnation of what has happened in Poland, just as it has been of what has happened in Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries. There must be no double standards. If we are to criticise what has happened in Poland, I ask the British people to be equally critical of dictatorships whether in Chile, Argentina or anywhere else. That is the basic position that we should take on human rights.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) protected me as well as himself when he said that it would not be possible, in replying to the debate, to cover all the points, often fascinating, which have been made on perhaps a wider range of subjects than is usual, even in a foreign affairs debate.
I shall not follow the hon. Gentleman in what he said about the European Community. We have often debated the EEC in this House, and the particular questions that he raised. The EEC was hardly mentioned in the debate today. I do not complain about the fact that he felt compelled to make most of his speech about it. I am not absolutely sure that it is a sign of strength and confidence in policy that the hon. Gentleman has to make a speech every few days saying that the policy of his party has not been weakened in any respect, but that is what he is doing.
My reply is bound to be rather discursive, but I shall try to answer some of the specific questions that were put to me. Although the questions put to me were important, one is not always able to reply in a very definite way. Wise and clear decisions will be forthcoming, but they are not 207 yet in place in every instance. That applies to the question put to me by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) concerning the Law of the Sea conference. The hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) also spoke strongly about that matter. The balance of argument is not at all easy to strike, and I think that the hon. Member in particular rather over-simplified the proposition before us. It has been a very complex negotiation. The draft treaty is very complex, covering not only the deep sea mining provisions but a wide range of issues concerning maritime law. Given the split vote with which the negotiations concluded, it is not easy to decide whether it will be in the interests of the United Kingdom to sign the treaty when it is open for signature. Obviously, the Government will need to inform the House when they have come to a decision about it.
Several hon. Members spoke about the Middle East, and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East asked me about the Lebanon. In reply to his question about a British contribution to an international force, I say boldly what he asked me not to say, that we have not received any formal request to contribute. We are in close touch with the Lebanese and the American Governments about the plans that they have, with others, to help to bring about something which we certainly support—the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. There are obvious difficulties, which will occur to everybody, about agreeing at this time to a British military contribution. But, as I have said, that is not a question formally before us at the moment.
The right hon. Gentleman rather decried the idea that we might contribute to training the Lebanese forces. But one of the difficulties is that the Lebanese security forces have been too small for their job, and that they have not so far—I think that the Lebanese Government would accept this—developed the kinds of characteristics which are needed to maintain impartial order in a country such as Lebanon. There is a tremendous role for training and it may be that we can help in that respect. In a way, that is more at the centre of the problem than is the temporary provision of an international peacekeeping force.
I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) about keeping open a dialogue with Israel. I think that we have such a dialogue. He was a little harsh in that respect. Lord Carrington's visit reopened some channels which had become a little blocked. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary saw the Israeli Foreign Minister recently in New York, and in different ways we are keeping the dialogue open. I agree that that is necessary.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) made the same point. I was a little sad to hear some of his remarks about the invasion of Lebanon, but I agreed with what he said about the need for new thinking. It has to be done on the Israeli side as well, of course, and I think that he accepted that. One cannot say that the Israelis will not put up with this or that and that is an end to the discussion. Some fresh thinking has to come from Israel as well as others on the nature of the Palestinians and the PLO.
The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) made a remarkable speech entirely without notes. He was entirely right to stress the complexity and turbulence of the whole area that he described, and to make the point, which is familiar but true, that even if the Israeli-Arab dispute did not exist it would still be a difficult 208 and turbulent area. I was afraid that he might make the point that one sometimes hears from Israel that therefore we should not worry too much about the Israeli-Arab dispute. He did not do that. He developed his own ideas and called for fresh thinking. Broadly speaking, and rather unexpectedly, I agree with much of what he said.
People have been jerked by different events out of the intellectual trenches in which they had sunk. That is a good thing. It is something to which we have contributed and will continue to do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) spoke interestingly about Hong Kong and from my limited knowledge of the colony I sympathise and agree witth much of what he said. I noted what he said about the need for progress reports as discussions with the Chinese continue.
I hope that it will not be long before we can give an answer about our conclusions on the report of the Overseas Students Trust which he praised. He is right to say that the Hong Kong Government have made a preliminary proposal for fund sharing. That is one of the matters that we are looking at.
My hon. Friend was right also to raise the point about what is written on passports. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has not forgotten what she said on that subject in Hong Kong. Officials are looking at that matter with a sense of urgency derived from that fact. I hope that it can be sorted out and disposed of fairly soon.
If I can skip across the globe, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East chided us a bit about our relationships with the Irish Republic. We want to see normal, friendly relations with the Government of the Irish Republic. Naturally they have strong views on the future of Northern Ireland. They know our view of our responsibilities and of the rights of the people who live in Northern Ireland. Those views have been explained often directly to them and in the House. We want to keep in touch with them on a wide range of matters. That has not changed. They are partners with us in the Community. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and, to some extent, I have been consulting in recent weeks with all our European partners on Community matters. I was in Dublin yesterday consulting with the Irish Foreign Minister. It was a friendly and useful discussion which I use simply to illustrate the fact that we want to keep open friendly discussions with the Irish Government on a wide range of matters.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that during the debate on the last Queen's Speech the Prime Minister said that she attached great importance to the series of joint discussions that she then planned with the Government of the Irish Republic which she saw as possibly creating a framework that might help solve the problems of Northern Ireland. That was completely absent from what she said yesterday and the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Minister has not referred to it today. Surely the Government have not forgotten so soon all the views they expressed to the House?
§ Mr. Hurd
I do not think that there is a contradiction there. Within the Anglo-Irish framework which Mr. Haughey, the Taoiseach, and my right hon. Friend created, we discussed a wide range of matters, as I was doing yesterday. But yesterday was not an occasion to discuss Northern Ireland. 209 There have been references throughout the debate to Namibia. I refer especially to a matter raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who chided the Government for not taking proper account of the views of the internal parties in Namibia. We accept that they have a role to play. The British Government and all the five members of the contact group keep regular contact through our embassies in South Africa, and we take what opportunities exist to keep in touch with them, including at ministerial level. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), saw Mr. Mudge in London earlier this year, and these contacts are normal.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East asked me a specific question about the British garrison in Belize. It remains there. It is there to defend Belize against external attack, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, no date has been set for the withdrawal of the garrison.
I turn to the Falklands, about which a number of very interesting speeches were made. I refer especially to the speeches of the two Opposition hon. Members who came back from the islands recently. Both the hon. Members for Bolton, East (Mr. Young) and for Walsall, South (Mr. George) made speeches raising a number of specific matters arising out of their experiences which all those concerned in the Government will need to study carefully. I have no doubt that there will be other speeches and statements by others of my hon. Friends who went there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) and the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) referred to specific personal cases about the visits of bereaved relatives to the islands which I shall make sure are taken account of and dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) made a specific and practical speech about the air runway, and other hon. Members referred to it. We are still looking at this obviously crucial question and are taking into account the civil needs and the military needs. Obviously they cannot be considered separately when we are looking at that. I was interested in what my hon. Friend said about the French experience in their Pacific islands. The island diversion scheme is one of the ideas being looked at. When I read my hon. Friend's speech tomorrow, I am sure that I shall find that it contains specific matters which we shall need to consider.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) returned forcefully to a number of matters at which he has quite legitimately been hammering for some time. He pressed today, as he did yesterday, for more information about the carriage of nuclear weapons. He will not be surprised if I repeat what he has been told before. We do not mean to depart in any way from the unequivocal practice of successive Governments, rooted in a very clear perception of our interests and our security, neither to confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons in a particular place at a given time. However, we have pointed out already that there was no question of our using any form of nuclear weapon in this campaign.
The hon. Gentleman went on from that to develop a point about the possible loss of nuclear weapons, and he sketched a very serious scenario which no doubt will be widely reported. He linked that especially with HMS "Sheffield", which was sunk. In preparing his speech, he 210 may have neglected or forgotten an answer to a written question on 23 July by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence. My hon. Friend said:HMS 'Sheffield' sank under tow in heavy weather because sea-water entered the hole in her side caused by the Argentine missile that struck her. To clarify any possible misunderstanding, I can state that there has never been any incident involving a British nuclear weapon leading to its loss or to the dispersal of radioactive contamination."—[Official Report, 23 July 1982; Vol. 28, c. 340.]That answer, which was given at the end of July, deals with one of the important points raised by the hon. Member for West Lothian.
§ Mr. Hurd
When the hon. Gentleman studies Hansard I think that he will find that I have quoted my hon. Friend the Minister accurately and that he referred to:any incident involving a British nuclear weapon leading to its loss or to the dispersal of radioactive contamination.That deals with the essence of the hon. Gentleman's case.
It was sad to listen to part of the general speech made by the hon. Member for West Lothian, just as it was to listen to the comments made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes). They talk about the realities of the Falkland Islands and of the need to face them, as if one reality was not the war and as if another was not the war's effect on those who live there. I have not been to the Falkland Islands, but those who go there have that as their overwhelming impression. Such an attitude might be forgivable on the part of some members of the General Assembly of the United Nations who have not been through the experiences faced by all Members of this House. However, for hon. Members who have been through that experience, to start talking again so lightly—
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
Has my right hon. Friend any evidence to show that the United States of America was in discussion with the Argentine Government over the possible use of the Falkland Islands as a base for the security of the South Atlantic? That has been highlighted. Indeed, the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised the matter some months ago. Has the Foreign Office any evidence to show that the Americans have in the past been in negotiation with the Argentine Government over the Falkland Islands?
§ Mr. Hurd
I cannot add to what has been said in various debates. I know that that issue was raised and I am sorry that I may have slid over it in my reply. I have nothing very useful to add. The point may be relevant to the Franks inquiry—I simply do not know. However, I shall consider it carefully and if there is anything that we can usefully add one of us will write to my hon. Friend.
Much of the debate—as is normal, on the part of the Labour Front Bench—was devoted to a discussion of aid policy. I do not want to go into the details, because it is a big subject and it has been debated frequently since the publication of the Brandt report. However, most people in Britain would feel that an aid programme of more than £1 billion was not negligible or was something to be cast aside in that way. Last year, only four OECD countries gave 211 more money, in actual money terms, than we did. I refer to the United States of America, the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Japan. They are all countries with a substantially greater national wealth than Britain. Labour Members do not do Britain, or the international cause that they plead, any service by running down the quality or quantity of our aid.
Indeed, 68 per cent. of our aid goes to the poorest countries. The hon. Member for Waltham Forest spoke as if we gave all our aid for political and commercial reasons. We have frankly explained to the House the shift in emphasis. However, it has not prevented an overwhelming proportion—more than two-thirds—going to the poorest countries. That is not a bad record and we could hear more about it.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East spoke about the International Development Association. Last year, after discussions with the Government of India, we took the lead in helping to bridge the gap caused in the finances of that essential organisation by a shortfall or hiccup in the American contribution. We took the lead. The president of the World Bank acknowledged in public that the British lead caused others to follow and helped out. We do not mind criticism, but it would be nice occasionally if, laced in the criticism, there was some understanding and acceptance of the good things that we are doing.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and many hon. Members referred to the state of the alliance and its relationship with peace. It is an alliance of free States with no sergeant major to give orders to turn left or right or to drill in a particular way. As a result there will be disputes. As the right hon. Member for Devonport said, disputes always happen. He said that they are worse now. I am not sure that that is correct.
The House must discuss the best way to tackle the disputes. First, we must fence them so that they do not spread and undermine the basic co-operation of the alliance. People must see them for what they are. They are limited disputes, sometimes about important subjects, but they do not mean that the alliance is in decay or that its death is imminent.
We have just settled the steel dispute between the United States and the European Community. I agree that the settlement was not on glorious terms because the problem was extraordinarily severe and difficult, but the dispute was settled.
When a settlement cannot be reached quickly, one must go back to the principles on which the alliance is based. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East spoke of the Siberian pipeline dispute. An agreed framework within which the alliance can conduct its dealings with the Soviet Union is needed. It should cover credit, technology and perhaps other matters. We have had understandings, but clearly they are not enough. In the absence of an agreed framework a dispute blew up and the Americans acted in a way which Britain and its European allies were bound to find unacceptable.
There are signs of progress towards a settlement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has quietly played a part in taking the poison out of the dispute and bringing it closer to a solution. Given the inevitability of occasional disputes, that is how they should be tackled.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Devonport that 1983 will be a crucial year for the alliance. That is so, partly because of the debate which my hon. Friends the Members for Aldershot and for East Grinstead (Sir G. 212 Johnson Smith) sketched in two interesting speeches about in-treaty areas and out-treaty areas and the debate about the right balance between conventional and nuclear forces. Both those topics will take wing in 1983.
Next year will be crucial also because of the agreement reached in 1979—necessary and perhaps even overdue—when NATO decided to discuss with the Russians the possibility of agreement on intermediate nuclear forces and to modernise our own deterrent in that sector, replacing older weapons with cruise and Pershing.
That 1979 agreement, involving talking and modernising in the absence of agreement with the Russians, comes to its climax in 1983. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) that if it is to succeed NATO requires the continuing consent of public opinion. This is the big difference between it and the Warsaw Pact. That consent will be forthcoming, provided that our policy through the alliance is reasoned and reasonably and energetically presented to those who elect us.
The right hon. Member for Devonport advanced an argument which he has deployed and emphasised before about battlefield nuclear weapons. I apologise for doing so but I shall quote briefly from what I said to the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly about 10 days ago in New York. On behalf of the United Kingdom, I said:We are not only concerned about strategic and intermediate-range missiles. There are in Europe many thousands of shorter-range weapons of immense destructive power. The British Government with its allies will continue to look for ways to raise the nuclear threshold and reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons. We will seize every opportunity of doing so provided that we can do this without jeopardising peace, which is our overriding objective.I agree that that is not very specific. It is still early days in this particular round of these particular discussions. However, the right hon. Gentleman will see the way in which our minds are moving.
I do not share the right hon. Gentleman's analysis of American policy in this general area. There is no evidence for supposing that the Americans are abandoning the concept of deterrence and substituting the concept of nuclear war. Indeed, we know that that is not so. For example, in a comprehensive speech which the United States President made in announcing the zero option, the policy of deterrence and negotiation is spelt out clearly.
During the past 12 months the Americans have acquired an arms control policy and a Middle East policy. Both policies owe something to the advice of their European allies. The alliance works more comfortably on both issues as a result.
The twin negotiations that are taking place in Geneva on intermediate and strategic nuclear weapons are, in our view, taking place seriously. They are taking place behind closed doors and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury said, that creates problems. They are proceeding slowly because the issues are enormously complex. On the Soviet side they are backed by a propaganda campaign and by pessimistic statements which seem to have persuaded the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, in one of his more gloomy moods, that the negotiations are empty, hopeless and about to break down. That is not our impression. We are in close touch with the United States' negotiators in both sessions. It is not our impression and it is not theirs.
The right hon. Gentleman's speech was a careful piece of analysis. He quite rightly took no cognisance of the 213 official policy of the Labour Party, with which he disagrees. That policy was expounded, conveniently for us, by the hon. Member for Walton. The chances of these crucial negotiations would be worsened and it would be much less likely that the Soviet Union would make concessions at the negotiating table if it knew that in one important respect, and from one important member of the Western alliance, it was going to get what it wanted anyway, which is the consecration of its superiority.
In our judgment, the Soviet Union has come to the INF—the intermediate negotiating table in Geneva—because of the NATO decision to modernise. If it had felt that it could continue deploying SS20s with no matching Western response, it would have continued with that deployment and would not have negotiated. That is a lesson for the future. We must not despair of reaching agreement with the Soviet Union. The chances of agreement depend on its believing that in the absence of agreement we will not take the sort of advice that is pouring out of the Labour Party and that we shall be resolute and strong.
§ Mr. Healey
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has purposely missed my point. I said that the British Government's decision to acquire a missile system with the same destructive capacity as the SS20 is bound to prejudice the chance of negotiations for the removal of the SS20. That is because the Soviet Union is not prepared to discuss its missile system or the British deterrent in the context of the negotiations.
§ Mr. Hurd
The right hon. Gentleman was a senior member of a Government who decided to maintain the Polaris system and decided, without telling the House, to modernise it through the Chevaline system. I do not know 214 what decision a Labour Government would take now, but history suggests that a Labour Government would take a position very different from that which is now proclaimed by the Labour Opposition.
This is the crucial issue. It will be tackled successfully only if we deal with the world as it is. The world portrayed by Opposition Members and by some peace movements is two dimensional and unreal. The world with which we must deal when we are negotiating, if we are to have any chance of success, is three dimensional. That work takes a great deal of patience, effort and time. It is easy for people to become impatient, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and the hon. Member for Walton did during their analysis. Patience, provided that we can show the people who elect us—
Debate adjourned,—[Mr. Archie Hamilton.]
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.